Category Archives: Terrain

Wargaming terrain & scenery posts.

Modular River, Part Three: Paint & Sand

Last time we saw the river modules, they were bare white plastic with clay banks. I’m happy to report that progress has been made!

Sand and paint on the river modules, and paint on the bridge. Click for larger.

Nothing fancy, just a coat of black paint mixed with some white glue, then sand shaken over while everything was still wet. I’ll put another coat of paint and glue over the sand to fully secure it, then get on with the rest.

As seen in the photo above, the bridge is also fully painted. Over the black primer (mixed, as usual, with white glue) I blobbed two different green shades and some rust brown, then started drybrushing with a dark grey, a bit of tan, then lighter grey and finally just a bit of pure white on the edges and upper surfaces.

Black primer coat with blotches of other colours. Click for larger.
Drybrushing in progress, starting the greys. 28mm Warlord pikeman on the 25mm base to the right for scale. Click for larger.
Bridge all painted, being guarded by a trio of Warlord 28mm musketeers. Click for larger.

I’ll do the river banks alongside the bridge next, then paint and sand so all ten river segments are at the same stage, then it’s off to doing water effects, probably with epoxy resin.

Modular River, Part Two: The Bridge Begun

Realized I forgot to include the photo of the river modules with the air drying clay banks in place, so let’s start off with that! I rolled clay snakes out, mushed them into place, and left everything to dry.

Clay banks in place on some of the river modules. Click for larger.

On to the actual subject of this post, the bridge! This river project is initially intended to go along with my English Civil War pike & shot project I’m painting figures for, so I started with a classic stone arch bridge. The base module is one of the two short river modules, so it’s 6″ long and 6″ wide. I decided to make the roadway portion of the bridge 50mm wide, which will fit at least two foot or cavalry figures side-by-side, or a wagon or vehicle. The whole bridge is roughly 5.5″ long, more or less.

The roadway is three layers of light card (90lbs or so) laminated together with white glue and left to dry under a couple of heavy books. After that dried overnight I cut it to length to form the arch, then glued more small rectangles of light card to it for the flagstone bridge surface. While that was drying I superglued two little strips of card in place on the styrene base to hold the arch in place – you can see them at either end of the roadway in the picture below. These gave the roadway something to be braced against while I superglued it into place.

The inner arch was formed similarly, although I only used a single layer of card as it won’t be exposed in the final model.

For the sides I started with an offcut of one inch thick pink styrofoam insulation. I marked the roadway and inside arches on the side of the piece with a pencil, then carefully cut the curves and the end pillars with a brand-new Xacto blade before slicing the entire piece in half lengthwise to get both sides of the bridge. They were glued into place with white glue – you can’t use superglue on styrofoam, it melts! – and braced with various heavy things overnight so they dried in place.

The bridge with sides held in place while the white glue dries, top-down view. The figure on left is on a 25mm wide base. Click for larger.

After the whole assembly had dried for about six hours or so I started carving the stone sides, using my usual combination of an Xacto knife and a pencil. Cut patterns with the knife, then open up the cuts with the pencil for a nice easy stone effect. I also used a ball of tin foil to add a bit of stone texture to the sytrofoam; I might yet go back and add more to the parts that are still too smooth.

Carving started on the walls of the bridge. Horseman is on a 20mm by 40mm base. Click for larger.

After doing the carving I decided to put a row of capping stones across the tops of the arches and pillars. Making them out of heavier matt board (picture framing card, one of my favourite building materials) means they’ll protect the styrofoam sides of the bridge, much the same way a harder stone like slate is often used to protect a more carveable stone! I cut a strip of matt board then chopped slightly different sizes rectangles from it, to make the result more varied and interesting.

Cap stones in place on the arches and pillars. Click for larger.

To add texture, especially to the card, and to help protect the whole structure a bit more, I put a coat of GW Liquid Greenstuff over most of the bridge and, for now at least, declared construction finished! I still need to do the river banks, obviously, and might yet add some small buttresses to the sides of the end pillars of the bridge. The stonework might need more texture, too, but I’ll wait until I get a primer coat of paint on it before making that decision.

Liquid Greenstuff applied, bridge construction basically done. Click for larger.

