Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Setting the scene...



When I think back to my early gaming beginnings, I always recall playing with the typical 20mm or 1/72nd scale plastic airfix toy soldiers... tipping them out on the carpet, lining them up and knocking them down to the accompaniment of mouthed sound effects... boom, bang, dakka dakka, Aiiieeeeee!!!!

Simple 'rug-rat' fun... but then of course you want to have some scenery for your soldiers to interact with, take cover behind etc etc...

The next trip to the toy store and you start picking up bits and bobs of lichen or other spongy foam stuff from the model railway section...

And I think its this close connection to model railway materials that begins to transcend our humble wargaming efforts...

I can still recall, back to my youth, when sometime back in the 70's, the fire brigade went on strike in the UK... it was a period of strong trade unions, and it seemed everyone was having their chance to hold the country to ransom by striking for more pay or better conditions or both... My dad was in the fire service, and although he didn't agree with the strike, putting lives at risk, he had no choice due to the strength of the trade unions, and being unable to cross the picket line, as such...

With the forced time off, he built us a proper model rail layout, on a 8'x4' board complete with hills and tunnels, using chicken wire and cloth bandage and paper-mache, then painting it all up and adding clumps of lichen and sponge etc... and although relatively basic by todays standards, it rocked my little world back then.

But best of all, when not playing with the trains, the board was perfect for my toy soldiers... and I think its the connection between toy soldiers, model railway stuff and cool looking terrain and layouts that's at the root of all my gaming now... I want it all to look good!

We strive, well many of us wargamers do, to paint up good looking figures to build our forces for the game, whether a simple skirmish force or a large army. But I don't really see the point in striving for well painted figures, if you then plonk them down on naff terrain. Agreed, we all have to start somewhere and we were all beginners once, but I feel if we are going to try and improve our figure painting, we should be trying to improve our scenery to 'display' them upon too.



However in wargaming, we are not dealing with a simple static display, but terrain that needs to be interacted with as we move our models over and through it. Our models need to be able to stand on the terrain without falling over all the time, so a balance has to be struck, quite literally, between looks and 'play-ability'. On top of which, we don't want to be playing over the same board every game, so we often resort to making terrain pieces that can be re-positioned to vary the layout for each game...

I have always enjoyed making terrain, as anyone who has followed this blog over time can probably tell, whether its simple hills and hedges, or trees, walls, fences and buildings of all shape and sizes... but these have always been terrain 'pieces'. My relatively recent return to Middle-Earth, and playing through many of the journey book scenarios, has now led me off down another terrain building path... no longer just 'pieces' but now entirely themed boards, to match the specific scenario... and this has had me looking back more closely to those model railway scenic items and how-to guides...

So I have been looking over the Woodland Scenics range of materials and how they work together and compliment each other, and found their how to videos on their website and Youtube very interesting...

Here's one which seems to cover most of the basic techniques and materials...


Having watched this, I was all fired up at the weekend, to have a splurge at the local store... However I saved a few pennies when chatting to the chap there, who explained there was no need to buy the branded spray glue, as its just thinned PVA (interior) glue with water about 50/50 with a little detergent added. I did buy the spray bottle and some packs of fine and coarse turf to add to the stuff I already had at home... Only downside was they were out of Realistic Water, which I need to finish my Watcher Board... oh well, hopefully have some next weekend...

So I'll be giving these techniques a try, with the Watcher Board to finish first. Then our Fellowship quest continues through the subterranean realm of Moria, so things will be mostly rock and stone there for a while, then back out in to the sunshine, with the flight to Lothlorien, followed by the scenes at Amon Hen.

Lothlorien is fairly straight forward, though I am tempted to try building a model tree large enough to take a flet; an elven tree platform.

Amon Hen has several scenics items; ruins, statues and more water to arrange, and I have been ordering and sourcing components to complete this set up too.



I think, on the terrain, and thus gaming front, its going to be an interesting year! Wish me luck!

37 comments:

  1. That video is very helpful I used it and woodland scenics products to build my mountain valley board. I bought one of those brand pray glues its PVA, water and some clear floor polish. It works ok but you could mix your own.

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    1. Clear floor polish, OK I'll have to check that out.

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  2. Good luck! I've had the same Airfix- railway- wargaming arc as you, and no doubt so many others, have experienced. I love nice terrain, my chief issue is storage. If I was going to plan something now, I'd probably start with a box to fit in in and build it within those constraints!

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    1. I must admit, having a bit more space to store these larger scenic items has been part of the motivation to give them a go.

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  3. Looking forward to seeing more of your terrain as the year progresses. Good Luck to you

    Ian

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  4. Good luck to you. Making awesome terrain is an excellent adventure. Looking forward to following your quest's progress.
    cheers

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  5. I agree that to aesthetic gamers, the look of the scenery is vitally important. But others play wargames for different reasons, and so scenery may not be as vital for them so long as it is functional enough. Me, I'm first and foremost aesthetic - so I'm right with you on this!

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    1. You've always excelled at terrain too Roly, always a pleasure to see.

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  6. Terrain is a minor obsession of mine. However, as you rightly point out, it must be built for interaction and storage and so cannot be as delicate as some model railway scenery. I have used the Woodland Scenics tree armatures and their Late/Early Fall Foliage packs and am very happy with the the results (see various pictures on my blog for examples). Like you I think that setting the scene is equally as important as having painted models on the table.

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    1. I'll have to try some of their tree kits - I've always just tried to DIY trees in attempts to save pennies...

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    2. I agree the Woodland Scenic bags of tree armatures are very good for the money and they're not that expensive per tree if you buy the big bags.

