Saturday, 9 November 2013

Terrain boards II - 

I've now finished the first two of my terrain boards, and nearly finished the second two - they just require further spraying with dilute PVA and then matt varnish.

The rear two are the ones that are already properly sealed - the process seems to have very slightly darkened the colour tones.  The front two have had their first PVA spray; they'll get 3 or more 4 more coats and then a couple of matt varnish sprays on top.  The PVA spray is done over the bath/shower so the wayward spray can be washed away easily.  The varnish isn't water-soluble (naturally!) so I do that outside, on the balcony, with some newspaper to catch any spray drift.

Here's a shot of the two finished ones joined together.  While the join is "obvious" from above, it is not overly distractingly so, I think.  You can see there are effectively two configurations of boards here - the roads on each board edge either exit/enter either all one third or all two thirds of the way along their respective edges.  This means I have essentially two independent sets of boards that must be arranged in a quincunx manner to get them to meet up properly.  You can see in the first shot above what happens if you don't align them properly - the two front boards are both of the same "set", and thus don't abut properly - the roads don't meet up. 

From a lower angle, as seen to the left, the join between two boards is of course not quite so obvious.  You can also see that warping isn't a problem at all - the stiffness of the boards is enhanced when they are joined (aided by the flocking and sealing), and flattens them out.  Hopefully they will stay that way - touch wood - the flexibility of the mats should enable them to be pushed around sufficiently into shape even if they do warp a bit.

This quincunx configuration sacrifices flexibility, in that half the boards will only mate with the other half, greatly reducing the number of possible configurations for a given set of boards.  And it also means I have to essentially keep the two half-sets "separate but equal" in terms of what they look like and how they are stored.  Nonetheless there are good reasons for doing this...  The first one is that if you have your road exit/entrances positioned centrally in each board edge then you have a much more stereotypical board layout.  Since each board would have the same road exit/entrance set-up, this means adjacent boards will the the same, meaning the road network looks more like a grid than a net.  Fine of you are modelling Nebraska, but not Europe.  With the 1/3-2/3 set-up, adjacent boards are not the same, as the road joins between adjacent edges are off-set 200 mm from each other, leading to a less regular appearance.

In this shot to the right you can see a board with not much in the way of vertical relief - there are just two small hull-down positions visible here, which interestingly are a lot harder to spot in this photo than they are with the naked eye, even with a dash of differently coloured flock on their tops to help pick them out.  This is one of the flattest of the board set-ups I have; most have a bit more in the way of contours than this one.  Still, there are a few light hedgerows that break up lines of sight, and woods can always be added on top of the boards to further clutter things up.

You can see a somewhat larger hill on the board shown to the left; the top-level contours are picked out in lighter-coloured flock because of their in-game importance in providing not only spotting but also hull-down positions.  From the bottom of the hill to the top summit position is just over a centimetre in vertical gain, which isn't a lot in absolute terms, but still means an overall gradient of something like 1 in 5 or 6, and it is obviously steeper in places.  This is steeper than I'd like, but carving slopes from foam shallower than this proved very challenging (I thought having the hills made of something different from the mats would be asking for trouble in terms of warping, not to mention negating the flexibility inherent in the mat material).  I'm pretty happy with the results here.  Sure it's taking time, but it's turning out to be quite fun to do.

The other main reason for my quincunx set-up is to do with rivers.  When I put together various arrangements on paper with the roads all positioned centrally, it became apparent that any rivers obviously couldn't be so positioned - so where would they go?  They would have to be off-set, which I figured would lead to a similar quincunx arrangement anyway (although I have subsequently realized there would be one way of doing it with only a single set of river tiles).  So my rivers are positioned such that their joins are centrally positioned - since any one standard gaming table of six boards will have so few rivers on it compared to roads, the regularity of their positioning isn't so apparent.

This evening I will start on doing two boards which feature large hills, which call for roads going over low points on the hills at some point.  I have still to decide exactly how I will model the surface of the roads where the cross the hills; my two options are either cutting out a card or thick paper road surface and laying it over the top of the rough road path that is currently in place, or smoothing the current path over with a layer of sand mixed with PVA.  I'll probably go for this later option, as it won't result in the road surface being elevated above the surrounding terrain, which is fine on the flat, but not when crossing a hill...


  1. Very impressive, Luke. Maybe we can test them out with a game over the New Year break?

  2. Nothing like a deadline to spur production on!

  3. Looking Good. Following this with interest as I hope to do something similar.