Finally, here’s a miniature eye shot (more or less!) of one end of the bridge looking up the roadway. This shows the flagstones of the roadway nicely; I’m really pleased with how they turned out. Individual little rectangles of light card is a painful way to do flagstones, but it does look good! You can also see the card strip I glued down to brace the road arch in place; I’ll eventually cover that in clay or putty to disguise it as flagstones or hide it.

Low level view across the bridge! Click for larger.

The main river modules are also proceeding, all the clay banks are straightened and glued down, so I might be able to get texture on them in the next few days, although we’re going to have a house guest in our spare room (usually my workspace/man cave) for all of this coming week!

Modular River, Part One

A relatively large modular river setup has been on my Things I Want To Build list for years. I went through the excellent set of scenarios that come with Pikeman’s Lament recently with an eye toward what additional scenery I might need to do them properly, and one of the scenarios is a bridge seizing/river crossing that needs a river the long way down the table — suggested table size for Pikeman’s Lament being 4’x6′.

Perfect, a good reason to shunt the river project to the front of the queue as my summer project! It’s also universal scenery that I can use on pretty much any of my tables, possibly with alternate bridge modules eventually to better match, say, my Russian Civil War setup or even Infinity’s cyberpunk future!

To check proportions and the basic idea I fired up Inkscape. You can work in real-world units in Inkscape really easily, so it’s ideal as a super-basic quick layout tool, faster than doing things by hand on graph paper and cheaper than wasting materials! I decided on 6″ wide modules with a 3″ wide river in between 1.5″ banks, which will let me put lots of flocking and foliage along the banks. The bridge is 50mmm wide across the road part, which gives enough width for at least two figures across and will accommodate figures on 40mmm wide multibases as well.

Screenshot of my river planning setup in Inkscape. Top is testing different river widths, bottom is messing with different module layouts. Click for larger.

I started construction by buying a 4′ by 2′ sheet of .040 (~1mmm) styrene plastic sheet from our excellent local plastic store, Industrial Plastic & Paint. The big sheets of bulk styrene are identical to the 8×10 pieces you buy in a hobby store but much, much cheaper! I cut two 12″ by 24″ pieces, enough for six 12″ straight river modules, two 6″ long short modules, and a pair of curve pieces about 3 or 4″ long. That’s enough river to get from one side of a 6′ long table to the other at an angle, and keeping the bridge piece on one of the 6″ short modules makes placing it more flexible.

The long straight sections aren’t perfectly straight, incidentally. I offset each one by about a half inch, so the river will wander back and forth a bit on the table, or angle gradually one way if you align all the long pieces the same way. The long sides are cut slightly irregularly and then sanded down to smooth out any jagged edges from the scissors.

Styrene sheet all cut out for the rivers. Six 12″ straights, 2 6″ straights, and two short curve pieces, over 7 feet of river all told! Click for larger.

There are cheaper material than .040 styrene, even at bulk rates, and there are certainly stronger materials, so why thin styrene? Because it’s thin, strong, and waterproof. I dislike scenery that stands up really high off the table, the styrene is going to be strong enough provided nobody abuses it, especially once all the clay, sand, glue, more glue, etc etc is on it, and I can slop paint, water, and glue around with abandon without anything warping or being destroyed.

For the banks I decided to use air drying clay and picked up a cheap pack at one of our local art stores. I marked the 3″ standard width of the river on the ends of all the styrene pieces, rolled out snakes of clay, and mushed them into place with my fingers. Good old kindergarten-level stuff, nothing fancy. Keep a little pot of water handy to wet your fingers in and smooth the clay.

The best way to use air drying clay is actually to put a layer of white glue down on your base material, and then mush your clay around on top of the glue. They’ll dry together and bond to the base material. I didn’t do this, so now I’m gluing the dried pieces of clay back to the styrene… this does give me a better chance to correct any warping caused by the clay drying, which has happened. Gently bending the clay straight then gluing it down with a weight on top of it – I used figure transport cases – has so far sorted out all the warping issues.

A thicker more heavyweight base material wouldn’t have warped, but see above about disliking scenery that stands too proud of the table surface. Always about the tradeoffs!

With the clay done on all six straight long modules, the two curves, and one of the short straight modules – which I’m doing up as a shallow ford – I started building the bridge on the last short straight module. More on that soon!

