Modular terrain (interval)

So that was the first nine modular terrain tiles that I have done. I think they have given me enough experience that I want to continue to build a bigger table – what wargamer doesn’t need a bigger wargaming table after all.

So what I think I want for the next set of tiles are:

  • Hill tiles:
    • Another corner hill piece with some rocks and scrub.
    • A T-shaped hill, so one side is a ridge piece for having a spur.
    • A spur piece, which will have the base for the Hirst Arts 4″ watch tower that I already have built – need to add some steps down into the basement for this. This could be a signal tower or wizard’s platform. It should have a track going up to it that ends in a middle of tile edge road join.
    • A ridge piece that can be a bit of a shoulder (maybe with a road going over it and?)
    • Two hill to cliff transition tiles that can link together (i.e. are mirror images).
    • A cliff tile that contains a dungeon entrance with a skull rock over it.
  • River tiles:
    • A straight river piece with a stone bridge
    • A 90 degree turn in the river
    • A 90 degree turn in the river with a cut off oxbow lake that has become a ditch (cover)
    • Two straight river pieces which splits into two, so that they can be a central island when placed back to back, or be a confluence if used at the edge of the board
  • Road sections:
    • A road section with a kinked T-junction (to block line of sight)
    • A straight through road section that goes from middle (12 o’clock) to side (5 o’clock), and has a space for a house with fence around.
    • A 90 degree road section that only just enters the corner of the tile (1 o’clock to 2 o’clock), allowing space for one of the large Russian peasant houses, with a fence around.
  • Open ground sections:
    • An open ground with the ruined foundation for a 8″ round tower.
    • An open ground with an orchard with hedge around and single entrance at 12 o’clock.
    • An open ground with some trenches and a strongpoint for WW2 (maybe with barbed wire around, dragon’s teeth or even a marked minefield).

Modular terrain part 6 – texturing the stream

For texturing the stream surface, I used a technique suggested by Luke from APS/Geek Gaming Scenics, using a mix clear sealant and white spirit.

The sealant was Everbuild Clear Fix. I mixed in about 1/3 by volume white spirit and worked it for a while with a wooden spatula – it took a while to get them to work in together to a smooth paste, but that did make it easier to work and stipple. Basically I followed the instructions in the YouTube video just added a thin layer and caught the surface to give it a more natural surface. The only downside is that, being sealant, it doesn’t dry hard like the resin does – it dried to a rubbery hardness. No idea at the moment how durable this will be as a surface, but I am hoping that even if it gets damaged, it should be easy to repair.

A textured stream section using sealant.

Two things that I have retrospectively noticed:

Firstly, the surface of the sealant attracts dust etc quite easily. This was especially noticeable when sanding down the resin bulge – I should have done that before I added the sealant, not after.

Secondly, I realised at this point that some of the clumps of field grass that I had put in very densely clumped had pulled up a lot of resin via capillary action, which had then set and made them quite rigid. So while most of the clumps were realistically flexible, there are some that are quite hard as well.

Modular terrain part 5

All the boards are now flocked and the rivers have the two layers of resin cast (and I though they were hard, but I actually grabbed one by the river and my thumb did bend in the resin, although i was exerting a fair bit of pressure when I did it, so completely my fault).

A three by three modular board configuration.

I do need to put some hedges alongside the road by the ford though, and maybe a few more bushes on the hill – there is quite an open killing ground there. I reality I would also probably have the rive running down the centre of the table, not as a defense line on one side, but that is the great thing about modular terrain…

The gap between two of the stream tiles is because the resin bulged out against the masking tape that I used to seal the end of the stream for pouring the resin. Some sanding will be needed to get that to be a flush join (which is the disadvantage of modular terrain tiles).

Modular terrain (part 4) – rivers

Or actually probably just streams. They really aren’t wide enough to be rivers (although Sally4th do river tiles for the Terra-formers system as well, which are much larger).

One of the reasons that I am trying out these particular modular terrain boards is that it should give me more opportunity to delve down into the boards as well – I have never been aesthetically fond of the style of wargaming river that sits above the table, with levee banks to give the centre of the river the impression that it is filled with water. And also having to paint them with optical illusion of depth in the centre is never that convincing.

So for these, I can actually sculpt streams into the extruded polystyrene of the board. That has turned out to be a lot more complicated and fiddly than I thought, with the result that these streams are actually a bit too shallow in the centre of the board, compared to the edges where the profile is set by the shape of the mdf frame. In the case of one of the boards, this isn’t too much of an issue because it is supposed to be a ford, but for the others, I am not so sure about them – in retrospect I should have dug them deeper, so that I could have had higher banks.

