6 Apr 2013

Terrain Boards - Building better worlds, on the cheap!

So as it was, I had recently embarked on a grand quest to create myself a whole host of new modular gaming boards, after having played with the same three boards (beautifully crafted by a good friend of mine, Bjarne) for over two years. And, well, I was getting a bit tired of having to set all of my games in the same desert area, with the same fixed areas of rough ground, slopes, wadis and what not.

As I live in a two-room apartment (which thankfully includes a small basement for storage!) I'm forced by circumstance to always consider how much space any of my terrain projects ends up taking. Which is why I went the modular route; the individual plates are easily stowed away until they're needed and I can create multiple set ups without taking up more space!

However, I also wanted to make modular terrain board-tiles that I could easily expand upon in the future, without having too much hassle in doing so. And remember the part about the two-room apartment? Well, this becomes important now as I also need to take into account that I have no work area, except for my living room. So no power-tools, no band saws, and thus ruling out the most commonly available construction material - wood!

Behold! The future is here!

As you can see, I then picked up a couple of these babies; having been inspired by Rodney Smith's Watch It Played videos on YouTube wherein he demonstrated the board that he had bought from TheTerrainGuy.com. First off, I had a quick look at just such a board. But the cost was just out of my league; especially when you consider shipping & taxes which could easily run up to double the amount! So, while I'm not saying it's too expensive, it is definitely out of my league.

But, wait! What's this?! Locals on a board games group over on Facebook were more than helpful to spot the very same tiles, for cheap and available at a local shop! So, off I went to immediately purchase eight 2' by 2' tiles that would interlock beautifully!

As with all experiments, I made a few initial errors on these boards. They are made from some form of foam-ish structure which makes them flexible (part of the reason as to why I wanted these boards in the first place) but this also becomes problematic when using the tested and true wargamer method of smothering the boards with PVA and throw some sand at them (or lightly sprinkle, whichever you prefer). So, that is exactly what I did, with an end result of the boards cracking up whenever they were ever so slightly bent, thus ruining the elasticiy that I wanted to get out of these boards in the first place!

But when I realized that the jig was up, I had already made the first four tiles, leaving me with little other option than to simply soldier on and keep at it. After all, the paint would hide the worst of these cracks, and as soon as I was able to buy some more static grass (as is typical, when I finally need the stuff for terrain, then I've run out!) that it would hide the rest. But I had some edges lying about the place...

On the edge!

Aha! I tried out the New Wave Terrain method of applying acryllic caulk  mixed up with the tiniest bit of water and some black paint, all over these boards and then sprinkle it with sand before it dried. And it worked! Perfectly I might add! It dried up just as fast as PVA (well, almost, anyway); the sand stuck to the caulk even better than before and best of all - it retained its flexibility! (huzzah!)

Just a bit of showcasing how the terrain boards look. The puzzle effect itself isn't too noticeable, but I'd prefer to hide in on future project tiles!

So there I am; I've got myself a new 4' by 4' board to play on (or rather it is 4' and a smidgeon by 4' and a smidgeon) and a gigantic mess in my living room. Ah well, c'et la vie as they say. Incidently, the colors used are my new go to brand of paints; available in Denmark from: CC-Hobby - I buy the big tubs of course. The best part about these paints is that they dry up matt, unlike most other cheap paints on the local market. Highly recommend them and they have some wonderful hues for terrain.

Oh, and I've finally learned how to drybrush after all these years. It turns out that I have been using the wrong brush all along. Or, at least, it was the wrong brush for me. After I saw Wargaming For Fun's video series on how to make your own modular terrain board, I had to try out his method of drybrushing instead; a big soft brush, a ceramic tile (or, well, I used some aluminium packaging, but hey!) and then gave it a go. It worked beautfiully! Well, it worked a whole lot better than my previous terrain tile attempts at drybrushing, so, cheers and thanks for that WargamingForFun!

My new best friend!