Warbases Skirmish Movement Trays

I picked up a batch of simple lasercut MDF trays sized for 25mm bases on one of my recent Warbases order. Pikeman’s Lament uses either six or twelve figures per unit as standard, so I bought a batch of six-base skirmish trays (listed on Warbases’ site as “Dux Brit/Zombie Trays“) and a pair of twelve-base three by four regiment trays for when a PL pike unit is in Close Order, both cut for the 25mm MDF bases I’m using for my English Civil War/Pikeman’s Lament project.

Each tray is two layers of 2mm MDF, lasercut and with the two layers already glued together straight from Warbases. I’d been thinking of replacing the bottom solid layer of 2mm MDF with something thinner (probably .030 plastic card) as I am not a huge fan of big thick bases, so having them arrive pre-assembled forced me to consider different options.

As an aside, if you really did want un-glued movement trays, or even just the tops so you could do your own base layers, I’m fairly sure Martin and Warbases crew can set you up that way. Chuck them an email and ask!

I finally broke out my grossly underused Dremel tool, poured a pint of excellent beer, and sat down on the back patio with this unwise combination to modify my movement trays to my liking!

Beer and power tools, an excellent combination! Also pictured, grumpy cat wondering why it’s so damn hot and why her human servant is insane. Click for larger.

A Note Of Warning: Power tools capable of 30,000 RPM and alcohol is not a recommended combination. Sanding MDF without wearing some sort of filter mask is also not recommended. Even though I was outside while doing this, I can still taste MDF dust on the back of my mouth over a day later. Wear a dust mask of some sort. Don’t combine power tools and beer, even very good beer. Dear readers, be smarter than me. Thank you. Also, should you not be smarter than me, don’t send lawyers after me. They’re scary. Thank you again.

Anyway…

A couple of minutes with a sanding drum on the Dremel per base rounded the top edges off nicely, and the corners of the regiment bases. I touched up a few scuffs from the Dremel by hand with regular sandpaper, knocked the nasty MDF dust off, and then brought everything – including the beer – inside to my workbench to add a bit of sand here and there to the trays.

First two bases done on the right, untouched ones on the left. Click for larger.

With that done, I put the Dremel away, poured another pint of beer, and put a bit of sand around the edges of the trays, being careful to keep it out of the holes. Dark brown base paint followed, then some drybrushing after that was dry, and finally some of my usual flock/turf mix here and there to help blend everything together.

Sand, base paint, and drybrush done, starting flock. Click for larger.
Flock all done. I might add some tufts or other detail bits eventually, but this will do nicely for now! Click for larger.
The bases in use with Warlord pike in various stages of completion. Click for larger.

These movement trays are a great value and will make “big” skirmish games a bit easier to manage! I’ll definitely be getting more, especially of the six-base irregular trays, and might contact Warbases about some custom irregular trays for my cavalry, who are mostly on 20mm by 40mm rectangular bases, or my artillery, when I add some guns to my Pikeman’s Lament forces. Having the entire force on similar movement trays would look really sharp and make games a bit more streamlined, especially if I’m running convention games for other people.

Links of Interest, 22 June 2017

A handful of links I thought were worth sharing this week.

Historical Enterprises, Inc are a historical reenactors garb/costuming company with all sorts of great articles on their website. If you need plausible colours for your Medieval, Renaissance, ECW, etc figures, this article on fabric, dyes, and colours is based on practice up to the 14th or 15th C but almost certainly applicable before and after that.

John Bond created a great looking pond from teddy bear fur. I’d never considered using fake fur for water features, but it looks pretty good!

I’m considering creating an imaginary English shire to set my ongoing English Civil War project in. There’s a long tradition of “imagi-nations” in wargaming, especially Seven Year’s War or Napoleonic gaming, so an imagi-shire seems like a reasonable thing! In that vein, I found a couple of English place/village name generators to help populate an imagi-shire with plausible-sounding names; The English Village Name Generator and English Place Names Generator being two among many!

A Small Stone Circle

Not every stone circle is a gigantic trilithon monument like Stonehenge. Some of them might be barely recognizable as stone circles, in fact, until you realize that plants grown in strange patterns around the stones, or you wander past on certain very specific nights of the year…

This little project started out as a way to use up leftover putty; whenever I had excess greenstuff or Milliput I’d squish it into a rough stone shape and let it dry on one corner of my bench. This weekend I wanted a quick project as a distraction, so I grabbed four of these stones, hot-glued them to a scrap CD, and added sand. That got left to dry overnight, then I basecoated it dark brown, let that dry a few hours, and drybrushed the sand to bring up the texture with various shades of pale brown, tan, and very pale grey.

