Monday, 9 April 2012

Or the mountains should crumble to the sea

Another day of tinkering with little terrain projects in between family duty.  I've been working out a rough terrain layout for the Battle Of Weston-Super-Mare scenario, which is going to require a couple of new items.

First there's the matter of the pleasure pier.  The current pier is a rebuild of the Grand Pier that burnt down in 2008 and it turns out that one was only built in 1904, which sits outside our time frame.  Before that the town was served by Birnbeck Pier, located further north up the coast.  Birnbeck is actually an island linked to the mainland by a 300yd long wooden pier.  All the buildings are on the island part and although disused and dilapidated may still be seen today (through the wonders of Google Maps!)

So for the wargame it will be represented by a simple wooden pier connecting to a standard wargames hill out in the sea.  Some liberties will have to be taken with its exact location in relation to the Telegraph office, in order to keep it within the bounds of a 6ftx6ft table, but it'll still be vaguely representative at least.  To that end I started knocking together something out of balsa wood.

Scoring all those planks was actually fairly quick and painless.  The supports are simple inch lengths of balsa strips.  Theoretically there ought to be cross-braces down there, but the model seemed sturdy enough without them so I skipped that step.  I couldn't decide which would be more useful - a pier with a sand base or a pier with a water base.  So I compromised - painting a few water pools on the base and texturing the rest with sand.  The whole lot will be treated with gloss varnish to give the impression of waterlogged sand with lots of water pools.

After that I went on to add posts for railings along the sides of the pier (using round headed pins) and gave the wood a burnt umber basecoat and the posts in black.  It should just be a matter of linking up the railings, treating the base and then drybrushing everything.  Although it's not needed for the Weston battle, I will be working on an "End Of The Pier-Show" building on a separate 8"x6" section which will hopefully connect to the end of this pier.  It also occurs to me that the landward side will be about an inch above the tabletop, so I've got an idea for a simple interface piece of terrain - watch this space.

(In case it seems strange that I'm spending so much time on a terrain piece of such limited use, bear in mind that I've got plans for a second seaside clash in the Battle Of Llandudno, mentioned in a previous post.  Besides it wasn't much more than an hour and a half spent on the pier today, and it's probably about 75% complete)

One thing I realised from the March Mayhem Melee game is that you can only represent an incredibly small urban area on a 6 foot wargames table.  Even the smallest hamlet represented accurately is likely to fill half the board.  Our "Weston-super-mare" is going have to be a very abstracted, almost caricature version of the real place.  For example, Google Maps shows a lot of small parks and ornamental gardens scattered around the town.  To represent them I've taken a single 30cm square vinyl floor tile and cut it into two 15cm squares and a 15cm x 30cm rectangle.  These have been flocked and the two smaller sections decorated with ornamental flowerbeds - a base of tea-leaf flocking for earth with dried moss from the garden painted to roughly simulate flowers.  It wouldn't win any rosettes at Chelsea, but it'll do for wargaming purposes.  Sadly I forgot to take any photos of these, so once again.. watch this space.
Left - raw filler, Right - covered in PVA, Sand and Plaster "goop"

Finally, by the end of the day the filler on the rocky hills I started yesterday had dried enough to move onto the next step.  I mixed up a fairly noxious mix of PVA, sand and Plaster of Paris.  PVA and sand creates an incredibly tough shell with a highly abrasive surface.  I've seen someone lean unwisely on a PVA and sand terrain piece and actually draw blood.  Adding the plaster to the mix will, I hope, make it a little less belligerent once dried.  Both test hills were painted with the resultant goop, which totally ravaged the old paintbrush I was using.

You could probably skip either the filler or the "goop" stage in the process.  Skipping the filler would give the hills a more artificial and less rounded appearance.  Skipping the goop would probably result in a terrain piece slightly more vulnerable to chipping.  I did a quick experiment with a 28mm figure and while there are a couple of points where the slope sends a figure sliding, I reckon there are enough sufficiently flat areas for a 10 man unit to occupy either side of each hill.  Altogether it's a case of so far so good.

Tomorrow I'll give them both a coat of black exterior masonry paint, then time permitting start working out which areas are to be drybrushed as rock faces, flocked as grass or gritted as mountain pathways.

Finally, if you haven't already seen them, take a look at these absolutely gorgeous pictures from the VBCW Battle of Shamlingham.  Here and more here.
Picture shamelessly stolen from the Gentlemen's Wargame Parlour.
Seriously, I'll nick anything that's not nailed down, I will.
What I really love about this Shamlingham terrain is the way that the individual pieces come together to give the impression of a cohesive, if slightly eclectic, whole.  If you look ultra-critically you can see a lot of flaws in the pieces - a warped baseboard not quite lying true, wall texturing that looks stuck-on.  But at the end of the day if you step back and look, you see what's undeniably an English rural village that looks like a living, breathing community.  Doubly amazing, when you realise that many of those buildings started out as mini doll houses (the sort of playset you find in the "pink" aisles at Toys-R-Us).  Seriously!  Some of those buildings were originally home to Sylvanian Families of rabbits and squirrels.

Seeing this has really motivated me to start improving my own rural village terrain.  Half a dozen card model buildings isn't going to hack it any more.  *sigh* Time to hit eBay once more.  At least it's a good excuse to go back and watch Lark Rise to Candleford again.

1 comment:

  1. Nice work, Doc! I can suggest a special event card for use with the pier. "A unit discovers the presence of an especially naughty What-the-Butler-Saw machine on the pier - unit is out of action until rallied by a senior officer (who then confiscates the machine for further, erm, study..." ;)

    As for Shamlingham, yes, a superb set-up. I'm officially envious.