As mentioned earlier, I thought that modular board would be right choice for my gaming needs, but now after actively using them for some time, I came to appreciate little bit different form of modularity. There are fundamental problems with modular boards that I could not resolve satisfactorily. Mostly they revolve around problems of space that proper collection of boards required. Visible edges are least of the issues, albeit present in the first experiment. That said, there are clear advantages, thick enough modular boards offer nice looking sunken roads and river beds etc. So, off I went to figure out what I wanted from the board.
- Relatively ease of storage and transport (weight and dimensions)
- Modularity of height differences and other features.
- Generic enough to represent anything from Italy to Germany and perhaps some more lush regions of Northern Africa, Anatolia or Middle East. Perhaps even North America, if the wars of independence ever come into existence.
- Sufficiently large with no visible seams.
- To be able to use pins for trees and other features, allowing their relatively easy removal.
- Real world correspondence to area of 1.5 square km to 3 square km.
The true limitation of modular boards came from the fact that I only have four pieces, and it is increasingly unlikely that I feel like building additional four to six to meet my needs.
Therefore, felt, caulk, sand, paint, static grass and flock it is. Very messy work, but I had a just right opportunity to doall the really messy bits. So, for materials, one will need following:
- Thick felt (mine was 3mm thick, dark sea green, but color matters little)
- Paint brushes, couple of cheap ones.
- Rubber cloves.
- Clothes and workspace that do not mind getting a bit dirty.
- Comb, if planning to fix fields in place.
- Acrylic caulk – cheapest variety will do fine. For 1.5m2 area, four tubes were needed with some extra left for other works (acrylic caulk will mix with paint very well).
- PVA glue (to be used watered down).
- Model railroad sand, ballast (or just the beach variety, but probably will need to have it washed for salts first), bigger bits and pieces, such as pine bark.
- Earth colors, from darker brown to lighter ochre.
- Static grass in preferred color.
- Fine grain turf, from almost black to happy yellow. Could probably have other colors as well, such as reds and blues – it would make nice meadow.
- Little bit less fine flock in some nice mix of green.
- Somewhat coarse turf.
- Acrylic matt medium and gardening spray bottle to fix everything in place.
And the process [side note: felt, unlike canvas, does not shrink and at least in my case there was no need to bolt it in place]:
- Mix caulk and acrylic paint (darkest earth shade) [side note: If I would do this again, I would make other mixes with different shades, and then apply them creatively around the felt mat. I would also mix some of the sand already in the caulk].
- Apply caulk liberally around the felt and spread out the sand and other bits to the areas you desire to have them. Tapping them down a bit helps to keep them in place. If using alternate method above, note that you will need to apply watered down paint over all the loose bits to keep them well in place and highlight them later.
- If you desire to add any fixed features on the game mat surface, such as fields, this would be a good time to use the comb since the caulk/paint mix is still wet.
- Let dry for couple of days.
- Paint the surface with watered down acrylic paint (unless deciding to use alternate method, then just the regions you have added extra sand or other bits).
- Let dry.
- Add the highlights in many layers of dry brushing. Quite bit depends on how you manage this step because if it looks good, then you do not have to cover everything with static grass. Just cover the mistakes.
- Let try well.
- Apply layer of watered down PVA glue to selected regions, followed by first iteration of static grass. (Note that you will probably want to use spray bottle and PVA glue to add a few more layers of the grass around, paintbrush only works well for surface that has no loose things). Different shades are good.
- Let dry for another day or two between iterations.
- Apply first layer of matt medium and sprinkle over the turfs that you wish to include to the wet matt medium, add another layer of matt medium with the spray bottle.
- Lastly, rougher foliage features with PVA glue, then fix in place with matt medium.
I did build an experimental piece (later to be used as Impetus camp?) from felt. I used acrylic caulk mixed with brown paint and flocked it with static grass and other material to test how it turns out. Since it passed about a month of twisting, turning and other use without shedding a bit of flock, I thought it was enough to move on. Unlike many others, I did not feel like making the mat from rather thin canvas – not because I would prefer other material, but because I had 100cm x 150cm thick green felt piece laying around for about two years now.
Certainly 100cm x 150cm playing area is not sufficient for any very large battle, even in 6mm scale, but should serve well for Impetus up to 500 points as well as DSLB. Anything bigger would be rather complicated to fit in the space I have available. Unfinished mat has been shown already in some games that I have played, mostly because this post is late, but better that than never.
Flocked terrain mat is not the whole deal, however. I have ambitious plan to build several modular forest, town and field pieces – all of which should go well in 6mm scale since that is the only one I use. I thought that roads can be permanent features on the mat and included only few, as generic as possible. River system is something I will need to think about but so far Total Battle Miniatures appear to build interesting ones. For elevation differences, I plan to have number of cork inserts that can be easily positioned underneath the mat and pinned down. Thick felt will incidentally provide enough stiffness to make the contours look natural.
Four modules that I have readied previously are now giveaway. I am not going to ship them anywhere, but if someone locally would need some, they are available.