The stones got a black basecoat, the drybrushed with various shades of grey, tan, and finally white.

The flocked areas are my usual mix of ground foam and static grass, and then I added various tufts from Army Painter and the flowers from Rain City Hobbies. The flowers form a ring around the outside of the stones, and I kept the foliage inside the stones to a minimum.

Stone circle, overhead view, with a 28mm Warlord pike & shot officer for scale on a 25mm base. Click for larger.
The circle from something close to model eye level or just above, with the same Warlord officer. Click for larger.

My ongoing English Civil War project might well shade over into some sort of gunpowder fantasy version of the ECW or TYW, in which case the circle will be right at home, and in the meantime it can add a little touch of strangeness to some lonely corner of my tabletops… who meets in the centre of this flower’d circle, with it’s well-trodden paths? Be ye for King, Parliament… or some far older Power?!

Alien Dog Monsters!

A few days ago Corvus Belli, the company behind Infinity, had a tweet and FB post asking their fans which of two alien “werewolf” varieties they liked better. For those not familiar, one of the interstellar colonies in the game’s background, Ariadna, has dog-like natives who have managed (don’t ask for details, it’s pure anime genetics) to crossbreed in a few cases with humans, resulting in alien-human werewolves of several different types!

This seems like the sort of thing that would cause wild comment and speculation in the rest of the human cultures when Ariadna is rediscovered. The background fluff is full of gloriously over-the-top tabloid style reporting, so I channelled that and used CB’s photo to create the following street ad that will be appearing on a billboard on my Infinity scenery in due course.

Are Ariadnans still REALLY HUMAN or are they ALIEN DOG MONSTERS? Tune in to find out, and click to get the full-size 1500px wide version suitable for printing at good resolution!

I apologize for nothing!

Warbases Church, Part Two

More progress on detailing the lasercut MDF church from Warbases that I started previously.

Stonework & Doors

Buttresses and a double row of foundation stonework have been added with pink styrofoam insulation cut with a new Xacto knife. I used scrap card to create a small jig to keep the angle of the front of the buttresses the same across the fourteen buttresses around the outside of the church. The buttresses are roughly a quarter inch wide, two inches tall, and about half an inch deep at the base of each.

Styrofoam stonework in place on the church; Warlord 28mm pikeman on 25mm base for scale. Click for larger.
Buttresses and stonework on the other two sides of the church. The extra stone partway down the side disguises a join in the foundation strips. Click for larger.

The front door is card with planks scored into it, with more light card for the hinges and handles. The door arch is more pink styrofoam. Inside the church I’ve added an interior wall of 1/16th matt board on the tower end to hide the tabs where the tower walls slot into the end wall. That’s had some added detail with matt board and card, and the door was done with offcuts of coffee stir stick wood and card.

On the left, both doors at once, with the porch walls in position but not glued. Right, close-up of the front door. Click for larger.

All of the styrofoam was glued down then carved and textured after the glue had dried; I used a ball of tin foil to add a stone texture, then my usual knife-and-pencil stone carving technique.

Priming & Painting

The whole building got a coat of black paint as primer. Rather than the default grey stone that I always seem to use I took some inspiration from churches I’ve seen online from Shropshire county in England and decided to do mostly reddish stone with some grey stone used as accents, similar to the Cound Church of St Peter

Cound Church of St Peter, Shropshire, England. Image via Wikipedia, CC-BY-SA.

I started with brown paint drybrushed heavily on, then a fairly light grey paint, and finally a drybrush of red oxide/burnt umber. I’ve done a bit of edge highlighting so far, but will do more and might yet do another paler drybrush over the whole building to pop some more details out.

The capping stones on each buttress were done in dark grey then drybrushed a paler grey, as was the arch around the main door. I might yet do more stones in grey, just to add some variation to the building. I also glued the porch walls and front down, and added more strips of styrofoam for the foundation of the porch.

Black primer paint drying, with some weight inside the building to keep the base from warping. Click for larger.
Tower end of the church all painted, and with the porch glued down and stonework added around the base of it. Click for larger.
Altar end of the church all painted. Click for larger.

