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  • Terrain Boards

    Terrain boards

    I had a request for information on the making of terrain boards which can be made as an alternative to the official Wings of Glory mats. The latter are great, and I use them lots, but a change is as good as a holiday they say – so here’s the low down, love ‘em or hate ‘em! I shall begin by aknowledging these are not my own ideas, simply inspired by some I came across on the internet. So my thanks to the originator(s), whoever you are

    Step 1. The boards. The high density 2ft x 2ft interlocking foam boards came from B&Q. Designed for use on garage flooring, they are similar to but, at the time of writing, less expensive than, others produced for children’s play areas and the like. They are flat on one side, textured on the other and black.

    Step 2. Glueing. I glued the full size mats to 6mm thick MDF board, using a good covering of a no nails type glue, textured side down. Note - at this point, the foam mat overlaps the MDF on two adjascent sides by the "connecting part of the jigsaw shape, so the measurements of the MDF may need changing to allow for this. This is to ensure that when the mats are connected to other terrain boards, there is no gap in the supporting boards. As per the advice given on the internet, I left the glue to dry for 24 hours, heavily and as evenly weighted as I could.
    It should also be noted that the source guide for these stated the interlocking parts of the board were later dispensed with and magnetic strips used instead, glued to the MDF. I haven’t done this to date, so have no idea of cost implication or success criteria.

    Step 3. Drawing. Draw the terrain outline wanted with a hard pencil, pressing quite firmly into the foam. This will help during the painting process, by naturally keeping colour areas seperate (eg fields). It also helps by acting as a slightly helpful guide if using a scalpel blade to cut along the drawn lines, as with road ditches for example. Planning this stage carefully will allow interchangeability of the boards, although I made many mistakes at this point. There are solutions to mistakes however, so do not worry too much if you don’t get it right. One simple solution is to disguise errors with loose terrain like lichen or flock, which can be removed after play. Another, solution is to make “connectiing boards” which are narrower and more easily stored. Sometimes I glue these to MDF, sometimes I don't. It depends on the terrain feature I want. No features other than plain fields – no glue.

    Step 4. Cutting. Warning - Take care of your personal health and safety here and work on a suitable surface. (Ok I doubt anyone on this forum needs that advice but you never know who might read it one day).
    With the overall design complete, use a scalpel blade/knife or similar , to cut out where needed - eg some of the ditches to create the roads, sunken roads, trenches and rivers or lakes etc. But remember, if you are using the finished boards for “Wings of Glory” games, then 3D features like trenches need to be narrow enough to permit the easy placement of aircraft model bases.
    This stage is where the use of the MDF base comes into its own. For example, rivers can be cut right down to the MDF if necessary. But be careful, because any glue underneath may be difficult to remove and will texture the river bed - perhaps in ways you don't want - so think ahead on that one. It is possible to avoid smearing the glue in such areas. You may even consider not using the MDF bases at all or alternatively, using them but as non-glued additions.

    Step 5. Drilling. The shell holes in no-mans-land are created with an electric drill, using various sized bits.

    Step 6. Painting. Then I paint the lot - I use ordinary decorating emulsion and for the most part just three colours - brick red, green and oyster. I use the terrain boards themselves as a palette, mixing as I go along. All very messy, but fun. Best use a sheet of something underneath if you don’t want trouble from other members of the family Special features like rivers take a bit more thought, time and effort. I’m no expert here, but there are plenty of good guides on the internet.

    Step 7. Flocking. When the paint is dry I flock the fields in various grass colours using PVA glue to stick it on and a second coat to keep it there. Just paint on the PVA thickly and smother with the appropriate flock and leave to dry. Don’t try to remove excess flock until the first coat of PVA glue is thoroughly dry. The excess can then be easily brushed off and saved for another day, before application of the second coat of PVA glue (watered down).

    The finished boards are surprisingly durable and I have little of the flock falling off and none of the paint, so far Occassionally the No Nails will not hold, especially around the smaller areas of foam created by the trenches, but a quick smear of UHU or similar takes care of that.

    Hills are made seperately, without any MDF backing. Just cut to shape, painted and flocked as above. They are free standing during play and can be useful in disguising unwanted features like trench systems, for a bit of variety. No warping problems experienced to date as the features are relatively small.

    Re. storage - as said earlier, I glue the full size boards to MDF and that makes storage both difficult and easy!!! Difficult due to bulk; easy because they do not warp. I stand them on their edges in a corner of the room - which is not entirely satisfactory, but it works for me. If storage, or even transporting the boards, is an issue, you might want to experiment by creating boards without the MDF backing. But I think that would restrict the three D creative possibilities.

    When in play, the rest of the "scenery" is loose on top of the boards - lichen for trees, buildings, bridges, individual trees and even the thorns from Blackthorn and Hawthorn bushes, used as blown up tree stumps, can all be added and moved easily during play. And I have used these boards for 5mm and anything up to 15mm wargames in addition to the important Wings of Glory.

    Not everyone’s cup of tea perhaps, but I enjoy both making and using them. Hope you do too!

    This article was originally published in forum thread: Terrain Boards started by mikeemagnus View original post
    Comments 12 Comments
    1. Flying Officer Kyte's Avatar
      Flying Officer Kyte -
      I placed your "How To" in "gaming resources" after reconsidering it's best location Mike.
    1. BB401's Avatar
      BB401 -
      Beautiful work, and nicely documented. I have been tempted to try the 3d terrain since the first time I saw some. Not having worked with these materials before, I am curious about one thing - why the need to sandwich the interlocking foam over a substrate? For rigidity, thickness, or some other factor?
    1. Boney10's Avatar
      Boney10 -
      Nicely done Mike, well done that man
    1. milcoll73's Avatar
      milcoll73 -
    1. Mike George's Avatar
      Mike George -
      Very nicely done, thanks for sharing.
    1. Walter Nowotny's Avatar
      Walter Nowotny -
      OUTSTANDING work! Rep on way!
    1. Guntruck's Avatar
      Guntruck -
      Excellent job Mike. Rep inbound
    1. mikeemagnus's Avatar
      mikeemagnus -
      I placed your "How To" in "gaming resources" after reconsidering it's best location Mike.
      Cheers Rob - thanks for doing that and thanks to everyone for your comments. If I'd thought it would be that useful I would have done this some time back - should have done really.

      I am curious about one thing - why the need to sandwich the interlocking foam over a substrate? For rigidity, thickness, or some other factor?
      Hi Bob - to begin with, that was the advice given in the original internet source. So I just followed it. Having done it a few times, though, I reckon it isn't always necessary. It obviously helps when cutting out trenches, rivers, sunken roads and the like, and maintaining those without some kind of backing would be impossible in such cases. But it is possible to make the plain field boards without them. Then of course there would be the problem of level, so a similar depth backing would be required even if not glued. Storage is easier with the glued backing, for me anyway. But I'm sure a bit of lateral thinking and experimentation could come up with an alternative and quite possibly a lot better solution. I'll think on it
      Thanks to everyone for the rep too
    1. Naharaht's Avatar
      Naharaht -
      Thank you for writing such a useful article, Mike!
    1. mikeemagnus's Avatar
      mikeemagnus -
      Many thanks again for all the interest and positive feedback
    1. BobP's Avatar
      BobP -
      I saw some game mats this weekend for what you posted here. Don't know if they got the idea from you but if not on the same page as you.
    1. mikeemagnus's Avatar
      mikeemagnus -
      Not aware of them Bob. Do you have a link? In any case, the ideas, as I said, are not my own. So no one would have had from me. They've been around a while and I'm not certain who the originator was I am sorry to say.