Category Archives: Terrain

Bocage Finale

I finished up my test pieces of bocage. Looks like this.

I accidentally broke my gate. But, turns out that actually breaking your gate is a pretty good simulation of a broken gate!

I accidentally broke my gate. But, turns out that actually breaking your gate is a pretty good simulation of a broken gate!

You can't do much with 21" of bocage. (TWSS)

You can’t do much with 21″ of bocage. (TWSS)

My bocage is a little short, and could do with less flock, which would make it look a bit more spindly and wild. Also, more variety in height would be good. Actually, I swear it used to be taller. I guess the weight of the glue and flock compressed it. Oh well,thankfully, I’ll have PLENTY of opportunity to practice while building enough of this stuff for a 4’x6′ playing area.

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The Campaign(s) Continues

No big news, but there’s been positive movement on both the ACW and 6mm WW2 fronts. Unfortunately, I’m fighting a four or five front ‘war,’ but there’s no one to blame for that, except myself.

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First up, some terrain progress with the 6mm WWII IABSM 3 (that’s a lot of acronyms. TALOA, everyone!) project. I painted up two small houses, a barn, a cottage, and a manor house, all by GHQ. These buildings paint up so easily, and so nicely-a little paint, drybrush, a sepia ink wash, and you’re set! They look even better in person, where every little flaw isn’t exaggerated by zoomed in digital camera. By the way, I discovered that if you use future floor wax as a component of your ink wash, applying Vallejo matt varnish by brush afterwards reactivates the wash, and swirls it around in a not-unpleasing, but still alarming and unintended, manner.

Cottage and Villa

Cottage and Villa

This is the Villa de GHQ

This is the Villa de GHQ

Dilapidated barn and two small houses

Dilapidated barn and two small houses. Here’s where you see how incredibly lazy I am about cleaning up flash and mold slippage. It’s a little annoying that GHQ puts their trademark on the outside of the buildings (grey house, right side), but I’ll forgive them.

Houses and barn from above. My road is way out of scale.

Houses and barn from above. My road is way out of scale.

I have 10 Sherman tanks about 80% done, crops to plant on the terrain board, and a few British infantry to paint up, and this puppy will be ready to go. Unless I decide to base the buildings and make little vignettes out of them. Which I might.

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On the ACW front, I’m still mired in the long process of finishing up my Confederates. I completed a couple of limbers, disored/silenced markers, wrecked gun markers, and out-of-ammo markers, but still need to paint up an ammo wagon and an ambulance. It’s neverending! I also need to base up a brigade of the famous Danish volunteers of Texas. Oh, and I have a regiment of cavalry to paint. Woe is me! Our next scheduled game is the 15th.

Is it strange that these dead horses and wounded men make me feel a little uncomfortable?

Is it strange that these dead horses and wounded men make me feel a little uncomfortable?

These wounded Confederates are the first Blue Moon figures I’ve ever painted, and I have to say, I really love them. The anatomy isn’t quite as good as the best of the AB, but the poses are just fantastic. The wrecked gun markers (dead horses with caisson wheels) are all Blue Moon, as well. The wrecked gun ‘diorama’ style bases are kind of bugging me, now that I’ve done them. They don’t look particularly naturalistic. I’m sure it’s a skill that will develop with application and time, though.

A better shot of the wounded.

A better shot of the wounded.

The Blue Moon casualty pack includes a few accessory muskets, which is a really nice touch. Really, those figures made enough of an impression on me, that I plan to do quite a few Blue Moon figures when I switch over to paining Union troops. Oh, that unpainted 15mm resin house in the background is by JR Miniatures. Cheap, but it’s a real pig-bad flashing and pock marks everywhere. Maybe it will look ok painted.

Ok, that’s all for now. I’m going to try to finish up my Brits for IABSM in 6mm next week. Also, there’s some new stuff coming down the pike, that may be of interest.

