Saturday, July 25, 2015

Making Terrain Boards Part 3: Cutting the River


The key feature of the terrain boards I'm building is the river that winds its way across all three surfaces, providing a tactical challenge for figures that can't cross it or needing to capture bridges and fords across it. See how I did it after the jump.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Historicon 2015


I'd written off Historicon this year after we made plans for a week long vacation in California. I couldn't spare the additional days off, and resigned myself to visiting one of the other HMGS cons later in the year. My son really wanted to attend Historicon though, and after he pleaded with my wife and I we drove down for a short Saturday only visit. My pics from our trip after the jump.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Summer Update

I saw a lotta cool stuff recently


I haven't posted lately because my summer has been so busy. Work continues on the terrain boards, but I've been doing quite a bit more hobby and gaming related activities as well. Check out my adventures after the jump.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Making Terrain Boards Part 2: Base and Edges



With planning complete (see Part 1 here) I moved on to the early stage of construction for my skirmish terrain boards. This is my first stab at terrain boards and I'm learning as I go. Check out my progress after the jump.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Making Terrain Boards Part 1: Planning



A portion of a beautiful terrain board from Wargames Illustrated Historicon 2014 display

I've always loved the diorama aspect of wargames,  but my focus always tends to drift towards painting up figures rather than making terrain. The fields, walls, buildings and trees that cover our wargame tables have such a great impact on the look of the game, they may actually be more vital to creating the overall look of a wargame rather than the figures themselves.

I have plans to create a large 9 x 5 foot grassy terrain cloth, similar to my desert wasteland cloth, but that requires a 9 x 5 foot table which I don't have. Constructing that large wargame table is at least a year in the future, but I couldn't stand my plain green terrain mat anymore. I've begun working on some terrain boards as the basis for skirmishes set in northern Europe (Saga, Lion Rampant, WWII ETO, fantasy battles, etc.)

Research and Resources

I've never built a terrain board, so I searched for examples and tutorials by those who have more experience creating wargame terrain. I learned a ton these folks and highly recommend checking out their sites and videos:


The Problem with Terrain Boards 

I looked at tons of terrain boards and tutorials built by masters of the hobby. Despite their skill at replicating the natural world with bits of foam and paint, there are a few artifacts that always creep in that spoil the illusion for me: seams and corners.

Seams 

I love the roads on these boards, but it's a shame there are so many seams

There are very few straight edges or 90 degree corners in nature. The seams between terrain boards jump out as unnatural, not only because they create a visual distinction between two otherwise unbroken area of ground, but because seams are so straight. I toyed with the idea of creating terrain boards with curving, scalloped edges that would fit together a bit like the interlocking halves of a yin-yang symbol but decided the trouble wasn't worth it. Instead I'm opting for a simpler solution. Many terrain boards are built on 1' x 1' or 2' x 2' squares. To reduce the total number of seams on the table I'm opting for large 2' x 4' terrain boards. Storage will be a bit trickier, but I think the reduction in total seams will be worth it.

Corners 

One of the advantages of terrain boards over terrain cloths is the ability to created sunken features like streams and rivers. I wanted to include some sort of water feature but I wanted to avoid the other telltale sign of wargame terrain, the river grid. Because terrain boards are usually designed to be reconfigured into different arrangements, features that cross from one board to another (such as roads and rivers) need to enter and exit each board at the same place so they can be swapped out interchangeably. Unfortunately that leads to rivers entering and exiting boards in completely straight line, or making a hard 90 degree turn to exit one of the other board edges. When all of the boards are laid out the river snakes across the table in linear fashion, all straight lengths and 90 degree turns. Despite how good the rest of the terrain looks, the unnatural configuration of such a feature blows my suspension of disbelief.

Gorgeous terrain I can only dream of emulating, but aargh! the elbow corners in that river!


I was determined to avoid any sort of river grid. I experimented with a few layout options before striking on my solution. My river would enter and exit each terrain board at the same point, but at a 45 degree rather than 90 degree angle. By offsetting the river in such a way I'm hoping to avoid the dreaded river grid syndrome, while still allowing the terrain boards to reconfigure into different layouts.

Miniature Terrain Boards for Miniature Terrain Boards 

My 1 inch by 2 inch foam core mockups

I did some initial planning on grid paper, but to get a real feel for the boards I created some foam core mockups that I could draw on and move around. Integrating the river feature limits the number of configurations for the boards but I can get a total of five different layouts from just three terrain boards. Check it out:







I've also got some plans to integrate some dirt roads or trails, but I want to get some of the larger geographic features worked out before I commit to those.

This is a pretty daunting project and I'm learning as I go, but I'm making steady progress and I'll post updates as I go. If you have any tips, tricks or recommendations, please let me know!




Sunday, May 3, 2015

Back with Reaper Bones Marsh Trolls




I took a diversion into nostalgia by picking up a dozen old Rogue Trader figures but after stripping, cleaning, reassembling and customizing those old beakie marines I didn't have the steam left to paint them up. Recognizing the signs of hobby burn out I took a little break until my painting juices got flowing again. Happily, I got the urge to paint again just a few weeks later and used my fresh enthusiasm to knock out a few Reaper Bones figures from the first kickstarter.




Most of the Marsh Troll paint jobs I've seen color them green, but I wanted to give them a bit of contrast when they take the field next to my green snake and lizardmen. I gave them a coat of Folk Art mustard yellow and then various washes of Army Painter and Winsor & Newton brown inks.

The swamp plants are bits snipped from some decorative plastic greens I found at the local craft store. On such a large base could probably add quite a bit more foliage, but I was hesitant to obscure too much of these monsters.



I also knocked out a few more female "player characters": a paladin and a halfling. I'm definitely noticing both the strengths and weaknesses of the Bones material. The plastic is extremely cost effective, but on small, man sized figures I've run into a number of obscured details. Noseless faces, shallow detail, and difficult to remove mold lines make Bones less than ideal for hero characters. For large creatures or monsters (who might look more vicious sans nose), Bones are fine, but I think I'll be sticking to metal or hard plastic for man sized figures in the future.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Renedra Mud Huts

Taking a break from painting figures to work on some terrain projects. I plan on using these Renedra Mud Huts and Acheson stone walls for some Crusades games, but I have quite a lot to paint up before I can pit Franks against Saracens.



It's more likely these get into play as part of a sci-fi skirmish, so I've tried to keep my colors consistent with my desert wasteland terrain mat. I figure these can sub in as primitive habitation for alien natives or something.



Getting the colors and weathering correct proved quite a challenge. I repainted the huts two or three times, and used all manner of washes and weathering powders and I'm still not totally satisfied. All well, life's too short. Time to call these done and move on to another project.
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