Thursday, March 8, 2012

Modular Gaming Table: Part 7

There are many ways to make realistic ground surfaces. You can use foam, plaster, clay, stones, sand and whatnot, hell, even teddy bear fur is usable. Whatever methods you use, just make sure they create the required effect. Try out different methods by creating test samples to see which method best suits your needs.

Three factors determine my ground surface needs:
  1. Modular terrain boards
  2. Modular terrain pieces
  3. Playable for large-scale wargames
The first factor requires that all sides of the board are the same. This makes the board connectable with other boards. See Modular Gaming Table: Part 3 for more information on this.

The second factor requires a flat surface, at least on some areas. Unless the modular terrain pieces themselves have flexible bases, little rocks or an uneven ground surface could easily lift it up, letting them stick out.

The last factor confirms my need for a flat surface. Large units don't stand well on uneven ground. The scenery should of course look spectacular, but above all, playable.

Putting the above factors together I have decided to keep the surface flat. I will only put stones near some of the terrain features. The modular terrain pieces will allow me to introduce a variety of scenery without limiting the modularity and playability of the table.

Having said all of this, let's continue with the process of creating the surface.

The surface is flat, that much we know already and because the panels are already flat, I don't have to worry about it. However, I do want to give the foam a protective layer and in the same time give the surface a natural looking texture. For this, I'll be using Foam Coat for protection and aquarium play sand for the texture.

In the process of figuring out a suitable texture, I created various test samples and while doing so, collected various types of stone materials along the way. Most of which turned out useless, but some made it through, namely: the aquarium play sand, "brekerszand" and "invoegsplit" (gravel). The last two mentioned are paving jointing materials. In total, these materials give me three types of textures: fine, medium and rough.

Although most specialized modeling stores offer a range of stone materials, it's often cheaper to look elsewhere. To illustrate this, I've bought the following stone material at two different stores. The left I bought for 1.75 euro at a railway modeling store and the right for 2.50 euro at a garden store. I don't know how many exactly, but you can tell the difference.

They have exactly the same stones
The Foam Coat I bought has 3 lbs or 1.36 kg. According to the Hot Wire Foam Factory this is enough to cover 30 square feet. Dividing it by 12, I'm able to use about 100 grams on each panel. To be on the safe side I added modeling plaster of the same amount, creating a total of 200 grams. I added about 40 a 50 ml water and mixed it all up with 120 ml Latex wall paint. Creating a total mixture of roughly 200 ml. Below a picture of the materials:

I applied the mixture with a large paint brush, then covered it completely with the aquarium play sand and pressed it into the mixture with a paint roller. Not too hard of course, but slightly rolling it over the sand.

Covered with the Foam Coat mixture
Medium sand material near the edges
Covered in fine sand material
When dried, I carefully remove the excess sand with a dry paint brush.

Looks playable, right?
This covers the ground surface. In my next post I go through the process of painting them, but first I need to finish 11 more panels, Joy!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Modular Gaming Table: Part 6c

I plast, you plast, we all styroplast!!! I'ts finally been done... All the hill panels are carved out, plasted and coated with white primer.

The styroplast works great. I only needed to create the 1:3 mixture and apply it with a brush, just like painting. I started out with 200 ml, but only need about 50 for each hill. So, when doing the first hill I thought hell, why not do another one. While doing the second hill I noticed the mixture was beginning to set, but still continued doing a third one. 
The thinker the mixture, the harder it gets, getting it between all the crevices. The third panel lost some of its detail because of this. It's hardly noticeable from afar, but up close it looks like it's snowed under. Below some pictures of the result:

Before being plasted
Styroplast just applied
Completely dry and rock hard

Assembled and coated with white primer

Apart from the sand, stones and grass, the hills are now considered finished.
This brings us to the next step. Applying the surface to all 12 panels. In my next post I'll go through the process of creating the surface getting everything ready for painting.