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    3. Yes I was tempted when last at model store... I'll have a closer look next time I am there... :-)

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  7. The video is very inspiring but I'm always a bit hesitant with terrain. Somehow I don't think that I have the sense of arts to create realistic gaming boards.

    But I'm very curious how your experiment will turn out. Since all of you recent terrain projects are great work I expect a good result as well.

    Cheers
    Stefan

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    1. Well, I gave it a go last night - the jury is still out at the mo' tho... I may have been a bit heavy handed with the spray glue so until it dries out fully, I wont be sure on the final look. The cool autumnal weather here at the mo isn't helping the glue dry either...

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  8. I have used woodland scenics products for years as well as heiki and noch, the quality is excellent and they stand up to much if used with care

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    1. Thanks Andrew, there are indeed more brands I want to check out...

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  9. I think you hit the nail on the head there with the comment about nicely painted toy soldiers and naff terrain. It's a hobby that isn't exclusive to the models  themselves but includes the setting as well. We wargame a world in miniature and therefore surely the terrain is as important as the models themselves. But it's a learning curve as well, we all (mostly) paint purchased miniatures and then slowly over a period of time begin to explore building terrain as well. I know I'm learning all the time and it's one element of the web that I am thankful for - being able to share and pick up tips from others who are on the same curve.  

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    1. Agreed theres some great learning tips out there when you start to look. I think we as wargamers sometime focus too much on the figures and forget the terrain...

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  10. Got to have nice terrain Scott! Good luck with your endeavors!

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  11. Yes, I love your terrain and agree about playing on nice scenery. Trouble is I am hopeless with my hands! Can't wait to see more miniature Middle Earth, though.

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  12. When you get to Lothlorien I might be able to help with a great tutorial I've found.

    http://www.hourofwolves.org/?view=articles&which=lothlorienConstruction

    It deals with how to build/design the flet buildings. The guy has a couple of tutorials there, and has a way of running a really cool campaign.

    I hope it helps! I'm looking forward to seeing what you come up with.

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    1. That's nice find, and an impressive build... Not sure I was planning on going the whole hog on Caras Galadhon though! Just a tree with a flet for starters for this borders of Lothlorien scenario... But who knows what I could be tempted to try! Thanks again for the link.

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  13. ... good luck !
    I will follow your works with pleasure and interest : it's always good to see excellent works !

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  14. I can agree that a good looking table does make it seem complete. I struggle with terrain to get it to look good. Building isn't the issue its painting and getting finished I have the problem with. I do envy you as your an excellent terrain builder!

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    1. Thanks Simon. Part of the trick I have found with painting terrain is still thinking of it in terms of base, shade and highlight... Either start dark, and dry brush up in successive lighter tones, or consider a base tone with shade wash (usual very thinned dark brown paint) before dry brush hightlight. A big soft brush is essential for terrain drybrushing...

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  15. A man after my own heart. I reached the same conclusion recently re terrain. Spent a fortune on figures only to use them used on reversed Subbuteo cloth with cut out roads etc... No more I say. Look forward to seeing the progress, Amon Hen is one I would like to make. I recall trying to make hills for a train layout by using chicken wire as a base, strangely in the 1970's when I was a wee lad.

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    1. Thanks for your thoughts Mark, interesting to see the shared pasts we have!

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  16. Good luck Scott!! Totally agree and look forward seeing your projects come to fruition. Terrain and gaming visuals are hugely important to me and I could go on and on for hours. Felt is evil!!

    My choice in games lately have me drifting towards games with more detailed terrain. I love big games like Warhammer, but the scenery has to be functional as well. With skirmish games like LotR SBG, Saga, or even 40k you can make terrain that if very detailed almost like mini nature and building dioramas themselves.

    On top of hopefully getting to work on more gaming boards and terrain this Summer, one of big reasons I'm excited about Napoleonics specifically is doing various small vignettes as well to really add to the battlefield eye candy!

    I really need to get to bed, but hopefully some of this makes sense. The last thing I'll say is not only do I want the games I play to tell a story, but also to paint a wonderful 3D picture of the battle. Much like taking one of my military art prints off the wall and making it come to life in 28mm scale. :-)

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    1. Thanks for that great reply Jason, and I can certainly see your enthusiasm in the battle reps you do, your terrain is always very easy on the eye, and your models are top notch too... :-)

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  17. This looks to be very interesting!

    Christopher

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  18. I'm looking forward to your "year of terrain making." I can't wait to see what you come up with. I'm especially keen on the possible Amon Hen board. That is one of my favorite scenarios to play.

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    1. I am trying to decide whether to make the Amon Hen board as multiple boards as there's three differing scenarios for the location in the FOTR Journey book... or as one large board as per the scenario in the new Hobbit rulebook... a big board will certainly be more impressive I think , but there are storage issues...

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  19. My dad is an artist, and he transitioned into a career in theme park design right around when I started getting into gaming. He used to bring home boxes of cast-offs from the scenic shops he worked with, so I had unlimited lichen, carved foam buildings, all sorts of things to work with--we even played games of Epic 40K on an architectural model he snagged for me that a co-worker was going to toss out. So from the very beginning I've prioritized terrain as highly as figure painting. And yeah, I wince when I see veteran gamers using cheap/cheesy terrain. I'm very much in the camp of "you've got to make everything look satisfactory or else what's the point?"

    I say all that to say: very much looking forward to how your boards turn out! :D

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    1. Thank you David, good to know there's kindred souls out there :-)

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  20. I shall be watching with interest..

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