Modular Terrain Boards For The Invasion Of Sul
by Rob "Matrix" Hawkins
It's the last few moments before dawn and all of the colors of yesterday seem muted. The barricades we built and the trenches we scratched out during the night should help slow their advance. At last the prayer chants have stopped and the rats that seemed ever present have disappeared. It won't be long now...
I wanted to have a battlefield with a modeled surface that would be able to accommodate modular features and be arranged in different configurations. I've also wanted to do a city-themed board for quite some time, and the battle for the Protectorate city of Sul seemed like the perfect opportunity. In this tutorial, we'll tackle the base boards for the city streets.
2" foam insulate (three 2'x4' sections)
Liquid Nails (for paneling, wood & foam molding) & latex gloves
Elmer's wood glue
Woodland Scenics Talus or small pebbles
Ave's Epoxy Sculpt
A selection of basswood strips
Part 1: Basic Construction
The foam insulate comes in 8'x4' sheets. You'll need to cut these in half and then in half again to get four 2'x4' sections. They also have a tongue & groove edge; remove the "tongue" by slicing it off with a retractable box cutter. (HINT: unless you own a truck that can fit an 8' board in the back, you'll want to bring your tape measure, steel ruler and a box cutter to the hardware store. If you cut the boards at the store, you'll be able to fit them into the back seat of a car. As satisfying as the loud CRACK may sound,don't snap them in half, or you'll wind up with uneven sections.)
It took a lot of digging, but I found a really great wallpaper that perfectly resembles a flagstone surface. It cost about 40 bucks for a 7'x5' roll, and I've been holding onto it for about 5 years, but it's time has finally come!
Trim the textured paper to fit each of the 3 boards (you want them to be about 2-3 inches larger to allow a bit of overlap). In a well ventilated area, spread some Liquid Nails on the board, and rollout the wallpaper. Roll and glue about 8" at a time, smoothing out any bumps in the wallpaper. Lay a bead of Liquid Nails along the edges of the board so that it squishes out a bit as you press the paper down. This will form a nice seal along the edge and keep the paper from peeling up (1A).
Stack the tables upside down and let the Liquid Nails dry overnight. Placing some books or your figure cases on top will make sure the wall paper stays firmly in place. Paint a coating of wood glue along the sides of the board. This will reinforce the foam sides and further affix the wallpaper. Once this is dry, you can use a retractable box cutter to slice off the excess wallpaper (1B)...
...leaving a clean edge that will match up with the other board sections (1C).
While the textures paper alone is a fine base for a city board (and if you're not that adventurous, you could stop here and just add modular buildings), we're going to spice these up a bit with craters and trenches! The 2" foam, is resistant to warping, and allows you to cut recessed features into it.
Use a marker to draw out your craters and trench locations (1D). Just remember—the more "built-in" features you add, the less room you'll have for modular buildings. I put two craters on two of the boards, leaving most of the area open for scenery, and on the third, a lot more craters and two trench lines.
Part 2: Crater Construction
Where you have marked the craters, carefully slice through the wall paper, and peel up the circle, exposing the foam below (2A).
Gouge out a crater pit. Cutting at an angle with a box cutter and then using a spoon to remove chunks of foam is pretty effective (2B). Alternatively, if you have a heat gun, you can use it to melt a crater into the foam (and it is a lot faster!).
Apply a generous bead of Liquid Nails around the rim, and put a dab at the bottom of the crater (2C). Do one crater at a time, because the Liquid Nails tends to get a "skin" on it once it has sat for a few minutes, making it harder to stick pebbles into, Oh, and put on some latex gloves and open the windows—This stuff is sticky (and toxic)!
Press some Woodland Scenics Talus or pebbles into the Liquid Nails around the rim, and put a few pebbles at the bottom of the crater (2D).
Next, smooth out the Liquid Nails with your finger, blending it into the table surface.
By the time you get to the final crater, the Liquid Nails on the first one should be dry enough for this next step. Carefully paint some wood glue around and inside the crater (2E). Use an irregular pattern and take care not to get any glue on the top of the pebbles; you don't want the larger rocks to be covered with sand.
Sprinkle a generous amount of sand over the wood glue and allow it to dry thoroughly (2F).
Shake off the excess sand,leaving you with a beautiful crater (2G)! (HINT: The combination of Liquid Nails, with wood glue around the edges should secure the pebbles, but when it's all dry, give some of the larger ones a wiggle. If the pop off, just superglue them back in place. Better for them to come off and get fixed now, rather than during a game!)
One final detail: Since the craters are blasted into the flagstone streets, there should be a few chunks of broken flagstone. Cut out a few pieces of thick cardboard and superglue them around the debris. Add a bit more sand (brown ballast in the picture) to partially bury the broken flagstones (2H).
Part 3: Trench Construction
Cutting out the trenches takes a lot more work than the craters. (It was easily the least fun part of this project.) Cut away a bit more of the wallpaper than you did for the craters; the trenches will have more sand around the edges. When gouging out the foam, take care not to cut too deep, as you don't want to punch through the bottom of your board. The trench should be wide enough to accommodate a large base model, or two small based models.