A Quick Update

I haven’t been super productive in these first couple weeks of the new year, but I have gotten a few things done.

 

Featured in the pictures below are my efforts at painting a unit of the 52nd Oxfordshire British light infantry for the Peninsular War. We’re using Neil Thomas’s Napoleonic rules, which only require 16 figures per unit (I’ll eventually be painting the entire Light Division under Craufurd, plus supporting artillery and cavalry), but I thought I’d paint up some single based  skirmishing figures for use with Sharp Practice and/or Song of Drums and Shakos along the way. I’ll pick a couple of other battalions to pull figures for skirmish gaming along the way.

I have some French Legere to paint up for opposition, but it will be a while before I get started on those.

Also featured are some extremely cheap Chinese wire trees I purchased from the humorously named EBay seller, We Honest. It’s taken some slight effort to get these trees looking halfway decent-the foilage comes in a far-too-bright-for-reality dayglo green. I’ve also mounted these trees on needles for use with my terrain mats, which are draped over easily-pinnable blue foam. An obvious fault of these trees is the complete lack of a root system, but I think they’ll be fine for gaming.

We have another game of Regimental Fire and Fury scheduled for the 18th, and I’m dedicating next week to terrain production for said game. Hopefully I’ll be productive!

 

Bad color in this one.

Bad color in this one.

This color is fairly accurate. Please tell me the terrain looks vaguely Spanish. Even if you have to lie.

This photo’s color is fairly accurate. Please tell me the terrain looks vaguely Spanish! Even if you have to lie.

Oh, by the way-see that air tank and hose in the background? I’ve gone and bought myself an airbrush. I’m still getting to grips with operating the thing, but I’m pretty excited about it!

 

Accessories

I’ve built a few jump off points for Chain of Command. These are made out of some stowage from Academy’s “Light Vehicles” kit. Unfortunately there weren’t enough to do the Allied side, too. I may have to pick up another kit! Note: the jerry cans are modeled totally wrong, if that sort of thing bugs you…

Those barrels are full of schnapps...

Those barrels are full of schnapps…

These jump off points serve as points to distribute forces from. They’re placed through a rather clever abstracted ‘patrol phase.’ Watch the video I’ve linked above, if you think you might be interested in the rules set.

The tree on the leftmost base is by the amusingly named “WeHonest” from China. You can find their fine day-glo trees on Ebay. Trust me, they’re bright. If I hadn’t painted and dipped the tree in flock I wouldn’t have needed any other light source. I may add signs or some more greenery to these bases. Who am I kidding, I’m way too lazy to re-visit these.

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.

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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!

Hombres

Hombres

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 Scalecreep.com.

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.

Ain’t Gonna Work on Maggie’s Farm No More

Long time, no post. Believe it, or not, I have been busy!

It’s far from perfect, but my Normandy farmhouse is coming along fairly nicely. It needs further weathering, and the stone lintel isn’t working so well, but I’ve learned a lot, and it will definitely work for my gaming table. Finishing up those couple of details and creating a ‘yard’ and a couple of small outbuildings to go with it is next on the agenda. Anywho, here’s a before and after shot.

Two Story Farmhouse and Silvered Decals

You might remember this early progress shot

 

HOUSE1

I’ve also been working on a terrain mat for some wild west game (and it’s largely done) and a few cacti for said game. That’s all nearing fruition, and there will be a post about it soonish.

In the category of REALLY BIG FREAKING NEWS I’ve found another historical wargamer in Northwest Arkansas. Oh happy day! He’s totally into doing 20mm WWII skirmish and likes the Lardies’ rules. His favorite subject is the American Civil War, and that’s also totally cool. I’ve bought figures for it. And Rules. I have a lot of catching up to do on the ACW front. Expect to see an acceleration in completion of projects here at Arkiegamer, now that I have an actual opponent on the line. One that’s willing to paint his own stuff, even!

I’m a bit excited.

