Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Sectional Terrain: Basic Roads

 With the tree plates and naval terrain done (mostly, more reports to follow on both), the last remaining "big item" is to make some road sections.  I use a very simple method that is way to do and provides good results.  The first step is to cut out the basic road shapes.  I prefer to use Mat board as the underlayment - it's durable and cheap.  Road width is really a function of scale - I went with 2.5 inches since these roads will be used with both 28mm and 15mm minis.  Roughly 30 minutes of drawing and cutting with a hobby knife results in 23 feet of road sections.

The benefit of the mat board is that it is both flexible enough to be curved to follow contours but strong enough to resist warping as the silicon caulk cures.

 The next steps is to cover the road sections with silicon caulking.  I use a product in the US called DAP Dynaflex 230.  The important features are to select a caulk that is both flexible and paintable.  Squeeze out a generous bead of caulk over the road section and spread it out with a tool - I use a craft stick.
 Once the caulk is spread the next step is to smooth it out.  I like to use a damp foam brush to do the smoothing.  Don't use a good brush to do the smoothing because it will get ruined from caulk adherence.
After all the road sections have been "caulked" I like to go back and add wheel ruts.  The ruts are created by running a clean craft stick edge down each section 8-10 times - a bit more for intersection pieces.  Don't press too hard as deep ruts don't look that good.

To the right of the picture you can see my very sophisticated curve making tool - an old paint stirrer stick with holes drilled every 2.5 inches (the width of the road).  I find it easier to make road curves in 90 degree angles and then cut the finished section to be 45 degrees.

Let the road sections cure for 24 hours and they're ready to paint and flock.

From a time perspective it took me roughly 2 hours to get to this point and there's probably another 1-1.5 hours left to paint and flock.  The total cost of this project is:

Mat Board (1.5 20'x32" inch board @ $4.15 each): $6.23
2 tubes of DAP Dynafelx 230 @ $4.38 each: $8.76
1 foam brush: $0.75
Paint and ground foam: $5.00 (just a guess)

Total cost for 23 feet: $20.74 or $0.90/foot

That's not very expensive and is both a lot cheaper and just as nice as some commercially available products:

Flex Roads: 12' for $45.00: $3.75 / foot
- These are really nice and have a good grain so I think the quality is better than my method

Battlefront/Galeforce 9: Rural Roads 6 feet for $45.00: $7.50/foot
Nice sculpting but really high profile and super expensive.


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The British Intervention Force Expands!

 The British Intervention Force (BIF) has expanded to 6 battalions of infantry, 2 artillery batteries.  The are even rumors of a unit of Lancers...


All of the miniatures are for the 28mm scale Perry BIF range and are really topnotch
 The three infantry battalions are the latest reinforcements.
How will these gaudily clad troops fare against the battle hardened veterans of the Union army - we'll soon find out at Hisotricon.....

Monday, June 29, 2015

Sectional Terrain: Initial painting of the Forrest plates

 Most of the weekend was taken up with sailing so there isn't a lot of progress to report.  Last night I did manage to basecoat the tree plates and land sections.  Not the most exciting of updates but one that needs to get done.
 I'm using a latex paint I had made at a local hardware shop based on paint samples from Vallejo Flat Brown (984) and Iraqi Sand (819).  I wanted a darker color for the forrest floors and went with straight Flat Brown rather than the 2/3 Flat Brown and 1/3 Iraqi sand mix I used on the terrain panels.  The rocks are a flat Liquitex grey and then I mixed a little brown in the unused grey to paint the tree trunks.  Once this has dried for 24 hours (the latex paint takes a long time to dry), I'll dry brush the details and add a few "easter eggs" on the forrest floors.  After that, it's some flocking time and we're done!

The terrain for the ironclad game also got a base coat.  I was planning on putting some 1/600 scale houses on the terrain but have opted not too, so I can used the pieces for both 1/600 and 1/1200 scale naval games.  The hills are painted flat brown and the shoreline is Iraqi Sand.  The hills will be covered in woodland scenics clump foliage and I'm still deciding what to do (if anything) for the sandy areas.   Two other larger sections where also painted but are out of the picture.

I ran out of woodland scenics trees so one of the forrest plates will be homemade pine trees "liberated" from my old model railroading stockpile.