The bottom of the trench will be pretty rough, but you can smooth it out with some Liquid Nails (3A & 3B).
Glue sand around the edges and in the bottom of the trench. To build the firing platform, use Liquid Nails to glue a row of support beams along the bottom of the trench. I'm using 1" square basswood (3C). (HINT: It helps to keep some models on hand for sizing reference. Make sure the firing platform will hold a model, and allow another model to stand on the ground behind it. The top of the trench should be at about chest level, and firing models (like Long Gunners) should have room for their rifles to clear the top.)
Using superglue, affix thinner planks on top of the support beams. I'm using 1" strips (3D). All the wood here is basswood. I find it to be sturdier than balsa, and resistant to damage.
Once the platform is constructed start on the support wall (You'll notice that the placement of the wood is a bit imprecise in spots; this is a create the ramshackle look of a hastily constructed defense line that's seen some wear and tear during the months of battle.)
Build the support walls by using Liquid Nails to attach 1/4" planks to the foam. Over these,superglue some vertical support struts. In the corners of the platform, you can also superglue some sand and ballast (3E). (Notice in the picture, that the flagstones have been precisely trimmed away. Wood glue and sand will fill in this patch to give the appearance of the street tiles having been torn up prior to digging the trench).
For the damages section of the trench, you'll need to build a crater in the front half, and glue broken planking around the blast point, where the firing platform has shattered (3F).
Now for the fun part: adding the sandbags. Ave's Epoxy Sculpt is a two-part modeling compound Prepare enough of the epoxy to create sandbags for your trenches. Start by making small rectangles and attaching them to a piece of plastic card. With a fabric band-aid, gently roll your finger across the tops of the sandbags before they get too dry. The impression from the band-aid will leave a pattern resembling burlap on the putty sandbags (3G).
Let the putty stand for a few minutes. It will firm up, but still remain pliable. Use a long retractable box cutter to carefully slice the sandbags off of the plastic card. Roll and x-acto blade along each side of the sandbag to score a seam into it. (Note that you're not slicing into the putty, but pressing the blade into it.)
With the seams added, press the sandbag into place along the trench line,and roll your band-aid across the top to replenish any of the texture that may have been lost from handling the putty (3H). the final touch is achieved by poking the corners with a sharp sculpting tool to create divots in the seam (3I).
At the damaged trench section, add some stray sandbags, and tear them open at one end. These have been ripped apart by the explosion that left the crater (3J)!
Once the Epoxy sandbags are dry, give them a tug. If any come lose, superglue them back into place. Also glue some sand into and spilling out of the broken open sandbags.
Build up some details like the steps with any stray wood scraps left over (3K).
Part 4: Painting
If you're using Citadel Colors, like me,you'll want to have a hardware store match and mix up a quart of the main colors you plan to use for the table. The colors used here are Graveyard Earth, Codex Gray, and Bleached Bone.
Give the whole table a coat of Graveyard Earth. This should be somewhere between a dry brush, and an over brush; you want to build up the color gradually, but cover up most of the black (4A).
Dry brush Codex Gray over the whole flagstone surface. Try to keep it off the craters and trenches (4B).
Mix a little Bleached Bone into the Codex Gray, and dry brush over the flagstones (4C).
Finally, dry brush Bleached Bone over the flagstones. Keep this layer very light (4D).
For the craters, trenches and sandy patches, mix black and Graveyard Earth. Give all the areas of dirt a basecoat with this mix (4E & 4F).
Over brush straight Graveyard Earth on the dirt patches. In the center of the craters, dry brush with Dark Flesh (4G & 4H).
Dry brush a mix of Graveyard Earth and Codex Gray around the craters (4I & 4J).
Dry brush over it all with Bleached bone. Keep it very dry, and brush onto the flagstones to diffuse the transition between the dirt and the street (4K & 4L). NOTE: Dry brushing isn't an exact formula. During the process I had to go back and forth between colors, adding more Graveyard Earth into the mix, and more Bleached Bone around the craters, and out on the flagstones to keep everything looking uniform.
Part 5: Trench Details
Mix a bit of Snakebite Leather into Scorched Brown. Use a heavy over brushing to coat the wooden planks of the firing platform and retaining wall with this mix. Then dry brush with straight Snakebite Leather. Finally, dry brush with Fortress Gray For the bits of sand and ballast on the wooden planks, mix Bleached Bone and Fortress Gray, and dry brush over the sand (5A).
Base coat the sandbags with Catachan Green (5B). Then dry brush them with Camo Green, and then a bit of Rotting Flesh(this is were the band-aid texture will pay off!).
The only thing left is to touch up the black on the sides of the boards. Stack them up with paint pots as spacers, and brush away (5C)!
Once it's dry you'll have a great base for your Sul-themed board, that can be arranged in many different configurations. In an upcoming tutorial, I'll cover some additions like city rubble and blasted out buildings (5D, 5E, 5F & 5G).