On the Workbench

So, I’ve been ‘working’ fairly hard on my WW2 skirmish stuff. I have a baker’s dozen of Panzergrenadiers completed, and have been scratchbuilding a 2 story farmhouse.

Two Story Farmhouse and Silvered Decals

Two Story Farmhouse and Silvered Decals

Construction of the house is foamcore (1/4″), basswood (for the floors), embossed plasticard for the stone wainscot, tile adhesive for the stucco, and scribed plasticard for the shutters and other details.

It's impossible to tell, but the basswood floor was scribed and stained. Not particularly effective.

It’s impossible to tell, but the basswood floor was scribed and stained. Not particularly effective.

I spent some time scribing the basswood floor with an X-acto knife and then did an ink wash, hoping it would pick up the detail. It looked great when wet, but there’s hardly a hint of the planks after everything dried.

Watch out for that MG-42...

Watch out for that MG-42…

I lament my inability to get my germans to look anything other than dull dull dull.

The little farmhouse design is from a building I found in Trimble Sketchup’s 3d warehouse, which is a repository of 3d models. I exported elevation views of the computer model, scaled them, printed them out, and used them as templates for cutting the foamcore. I’ve built it up from there.

I know a typical Normandy farmhouse would most likely be 100% native stone, but I was really in no mood for scribing that much foamcore, and the model railroad stonework I was able to find locally was not of the right scale. In fact, the stone wainscot that IS there is HO scale brick that I’ve scuffed up in hopes that it will look like stone when painted.

The building still needs another coat of stucco to conceal the foamcore edge lines, a couple of interior partition walls to help hold up the roof. And a roof. Which will be the most labor intensive part.

We’ll see how she paints up in a few days. Well, maybe weeks.

Spring Break 2013 Wrap-up

I think I said something earlier in the week about finishing a terrain board for the Action at Galmanche scenario from the I Ain’t Been Shot Mum rulebook. Heh. Heh heh heh. Not even close. Part of this is due to the unseasonable weather we’ve had during this, the first week of spring (it’s snowing outside my window! I live in the south!), but, let’s face it, I’m slow and have the attention span of a gnat.

Anyway, here’s what I did get done.

Cards, Cards, Cards…

Progress towards building a card deck for IABSM 3-Action at Galmanche

Progress towards building a card deck for IABSM 3-Action at Galmanche

I’ve revised and added to my card deck for Action at Galmanche. I’m using actual unit insignia, where appropriate. I still have many more cards to generate, and there are some compositional issues with these things that are bugging me. I’m not sure how effective the silhouettes are when the subject is in perspective, either. The files of soldiers look pretty good, but some of the less iconic (for lack of a better word) images are harder to read.

No Huffing or Puffing Allowed…

Paper Buildings

I’ve also been making up some paper buildings to use in my scenery. I haven’t used the best of craft on these guys, and it shows. Not to mention, some of these buildings are Dutch in origin, and some appear to be invented from whole cloth. I’m gaming in Normandy. Oh well, they were free, and will serve until I can get my hands on some metal/resin/plastic/scratchbuilt models.

Forest, Trees, Etc.

I'm ok with these.

I’m ok with these.

Masking Tape Wrapped Trunk

Masking Tape Wrapped Trunk

And here are my wire armature tree making efforts so far. The blurry tree in the foreground is clad in masking tape, while the guy in the back is un-clad (though not naked!). The masking tape technique  certainly looks more like bark, but it’s a bit of a pain. I think I’ll be sticking with unadorned wire for the moment. Honestly, these things are a lot of work in bulk, and I’ll probably switch to cheap Chinese ebay trees when money is less tight. That said, they were fun to do. I need to get these guys based, and I’ll probably flock the foliage (sounds slightly dirty) as well. Expect a full tutorial when I have all that done. Probably in June.

Boaring

Poor terrain board...