Texturing the bottom of the rivers has also been quite a challenge. In the end I have used some cheap small aquarium gravel that I got off Amazon as the main texture, and then washed it with diluted burnt umber paint to give it a wet muddy feel. I have then stuck down clumps of clump foliage in a sort of olive green to try and look like clumps of plants or weed growing in the bottom of the river. There is also quite a lot of flock that scattered into the river when I was flocking both sides, and I have left that there as smaller bits of plant life.

For the reeds around the edges of some areas, I used dobs of PVA glue and stuck bundles of long field grass in. No idea what these were or where I got them – they have been hanging around in my basing materials box for decades it feels like (edited – worked out what they were).

For the river itself, I am using GlassCast 10/50 epoxy resin. I looked at polyurethane resin, but it seemed like a lot of hassle with the smell, and it dissolving the polystyrene. I cast it in two layers. The first I tinted with some brown pigment – one drop of Milk Choc Brown CULR Epoxy Pigment per 75g of mixed resin. That gave a surprisingly strong colour when mixed in – I wanted brown as the most realistic colour (I think) for a real stream – I didn’t want it to be completely crystal clear, although that might be more realistic, because I wanted the details of the stream bed to be a bit more difficult to see.

To seal the ends of the stream sections where they were open, I used masking tape and then also ran some PVA glue around the edge where the stream bed joined the masking tape to make sure that the joint was well sealed. It seemed to work – none of the six ends leaked, which was a relief.

Because the lower layer was more strongly coloured than I intended, I did the top layer with no pigment at all. It felt like the pigment also affected the flow and surface tension of the resin as well though, so the top level didn’t flow as well around the edges of the clump foliage and the reeds. Even when I smoothed it in, it seemed to retract, and when everything had dried, it had gone back to an unnatural effect there. It did also make it cure more quickly as well though.

Terrain modules with first river level poured.

Modular terrain (part 3)

The first of the ‘boring’ flat modules in the centre of the table (probably) – the ones without roads, streams or hillsides. I rather let my imagination run away with me here though, which means that it’s not going to be particularly useable for modern or dark ages games, only fantasy. The idea for this has been knocking around since I first got the Hirst Arts 8″ fieldstone round tower mould and say the arch pieces though. The pillars that support the arch are from the 3″ fieldstone round tower.

8″ round tower temple

The tree was done using another GGS technique – it’s a tree armature from Woodland Scenics, with sea foam sprigs glued to it with epoxy glue (a very old can of Evo-Stick). The trunk was thickened up with some green stuff, and then the whole thing was sprayed brown, and then sprayed with Blutack spray glue and had flock sprinkled over. The effect looks realistic from a distance, but I can’t get the flock to properly stay on, even having sprayed varnish on it, so it still needs some work. The base obviously needs to be flocked as well.

Modular terrain part 2

The modular terrain project continues apace – picture below shows 4 modules now made: 1 straight hill, 1 hill corner and 2 road sections – one with a graveyard on it. I’m trying to make sure that there is plenty of cover on these boards, because I want to use them for WW2 skirmish games, and also to break up straight movement.

Obviously, the tank probably has the edge over the elves, but that highlights one of the issues here – I am trying to make them useable for three different periods – modern(ish), dark ages and fantasy. Originally I was going to try and keep them completely generic, but I’m finding that hard (hence the graveyard, which is also great for cover though). I think I will go for more interesting modules, and just accept that I’m going to have to have more modules in order to do that.

The walls round the graveyard are cast from Hirst Arts moulds, using Keramin powder. After the success with the natural rocks, I painted these with variant washes of diluted raw sienna and burnt umber and then an overwash of raw umber to fill the cracks. I think it is looking a lot better than my old drybrushing technique, which means I have a lot of fieldstone dungeon sections I am going to have to repaint.

Modular terrain (part 1)

Hopefully this will be part 1, at least, because I will get a chance to finish this.

The wargame I play most, which is DBMM, tends to be very precise in where units are positioned, which means that realistic terrain is a bit of a problem. For these games, the mouse-mat style 6×4 terrain mats are brilliant, and the range of them that are now available is amazing – I have a bunch from DeepCut Studios that I really love. However, I have also always really wanted some ‘proper’ wargaming terrain – tables with realistic hills and flocking and rivers etc etc. I have had a couple of aborted attempts at them in the past, and done some realistic extruded-polystyrene hills for particular exhibition battles (particularly for SoA Battle Days), but they have always been a pain to store, and haven’t been very reusable.

For a while though, I have been looking at the Terraformers modular terrain system on Sally4th, and been wondering whether I could use that to create some proper boards for 25mm skirmish games that would be practical and attractive. So I took the plunge and bought their nine-tile starter set. I’ve now got the first tile done, and I’m actually more pleased than I thought I would be with the results:

Terra-formers hillside module being defended by some elven Sisters of Avelorm.

