Tag Archives: terrain

Somewhere in France…

The hedges are in horrid shape. Obviously the gardener has been off with the Maquis...

The Sherman has totally got the drop on this poor Stug. The hedges are in horrid shape around the chateau. Obviously the gardener has been off with the Maquis…

This brief interlude is serving as a palette cleanser for my Napoleonics project. I picked up a copy of Spearhead a few weeks ago with a view to doing something (anything!) with some microarmor I painted up a long time ago for Normandy. I like the idea of gaming microarmor at the operational level (Spearhead can handle about a division per side, with each player commanding around a battalion). I haven’t totally committed to the rules so I haven’t based any troops or vehicles, yet, but I thought it would be fairly safe to develop some of Spearhead’s 3″x3″ abstracted built-up-areas using some buildings I painted last year.

German anti-tank column pushes through the village.

German column pushes through the village.

I’ve been using Vallejo fine pumice, mixed with paint, for all my basing needs, but it’s a little rough for this scale. I’m ok with the results I got on these two bases, but maybe there’s something more appropriate out there? Also, even the finest model railroad ballast is too chunky for 1/285 gravel, as I’ve used it at the circular drive in front of the chateau. I think play sand would be the thing to use for that sort of application.

Back side.

Back side.

A Tree Grows in Normandy

I didn’t spend much time on wargaming stuff this week, but was somehow very productive. That’s a good equation, in my book!

I think it's pretty nice that this AB squad conveniently breaks down into a fire element and a maneuver element.

I think it’s pretty nice that this AB squad conveniently breaks down into a fire element and a maneuver element. (ignore the bridge-it’s only accidentally in the photo)

I’ve completed my third and final US infantry squad for playing Chain of Command. Now I can field a platoon of US infantry, and a platoon of Panzergrenadiers, with a few choice support elements on each side. I do have some vehicles to paint up, plus a ton of terrain yet to be done (accursed bocage!).

Trees, meet Bocage, Bocage, meet Trees.

Trees, meet Bocage, Bocage, meet Trees.

I have made some progress on the terrain front-I’ve taken Thomas’s suggestion and made trees out of found twigs and the air filter material I used to make my bocage. They’ve turned out nicely, I think. Which just goes to show, you should always take Thomas’s advice; I mean, just look at his blog!

These particular twigs are from the shrubs in front of the house. Conveniently, we were trimming off the dead stuff from the shrubs because it’s spring and time to work in the yard, and I very quickly had a ready supply of 20mm scale tree trunks and branches. And they were already dry!

Here’s the process:

  1. Gather twigs with multiple ‘branches,’ hopefully going in multiple directions so that the end product has lots of volume.
  2. Cut squares of air filter material for each tree, then shape, tease, tug, shear, and otherwise deform into a ragged mass.
  3. Test fit your ragged clumps of air filter material to the branches, adjust until you have a vaguely tree-looking mass.
  4. Take your clumps of air filter material out to the garage, or other place where you can spray paint without being disturbed by the wind (air filter material is VERY light).
  5. Spray the air filter clumps with a dark brown paint. This will take some doing, as the filter material is very porous. Just take your time and do multiple coats over a few days. You’ll need at least two coats, but three or four would be better.
  6. I mounted my trees on needles. This lets me use them freely with my foam play-mat backed gaming mats, and they also fit nicely into my bocage, which is constructed of polystyrene insulation. I used a 1/16″ drill bit to hollow out a place in the “tree trunks”, filled it with superglue, and shoved in a needle, pointy side sticking out. You can easily cut down the needles with a pair of wire snips, but shield your eyes when you do. Give the super glue time to fully cure before trying to stick the tree into anything.
  7. Now you can take your trees and stick them into a scrap piece of polystyrene insulation (or other stickable surface). Get a hot glue gun and glue your brown filter clumps to the branches. Let it dry (which will take about 2.5 seconds) and clean up the inevitable hot-glue spiderwebs.
  8. Go back out to the garage with your trees and mounted filter foilage. Lightly ‘dust’ the foilage with a light tan spray paint. This is just to give the filter mass a little volumetric definition (I just coined that term). It’s a subtle thing, but it does help.
  9. The next step is easy, but messy. Spray down your trees with watered-down white glue. I sugges holding the trees upside down by their trunks, and spraying them one at a time. You want to avoid wetting the trunks with the glue for reasons which should be obvious. Holding them upside down will let the glue pass through the filter material and give more surface for the flocking to adhere to.
  10. Speaking of flocking, hopefully you have some coarse flock in various colors, because now you’re going to sprinkle your soaking wet filter material with flock. I never use a single color of flock by itself. I always mix up at least two colors. I will vary the amount of each color I use to give individual trees their own character.  For instance, I might use 60% dark green, 40% burnt grass on one tree, and then reverse the proportions on the next. In any case, make them look like trees. Sprinkle, carefully place, dip, and smush the flock onto the filter material to suit your tastes.
  11. Spray the tree tops with watered down glue again.
  12. Let everything dry, then clean up the trunks, as you’ll have some random pieces of flock stuck to them. At this point the trees will still be shedding flock like crazy. Continue to spray with glue, and let dry, until you’re satisfied with the amount of shedding (I’m not sure it’s possible to get the things 100% stable).