The Roof(s)

Both the main roof and the porch roof got covered in Warbases’ very nice lasercut slate tiles and primed black like the rest of the building. So far the main roof is painted more or less the same as the rest of the building, with an extra grey drybrush to pop the texture a bit more and make it look a bit different from the walls.

Main roof, painting in progress. Click for larger.

The porch comes with MDF panels for the roof, but they look quite thick so I cut a strip of light card the same size, folded it, and glued it into place. Before gluing the roof down I added strips of card against the stone wall to hide the slots where the MDF roof panels should slot in; they’ll be painted to look like lead flashing eventually. As mentioned, the porch roof got more of the Warbases lasercut slate tiles, and will get bargeboards on the front edges eventually to hide the edges of the slate.

Porch roofed and primered, with Warlord pikeman for scale. Click for larger.

Up on the roof of the tower I doubled the thickness of the walls with matt board, then put down a wooden floor using styrene plank sheet, with a roof hatch from a bit more styrene. The upper edges of the walls got a bit of GW Liquid Greenstuff to help disguise the line between the MDF wall and the matt board additions, and painting is in progress.

Tower roof and main roof from overhead. Click for larger.

Still To Do…

The outside edges of the base has a layer of fine scenery grit – coarse sand – glued down and mostly painted black; I’ll paint it up dark brown with a bit of a drybrush, then put various kinds of flock and turf around.

The porch still needs work, mostly paint, and a bit of detailing on the roof. The tower roof also needs painting, and I’m not entirely happy with the colours on the main roof.

Inside is still the big job. The Warbases kit comes with solid lasercut windows that look good from the outside but will make the accessible interior look a bit odd. I might use square grid plastic mesh – the same stuff you use in screen doors – to fill the windows, with inside walls of more matt board, like I did with the inside of the wall between the tower and church proper. Still, with the exterior done including scenic groundwork I’ll be happy to put the church on the table and put finishing the interior off for a bit!

Review: Warbases MDF Vehicles

Warbases started doing vehicles in lasercut MDF and cardboard (greyboard) a few years ago and I was intruiged right away; a lot of 28mm vehicles are fairly expensive or (especially for World War One, Russian Civil War, or other early 20th C gaming) simply don’t exist.

It took me a while to get around to ordering any of the vehicles, but I now have a Pierce Arrow truck and an Albion truck that I’ve built, and I’m pleased to say these are really nice kits, great value for their cost, and quite easy to build!

The Peasant Cart

I also picked up Warbases’ Peasant Cart 2, which is part of their Carts & Wagons line, listed separately from the Vehicles line. This is a straightforward little model, about 20 pieces including the wheels, and produces a nice solid piece of wargaming scenery. It’s called a cart, but it is a full four wheel wagon.

Assembly and painting didn’t take much time at all, maybe half an hour. I used a random grubby wash of green-grey over the whole wagon, added a bit of pale grey for the insides of the wagon, then did a bit of edge highlighting with a grey-white mix just to pop some of the edges a bit. I’ll probably glue some straw (cut from manila cord) down to the inside of the wagon just for a bit more easy detailing.

Assembled and painted wagon, resting on top of a paint jar. Click for larger.

The wagon is big enough that two or three figures on 20mm bases could fit in the bed of it, although it’s too narrow for 25mm or larger bases to fit flat.

The Trucks

The Pierce Arrow is a relatively small truck, with room for two or three figures in the truck bed. The Albion is quite a bit larger, with room for 6 figures on 20mm bases or 3-4 figures on 25mm bases in the bed.

Albion truck under construction in the foreground, Pierce Arrow in the background. The figure is a 28mm Pulp Figures mechanic on a 20mm base. Click for larger.

Each truck comes as a couple of small sheets of MDF and an even smaller (business-card sized, roughly) sheet of greyboard card, with roughly 30 or so parts per vehicle. The instructions are photo-illustrated PDFs on the Warbases website, which does mean you can check them out before purchase. It sometimes takes a bit of peering at some of the photos to figure out which part is being fitted where, and as always I highly, highly recommend carefully dryfitting everything before you start adding glue!

