Scratch-made Cloth and Caulk Gaming Mat

As much as I like the idea of custom making modular terrain boards with actual sunken features, like roads and streams, I’ve been thinking it would be a good idea to go with something a bit more flexible. That way I might actually get a game ready, for once.

The typical model railroad grass mats haven’t impressed me much, but I have seen some really cool fabric mats that people have made by hand.

Mr. Luther, for example, does these incredible 1/285th scale mats using spray painted cloth, scatter terrain and pastels. Pastels! They’re works of art, and if you spend much time on his Flickr page, you’ll find yourself inexorably being drawn to gaming WW2 in 6mm. Ahem. Here’s a link to a tutorial on setting up a board for Normandy. I suspect (but could be COMPLETELY wrong) that the pastel chalk colored roads, creeks, and rivers might not work too well for larger scales, and based on my suspicion, I’ve pursued other methods.

Which leads us to the caulk-impregnated cloth style of mat.

Tobi’s Paint Pot has a nice tutorial on doing a 28mm dark ages board for Dux Britanniarum. His approach is pretty serious and relatively involved (to be honest, none of these methods could be described as ‘quick and simple’), but the results speak for themselves. I find his integration of scatter terrain into his mat to be particularly impressive.

War Artisan uses a base of rubber athletic flooring, teddy bear stuffing, and a caulk-impregnated cloth, all held together with straight pins, to do his beautifuly 10mm games. From some reading I’ve done on the internet, I suspect he may be the inventor of these styles of gaming mats, but I could be wrong. In any case, they’re completely drool-worthy. Be sure to check out the scratch-built ships, while you’re on his Flickr page. Also drool-worthy.

The Lion of the South does yet another variation on the caulk-impregnated cloth, also to great effect. Gorgeous games! His tutorial is quite easy to follow, too.

The method I ultimately followed is from the cleverly named Big on Miniatures blog. As a brief aside, I’ve been painting old west miniatures as a sort of filler between my myriad of (incomplete) projects. Somehow I managed to find myself with a dozen gunfighters painted, a free set of rules, and some players who are potentially interested in some wild west gaming. I have a rough plan for a three-way shootout at an abandoned stagecoach station somewhere in the arid southwest. So, that helps explain why I was so drawn to the BoM desert mat. Plus, his tutorial is super detailed. Check it out.


So, what could I possibly add to this bevy of really excellent tutorials and gorgeous examples of finished terrain? Not much.

I didn’t get my colors right on my mat-I used far too little of my mid-tone, and it doesn’t really look like any desert I’ve ever seen. I also could have used an intermediate size of ‘grit’ between the playground sand (on the small end) and the kitty litter (on the large end) that I did use.

What I can add are some shots of various scales of figures on the board. Lord knows I’m completely ADD about my miniatures gaming, and have been all over the place on that front. So, without further to do, here are some shots ranging from 1/285 to 28mm. Hope they prove useful!



Like I said, I set out on Caulk-quest 2013 to do an Old West game (more on this in the future) and here are a few of the figures deployed in the desert. These are Knuckleduster 28mm miniatures with some of the very cool Pegasus cacti. Those cacti are the first thing I’ve ever painted that seemed bright enough to me. Which is a breathrough, of sorts. I think the kitty litter and sand work very well at this scale, but the intermediate level of ‘grit’ really needs to be there. Maybe next time.

WW2 on the surface of a moon of IO.

WW2 on the surface of Mars.

This is a rather surreal shot, for obvious reasons. I don’t think the kitty litter would work for  Normandy, or other verdant areas, but I could see using it for parts of Italy or North Africa. When I do a temperate climate mat, I won’t add the litter in.  Sorry about the hovering farmhouse. The figures are Warmodelling via

Looks pretty good, other than the incongruous figure basing...

Looks pretty good, other than the incongruous figure basing…

I dig it.

I dig it.

These are 15mm sci-fi figures by Khurasan Miniatures.  I think the mat, with its screwed up color palette, works GREAT for sci-fi gaming. I should re-base my figures to suit, or something.

