Tag Archives: Normandy

Build Bocage, Buddy! (Part I)

Prompted by the acknowledgement that I have an alarming tendency to forget how I did things, I thought it might be a good idea to put together a quick photo tutorial on how I make bocage for 1/72 scale gaming.

A sample of the finished product...

A sample of the finished product…

Closeup

Closeup

What I’m doing here is largely built on methods from Ad Machina Wargaming and Tim’s Toys. Both sites are well worth perusing!

Stuff You’ll Need

  1. Dense extruded polystyrene rigid insulation, 3/4″ thickness minimum (other sizes are available and suitable for other scales). They’ll have this stuff at the local DIY shop in 4×8 sheets. Bring a box cutter when you go shopping, so you can get it into the car.
  2. Sheet plastic for bases. Cut into 2″x6″ strips, if you want to follow along faithfully. Get plastic of a decent thickness. This stuff is available from multiple sources-you can even resort to Amazon, if you wish.
  3. A sharp blade. I use an X-acto knife. A scalpel would work well, too.
  4. A cheapo plastic sculpting tool. Or something similar. A tongue depressor or piece of plastic might work.
  5. Toothpicks. Round. Sharp. Cheap.
  6. Sandpaper. Some sort of medium-light grit, although it’s not really critical.
  7. White glue (other glues may interact with the insulation in extremely unhealthy ways)
  8. Wood Filler. Get it at the DIY shop, and try to find some with a tan or brown tint.
  9. Cheap craft paints (available at craft stores and Wal-mart) of the following flavors:
    1. Burnt Umber
    2. Burnt Sienna
    3. Yellow Ochre
    4. Coffee latte
    5. Linen

 

Here's the basic construction of the earthen bank. A shaped piece of 3/4" extruded polystyrene insulation by DOW. I make the shape with an X-acto knife, and then do a quick sanding to get rid of the angular edges left by carving with the knife. The foam is mounted to polystyrene card, and glued with white glue. Let dry overnight.

Here’s the basic construction of the earthen bank. The bank is a hand-formed piece of 3/4″ extruded polystyrene insulation by DOW. I make the shape with an X-acto knife, and then do a quick sanding (caution-breathing foam insulation probably isn’t good for you) to get rid of the angular edges left by carving with the knife. The foam is mounted to a 6″x2″ bit of polystyrene card. You could, and probably should, use other sizes and shapes, too, but 6×2 makes a nice basic straight section. I like to round and sand the edges of the plastic card, but it’s not necessary. Attach the foam to plastic with white glue.

These wooden sticks are toothpicks that have been cut in half, and inserted into the foam. They will serve as the structure for the foilage that goes on top of the earthen bank. I glop on some white glue to hold them in place. Vary the height of the toothpicks, either by cutting them to different lengths, or controlling the depth to which they are stuck into the foam.

These wooden sticks are toothpicks that have been cut in half, and inserted into the foam. You can see some of their impaling-ready brethren in the background.  The toothpicks will serve as the structure for the foilage that goes on top of the earthen bank. I glop on some white glue to hold them in place. Vary the height of the toothpicks, either by cutting them to different lengths, or controlling the depth to which they are stuck into the foam. Three toothpicks are enough for a piece this size, two are not enough, four is a little crazy, and five is nothing less than negligently wasteful! Let the whole concoction dry overnight.

I somehow completely forgot to take photos of the next part of the process, which is to slather tan colored wood filler onto the foam/plastic card construction, feathering it to create a slope from the piece of foam down onto the base. Wood filler has a nice texture all on its own, and is fairly easy to work. This is the filler I use-you can get a big tub of it fairly cheap and with a tan tint. If you let it dry for 24 hours it will cure to a very hard and durable finish.

This is the wood filler I use

I’ll take process pictures and update this post when I do my next batch of shrubberies.

The base coat consists of cheapo craft acrylic paint ($1 at Walmart) mixed with white glue at a ration of 70/30, or thereabouts. This gives a nice tough base layer. Paint the toothpicks, too, so that they're nice and dark. This way they'll be nigh-invisible when the foliage is added.

The base coat consists of cheapo burnt-umber craft acrylic paint ($1 at Walmart) mixed with white glue at a ration of 70/30, or thereabouts. This gives a nice tough base layer. Paint the toothpicks, too, so that they’re nice and dark. This way they’ll be nigh-invisible when the foliage is added. The glue/paint mixture will take some hours to dry-leaving it overnight would be a good idea.