After both the tree plates and naval scenery is done the only remaining steps are

(1) Make some roads - I'll be using matt board (normally used in picture framing) and flexible caulk for those)

(2) Pour the resin for the river sections - I'm really nervous about the resin as there isn't a way to "un-do" a bad poor and I don't have time to re-build new river sections so the river may just get a few coats of gloss finish.

(3) Build a cart that will accommodate the terrain panels and troops easily - transporting this "crap" easily and safely is a big concern

(4) Edit and print out all the player aids for both games

T-Minus 16 days to HCON, with only 11 usable days given a business trip.  This one will go down to the wire.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Sectional Terrain: A river will run through it and past some trees

 The river received it's first coat of paint -a bit of tan along the edges then some green and lastly some navy blue in the center.  I use Liquitex craft paints from Dick Blick Art Supply for big projects like this.  It's important to work in small sections (6-8 inches) to ease the blending of the edges.  I like to use a standard paper plate as paint pallet.  They're cheap, the wax covering prevents paint from being absorbed and the raise rim allows you to cover it with plastic wrap to preserve any color you've mixed up for a few days.  Once the paint has dried (approx 48 hrs) I'll pour the epoxy to cover the river in 1/4 inch of the material.  Pouring epoxy if always a bit nerved wracking as once it goes on your done - it's very hard (really impossible) to recover a section from a bad pour.  I use a two part resin called "Magic Water".

 Next is a set of close up shots.  First up is the 2x2 river section.  The "ford" area has an extended sandy section to make it stand out a bit more.  I've also started to dress up the river banks with some scenery materials to make the less bland.

 The left side of the 2x4 river panel.  I added a rocky bluff which will be painted once the grout / white glue "mortar" sets.

 Lastly, the right side of the river.  Sorry for the dark photo - some idiot was standing in from to the lighting (me!)

 I will be adding lots of plants along the rivers edges but have learned to do so after the epoxy sets.  Epoxy has a tendency to creep up edges (about 1/16th of an inch) which looks fine for river banks but doesn't for vegetation so I've learned to add these after it's hardened.  Pictured is my way of making reeds - clip them together as shown, trim off the bottoms and add a thin line of white glue. Once its dried I get two more popsicle stickily them along the top, move the clips up and the cut off the glued section.  I'll get 4 row of reeds out of this batch of material.  I then cut each reed "strip" into sections to glue on the board.

 As an aside, I did use some "drying" time to assemble and paint two packages of the new Renedra cross and rail fencing.  It's a fantastic product (each package provides 18" of fencing in 4, 4.5 inch sections.


 There is a decision to make on the fords - should I add rocks or not.  I made some simple "boulders" out of pink foam scrap and placed them in the fords - remember they will by surrounded by 1/4 inch of epoxy so will not appear to standout as much.  A few of the rocks will even be submerged.

What do you think - please add a comment if you either like them or don't.

 Another shot of the ford on the big river board.

 Here's the potential ford on the smaller board






Next up are some forrest plates.  I had a single piece of 2x4 hardboard in the shop which I needed to use for both my naval game terrain (the larger pieces) and to make forrest plates (smaller, rounder pieces) - I didn't waste much of the material:



Work stopped late last night.  The forrest plates have had the tree stands attached and have been covered in the grout/white glue mixture.  once that dries - the sections will have some nice texture that is literally rock hard.  I went out into the yard and grabbed some twigs to use as fallen logs.  The tree's will not be glue as I want players to be able to remove them to facilitate play and also for transport.  I'm using the standard Woodland Scenics ready made trees.

Some of the tree plates have some scenery materials - these are older versions that I'm redoing.

Also pictured is the scenery fro the naval game (the pieces with exposed pink foam "hills").  Those will get done over the next few days.

Whew- that's a lot of progress but I need to get cracking as I've really only got next week to get all this done for Historicon as I've got a business trip out to SF the following week!  I still have to start the roads!





Friday, June 26, 2015

More Armada Fun - With a Space Mat!

