Friday, September 14, 2012

Building Terrain - Wetteren Bridge

Okay, so I confess to a bit of an agenda here. I see all these beautiful models being built and painted and then fielded on – um – less than interesting gaming boards. Now I confess to being a bit of a nut for terrain and know that this isn't necessarily where everyone's interests or talents lie, but with a bit of effort you can build up a board that will make your models and figures look so much better in context. And given that wargaming is a visual medium, why not go the extra yard if you have the time to do it!

Everything I have used for this terrain piece is from my stock of terrain bits and pieces, put together over a few hours this week. It's totally modular, takes a bit of time to set up, I acknowledge, but knocks down in about an hour. And the beauty of modular stuff is you don't end up with a whole lot of purpose built terrain pieces that limit your ability to accurately reflect an historic battlefield and just end up cluttering your gaming space.

This board is based on the following map created by R. Mark Davies for his Battlefront WWII scenario, "The Neck of the Swan" - The Battle for Wetteren Bridge.

Mark's game map. Because I'm playing a 15mm game in 20 mm I scale up the board 150%.

Although I own river pieces the focus of this battle, Wetteren Bridge, and the River Schelde that it crosses provide the most intersting aspects to this battlefield in otherwise fairly flat terrain. So I opt instead to build the terrain up so that the river and its steep banks are more accurately represented. Below is a step by step of the table construction.

I set up the tabletop with some 2' X 4' masonite sheets to create a 6' X 4' tabletop.
To create the river I lay down a couple of 2X4 flourescent light coverings with a crackle pattern, spray-painted a green grey on one side. I picked up this trick from Al Gaspar, terrain modeller extaordinaire.

Next I rough in the river with bits of Styrofoam from my Styrofoam bits bag – and a few World Book Encyclopedias that are the right thickness and near to hand. I use a ruler to constantly check key bits of terrain to make sure they are where they should be (more or less) according to the map.

Next I overlay my bits of Styrofoam with some more sheets of Masonite, panelling board, and foam core to make a nice flat terrain, raised above the river level.

I now bring out my secret weapon, sheet leading. Scrounged from a building demolition site it had been used to sound proof a home. It is totally malleable and provides heft and shape to my terrain building. I crimp pieces with a straight edge to create my river banks…
… and then use it to give final shape to the river. 
I now place my ground cloths over this base structure. Because I need two (one for each bank) I have to go with different colours of green but I don't sweat it too much. By the time I'm done it won't be worrisome.
I tuck both cloths under the edge of my sheet lead river banks to create a nice clean line between bank and water.
Because it will be the center piece of the battle, I can't resist  adding some finishing touches to the river.  I have a box of modular reed bits created with broken broom stalks and brown lichen based in little blobs of Sculptamold (an invaluable paper mash product I use for almost everything) that I scatter along the water's edge, and then garnish with a healthy sprinkle of cat litter (clean). It's having on hand things like a box of modular reed bits that help make terrain building a lot more gratifying.
Okay, on to the set up. I start by laying down the roads according to the map. My paved roads are just strips of asphalt roofing tile. The dirt roads I created with Sculptamold on strips of card and the town streets were made by coating thick card with molding paste (an artist's product) and pressing a plastic reverse brick pattern onto them. Again, all bits in the tickle trunk.
Then I place the buildings. I make healthy use of my modular ruin pieces (each one is a corner, allowing for different sized structures), not because Wettern was necessarily in ruins but more because these buildings facilitate play. Most of my building s are scratch made with the exception of a few model railroad structures and an old repurposed Airfix Waterloo Farmhouse set that survived my childhood.
Now the hedges and forests go in based on Mark's map. I could stop now, but there is a bit of window dressing I still want to do to bring the terrain together.
The final step is to add some fabric fields to break up the ground cloth (and disguise the two colours used) and place some small road and field edging strips that I use to soften the transitions between terrain elements. I line the upper bank of the river with some green lichen, add some rubble piles around the ruined buildings and sprinkle with the ubiquitous kitty litter.
Everything I used in creating this board were things I had on hand. Nothing was created specifically for this scenario. It has taken a few years to collect all of that stuff, mostly bits of fabric, household garbage and stuff scrounged from nature - so terrain doesn't have to bust the budget!
Here are some close up photos of the finished table. Because it really doesn't sing until viewed from the point of view of your little plastic and lead soldiers…

The objective in this scenario, Wetteren Bridge.
View of the bridge and Wetteren from the north side of the river. 
View from north of Liefkenshoek.
View along river from Overbeke.
Dirt road with edging on left.
From Overbeke, looking down road to Wetteren's factory district.

1 comment:

  1. Lovely work, and I couldn't agree more with your first paragraph!