A more-creative friend, when I mentioned the project, suggested this YouTube channel from Geek Gaming Scenics (hereafter GGS) as a useful source of inspiration, and so far it had been a revelation.

Critical first tip was using Sculptamold (I just got the standard stuff from Amazon, because the GGS version was out of stock). Its a mix of plaster and shredded paper, which makes it a lot lighter-weight and more flexible than just pure plaster, which I had tried to use before to give a nice finish to the extruded polystyrene. The plaster was also very prone to chipping and cracking – Sculptamold seems to be a lot more flexible.

The flocking is the foam flock from GGS – its a nice mix of different sizes and takes the PVA glue well. It’s scattered onto a coating of PVA and then saturated with watered down PVA glue which makes it really hard – I am hoping it will stand up to a decent amount of wear and tear, and should be easy to patch and repair if it needs it. I chose flock over static grass because I didn’t want to have the figure bases ‘floating’ above long static grass, and I still haven’t really cracked the skill of properly applying static grass.

The rocky crag is done using a rock mould from Woodland Scenics. The paint job on it is the real revelation though – another tip from a GGS YouTube video. I use splotches of watered down Raw Sienna and Burnt Umber, followed by a light wash of even more watered down Raw Umber to blend them a little. Then when they I dried, I give it a wash with very watered down black. I’m just using random cheap Daler Rowney acrylics because I have them to hand. It looks miles more realistic than the approach I would have used, which would have been dark grey dry-brushed with increasing highlights of lighter greys.

The whole crag is then blended in with a scattering of the GGS Arid Earth Base-Ready Mix.

Overall, very pleased with the results so far, and hop to get time to continue with the other tiles.

Byzantine Alakatia

The Nikephorian DBMM list allows for some elements of Art(O) on wagons. While not as tasty as the Roman Art(F) tachanka, they do have the advantage that they can shoot from their 80mm long side edge, which makes them quite flexible, and they seem to be a standard part of the SBPF (small but perfectly formed) Nikephorian lists.

Problem is that no one seems to make a model for them.

Which for years has stopped me using them. Well that plus I don’t really believe that the existed. It feels to be more likely that they were deployed with the baggage train wagons, rather than on wagons themselves. But I found this article by George T. Dennis on Byzantine artillery that also mentioned them as well. He does a good job of analysing all the various conflicting words that the Romans used for artillery of various sorts, and the interesting description of alakatia as revolving at both end, to suggest that they were rope-pulled pole trebuchets (a relatively new and very efficient type of artillery invented in China and brought west possibly by the Avars, although there are other accounts the suggest that the Avars actually learnt how to build seige machines from captured Byzantine soldiers).

Still can’t find any models for rope-pulled pole trebuchets, only later huge mediaeval trebuchets. So I have decided to try and scratch build some myself.

Looking around I have managed to find some images of them on this website. Such as:

Rope pull pole trebuchet from the Chronicle of Petrus d’Eboli
Byzantine trebuchet from the Skylintzes manuscript

Can’t remember who the wagons in the pictures come from – probably Essex I suspect. They’re not brilliant – I suspect I will do a v2 at some point, having seen what these look like.

Sui Chinese

Sui Chinese are obviously the army of choice/tournament tiger of the moment for DBMM Book 3, and, while I hate jumping on a bandwagon, I did have a bunch of random Chinese figures that I had accumulated over the years, but that had never made a coherent army. So I decided to see if I could bash together a Sui army out of them, to give me something vaguely competitive in Book 3 (to join my Early Byzantines and Nikephorian Byzantines, both of which are good armies in other people’s hands…)

The first complex thing about Sui is the variety of close order mounted – it has Kn(X), Kn(F), Cv(S) and Cv(O). And I like to be fair to my opponents and give them at least a vague chance of recognising which is which.

One of the many sets of vaguely Chinese figures are these, that I have been using as Tibetan cataphracts. I’m pretty sure they are Essex, but are not on their webstore any more. I am planning to use these as the Kn(X):

Essex? Chinese cataphracts

For the Cv(S), who are specifically called out in the list notes as being equipped in Turkish style, I had a bunch of old Essex Turkish heavy cavalry (I think they are actually in their Mongol range, but potaeto-potahto). So they will be the Sui Cv(S):

Essex Mongol heavy cavalry

Some of them were on half-barded horses, but I didn’t use these to avoid any confusion with the Kn(X).

For the Kn(F), I took some of the cataphract riders, and put them on the Mongol cavalry horses:

?Essex chinese cataphract riders on Essex unbarded mongol horses

The historicity of these guys is highly questionable, but they at least should be distinctively different to the Kn(F) or Cv(S) on the tabletop.