 Yesterday's mail brought a very welcome surprise - a space gaming mat made by Steven M from WWPD.  Apparently seeing my son and I play Armada on our dining room table was too much for his aesthetic sensibilities.  In order to "stop the madness" Steve sent us one of the gaming mats he's made.  It was a very generous and deeply appreciated gesture.  The first game on the mat had Sean as the Rebels and me as the Empire.

 The end of turn three - it's setting up to be a bad turn four for the Star Destroyer!  The next few turns had the Star Destroyer blowing up and both the Rebels Assault Frigate and Neb B driving off the board.  The fighters effectively canceled each other out and it was down to a lightly damaged Gladiator vs a very speedy Rebel Corvette
We maneuvered a few turns and my gladiator was lining up for a perfect shot when this happened - off the board and hence out of the game!  Another win to Sean!

Armada is proving to be a real go-to game for us and our new mat makes it an even better experience - thanks Steve!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Sectional Terrain: First Test Fit

 First test fit of the terrain boards for Historicon - it's a 6x10 playing surface.  Everything fit together without a problem (whew!).  I need to adjust the shading on the middle boards (they were done first).  Other than some minor and detailing it's on to do some roads, tree plates and fences.

Oh and I still need to finish the river.  I've got a small test piece in process to see how the river bottom should be done.
 A close up of the hill.  There's a lot of detail work to do to dress up the slopes and rock formations but that's easy to do and can be tackled in small steps.
 The river.  I'll build a simple bridge to go over the lower ford and leave the upper one without a bridge.  The sandy bottom in the depression in the lower left will be repainted light brown to match the open spaces and fields.  The light tan (a house paint based on the Vallejo Iraqi Sand paint) is just to bright.

Another view down the field of battle.
 A very blurry close up of the hill.
The field section with crops added.  You can still see some of the glue as it drys but it fade to clear overnight.   I like how this one came out and it's a lot better than the initial version.....

Oh the horror of my "field of measles".  One of the fun things about a terrain project is it's relatively easy to recover from mistakes.

Lets go make some tree plates!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Armada and Mulberries

 Last weekend was so-so weather wise (no wind = no sailing) but Sean and I did get in a few games of Armada.  The one pictured featured our core set with each side reinforced by a Gladiator (Empire) and a Assault Frigate (Rebels).  I got to play the rebels and Sean was the evil empire.  We're still learning the rules so we didn't add of of the special ability cards to the ships.

 I managed to get both my Assault frigate and corvette behind the Star Destroyer which ended that threat - at the cost of the Neb B.  Sean then brought his Gladiator back into the fray but it wasn't enough - victory to the rebels.  We are both really getting into this game - the maneuver tool adds some real depth to the play style.

 The only other thing of note is that our mulberry trees were ready to be harvested.  We got a bucket and a half of berries after a few hours work.  It was worth the effort, as they've been turned into a few pies and a 2.5 gallons on mulberry chocolate chip ice cream by my lovely wife.

 How does one harvest mulberries?  Lay out a big tarp under the tree, throw a weighted line up to grab a branch and shake.  The berries pop off when they're ripe.
It's a pretty messy affair as mulberries stain everything purple.  Of course you only discover this the hard way - the first year we harvested I forgot to take my shoes off and left a trail of purple foot prints on a carpet.  The carpets been replaced but my wife never seems to tire of reminding me of the incident....

Friday, June 12, 2015

Sectional Terrain: Burst of Activity

 Last night was a particularly productive session as I managed to both paint and apply the fist layer of ground cover (Static Grass) to the remaining boards.

The first picture shows the river board - I'll be scratch building a bridge to give me an option to place over the ford.  I also haven't decided how to finish the river itself - just paint the water and then apply epoxy to go for a deep look or glue down sand and light gravel to the river bed before applying the epoxy to go fora shallow look - any suggestions will be greatly appreciated.

 The re-done hill sections will the first covering of static grass.  Given the hillsides will see a lot of wear and tear, I really went pretty heavy with the matt medium solution.  When if dies it will be extremely durable.
 Another board set up right to dry to save space.  It kind of looks likes I placed it under a statue favorited by pigeons.  Thats just some of the glue streaking a bit - it will dry clear.
Surprise! a different board.  All-in-all, I finished the basic ground texturing for 4 2x4 panels and 1 2x2.  While not superb, the boards are now playable so I've got 60 square feet "done-ish" - which is what I need for the Historicon game.

