The Ambitious Terrain Project

Ahhh….. ambition; another definition is biting off more than you can chew.
    Last night saw the beginning of a new terrain project. I’ve been thinking about this one a while. I wanted to be sure I knew where I was going with it so that when I got there I would be satisfied with the end result. I also wanted to maximize it’s potential uses as well since this was going to be a large project and I did not want it to be a one use piece. The perrennial challenge of war game terrain is to have beautiful, realistic looking, playable terrain that can be stored and transport without too much fuss. Scale also becomes an issue since 15mm allows for more grandeur in a terrain feature and 25/28mm does not. For instance a city in 15mm scale can be convincingly done and look like a large city and not eat up half the table. Whereas in 28mm it will need to be half the table to begin to qualify as even a small city and the size of the buildings and footprint of the city will make the game "feel" crowded.
    My desire was for a 28mm village that would have grandeur and playability at that scale. I settled on a 2′ x 2′ size more or less based on the piece of masonite I had laying around. A collection of buildings on a flat table are interesting only in the sense that they provide a tactical opportunity. I wanted a village built on a hill,obstensibly for defense, but in reality for the dramatic quality. I also wanted to be able to change out buildings so I’m planning to leave empty "footprints" for buildings on the hill with recessed magnet (buildings will have washers or metal bases underneath).
    The best building have removable roofs and allow for figures to be placed inside so that is going to be a given for this project. One benefit of having standard building footprints where building are held in place by magnets is the ability to completely change the village by swapping out buildings. Tennatively, I plan to do Spanish Pennisular style buildings at first with a church topping the hill and followed on with a stone keep and northern European buildings latter (maybe even a set or ruined buildings- which would allow for a game where buildings could be destroyed by artillery in game). Another idea I’ve had is to "modularize" my buildings with second or even third floors being addable which will enhance flexibility. I’ve also decided to keep the buildings small (3"x3" or 4"x5")  justifying that as this is a "cramped" mideval village crowed on to a hill.
    So thats the rough parameters of the project. This will more or less be a skirmish game terrain piece but the removable buildings could allow for a set of 15mm buildings to be modeled up and added to the building footprints though the streets will undoubtabely look too wide but hey I’m committed to flexibility.
    Construction started with a 2’x2′ piece of masonite and I routed the edges to give them a nice bevel. Originally, I started building up the hill with white styro-foam (I had been saving quite a bit of the stuff for a project like this) but the white balls that broke off during the cutting (sawing really) process went everywhere and just made a mess. Eventually I junked all the white styrofoam and used pink foam (for house insulation). After cutting and forming a hill that spiraled up to a high knob I filed all the roadbeds down to about 3/16 depth. Previously I had made sheets of cobblestone and brick with a pasta roller and plastic texture sheets and polymer clay (the bake to harden kind). Using the cobblestone and brick sheets I paved the village streets. Many of the cracks between the foam pieces needed to be stuffed with cardboard. In the end I was able to hide the joints in the hill by gluing aquarium gavel in or over cracks them coving it with air dry clay and working it till it looked like an extention of the rocky hill. I also used the air dry clay to fill in the cracks in the joints of the road pieces. Having run out of clay I then settled for spraying the entire model with scenery cement (woodland scenic though watered down wood glue works just as well) to seal the clay and prepare the foam for spray paint. I’ll need to buy some more clay and make a little more cobblestone before moving to texturizing the ground around the hill.
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2 Responses to The Ambitious Terrain Project

  1. Thomas says:

    Moving along, I\’ve finished the paved roads and texturized the surrounding land with watered down wood glue and sifted beach sand. I had two bottles of paint that were getting thick (black and wrought iron) and they were really begging me to replace them. These I thinned with magic wash and painted on portions of the hill like primer to further seal the foam (did this while waiting for the sand to dry.     Started a few building as well. Using foam board (the craft kind backed with paper on both sides. Currently I\’ve constructed 4 of the 8 buildings needed (minus the roofs). The beauty of doing a large number of buildings all at once is that you get a chance to really refine the process. I might just do up a tutorial for foam board buildings. The biggest help in constructing them was wood coffee stirers. They are 1/4" wide and I just happen to be using 1/4" foam board so that they are perfect for covering all exposed foam in doorways and windows.

  2. Thomas says:

    Well work has progressed with fits and starts. I have been a real fanatic about making sure everything I build has a good base. what that means is usually basal wood for small things (individual buildings) and masonite for large things (the terrain piece in question). However, a gaming buddy just came back from Historicon gaming convention and tells me the hottest thing in terrain is rolling hills meaning terrain boards made from pink foam (2 inch) but no ridged base like I use. In fact, Mike saw a recreation of the Battle of Bullrun done to look like you were looking at it from a plane that was spot on fabulous. This goes to show that you can be so locked into a paradigm (proper basing) that you miss something. I really could have been in on the cutting edge of this 2 years ago but found my terrain boards unwieldly because of weight and dropped them project to pursue other things. I\’m suddenly itching to do some terrain boards again so what to do with this project? I\’m thinking that I\’ll finish it up to the basic plan and sell it off. I\’ve actually learned alot doing it but as I think about the project I keep coming up with refinements that I really want that cant be added at this point. For instance I\’d like to do a hill where the top lifts off to reveal a few basements and secret passages or a sewer system. Admittedly those features aren\’t needed for wargaming but they\’d be really cool and may attract role-players as a buyer down the road. There are a few refinements to the design of the buildings that will make constructing them easier in the future.At any rate the first stories of all buildings are currently built and most are "plastered" so painting will happen soon.

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