This meant that I then had three bases of Turkish/Mongol riders and three bases of fully barded horses. I’ll save them for a Mongol or Avar army, to mix in with the half-barded ones, and paint the barding to look like leather or horn.

Then for the Cv(O), I painted up some of a huge pile of unarmoured Mongol Cv(O) that I had had lying around for ages. So in this case completely the wrong figures, from the wrong period, but looking vaguely Chinese, and again, easily distinguished from the Cv(S) and Kn(F):

Essex Mongol cavalry masquerading as Sui Chinese cavalry…

Then there is the compulsory LH(F), which I didn’t have anything suitable for (there are limits even to my shame). So for these I actually bought some more figures – Essex Sui light cavalry:

Essex Sui light cavalry

Rather pleased with these actually – a nice variety of three poses, and well sculpted and case figures. And not all firing sideways at 90% to the horse, which is a pose that used to bedevil Essex (and other manufacturers) and makes the figures impossible to put sensibly on a base, especially for heavy cavalry.

Then on to the infantry. For the archers, I already had a load of figures – enough to do the back ranks of 5 Bw(X/O) and 10 Ps(O). Never been able to find out whose they were, but they have the right headcloth for Sui Chinese, so the plan was to use them. They are monopose, and have an Essex-y feel to them, so assumed they were Essex figures, but they are not on their website any more (but they did revamp their Sui & T’ang range a few years ago.

I didn’t have the spearmen to make up the front rank of the Bw(X), so I ordered some T’ang spearmen from Essex to go with them. Why does using up the lead pile always involve buying more lead? Anyway, they arrived, and were very well sculpted figures with a gentle variety of pose (nothing extravagant, but holding their spears with slightly different grips). The problem was that they were a head shorter than the bowmen I had, and nothing was going to get them looking OK when mounted on the same base. So back to Essex, and ordered enough archers to do the archers as well:

The Bw(X)/Bw(O) Pu-She archers and spearmen. All from Essex new Sui/T’ang range.
The Pu-Ping Ps(O) – again all from Essex.

And finally the baggage, again all from Essex, and their wonderfully characterful wheelbarrowmen:

Essex baggage figures

Painted Nikephorian Byzantines

These are the painted-up Nikephorian Byzantines from West Wind (although see previous posts – some of them are actually coded as Thematic Byzantines on their webstore – check the pictures).

In general pretty good figures that paint up well with my fairly brisk technique – certainly fine for general wargaming purposes. If I had a criticism, it would be that I could do with another couple of poses for the cavalry – they get a bit samey after a while.

So, the bulk of the regular part of the army:

Nikephorian Byzantine (DBMM) army, figures by West Wind.

The Emperor Ioannes Tzimikes, with his Athanatoi guards:

Tagmatic Kavallarioi (DBMM Reg Cv(S)) with general. Figures by West Wind, banners and shields by Little Big Men.

The Megas Domestikos Michael, commanding the right wing:

Tagmatic Kavallarioi (DBMM Reg Cv(S)) with general. Figures by West Wind, banners and shields by Little Big Men.

Under the protection of the Theotokos, the Logothete Basileos urges the left flank forwards:

Tagmatic Kavallarioi (DBMM Reg Cv(S)) with general. Figures by West Wind, banners and shields by Little Big Men.

Meanwhile, brave Kaloioannes commands the rearguard, ready for any eventuality:

Tagmatic Kavallarioi (DBMM Reg Cv(S)) with general. Figures by West Wind, banners and shields by Little Big Men.

The elite of the army are the heavily armoured klibanophoroi:

Tagmatic Klibanophoroi (DBMM Reg Kn(X)/Reg Kn(I) double base). Figures by West Wind, banners and shields by Little Big Men.

But the backbone of the army are the sturdy thematic peasantry, forming a wall of spears and arrows:

Thematic Skoutatoi, Akontistoi, Psiloi and Menlavatoi (DBMM Reg Bw(X), Bw(O), Ps(S), Ps(O) and Bd(X)). Figures by West Wind, banners and shields by Little Big Men.
Thematic Skoutatoi, Akontistoi, Psiloi and Menlavatoi (DBMM Reg Bw(X), Bw(O), Ps(S), Ps(O) and Bd(X)). Figures by West Wind, banners and shields by Little Big Men.
Thematic Skoutatoi, Akontistoi, Psiloi and Menlavatoi (DBMM Reg Bw(X), Bw(O), Ps(S), Ps(O) and Bd(X)). Figures by West Wind, banners and shields by Little Big Men.

One thing I did discover during the painting of this army was that the Little Big Men shield transfers for Khurasan miniatures skoutatoi fitted the West Wind cavalry kite shields perfectly. The West Wind cavalry shields are shorter and fatter than the infantry shields, so the LBM transfers fit the infantry shields well, but need to be trimmed to fit the cavalry shields.