A 4-Part Hill

I have finally managed to finish these terrain boards, having started making them earlier this year. They’ve now had the sand and paint treatment and are ready for action.

I wanted the option for a larger hill, or 2 halves (on table edges), or even 4 quarters (in the table corners), and the only way to do this on 12 inch terrain tiles is to make it out of a number of pieces.

I made a side template from card to apply the same slope edge to each board so they’d all match up. The ‘filling’ was done with pieces of polystyrene, styrofoam, card and plaster. The overall height is only 30mm but it gives a good enough impression of a hill, especially with 6mm figures.

I may make a couple of middle pieces at some point, using the same edge template, to go between 2 corners and allow for long ridges or a 3×2 foot single hill.

 

A Slow February

The dearth of posts this month hints at my lack of project and gaming progress. It’s not all been a washout, but some time away, being busy at work, and a nasty cold have all taken their toll on hobby time and energy.

I have achieved a few things;

  • A bit of a games room sort out, to create more storage space. Coupled with the loft being boarded out and a proper ladder being installed at the end of the month, this will give me a big boost in the flexibility I’ve got to store bulkier items like terrain, 28mm scenery and modelling materials. The trick will be to not overdo things and just fill up the new capacity!
  • Based and painted some old Irregular Miniatures 1/300 trees in small groups, just to get them off the lead pile.

 

  • Mostly painted a 1/300 Russian church – I’ll post a pic when it’s finished.
  • Made a couple of additional internal river corners from 12mm styrofoam (high density polystyrene) board, and I’ll make a couple more outer corners soon too. This will allow me to have a more meandering river, or a lake with a big island in it, etc. Here are the new with the old (which are made from marine ply) – no difference other than 2 of them being lighter and more fragile:

 

  • Made a 1 foot square terrain board for Frostgrave, again from styrofoam. This was a test piece, inspired by Goat Major’s excellent desert city terrain. I just used a biro to etch the paving slabs and cracks. This board, and the 3 others I’ll do to make a square area, can be used with my existing winter terrain boards to give me a decent base for setting Frostgrave (and other) games.

 

 

 

  • Done some thinking and prep for a few small campaign ideas. Some of this is around simple rules to link games for a variety of periods – I’m on at least version 3 but I’m getting there! I’ve also been doing some storyline work on my Medetian Wars setting for Sharp Practice, although I’m holding off a little until the 2nd edition of the rules come out as I’d like to check them over and incorporate any important or interesting changes they bring.
  • Re-visited my collection of 1/3000 sailing ships with a view to getting more of them painted and onto the table at some point. These are Napoleonic ships, but I think the wars of the mid-18th century appeal a bit more. No chequerboard paint jobs (impossible at that scale anyway!), less British dominance/superiority, plenty of campaigns, battles and settings, the C&C challenge of maintaining a line, etc. I’m looking for fleet battles, not frigate actions, so some simple rules will be needed too. A slow-burn project, but one I’ll come back to for sure.
Now, if I could just get some figure painting done too..

Rivers Need Water

..and here are a couple of boards I prepared earlier (last October to be precise). They’re 4×3 feet of 20mm chipboard, so they’re pretty heavy. I’ve had them for about 15 years and in recent times they’ve been relegated to garage rafter storage duties, but I decided to renovate them with a fresh coat of a dark blue gloss paint in readiness for the riverbanks project. They’re stored behind the door in my games room/office, resting face to face with the reverse of one board painted the same colour as the wall, so they’re pretty much invisible unless you’re looking for them.

Here’s a quick set-up with some of the new boards placed on top. Obviously the addition of some trees, buildings and other scenery will enhance things, but this is the basic look I was after.

 

With a row of terrain squares removed the river can be widened, allowing for the off-cut islands to be used. I think this will offer me plenty of flexibility and options for different types of battlefield. I can do a large bay or inlet, a big central island, as well as straight or winding rivers. As I’m aiming to get my post-Napoleonic Sharp Practice project ready to play this year, I think a bit of water, with the odd bridge or boat, will make things interesting! These rivers, like the rest of my terrain, are designed to be used for all scales I play with, from 6mm to 28mm, and I’m looking forward to getting plenty of use from them.

Rivers and Hills part 5 – Finished!

Finally some colour!

All the boards have now been given a coat of green to bring them to life a bit. The colour is a specific Dulux mixed shade (‘Jungle’) found after a lot of trial and error, which I’ve used for probably 20 years on all terrain, scenery and figure bases. I suppose it’s a brybrush or overbrush technique, I’m not sure which, but it allows a hint of the black beneath to show through to add some depth and texture. I’ve brushed green over the edges of the brown patches too to blend them together as I don’t want them to look like bunkers on a golf course later. The board edges are painted too.

Next step was to dry brush the brown areas with my highlight colour, Vallejo’s Iraqi Sand. This not only lightens, but also softens the underlying brown, which is otherwise pretty dark.

After that the patches of vegetation were recovered, having been mostly lost in the ‘green’ phase. I use Vallejo’s Luftwaffe Green for this, although on this occasion I actually tried their new Heavy Green basecoat colour which appears to be an identical shade, just with presumably slightly better covering power. These will be drybrushed again later.

The next step was the real key to tying everything together – the yellow drybrush. Trying to keep it light and even is always a challenge when you’re also trying to do it reasonably quickly, but it worked out OK I think. Then the dark green patches were re-highlighted with the main green, to soften them a bit while still keeping them distinct. Lastly the rocks were given a coat of dark grey and then dry-brushed with a light grey.

