If like me you are something of a mature hobby grognard, you may have found you’re obsessing more about hobby efficiency these days. By that I refer to extracting the maximum out of the time spent preparing armies and environments for battle in order to proportionally spend more time gaming. I love assembling and painting miniatures and terrain; it’s still the greater part of the hobby for me. But as I have gotten older I’ve found I’m keen to explore more efficient ways of bringing my armies to the table fully painted. I’m not talking about cutting corners, but about finding balance between what satisfies me as a painter and techniques that speeds up the process. A good example of this is my increased use of an airbrush coupled with a more fluid or organic painting style.
The same applies to terrain making which for me has shifted away from time-consuming scratch building to much faster ‘out of the box’ offerings. The modular terrain included in Deadzone or the kits Games Workshop have put out the past few years are a good example of what I’m talking about. It was only when I started playing Flames of War however that I had any experience of Gale Force Nine’s pre-painted Battlefield in a Box series. Now, before you reach for your torch and pitchfork I’m not advocating abandoning all those hard earned terrain making skills, just ‘re-applying’ them to enhance someone else’s efforts.
Battlefield in a box as the name implies is pretty much ready to go straight out of the box. As far as the Flames of War range goes it’s pretty damned good too! The flexible road sections in particular I really advocate as they tick all the boxes. They are resilient, flexible, provide a pleasing surface to game on that doesn’t damage your miniatures and the pre-painting is actually decent, if a little utilitarian. That’s not to say they can’t be improved upon however and that’s what I wanted to experiment with here.
The best example I can show of what I mean by this is the latest gothic ruins. Straight out of the box they come primed black and over-brushed in a dark grey. I would quite happily drop these onto any 40K battlefield as they come. However I had Middle Earth more in mind when I saw them and in particular expanding my Gondor or Osgiliath collection. To keep it simple both pieces were treated to a maximum of four layers of additional paint. Note: These were not re-primed, just painted straight over the factory finish provided.
Stage 1: Airbrush thinned Dheneb Stone over all the walls and stone blocks
Stage 2: Apply a watered down wash of Burnt Umber Gouache over the entire model and leave to dry (This stage can be speeded up with the aid of a hairdryer)
Stage 3: Use a damp cloth or piece of kitchen roll to gently wipe away the excess gouache from the brickwork leaving it in the cracks and crevasses.
Stage 4: Dry brush Terminatus Stone and Longbeard Grey over the walls and rubble
Stage 5: Dry brush Praxeti White over the walls.
For the paved flooring I used the exact same process above with the following exceptions. The tiles were just over brushed in a slate grey rather than airbrushed and the decorative pieces hand painted a mix of deep red and dark flesh. The Gouache was applied as above and removed with a damp cloth to stain the stonework and then the dry brushing was wolf grey and ghostly grey.
You could further enhance the ruins with the addition of some grass tufts or clumping, or even vines and more leaf vegetation to make them completely overgrown. I have kept them simple for the purpose of this example.
The entire process from start to finish was less than one hour’s effort and I’m really pleased with the finished result. Obviously the net cost is going to be subjective and your mileage may vary as to how you personally assess time invested. For me the cost was £38.70 for the two pieces plus one hour of my time. Material (paint cost) was actually pretty negligible as I used very little. To reproduce either of those two pieces to the level of detail shown through scratch building I estimate would require at least two full evenings work sculpting, carving, laying down the grades of talus and sealing. Assuming for a moment I’m not going to cast them in resin to achieve the same degree of resilience, which takes time and silicon plus resin costs out of the equation. There will still be the material cost of the plaster/magic sculpt, underpinning core structure and different grades of talus to consider. The greater cost however would be my time, even if I don’t count all of the dead time elapsed for setting, curing and cleaning up.
When I factor all of those things into account £20 per terrain piece and 30 minutes effort seems like a good deal to me, especially when I can get it straight onto the table and start fighting over it. In many ways I’m treating Battlefield in a Box as pre-assembled and pre-primed terrain ready to paint; a raw material if you like. 90% of the effort has been done for me by the factory and I simply apply the final 10% finish. That for me is maximising my hobby efficiency.
The Statue and Corner were the only ones initially available in Europe at launch, the rest getting a US only release. I assume this was in order to satisfy initial fulfilment with limited numbers available in the first wave. Wayland Games however now show the other sections as available, so I also pre-ordered the Fountain, Terrace and Monument to augment the ones shown here. Ultimately my goal is to add all of these to the Osgiliath and GW terrain I already own along with the Tablescape Ruined Temple Kickstarter terrain boards soon to be coming from MisterJustin at Secret Weapon. That should create something of a special board to game on, so expect to see a lot more of this terrain later in the year when I pull it all together for a properly themed clash between Gondor and Mordor.
As for those cobblestone roads I mentioned earlier. Those looked just fine straight out of the box, but I gave them a gouache wash and a drybrush for good measure anyway. The other great thing about the GF9 stuff is it’s really well packaged as well so storage is a snap.
Next up on my terrain hit list this weekend will be the start of my Deadzone structures. Juggling so many projects at the moment it’s hard to keep up with them all! On the non-terrain workbench currently is an SS Scout/Tank Hunter platoon for Flames of War. More on those when they have progressed a little further.
Until next time, have a great weekend.