I am slowly preparing for yet another ACW game based on scenario from Partizan Press’ “Heartland” scenario book and guess what… I need to do some more terrain. I really, really look forward to a game where all I need to do is put together stuff I have and play!
In this particular case, I was in need of seven rather small heights. This made me think – on those occasions I needed some hills, they were sizeable terrain features. Since they were so large, I also made them rather high… at least for 6mm battlefield. And sure those high hills look rather impressive on the “battlefield”, but they also cause some problems – their steep slopes always make my minis act as if they are out on a training session for sled tournament. Up I want them to go… and down they slide again.
So this time around I decided to do things a bit different and make a couple ‘very small’ hills with very gentle slopes. This poised slighly different demands on materials I could use – standard expanded polystyrene sheets wouldn’t work, because you can’t sand them. And my default cheapo choice for bases – 3mm board – would also be a bad choice, because it would not hold the ‘edge’ at the borders. So instead, I had to do it 'standard wargamer style’ – 3mm MDF for bases and extruded polysturene (aka blue or pink stuff) for the hills themselves.
Step 1- MDF bases were cut out of 3mm MDF sheet and beweled with a sharp Stanley knife (here in Sweden they’re called ‘mora kniv’). Keep the knife sharp, watch your fingers and always cut away from your body. Seriously, be very careful when beweling those sheets, you can loose half a finger in a blink of an eye if you’re not carefull.
Step 2 – glue sheet material to the bases and leave for some time under pressure. This time around didn’t use PVA glue, but builder’s mounting glue. Dries in an hour or two, doesn’t seem to warp and my hot wire-cutter didn’t have any problems slicing throuth it as I trimmed off the blue stuff.
Step 3 – after trimming off the polystyrene, it was time to sand. Another health warning here – put on a mask before you start with this step! MDF dust is definitely something you want to avoid breating in and I can’t imagine that ground down polystyrene will do your lungs any wonders!
This was actually the first time I’ve worked with MDF and extruded polystyrene and I have to grudgingly admit that I now understand why these materials are prefered choice for terrain making – you can really shape that stuff into exactly the shape you need. It doesn’t show on the picture above, but the angle on the bevel of the MDF bases are no more than 20 degrees and it will stay that way even if bumped into something. Untreated board sheets just crumble…
Step 4 – paint with brown of your choice. Here I cheated and painted with a mix of brown household acrylic paint, grit, sand and gipsum (something I saw on Youtube and wanted to try out).
Step 5 – flock, leave to dry and presto… gentle hills ready for the gaming table! The thing that worried me a bit was the slenderness of those hills – 3mm MDF and 5mm polystyrene doesn’t amount to much. But I must say that I like what I see. For 6mm games maybe less is more also in regard of elevations on the table!