What I Did on my Hols – Building for Sharp Practice v2

As many of you will know, Christmas came late this year, with the Special only arriving hours before the chimes of Big Ben heralded in the New Year.  So, no Festive break on Lard Island, but rather a post festive sojourn doing a few bits of long-awaited housekeeping which, if we kept one eye shut and squinted a bit, could look vaguely like a break from work.
Those of you who have followed this blog will recall that I popped across to Essex early in 2015 to play a game of Chain of Command with a good friend of Lard, Pat, better known to many in the hobby as Silver Whistle.  (you can find his blog here:  http://wargamingwithsilverwhistle.blogspot.co.uk/ ).  Apart from having a fun game, I could not help but be struck by the fantastic set-up that Pat has, not least his table which is a masterpiece, being textured and flocked so terrain modules can just be dropped on top as required.  For may years I had been keeping my table plain and using terrain boards with various configurations which could be arranged to give a half decent variety of layouts.  However, no matter how varied these were, they were always limited and they required a fair amount of storage.  Why not re-do my whole table like Pat’s?  Well, because I am a coward.  Texturing your table is really crossing the wargaming Rubicon, once you have even just started you cannot go back.  So, in the spirit of compromise, I decided to refurbish some hills which I’d made a few years ago.  Told you I was a coward!
Making terrain is sometimes a hit and miss experience.  A few years ago I had ordered some high density polystyrene and 3mm MDF and combined the two to create a selection of modular hills which could be fitted together to make a variety of layout options.  When finished, I took a step back and realised that they were downright bloody horrible.  The slope was too steep to make them workable and they were bright green.  As a result they never got used and I don’t think I ever took a photo of them.
Armed with the trusty bread knife, I set about the hills to try to create a more gentle slope, a tedious task but not one requiring any great effort.  With these trimmed down I used some medium grade sandpaper to tidy them up.  Following which I painted them with PVA and dipped them in the big tub of dried Sharp Sand I use for my desert games when I use the table as a sand table.
When that dried, and it takes a good few hours, I washed the whole thing with a PVA and water mix to hold the sand in place.
As you can see, I added some gritty areas to break up the monotony of the hill.  This also allows any imperfections in the polystyrene to be hidden.  When this dried the stones were washed over with a slightly stronger mix of PVA with just a little water as these need to be held in place as they can get caught and ripped out when in play.
With that dry, and here I recommend leaving it at least 24 hours, I painted the whole thing Bitter Chocolate.  This is a household external paint which I got from  Homebase.  Pat had recommended this to me but he uses a better quality paint, the name of which escapes me.  I simply couldn’t get that at my local store, so went with the “own label” version.  Let’s face it, it’s brown.
Once that dried, I applied several layers of dry-brushed household paints which I got from my local Wilkos for about thirty bob for a tester pot.  Crown paints all, they included Chocolate Suede, Tiramisu and Fawn Suede which I applied in that order to get this:
Te next step was to add the static grass and flock mix.  I just painted most of the hill with PVA, avoiding the rocky bits, and dumped the mix on top.
I should state here that I find a mix of 75% static grass with about 25% flock gives the best coverage.  The fine flock gives a good base coverage whereas the static grass is the stuff you see.  With a quick flourish I tipped off the flock mix and the hills were complete.  As can be seen, they fit together in a number of ways.  Which is handy.
IMG_1754 IMG_1753
I must admit that I was quite chuffed with them and have gone on to knock out about a dozen or so which is probably all we will need.
So, filled with terrain making enthusiasm, I got home from the club after a playtest of Sharp Practice v2 and had a look on eBay.  We really didn’t have enough fences for the games we were playing, so a quick look saw me grad a couple of sets made by a chap called treefella.1 .  Here’s one of the sets I bough as they were listed.
Ebay image  These subsequently arrives in speedy order and, with each section being 8″ in length, gave us a goodly stretch of fencing all ready to play straight out of the box.  However, I was keen to tart them up to match the hills I’d just done.  What was more, lots of snake fencing I have seen has a fair amount of rocks around the base of the fence and I wanted to add this to make it look a bit more substantial.  All I did here was use neat PVA and dip the lengths of fencing into a pot of rocks which I had sieved out of the the Sharp Sand and then into a pot of Sharp sand.
FullSizeRender (2)
With this done, I sprayed the whole thing black and set about a repaint.  Again I used the brown chocolate as a base and then dry-brushed up from there with the same colours but finishing off with a Vallejo Stone Grey.  I added flock/grass as usual.
Again, I was pretty pleased with the result.  The nice thing is that the fences look the part but don’t take up too much space, something which snake fencing can do.  These sections are just an inch wide.  Perfect.
By now, I was beginning to think about the table.   The hills looked great, the fences were good, as was a whole Wild West village which I had repainted for the Eastern theatre of the ACW.  All that was letting me down now was the table.  Sod it,. I thought,  in for a penny, in for a pound.  The table was going to be done!
This was where we started from.  The system would be exactly the same as we have seen so far.
I painted with PVA and poured on the sand.
A great idea, but an abject failure.  When I swept the sand off the next day it nearly all came off.  I need to make up a mix of sand, PVA and water and paint that on.  This was the consistency of runny porridge, but it worked much better. IMG_1768
When that dried (overnight) I used a match pot of cheap sky-blue paint to go round the rim of the table.  this would provide a small backdrop for any low level shots.  To this I added a horizon in green, This helped cover the bits where the sand and PVA mix had gone up edge slightly.  I did wonder if this should have been left until last as clearly this would be affected when I painted the table surface, but I did find it easier to go back and tough up the green rather than having to start from scratch.
IMG_1770 IMG_1769
Next I painted the table brown…
After which I dry-brushed up as normal  The tiny sample pots are plenty large enough for this job.  I still have loads of paint left.
Now I added the flock/grass mix.  For this I had several shades of flock.  One would be the predominant shade, but the others would add a bit of variety.  This was a slow and somewhat tedious process, not helped by the fact that I hadn’t got enough bloody flock.  I had to  do a small area, wait for it to dry, sweep the excess flock off with a dustpan and brush and then start on the next area.  Anyway, you can see that it’s a case of adding relatively small areas and building that up, obviously leaving some areas of ground uncovered to add variety.
IMG_1795 IMG_1797 Gradually you get to something looking more like this:
IMG_1802 IMG_1804When you dump your terrain on top, the end result isn’t half bad.  My standard is nowhere near as good as Pat’s table, he clearly has a better eye for colour than me and he uses some additional clump foliage and bits and pieces, but even allowing for my limited skills I am pleased with the outcome.  Here it is dressed up with hills and other stuff.
So, that’s the first part of what we’ve been up to since New Year.  The second part will , I hope, be much more exciting as we have been working full time on Sharp Practice v2.  More on that later today!


2 thoughts on “What I Did on my Hols – Building for Sharp Practice v2”

  1. You can,t whack playing on a table with good terrain. Sometimes a wargame can be compared to watching a good Play in the theatre , you suspend disbelief and find yourself caught up in the fate of the characters . This terrain will help toward this , plus you,re photos are bound to be better. Hope to see you if you ever cross the Irish Sea again , Rich , there’s a pint of the Black Stuff waiting for you . Colin / Belisarius ( LAF forum )

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