The remaining steps are to:

(1) add some additional ground textures and color variations to the boards
(2) finish the blending of the re-done hill sections
(3) decide how to and then execute the river scenery
(4) dress up the sides
(5) build a transport case to facilitate moving these bad boys around a convention

After that, it's the remaining scenery work

(6) Build 10+ tree plates - the trees will be removable so they are more durable during transport.  I love my Architects of War tree plates but transporting them can be difficult)
(7) Misc fences - I've got a bunch of Renedra fences to paint up
(8) Roads
(9) 14" long bridge to go over the ford
(10) Scenery for the Ironclad game - mostly shorelines and islands.  Since it's 1/600 scale it isn't that imposing

With 5 weeks to go, it will be close but doable.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Star Wars Armada and Yet More Wild Life

 My son and I have been playing a lot of Star Wars Armada and I must say it's a fantastic game.  Easy to pick up but with a lot of nuance.  The picture shows one of my Imperial Star Destroyers just seconds before being blasted into dust by the Nebulon B Frigate on her tail.  The Neb had no shields of my Tie's would have gotten her if Sean rolled badly - what a great game.

To put it mildly we are hooked!

 As I was driving down the drive the other day I was greeted by someone taking a nap under our Crepe Myrtle tree - you can see her head poking out of the grass.
 Our visitor was a bit miffed ay being awakened and trundled off into the woods.  If only it was Deer season.....
 We were also visited by a terrapin on he way to lay some eggs.
 Some of my wife summer flowers have started to bloom - summer is a very nice time here on the Eastern Shore of Maryland - especially with Star Wars Armada out!


Saturday, June 6, 2015

Sectional Terrain: Hills are Rebuilt and Lots of Texture Applied

My first version of the 2, 2x2 hill tiles didn't work because I left exposed foam on the ends and did't do a good job ensuring there was a tight fit.  The right way to to do this is to cut some wood to ensure both a square fit and a dressed expose side.  Of course such a good idea isn't mine, I stole it from Eric from his blog and postings on the Lead Adventurers Forum (LAF).  I cut out a space for each side piece, cut some biscuit slots and then glued on the new sides.  You can see the boards match up a lot better than the previous version which can be seen here.

One pleasant surprise from this mini-demo work was the white glue and grout shell proved to be very tough and required the use of a razor saw to get the cuts started.  The harbors well for long term durability.  I also must apologize for a "shop safety" misstep in the first photo - you can see in the lower right that I put down the box cutter and left the blade exposed.  Thats a dumb mistake and I should know better.

 The new sides did provide me the chance to reconfigure the hill tops.  As you can see from the first photo of this post, the previous version's third tier was small (about 5" wide) and only on one board.  It looked interesting but didn't really provide a good space to either attack of defend from.  A few cuts of scrap foam from my trusty Proxxon hot wire cutter and "Ta-Da" a much bigger third level to desperately defend or charge up.  If you do any work with extruded foam I highly recommend you look into getting a Proxxon hot wire cutter.  It's a fantastic terrain making tool and I'm just mow getting over the learning curve to how to use it properly.

 A shot of the boards but together with the new terra forming in place.  I think it's a lot better than the previous version.
 Since I'm planning to put some artillery up here, I "needed" to add a pathway to roll the cannon up.
 Plaster and plaster cloth applied to blend the contours.
 A view for the other side.
 A shot of the large river panel set aside while the gap filler and plaster dry.
 Once the new hill sections were set the next step is to apply the tile your and white glue mixture.  I use a mixture of 1 part white glue to three parts tile grout.  It drys rock hard as mentioned above but can take up to 36 hours to fully dry.

While unplanned the newly grouted area kind of looks like a shark!
 I mixed up a large batch and proceeded to ground- texture the river board and...
one of the three remaining flat boards.  I didn't have enough grout to finish up the remaining 2 boards (which you can see to the right of the picture) so will need to get some more.

Once everything is textured the remaining steps will be to paint the boards light brown and then apply the static grass and ground foam.  There a light at the end of this tunnel.

Of course I still need to make some tree plates and finish the naval terrain within six weeks.

tick tock, tick tock...