Which meant… everything was finally finished! A fair amount of work over the last couple of weeks, and further back into last Autumn when the river banks were cut, but I’m very pleased with the results and it was well worth it. These boards can now be added to the ones I already have (making just over 40 square feet in total) and hopefully be used in a game before too long. I’ll post some pics of them in situ with the water base boards before putting them away.

Hills and Rivers part 4 – Paint it Black

Stage 4 then..

Everything got a black undercoat from a big tin of ordinary black paint (which I kep well away from the beer to avoid an unnecessary, but inevitable, mistake). Yes, it looks awful, but it’s all uphill from here.

Brown patches added, these will get highlighted later on.

Green basecoat next, hopefully one evening this week.

Hills and Rivers part 3

I’ve now reached the stage where, once the glue is dry, I can give all the boards their black basecoat. I have applied the second (partial/patchy) layer of sand to create a bit of depth, while still retaining a mostly flat surface. I have also added some patches of rougher, but still faitly low-profile, vegetation using loose leaf tea (as I do on my figure bases) and some small scenic rocks. These will add a bit a variety when painted and break up the otherwise featureless terrain.

Painting everything with a wash of black is going to be tedious and messy, but it’ll be progress!

Second layer of sand

Patches of vegetation and rocks. I could stop now and call it North Africa!  🙂

Hills Part 2 – and Rivers

With the hills cut and shaped, I decided to plough on this weekend with getting them onto their boards, and making a start on the other terrain I’ve been planning for a while – rivers. As with the hills, there are always compromises when it comes to adding rivers to a wargames table. By their nature they look best with a bit of depth, and that’s the challenge of course. In an ideal world these are carved into thick sheets of high density foam board, providing the opportunity for deep banks, as well as sunken roads and realistic undulations everywhere else. With my terrain built from 9mm marine plywood that’s not a possibility, and with the rough texturing I use nor are ‘place on’ rivers.

So the choice comes down to painting rivers onto the boards and texturing flat ground up to the water’s edge (which I’ve done before) or cutting right through the boards to create river banks and placing everything on an underlying ‘water’ layer. I’ve gone for the latter, for a couple of reasons. The deeper banks work better for me aesthetically, especially with larger scale figures. Also, the ply boards I use have a grain on their surface, making smooth-ish water a difficult effect to achieve.

So I enlisted the help of a good friend who assisted with some quality timber cutting to ensure that the river bank sections all match up, both in terms of positioning and angle (45 degrees, thanks to an angled jigsaw setting). The rivers were measured at 10cm/4 inches across, so represented the removal of about a third from the middle of each board. Of course, they then have the potential to be broadened by moving the 2 river banks apart either by a full board width (making a 16 inch wide river) or by any other incremental amount. Some of the cut-outs were rounded off to provide islands which can be placed in the river, and used in naval games too. With this batch I’ll have 6 feet of straight/meandering river and 2 x 90 degree bends. Plenty to start with considering the biggest table I can manage is 6 x 4 feet.

On Saturday I kept warm outside by sanding all the board edges smooth, and rounding the river bank tops off a little. Then I stuck down the hills with PVA and a bit of tape, before moving onto covering the polystyrene with a layer of quick-dry plaster for protection and smoothness. The afternoon was then spent making a right old mess applying the first layer of sand – sticking it down with black masonry paint. I’ve decided to add some small raised areas on a few of the river banks so I have a bit more hot-wire cutting to perform, and then once all the boards are up to the same stage with a basic layer of sand I can move on to the remaining texturing before undercoating and painting. As the dining room table is now a sandy, messy work area, I better get my skates on this week!

Some pics of the various stages described:

Hills added to boards

Plaster coat

Plaster done, including some filling on a older board

River banks added to the workload

First layer of sand goes on

Sand done

New Hills – Stage 1

I have a terrain expansion project planned, with which I hope to make good progress over the next few weeks (well, we’ll see eh?)

This will mean more 1 foot square boards to join the existing collection, to accommodate some additional features in order to provide me with more scenario and tabletop options. One priority is for some more hills, especially some slightly bigger ones than I currently have. The ones I’ve done previously are fairly small and low – one of the natural drawbacks of 1 foot boards I guess.

I have (like all sensible wargamers) collected a variety of polystyrene pieces from packaging over the years, and I recently dug out a few promising candidates to take the good old hot wire cutter to. Pic below, black undercoated 28mm figures in the centre background give a sense of scale..

In order to completely integrate them into the small size of the terrain boards, I need to get them ‘up and down’ in under a foot of space. Inevitably there are compromises, but they are reasonable gaming compromises and I can live with them. On the larger hills I have been happy to leave a flat top as there is a practical need to be able to place figures and scenery on them without having trees and building leaning over. The smaller ones are really more for providing some undulations to otherwise flat boards and should work OK. The thickest sheet of polystyrene I had was big enough to provide 2 hill ‘halves’ which can be placed back to back for a large hill, or separately on the table edge. I’d like to perhaps do more of this type, perhaps something much bigger with 4 ‘quarter’ hills.

None of these ‘hills’ are more than 25mm tall, but for the variety of scales I will use them with (6mm-28mm) they’ll give a decent impression and break up the general flatness a bit. I’m hoping to have a crack at stage 2 (sticking them to the boards and applying a layer of plaster) at the weekend and will post an update when I’ve managed this. I will also then be able to dig out the raw materials for the other part of this terrain expansion exercise and get to work on everything from there..