Next is a fairly heavy coat of cheapo burnt sienna., because there's a lot of red in dirt! I put this on in  a dry-brushy kind of way, but I don't take anywhere near as much paint of the brush as you should when doing traditional drybrushing.

Next is a fairly heavy coat of cheapo burnt sienna, because there’s a lot of red in dirt! I think this bottle was $0.67. The burnt sienna is applied in a dry-brushy kind of way, but I don’t take anywhere near as much paint off the brush as I would for traditional drybrushing.

You could probably skip the yellow ochre, but it does give a nice tint to the end product. This paint is applied with a mediumish amount of drybrushing. It will look super bright, at first, but don't worry-it tones down as it dries. The paint in the picture isn't cheap, but you should be able to find craft paints of the same color.

You could probably skip the yellow ochre, but it does give a nice tint to the end product. This paint is applied with a mediumish amount of drybrushing. It will look super bright, at first, but don’t worry-it tones down as it dries. The paint in the picture isn’t particularly cheap, but you should be able to find craft paints of the same color that do just as well for this application.

Now I use this deliciously named color (coffee-latte), and apply another heavy drybrush over the previous coats. You could probably end your investment in the dirt painting business here, if you're pressed for time. Coffee-latte is a dark tan, just this side of medium brown. That should help.

Now I use the deliciously named color, coffee latte, and apply another heavy drybrush over the previous coats. You could probably end your investment in the dirt painting business here, if you’re pressed for time. If you can’t find this particular color, Coffee-latte is a dark tan, just this side of medium brown. Anything similar should work. In fact, if you find a better shade, let me know!

Finally, do a light drybrush of a light tan color. This one is called "Linen," and it's somewhat close to Vallejo's Iraqi Sand. When I say 'light" drybrush, remember we're painting terrain here, not some twelve dollar 32mm miniature. Do it quick and don't sweat if it's a little heavy (or light).

Finally, do a light drybrush of a light tan color. The one I’ve selected is called “Linen,” and it’s somewhat close to Vallejo’s Iraqi Sand. When I say ‘light” drybrush, remember we’re painting terrain here, not some twelve dollar 32mm miniature. Do it quick and don’t sweat if it’s a little heavy (or light). This particular piece of bocage is supposed to represent a penetration by a tank outfitted with Cullen Cutters, or maybe a bulldozer blade. The idea is that the tank busting through has revealed the rubble core that exists at the center of bocage. I probably need to make it more gnarly looking. The track marks were made with a piece of 1/72 halftrack track-the wood filler material washes off easily, before it’s cured, so no worries about messing up a model kit. The stones are kitty litter painted with a mixture of grey and some of the same colors I used in painting the earthen banks. Mixing the grey with the various browns, reds, tans, and whatever makes the stones fit with the general tones of the dirt. If you paint them straight grey they’re going to look crazy out of place. Mixing greys with browns is also the key to getting good ‘campaign’ greys on Confederates, but that’s a digression I won’t pursue further.

Ok, that’s it for the dirt painting. I’m going to do some experiments, but I think one could totally eliminate the burnt sienna and yellow ochre from this mix, and still have good looking dirt. It would save a bit of time and money, too.

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Update!

 

Three different color combinations....

Three different color combinations….

Here are the results of my painting experiments.

The nearest bank contains the whole panoply of colors

  • Burnt umber
  • burnt sienna
  • yellow ochre
  • coffee latte
  • linen.

The middle bank eliminates the yellow ochre step.

  • Burnt umber
  • burnt sienna
  • coffee latte
  • linen.

The far bank is a simple three color process.

  • Burnt umber
  • coffee latte
  • linen.

I think the full range of colors looks the most naturalistic, but it does add significant time and effort to the process. The three color process looks the worst (but still looks pretty good!), and truth is, most of the bank is going to be covered by flocking and/or foliage, anyway. The full color process could be considered as wasted effort. One strategy would be to use the simple three color process for the majority of your bocage, and reserve the full process for areas where lots of ground is revealed, such as gates, trails, cullen penetrations, and other ‘cuts’ through the bocage.

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Flocking Together

I was going to handle flocking the bases in another post, but then I thought it made sense to cover all the ground work together, so here it is.

List of materials needed:

  1. Cookie tin
  2. A good mixture of various colors of flock. I use Woodland Scenics fine turf for this. DON’T USE A SINGLE COLOR OF FLOCKING. Please.
  3. White glue
  4. Water. I prefer Fiji bottled water.
  5. Just kidding.
  6. A big old brush.
  7. Spray can of matte varnish.
This is messy. Get theeself a cookie tin, piece of tupperware, or other suitable container, and fill it with a goodly amount of your flock mixture. Mix up some white glue with water (I like a 70/30 mix) and dob it in an artistic-like manner all over your bocage. The top should have less flock on it, because it would be shaded by foliage above, but don't stress about it too much. Drop, scatter, smush, and otherwise apply the flock mixture to the bank, until you're satisfied with how it looks. Then repeat!