One thing I noticed and appreciated about both trucks and the wagon is that any part that isn’t unique is actually identical to any corresponding part – the sides of the truck beds are identical and interchangeable, for example. Most parts aren’t labelled or numbered, but this nice design touch makes it hard to screw up the build process. Warbases has also put on-sprue/on-sheet photos of the parts of all three of these kits on their website, which helps sometimes with keeping track of parts.

The Pierce Arrow truck took me maybe an hour to assemble and paint to the point you can see in these photos; it’s got a bit of detail painting and cleanup left to do, and maybe some more weathering, so these are fast kits to assemble and get onto the table. I stopped assembling the Albion at the point you see in these photos so that I could paint the undercarriage before adding the wheels and fenders, as the Pierce got a bit cramped to paint with the wheels in place and the Albion has fenders on all four wheels, not just the front. I’ve also skipped putting the cab roof on the Albion for now to make painting the inside of the cab less painful.

Top view of both trucks with figures on 20mm bases in both. Six fit easily in the Albion (left) while three only just fit in the Pierce Arrow (right) with the third one overlapping. Figures all by Bob Murch/Pulp Figures. Click for larger.

The Pierce Arrow has been basecoated dark green with a black roof; I’ll do a round of highlighting (mostly of the edges) and there’s some detail areas like the wheels, headlight, and front grille left to paint. I haven’t decided what colour to do the bigger Albion; possibly dark grey or tan. Both colour schemes will do for either military or civilian vehicles of the era, especially in the chaos of the Russian Civil War!

The fenders, incidentally, are the only really fiddly bit of these kits. They’re lasercut card (greyboard) that you have to bend gently and then glue to an MDF inside piece to get them to hold the needed curve. Neither fender on the Pierce Arrow is quite right, although both are acceptable given the battering such fenders would take on the real vehicles! The instructions from Warbases say to bend the fenders over a pen or the handle of an Xacto, but doing this caused the greyboard to crease for me. I had better luck gently pressing the pieces against the pad of my thumb with another finger and gently flexing the card into a sort of curve that way.

That quibble aside, these are great kits and I’m sure I’ll get more eventually. They’re very sturdy once assembled, well designed for easy assembly, and it’s nice to have such an inexpensive source of vehicles for Early 20th C gaming!

Warbases Church In Progress

Not much activity on the wargaming front in the last couple weeks, for a variety of mostly-irritating reasons, but I have made a bit of progress on the Warbases church I first mentioned in a post a few weeks back.

This is a nicely proportioned building, not so big as to dominate the table, and it’s of a basic design that can literally be found all over the world, anywhere Europeans (especially the Brits) hung out long enough to build churches. You could assemble the basic church in just a few minutes, paint it up quickly, and have a solid and respectable piece of wargaming terrain to use for years. Inspired by the really nicely upgraded example shown on the Warbases website, though, I’ve decided to do some extra detailing and really make this building pop.

I started by assembling the tower, then glued it and the floor to a piece of matt board roughly 11″ long by 7″ wide. I used light card to put flagstones on the floor, with another piece of mattboard at one end of the floor to raise the altar just a bit. The altar itself is more bits of matt board assembled into a rectangle about 1″ wide and half an inch deep. The altar got a coat of GW Liquid Greenstuff for texture, then painted grey with various washes, and a quick edge highlight of much lighter grey.

Warbases church assembled, roof on the right. 28mm Warlord pikeman for scale on a 25mm wide base. Click for larger.

The floor was primed black, then heavily drybrushed with a couple of shades of brown, red oxide, and burnt umber craft paints to get a good reddish stone colour. Most of the church is going to be that colour, with grey stone trim, as a change from the default grey stone!

The entry way on the side of the church has similar flagstone laid down and will eventually be painted the same as the inside floor.

It’s kind of hard to see on the photo above but at the top of the tower I’ve added wood plank flooring from sheet styrene, a trap door in one corner (more sheet styrene), and added matt board to the inside surfaces of the crenelated tops of the walls to double the thickness and make it look more like stonework.

Tower end of the church with the roof properly in place. Click for larger.

The roof got covered in Warbases slate tiles, sold in sheets lasercut from heavy paper (light card? Hard to say, really) with an interesting texture to it. Certainly easier than cutting my own tiles, I got the entire roof covered in just over half an hour of work!

Next up will be adding stone piers to the corners of the building from pink styrofoam, and adding some other stonework detailing with either styrofoam or greenstuff putty.