The process sounds like a lot of work, but it’s actually very quick, and uses materials that are either cheap or (probably) already in your arsenal of wargaming terrain making materials. Hopefully the narrative explains the process sufficiently, but if anyone wants me to, I could put together a photo tutorial without too much trouble.

Depending on how you plan to use your trees, there is one potential downside to this method-your trees won’t have roots. Of course, there are a multitude of ways to make tree roots, especially if you’re doing a more conventional type of basing that doesn’t involve poking things with inch long needles.


0.10 Flocking Together: Terrain Boards the 3rd

We’re Going to Need Paint, Lots of Paint.

Burnt Sienna in Action

After the base coat of Burnt Umber, sand, and gravel has thoroughly dry it’s time to do some fun stuff. For these first boards I’ve constructed I’ve decided to paint in three stages. The second stage is a very heavy drybrush of Burnt Sienna. That sort of rich dark red is a very earthy color and mixes well with the Burnt Umber. Obviously. They both have Burnt in their name.


And this is what my coat of B.S. looks like. You’ll note the dishrag I’ve been using to dry my (cheap and practically disposable!) brush on. You’ll want to dedicate a rag or three to painting, otherwise you’ll go through paper towels at a prodigious rate, and that’s just not cool on many levels.

The third and final stage of painting the boards is to apply a lighter drybrush of Yellow Ochre to pick up some highlights. Honestly, I’m not 100% happy with this color. It contrasts a bit much with the darker brown and red of the Burnt Brothers. I’ll probably try another shade, next time.

I like ochre. Yellow ochre.

Then again, it really does bring out the gravel/sand texture. I didn’t get a good shot of it, but I laid on the Yellow Ochre on the road fairly thick, to simulate dried mud and dust (I followed up with a drybrush of Iraqi Sand, as well).

Dry, but not too dry.

Terrain Boards: The Flocking

Flocking can be made from sawdust and paint. If I had ever used the stuff before a few days ago, and had had any idea what it actually looked like, I would have tried to make my own right off the bat. As it was, I ordered some fairly healthy-sized canisters of Woodland Scenics flock. It’s not cheap, especially for what it is. In any case, I’ll be trying out the method detailed here next time I need flock. Which will be fairly soon, at this rate.

You’re going to need a good-sized brush, a small tub of some sort, some water, a drop cloth (or newspaper) of some sort, and a good amount of glue for this next step.

This could get messy...

Flocking involves spreading PVA glue all over your board(s). I water the glue down to a milky consistency with simple tap water. Apply the glue everywhere you want grass.

Here comes Santa Claus...

Shake flock all over your board. Do it up thick, as we’re going to harvest the excess later. Try to use a couple of shades of flock, so your battlefield doesn’t look like a manicured golf course.

The Flock Monster

I wanted to show that there was a little less wear in the center of the road and driveway. This may not be accurate in a time and place where horse drawn carts and wagons were still commonplace. Certainly, if you plan on using your boards for earlier periods, you shouldn’t have grass in the center of a road. In any case, I used a bit too much glue, and thus have a bit too much grass in the road.

Keep your excess.

So, there it is, a flocked terrain board. Note the excess flock, ready to be returned to its container? This particular board turned out quite well. But there are problems. Behold the next photograph:

The Ignominy of Defeat

Ok, so the problem. As a final step on my terrain boards, I’ve been going over them with another coat of watered down PVA glue. This makes them quite tough, and keeps them from shedding flock everywhere. I got this tip from a used Games Workshop book that I found.

Getting on to the problem, you’ll note that the board in the lower left-hand corner (the one we’ve followed through this little tutorial) looks quite a bit more…verdant than the other two boards. I have no idea why. I used the same methodology for all three boards. I can only guess that the milkiness of the other two boards is due to a) temperature during the curing time, b) humidity during the curing time, or c) a pva/water mix of thicker consistency than the one used on the final board. I really think it’s a mixture of a&b, as I used a space heater in the room where the final board cured, and a space heater makes for a very arid environment.

So, to recap, three things I want to experiment with next time:

  • Something a little less bright than Yellow Ochre for my highlights.
  • A thinner mixture of water & pva for the final protective coating.
  • Forgoing the protective coating altogether, in favor of some sort of spray lacquer.

As an aside, this last photograph shows the level of completion that I’m at as of 11/22/11.  I’m getting closer to being ready for that first game! I need to finish the little house, create a bunch of trees, some hedges, and a rock wall or two.