Poor terrain board…

Here we see the sorry state of my terrain board. It’s primed and has a couple of major roads shaped in the rigid insulation, but that’s about it. Oh, I did learn one new thing. I used tile adhesive to fill the gaps and smooth out the edges. That stuff is a serious pain to sand by hand (and you dare not use a power sander in the vicinity of foam insulation-one slip and it’s ruined!). I’ll use drywall spackle for this purpose from here on out.

When the weather improves, and assuming I’ll be able to find the time, I’ll start adding texture, paint, and flock to this fellow.

Wire Trees in 1/285-an Incomplete Exploration

The terrain board I’m preparing is for the historical scenario ‘Action at Galmanche’ from the I Ain’t Been Shot Mum 3 rulebook. The terrain includes a bit of row crops, some roads, and farm buildings, but the primary components are several orchards and a copse of ‘forest,’ which the little farming hamlet of Galmanche is arranged around.

I don’t have any trees of suitable size for 1/285 gaming. I’ve given some though to purchasing Chinese Z scale model railroad trees from ebay. They’re dirt cheap and look fairly decent when doctored up a bit (note: I haven’t had any personal experience with the ebay trees-this is all just internet hearsay). Unfortunately, as little free time as I currently have, I have even less discretionary income. With that weighty fact looming over my head, I’ve decided to make my own trees.

My girlfriend and I have been building some raised garden beds this week in preparation for spring planting. Part of the raised beds is a metal screen to prevent moles, voles, and other creatures with ‘oles’ in their name from digging up from the natural ground and eating the sweet succulent roots of our vegetablish progeny. This screen is rolled up and secured with malleable thin gauge wire, which is absolutely perfect for making small scale model trees. I’m sure this baling wire is available at any hardware store.

What you'll need

What you’ll need

You’ll need a pair of pliers, a pair of wire cutters, and (obviously) some of the aforementioned wire in order to make these tree armatures.

A variety of scales

A variety of scales

Making these trees has been an experimental process for me. Above are some of my early efforts, which used a simple two sections of wire twisted together. This works fine for small scale trees, but as you can see from the tall tree in the center, they can begin to look a bit bizarre. At least for Europe. Tall trees with no lower foilage make perfect sense in the context of the Serengeti plain. Maybe. In any case, the super simple method of only using two pieces of wire works great for my orchards (similar in scale to the tree with dark foliage to the right). More investigation was needed to arrive at a decent European or American oak/walnut/maple/whatever.

Components for a multi-branched tree

Components for a multi-branched tree

At 1/285, you can get away with depicting even the mightiest of oaks in an impressionistic way. I decided having two tiers of branches would do a fine job of depicting a tree with full foliage. A practical constraint on adding more branches is that doing so also adds to the caliper of the tree trunk, and the trunk can quickly get out of scale when working with such diminutive dimensions.

The initial twist

The initial twist

The operation for twisting your wire together is this: Cluster your wires together and grab the ‘root’ end (the end with the loops) with your wire cutters. DON’T CUT. Grab the roots maybe an 1/8th of an inch above the ends if you plan on having visible roots. If you’re going to be jabbing your tree into a base or foamcore or something of that nature, just grab the base of the trunk as low as possible and snip off the loops when the armature is constructed.

On the top end of the tree, grab the branches with your pliers. The end of your pliers should be placed at the point at which you want the lower tier of branches to begin. With this accomplished, begin to slowly twist. You should at least twist enough to get a tight ‘weave’ of the wires. I like to ‘overtwist’ the trunk a bit, because the excess twisting begins to introduce deformations into the overall shape of the trunk, and these deformations, if you don’t overdo it, look very naturalistic.

The photograph above shows the initial trunk twisting, which stops at the lower tier of branches. This lower tier of branches has been spread out and angled upwards about 60 degrees from zenith.