This is messy. Get theeself a cookie tin, piece of tupperware, or other suitable container, and fill it with a goodly amount of your flock mixture. Mix up some white glue with water (I like a 70/30 mix) and dob it in an artistic-like manner all over your bocage. The top should have less flock on it, because it would be shaded by foliage above, but don’t stress about it too much. Drop, scatter, smush, and otherwise apply the flock mixture to the bank, until you’re satisfied with how it looks. Then repeat!

Here are several feet of bocage all flocked and drying. Leave your work to dry overnight, and the next day turn your pieces upside down over your cookie tin of flock, and tap to knock off the excess material and preserve it for another day. Put your banks in a box, or other container, take it outside, and give the whole mess a good spraying with matte finish. Please don't waste good Dullcote on this. The big (relatively) cheap spray cans from the local DIY shop will do just fine. The matte spray will help fix the flocking to the banks and reduce shedding.

Here are several feet of bocage all flocked and drying. Leave your work to dry overnight, and the next day turn your pieces upside down over your cookie tin of flock, and tap to knock off the excess material and preserve it for another day. Put your banks in a box, or other container, take it outside, and give the whole mess a good spraying with matte finish. Please don’t waste good Dullcote on this. The big (relatively) cheap spray cans from the local DIY shop will do just fine. The matte spray will help fix the flocking to the banks and reduce shedding.

Foliage coming up!

Foliage coming up!

You can take the bocage banks to another level by adding static grass, clump foliage, flowers, leaf scatter, and other goodies to your heart’s content. I’m trying to get ready for a Normandy anniversary game of Chain of Command, and only have a few days left, so this is as far as I’m taking the banks for the moment. Also, I’m lazy.

I’ll cover the brush, shrubs, trees (maybe) and other foliage on top of the bocage banks in the next post.

 

 

 

 

 

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PhotosNormandie

I logged into my Flickr account, tonight, which is something I haven’t done in a long time. While I was on the site, I stumbled across PhotosNormandie in my contact list. PhotosNormandie is a resource I had totally forgotten about. It is a sprawling photographic archive from the Normandy campaigns of ’44-’45.

p012347

It’s quite useful as a reference for terrain, building, equipment, and uniform details. It’s also great as a stark reminder of the reality which we attempt to game. Anyway, go have a look, if you’re interested in the campaign-you’re bound to see some interesting photographs (many of which are extremely good photographs, to boot).

2GM_CHBG103

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.

A Dry Season

State of the Union

Well, the gaming drought continues due to the crushing workload of architecture school (insert whimpering sounds). After complaining, I’ll admit that I’m giving myself a four-hour break on Saturday to play Squad Leader with a friend at the local gaming club’s monthly game day. It’s been a long, long, (very long) time since I’ve played a game of Squad Leader, or any hex-and-chit wargame (unless Memoir ’44 or Command and Colors counts), and I’m really looking forward to it.

Current Events

I have managed to do a bit of reading here and there, though it’s not getting done at my usual rapacious pace. I finished up Frigates, Sloops, and Brigs, which was pretty darned awesome and launched into Balkoski’s Beyond the Beachhead: The 29th Infantry Division in Normandy. Balkoski’s book is the perfect resource for Skirmish Campaign’s Heroes of Omaha and Panzer Lehr, as it details the exploits of the US force covered in that game book and is written from the level of the blood and mud. The author did lots and lots of research from primary resources, which lends a lot of authenticity to the nitty-gritty perspective.

A chronicle of the 29th Division in WW2

I’m only about 50 pages in, but the book is clearly written, and has some great breakdowns of US infantry organization and small unit tactics. The narrative hasn’t reached actual combat, yet, but I suspect the quality will continue, or even improve. I get the impression that Balkoski fell in love with the 29th a bit, but I hope it won’t be to an annoyingly blinding degree.

In any case, if you’re considering playing the HOOPLA campaign book, Beyond the Beachhead is proving to be an essential companion piece. Unless the next 200 pages completely suck, in which case I’ll let you know!

Signing off for yet another night of drafting until I drool…

Now is the Winter of our Discontent

The above phrase has nothing to do with this post. But it is winter, so I’ll let it stand.

