Saturday, 2 November 2013

Terrain boards I -

Today the family were out doing things without me, so after getting some housework out of the way, I took the opportunity to look at my work bench.  The main thing on it at the moment is a set of 16 terrain boards I have started work on.  Not completed, it should be noted!  Inspired by a post of Rhys Batchelor's last year bemoaning the state of the terrain that gets used for moderns games, I thought I should make a start at improving my lot.  Unlike ancients gaming, where the most important "terrain" you need is a well-painted cloth to cover the table, moderns gaming requires a lot more attention to details.  So over New Year, I planned a set of terrain boards based on 600 mm by 600 mm units, since these both dovetail nicely with Keith McNelly's scenario rules, which use sectors that size, and you can easily buy interlocking foam mats that size, which I thought would make a good basis for "boards".   I decided I would need 16 of them to give a decent variety of terrain - 6 are required for a standard "table".

Anyway, to cut a long story short, I have had 16 of these things sitting on my bench for over half a year, undercoated green, awaiting further work.  So today I restarted work on them.  I painted roads on half of them - the half without river or streams, which are going to require a lot more work.  The first 8 should at least let me get a few games out of them before I feel the need to use more.  Then I started flocking one, as you can see to the left.  I've bought a bunch of flock, and mixed various types to give an appropriate variety of shades of green and brown; I suspect I will have to buy more before the end, as I will probably run out at some point.  I've also added some "clump foliage" to make some light hedgerows.  Note the two sunken areas on the flocked board above left; these are spaces for built-up areas that can be slotted in once the boards have been positioned. 

I am anticipating the boards will have to be mostly stored stacked on top of each other, so they can't have too much relief sticking out, especially fiddly bits like steeples or trees.  This will also mean I can more easily use the boards for WW2 by using different, more old-fashioned buildings.  The photo to the right shows one of the BUA spaces filled in (the road colour needs lightening).  I am modelling hills "in the round", but they need to be relatively low to stop troop bases sliding off: a single-contour hull-down position is modelled as being 5 mm high, while proper hills vary from 1 to 2 cm high, depending on how many contours they have.

You can see such a hill here with the top contour picked out in a different shade of green so you know where it is.  Woods will be separate features added on top - I like the ones that Rhys knocked up last September for the games we played at his place, and will use something similar.  Now, critical to how well these boards will stand up to actual use will be how well the flock stays in place.  So I will next be spraying the whole board several times with dilute PVA to bond it all together, and finally with a matt varnish to seal it all in.  Hopefully it should be enough.

In hindsight, there are all sorts of other approaches that come to mind about how I could have got a decent enough effect without the hassle of flock... simply cutting up a painted felt cloth and sticking it to the mats, for example!  (The interlocking teeth part wouldn't have been so simple, but it would definitely have been less work than all the flocking I am going to have to do).


  1. These will look fantastic when all finished up.

  2. When :-)

    I hit a snag over the weekend with "let's spray them with dilute PVA" department - I couldn't get the sprayer thing to spray (it's a simple plastic bottle with a nozzle attached on top, from the the gardening of Konan IIRC). But I've figured that out - it's like a syphon - won't work with any air in the tube that connects the reservoir with the nozzle. I was worried I'd have to steal the one my wife uses to hold water for spraying the kids' hair when she wants to give them a fancy hairdo, which wouldn't have gone down well.

    So I'll be spraying the first two boards in a few minutes...

  3. It will be interesting to see if the boards arp a bit with the PVA.
    I like the hills idea.
    once I have moved I'll have to make a set for myself.

  4. They are looking pretty good at the moment, I have to say; I've started flocking the 3rd one this evening One reason I chose these foam mats is that they are flexible, so "warping" should hopefully be correctable. Because of the interlocking, any "warp" won't result in the non-lined up edges that you get with say MDF.

  5. Great idea! I've got some of those mats laying about as well...