All this was fields and trees

Yesterday I posted my opening skirmish for the WWPD.net and Battlefront global campaign “Operation Overlord”. That included almost all of the 15mm scale terrain I have to date, the game and scale being largely new to me. Clearly if I am to make this an engaging set of games and scenarios throughout the five or so weeks of the campaign I am going to have to rustle up a variety of cover and garnishing for the gaming table pronto!

Keeping to the basics for now I made a list of what really was essential in order to simulate the verdant fields of Normandy. Pretty much at the top of that list (not counting the infamous local bocage) was trees. Without trees any battlefield was going to look too bland and open. Second of my list was wheat fields. Not because they were particularly prevalent, but because they were stupendously cheap and easy to make in a hurry.

Dealing with the trees first, I wanted to produce a quick primer of say five or six bases, each consisting of between one and three medium sized deciduous. These I could then supplement at a later date with scatter terrain and bocage featuring a variety of hedgerows and smaller individual trees. The following method is my (relatively) quick and easy tree making process.

Stage 1 – The basics

These are marked on heavy artists mounting card and are cut out at an angle with a sharp craft blade to provide a sloped edge. The plastic tree armatures I used were from Woodland Scenics and were twisted into various shapes before being mounted onto a stick with double-sided tape for spraying. I gave the armatures a light primer of white followed by a coat of Khemri Brown with the airbrush. To build up some variety in the bark I then misted brown and green washes randomly over the trunk and branches trying to keep the green to predominately one side to simulate moss. Once dry a soft dry brush of Dheneb Stone lightened them up.

Stage 2 – The bases

I then stuck the armature bases onto the card templates and applied some areas of filler (spackle) here and there to create a bit of texture and rigidity. I also added a few small patches of small rocks or talus at this stage. To stop the bases curling up while the filler and glue cured I taped them all onto my workbench with masking tape. This is a worthwhile step because given half the chance and the merest hint of moisture the card will curl and once set the filler will reduce that tendency when it comes to the adding static grass stage.

Once the bases behaved themselves I gave them a quick prime in grey followed by patches of brown and green with the airbrush. Nothing neat or exact as I would be covering most of the bases with flock or static grass anyway, just enough to break up any uniformity.

Stage 3: – Adding the greenery

As part of an earlier terrain project I had invested in a static grass applicator. These things are seriously messy to use, but do give a pleasingly good finish. They work by introducing a static charge and then polarising the adhesive so that the fibres want to align upright as they stick to the base. To keep the mess down I applied the grass over a large box lid which allowed me to round up all the overspill afterwards for use on other projects.

The process was also quite noisy because my good lady wouldn’t stop nagging about the mess until I had vacuumed up any escapees. Once the glue had dried I added a few patches of clumping here and there, some deadfall and tufting before moving onto the trees.

To affix the foliage I brushed on patches of hobby-tac and let the foliage fall where it liked. Any loose I picked off with tweezers and then (mostly) sealed them in place with watered down PVA . It isn’t an exact science and there is the occasional autumnal shedding here and there during gaming. Nothing that isn’t easily resolved by sticking them back on. Over time the strays fall less and less as the foliage becomes more fixed in place. At this stage you could permanently glue the trees to the bases hiding the unsightly gaps. For ease of future storage I have not so far, but to be honest it isn’t something you really notice during the heat of battle when everything is on the tabletop.

As I wasn’t aiming to recreate entire forests, I still needed a bit more basic terrain to give the early scenarios some character. As I mentioned at the start, wheat fields were the ideal candidate and quite possibly the cheapest and easiest piece of terrain I have ever produced. In fact calling this a terrain modelling project to any degree is probably stretching the facts as this is something of a classic in wargaming circles. Take one coir doormat (preferably unused!). Readily available at most DIY or home furnishing stores I would have thought. This one cost a fiver (£5 GBP) at my local B&Q and was more than enough to make several small to medium sized fields.

Flip it over to reveal the heavy PVC backing and with a sharpie or pencil mark out the fields on the back. I tried not to be too regular about it mixing up the dimensions a bit so they didn’t all look like they came out of a field-generating factory. With a very sharp new craft knife score the backing to make a guide and then carefully cut through. I recommend using a decent heavy-duty DIY blade rather than the scalpel thickness modelling blades as they really aren’t strong enough for this task and are more likely to shatter than help. With the fields separated into different sections I used a pair of heavy-duty kitchen scissors to trim the edges into a more pleasing rounded shape and nibble away any stray strands. This is also a messy process so doing it outside is going to get you a lot less ear-ache from the good lady. Using her best scissors probably isn’t however, but lets not discuss that.

With the fields neatened up, I ran a bead of PVA glue around the exposed edge of the backing and dipped them into some mixed green flock to help disguise them. That was pretty much all there was to it. I have seen any number of more advanced and impressive variants featuring removable sections to hide tanks in, burned sections and ones with fences, walls or hedgerows surrounding them. There is plenty that can be done if you want to take them that bit further than I have here. I have no idea who first thought of using coir matting this way, all I can say is it was a stroke of genius in my opinion.

So that’s it for the basics. I’m leaving the supply of roads to my opponent for now and focusing on more solid matters for the next update before Game Two; namely some walls and buildings. You will have seen these already in the battle report from yesterday, but I will talk about them and the painting in a bit more detail later in the week. Now I need to work out what to do about ‘objectives‘ and scenarios for the next few games.

Have a great week,

CW


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