I haven’t been on the blog in a bit, because I’ve been lucky enough to have been gainfully employed for the last week and a half. Not that I was unemployed before, but I was seriously under-employed! In any case, yay for employment.

That’s not to say that I’ve lagged on the historical miniatures wargaming front! In fact, I’ve been quite busy!

I should Explain

I almost have my American roster of reinforcements completed for the “Heroes of Omaha and Panzer Lehr” campaign that I’m hoping to play in the new year. In fact, all they lack is a drybrush of yellow ochre and some flocking. Expect shots of mortarmen and .30 caliber machinegunners in the very near future. Of course, I still have a bunch of terrain boards, two more squads of American infantry, and the German reinforcement roster to build and paint, but I try not to think about that.

This is good

I hesitate to give this campaign book a glowing review without having played a single game, yet, but I really do think it’s good.

The scenarios are, ostensibly, historical. I’m not sure to what degree of accuracy, but the supplement does include a significant bibliography and  recommended reading list, the inclusion of which points to a certain level of scholarship. I don’t know how important historical accuracy is to an enjoyable game of miniatures, but at the very least it’s cool to game based on real history. That’s enough for me, I think.

HoOaPL (that’s awkward. From now on, I dub thee HOOPLA) has no less than three campaigns of varying intensity. The battles in HOOPLA are invariably unbalanced and reflect the ebb and flow of real engagements. The terrain (the bocage, sunken roads, and stone farmhouses of Normandy) and naturally resulting force dispositions seem to be very tactically engaging.

The initial campaign features 2’x4′ boards (Skirmish Campaigns suggests doubling the board size if you’re gaming 28mm) and manageable numbers of troops. This is, of course, very encouraging for a beginner like me. Not that I’m not drooling to play the later campaigns and scenarios with larger boards and tasty amounts of armor!

The engagements in the initial campaign (which actually pits the US 29th Infantry Division vs. the German 356th Infantry Division, not Panzer Lehr) are primarily concerned with infantry actions. That first campaign features forces of a reinforced platoon on the American side vs. (typically) a squad and a few machine guns on the German side. There are opportunities for vehicles, anti-tank guns, and other elements in the random reinforcements that the book details, and they should provide a bit of spice to the games. I think the approximate 3:1 ratio of attackers to defenders that the scenarios contain should make for some harrowing games for both sides.

There are meaningful decisions to be made within the campaign structure. For instance, if the player of the German side  (I almost said German player) mounts an inflexible defense in the first scenarios of the opening campaign, he’s quite likely to be steamrolled by the Americans. A more elastic defense allows the Germans to retain men and firepower in anticipation of stronger reinforcements in the later scenarios. At the same time, the Germans will not be in particularly great shape later on, if they don’t inflict significant casualties on the Americans in the earlier scenarios.

As excited as I am to actually play a game of TW&T with my minis, I’m very tempted to play referee for the first HOOPLA campaign. I think I (and my potential players) would really get a kick out of the increased fog of war that a refereed campaign would give. It would also allow me to get a really good command of the rules. Another happy side effect would be the potential hooking of said potential players on miniatures wargaming crack.

The Best News

But on to more important things.

I’ve played in a Pendragon game with a few fellows down at the local game shop every Thursday  for the past several months on a weekly basis. It’s been decades since I played RPGs so often! I could go on and on about how great Pendragon is, and how lucky I am to finally get to play in a campaign, but that’s a subject for an entirely different blog. The only reason that I bring it up is that the GM of the campaign has family in for the holidays and has cancelled for tomorrow.

Not to jump for joy at the temporary demise of our Pendragon campaign, but I’m going to take this opportunity to play a small game of Troops, Weapons, and Tactics with another member of the RPG group. Brendon is an old grognard (In fact, I owe him a game of Squad Leader in the very near future), so I’m interested to see how he’ll react to a relatively radical set of rules like TW&T. Hopefully I don’t screw everything up and he really enjoys it!

Happy Holidays…days…days

I’ll bring my camera to the TW&T game, but I won’t be able to post up a report until after the New Year.

Not only is it the holidays, but I’m going pheasant hunting with my father and brother in the plains of West Texas for most of the week following Christmas. I’m not completely comfortable with hunting as a past time, and haven’t done any since I was a very young man/boy, but I’m excited to go tromp about in the brush with a shotgun, nonetheless.

In any case, have a great Christmas, my legions (I use a 1:100 figure/unit ratio for this blog) of readers.

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P.S. I bet no one has ever made a sarcastic ‘legions of readers’ joke in the history of blogdome. EVER.