1/285 Micro-armor in effect

1/285 Micro-armor in effect

The mat also works really well with the microarmour. For totally different reasons.  Here the kitty litter starts to take on tactical significance. I joke. A little. I think the mat could work great for North Africa, especially if I adopt some of Luther’s methods of creating topography (and if the mat proves flexible enough).  Again, the kitty litter wouldn’t be suitable for civilized farming and urban areas, like Normandy.

Okay, enough of caulk and kitty litter vs. various scales. I learned some valuable lessons. You can knock one of these mats out in 2-3 days, and I’m going to start working on one for 1/72 WW2 in Normandy soon, so look for a follow-up in the next few weeks.

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  • Jules  On 09/16/2013 at 3:53 am

    Hi, You inspire me with what you have done and I plan to do a basic caulk terrain sheet as well, thanks for pulling it all together on your blog. I have also acquired a set of those hi-impact? sponge squares that fit together like a puzzle and are used in toddlers play areas do that they don’t hurt themselves ( sure you can get this from toysrus or walmart or local equivalence) I plan to fit them together 4 x square sizes approx 4 feet by 4 total with a depth of about 1/2 inch. I plan to carve a bit of detail into these lightweight sections roads and the like,and then use the flexible caulk and flock ect. Question;Can the flexible caulk be pre-coloured? Again thanks for so much information. Cheers Jules

    • arkiegamer  On 09/16/2013 at 5:55 am

      Hi Jules-glad you found all this useful. Yes, there is pre-colored caulk in a nice earthy brown. Be sure to buy acrylic caulk. The other variety is silicone, and you’ll never get paint to stick to that.

      If the squares have a surface pattern and you apply the caulk directly to them, it will likely be expressed through the caulk. Just something to be aware of, and not necessarily a problem.

      I’d love to see some pictures when you get your mat finished!

  • Neilad  On 09/21/2013 at 10:59 am

    Nice work and thanks for the compliments on my blog. You have some very useful commentary and links here that I’ll be checking out.

    • arkiegamer  On 09/21/2013 at 2:06 pm

      You’re quite welcome. Hope some of my stuff does prove useful in return.

  • tinpotrevolutionary  On 10/02/2013 at 10:02 am

    Damn you! I’ll be off the local DIY store for caulk and sand now! ;p

    Very interesting ideas here, I’ve always wanted to find a way to create a realistic cloth wargaming mat and It looks like you found them all for me!

    • arkiegamer  On 10/02/2013 at 10:05 am

      I do what I can! There’s something cathartic about spreading great messy masses of caulk around, so there’s that to look forward to, as well.

  • houseofqueeg  On 01/27/2014 at 1:43 pm

    Some great terrain links here, that last shot of yours though – perfect for North Africa!!!!!


    • arkiegamer  On 01/27/2014 at 1:52 pm

      Hi Brent,

      Hope they prove useful, and, yes, North Africa is a project I plan to get to…eventually.

      I must admit, seeing those gorgeous Land Rovers, Warriors, and other bits of modern gear over on your blog has me jonesing to do something ultra-modern in Afghanistan. That makes you a bad influence, as this is supposed to be the year of completing projects, not starting new ones!


      • houseofqueeg  On 01/27/2014 at 3:10 pm

        You could always make 2014 the year of finishing NEW projects lol

      • arkiegamer  On 01/27/2014 at 3:34 pm

        So tempting. As we all know, starting projects is WAY more fun that finishing them, so I’m a sucker for this sort of ‘logic.’

  • 172fixer  On 07/06/2014 at 10:19 pm

    That’s brilliant. I’ve got a board that’s painted city streets on one side, and I was thinking of being able to flip it, and have a desert finish on the other. If I’m careful in the flipping and setting down, this just might work. Thanks!

    • arkiegamer  On 07/07/2014 at 1:48 pm

      Even if it doesn’t work out as a reverse side, you can always roll up these mats and store them in a closet. Enjoy!

      • 172fixer  On 07/07/2014 at 6:14 pm

        Great advice. If I can roll and store it, that allows me to make the other side of the game board into something else…I’m thinking maybe a sci-fi Mars-scape! Cheers!

  • arkiegamer  On 07/07/2014 at 9:24 pm

    Triple bang for your buck!

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