The basic armature complete

Now you grab the cluster of wires where you’d like the upper branches to begin. The wires will mesh together and won’t affect the lower trunk unless you begin to ‘overtwist.’ Again, overtwisting might be desirable. Once you have the trunk constructed, it’s time to bend and place the branches. This is easily done by hand. I just try to achieve some sort of naturalistic spread of branches that is going to also give me a full spread of foliage.

Next you need to make the root decision. If you’re going to be pushing the trees into some sort of soft medium, and aren’t concerned with the fiddly detail of visible roots, you should just cleanly snip off the end of the trunk. I’d cup my non-tool wielding hand around the tree armature to prevent injury from wire shrapnel.

If you want visible articulated roots, just snip the bends in the pieces of wire and spread them out in a manner similar to the branches. Obviously you’ll want a flatter zenith angle relationship to the trunk.

What to do about bark

I think this wire tree armature thing works quite well for 1/285 scale trees. A bit of googling will show some extremely complicated (but awesome) ways of doing wire trees for larger scales, but this is about as far as I’d want to go at my scale.

I had hoped that I’d be able to push these wire trees into my blue foam rigid insulation and pull them out later. Unfortunately, the foam tends to compress under the pressure from the wire instead of parting and gripping it. You might get better results with other, less dense, types of foam, or by grinding the trunk to a sharp point. I think I’m going to work out some sort of basing system for my trees, and go with the articulated root system.

I’ll show you how to clad these things in bark and paint them just as soon as I’ve figured it out. I’m thinking fimo, greenstuff, or drywall spackle and a shot of black primer with some quick drybrushing. Maybe I’ll try all three. Or maybe I’ll just paint the bare metal. I’m just after an impression, after all.

A Long Delayed Update

It turns out that the 10th and final semester of Architecture school is also the most intense and demanding of my time. So…very little time spent on miniatures, other than grabbing 30 minutes here or there. I’m also completely off-track on my schedule that I set up at the beginning of the year. That’s no surprise to me, but disappointing, nonetheless.

Napoleonic Digression

I have painted a few 1/72 plastic Napoleonic 95th rifles as well as some French Voltigeurs in the same scale and of the same material. My 95th Rifles have been shown before, and the Italeri sculpts remain a joy to paint. My Voltigeurs are by Zvezda, and have proved to be very unsatisfying to paint. The models look great in bare plastic, but the detail turns out to be quite shallow. I’m not the greatest painter in the world at the best of times, but these Voltigeurs have resisted even my most tender ministrations, and are sloppy and flat in appearance.

They’re certainly not worth breaking out the tripod and backdrop, and thus only get the crappy iPhone photo treatment.

Voltigeurs in Disarray

The Dragoon that has snuck in is by Italeri, and was quite fun to paint, though he turned out a good deal more dull than I had hoped.

Voltigeurs in Less Disarray

Back on Track

I have, at long last, started a terrain board for an initial game of I Ain’t Been Shot Mum III. A company of British infantry, supported by a platoon of Shermans will be facing off with a company of Heer infantry in a country village, who happen to have a bit of support in the form of a Pak 40. That’s a bit beside the point, though. Here’s the board.

Terrain Board

The board is 2’x4′ in total dimension, and is made up of part of a sheet of 3/8″ masonite (hardboard), 1×2’s, and 3/4″ blue rigid insulation. The 1×2’s shore up the masonite, which is dimensionally stable over time. The blue foam rigid insulation fits perfectly into the ‘reservoir’ created by the 1×2’s, the actual dimensions of which are 3/4″x1.5″. Do you have nominal vs. actual dimensions in Europe? If not, the previous sentence likely makes absolutely no sense. Here’s a shot of the ‘sandwich’ detail.

Terrain Board Construction Detail

The cool thing about the blue foam is that it’s extremely easy to sculpt and can quickly be formed into sunken roads, ponds, streams, and hills. It’s my intention to COMPLETE (yes, complete) my terrain board by the end of the week, seeing as how this is that most venerable of American collegiate traditions: Spring Break.

So, more later in the week.