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  • Creating a landscape

    Ahoi everybody. I'm new to this Forum but not so new to naval wargaming. We used different rulesets throughout the last years but none was really satisfying in the end. For our demo table for the Hamburger Tactica (biggest convention for historical wargaming) we wanted to depict part of the Caribbean island St. Lucia and a big portion of the surrounding seascape.

    This historical battle was fought between French and British vessels as part of a landing operation during the American war of Independence, when the French fought side by side with the American forces to get their own benefit of this conflict. The ships we use are from Langton Miniatures Napoleonic Range.

    Before we start I first want to share some practical thoughts I had, before I started. I wanted the whole surface to be of one piece without any seams. So I couldnít go for the common 120cmx60cm boards I usually use for my tabletop boards. I shortly tinkered with the idea to use a giant board of Plexiglas, ideally already textured like the sea. The boards usually used for shower cubicle came to my mind. After some internet research I soon realized that a Plexiglas board that big, would cost way too much and it would be a horror to handle a board that big.

    So I decided to build a mat. First I had to find a underlying fabric, ideally blue. I still had an old tablecloth in my wardrobe so I started my first trials on our table tennis table.

    I also put the mdf boards I wanted to use for the coastline on the cloth.

    My first idea for depicting the water texture was to use a transparent plastic tablecloth and apply it to the surface with a flat iron. The plastic should partly melt together with the cloth and afterwards I wanted to carve the wave structure into the plastic with a hot air gun.

    The whole melting and carving process was first tried on a scrap test piece. As it turned out, the plastic didnít melt enough and didnít stick to the cloth. In addition it was not possibly to carve something like a wave structure into the plastic. Looked good in my mind, but didnít work...

    So I decided to go with the old acryl mat technique I already used years ago on a desert mat, just this time with transparent acryl. I spray painted the cloth with different shades of blue and white. After this step I realized for the first time, that the wrinkles in the cloth, which came of years of lying folded in my wardrobe, where very sturdy. I hoped that they went away after laying flat for some days, but after a week the wrinkles were still there. My attempts with the flat iron didnít help much.

    I had to find a way to get rid of the wrinkles. Finally the only thing coming to my mind was to buy a new tablecloth. After a short tour through the neighbouring carpet stores I found exactly what I needed: a white tablecloth with no structure and no sealing, as this would have prevented the acryl to stick to the material.

    After one more session with the spray cans I was happy with the result: a flat surface with several shades of blue and no wrinkles. A long way I had come, but there was still a longer way in front of me.

    The next step of applying the transparent acryl required me to go indoor, as I didnít want any outdoory things landing on my drying acryl and thereby being sealed in the water surface forever. It was fall, so lotís of outdoory things were floating around through the air. Meanwhile the coastline was more elaborate Ė youíll see in my next post.

    The transparent acryl was applied on the cloth. With a big round brush I dabbed the still wet acryl and achieved a nice wave structure. I had to be very careful not to strike the brush, as the strokes could be seen clearly in the acryl gel.

    Now the only thing to do was to wait and hope, that the transparent acryl really was transparent and not white. Otherwise we had to change the place of battle to the arctics...

    But my sorrows were causeless. The acryl dried out perfectly transparent. The only thing I had to do was to highlight the waves by drybrushing them white. The result was pleasing enough for me. The bulge you can see one the picture finally settled, as the piece lay flat for a few days.

    The Coastline.

    As you can see the whole building process of the coastline happened at the same time as the water surface. The base for the landmass was cut out of 5mm MDF with a jigsaw. On the base I glued some scrap polystyrene I had left over from other projects. Thatís the reason why some of it is yellow, some pink. Where the sandy beaches should be I cut a gentle slope in the mdf board. The rocky parts of the coastline where constructed of cork bark, glued into place with a hot glue gun. The gaps between the cork and the polystyrene was covered with a sort of papier machť mass (something like a woodfiller, hard to describe) I bought a few months ago in a hobby store.

    On the main island the shape of the harbour was cut straight into the mdf.

    A quick test with one of my ships of the line showed that the scale is quite okay.

    The coastline grew longer and longer as I used bag after bag of the papier machť.

    Meanwhile I had to focus on constructing the buildings. I had bought some models from Redcoats ModelJShip shop, who has wonderful buildings in 1:1200. But the buildings didnít fit all into the Caribbean setting, in the end I used the cathedral, the tower and a harbour tower building from his collection.

    For the rest I used a different approach. I started used google sketchup to construct some basic buildings which could be printed several times. My digital design skills are very basic, but in this small scale itís just about geometrical shapes and not about having a detailed texture on a surface (which Iím not capable to design). This was one of my first prints.

    As soon Iím through with the whole presentation I will post these designs on thingiverse to make them available to everybody. One word to scale: I tried to scale all my models 1:1000. They tend to be slightly bigger than they would normally perhaps be, but Iím totally okay with that. From a gamers perspective itís all about the overall picture and that looks good enough. So I designed several different houses and warehouses and printed them a few times. The town grew bigger and bigger

    To give the town a little extra, I constructed a hillock to put the cathedral on it. This should be the centrepiece of the town.

    A small stream was carved at one side of the town and the waterfront was built with thin balsawood.

    Then the same papier machť mass was applied to all the different hillsides and the basic shape of the landscape was finished.

    With my airbrush I finally sprayed all natural areas green, the town itself more brownish (sorry, no pic of this step)

    Here are the final pictures of the production process as well as the final pictures of the game on the Tactica.

    So let's get to the jungle. I planned to plant two rows of tree trunks on the edge of the woods and cover the inner area of the forest just with the canopy. Therefore I started to construct a underlying base for the canopy which had the shape of the terrain. I used paper mache out of an old newspaper, as it is light and flexible.

    After drying the treetop base was painted green:

    The trunks on the edge of the woods where made out of floral wire. It is sturdy enough to be stuck upright inside the terrain and has a nice texture on the outside. I only found green wire so I painted it brown and cut it in small pieces of roughly 15-20mm length:

    The drilling work began: two rows of holes were cut into the terrain with a small drill:

    Then the tree trunks were glued into place and on top of the trunks different forms of foliage glued into place. After the whole thing dried the base for the canopy was glued into place.

    Finally I just had to cover the whole inner area with foliage of different size and form and the jungle was roughly ready:

    At this point the forest looked more like a mixed forest of a moderate climate zone, so I had to add some jungle elements. The smallest miniature palms I could grab on ebay where 30mm tall, which is to tall for this scale. The treetop of the palm was very tall as well.

    So I just cut the palm trunks into two halves and the treetops as well. I glued them into place again and had twice as many palms as I had before!

    These palms where glued all over the terrain as well as in the canopy itself to represent single trees growing over the rest of the trees:

    The overall result is very pleasing, here are some of the pictures with the terrain on the seascape mat. Here are pictures of the final table on the Hamburger Tactica. Thanks to thrifles who took the pictures.

    This article was originally published in forum thread: The Battle of St. Lucia - Demo table for this years Hamburger Tactica started by Bligh View original post
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