New(ish!) Modular Terrain Boards

 Sometimes our hobby takes an unexpected turn and we find ourselves doing something we hadn't planned at all.  This is what happened to me recently.  I'd best try and explain.
 Many years ago, long before blogging even existed (yes, that far back!) I made myself some modular terrain boards.  It was a long journey, but I remember it being very rewarding.  Up to a point, that is.  And then life got in the way and these boards found themselves trapped in a corner of my loft, boxed in (quite literally!) where they remained inaccessible.  over the years more stuff was added to the loft.  Whilst this made the rest of the house more habitable, it made accessibility in the loft a luxury rather than a reality.

It all came to a head a couple of months ago as I was completing my buildings for Blood Eagle.  I didn't have anywhere to store them.  This, in turn, meant that I would have nowhere to store anything else.  So something had to be done.

That's right.  I'd have to go back into the loft.  And clear it.
 And that's exactly what I did.  It took a week.  And whilst it's not completely finished, what remains to be tidied is my hobby stuff. I went from having about a solitary square foot of space to a lovely wide walkway down the length of my loft.  I can manoeuvre boxes to access the things I need.  Such a novelty!

Of course, this also meant that I unearthed my long-lost modular terrain boards.  I had completed four boards, two level, one of uneven terrain and one with a flattened hill.  I had been excited to find them but was worried they'd be ruined.  It wasn't until I began to look out everything for our game of Blood Eagle on Monday that I found an excuse to get them down from the loft and see what state they were in.

 I was delighted to find that they were in remarkably good shape.  And they looked fantastic in our game of Blood Eagle that night too!

 I confess I'm a bit frustrated that the camera washed out some of the colours of the boards in these photos.  For reference, once completed, the boards were given a coat of brown emulsion.  They were then covered with a layer of Woodland Scenics Blended Turf Green Blend interspersed with patches of Earth Blend.  This was then covered with Noch Grass Static Floss Spring Grass.  The flat base boards were left like this.  the other two boards then also received Clump Foliage of different shades as well as some patches of Underbrush and some longer tufts of Field Grass.
 I'll discuss the actual construction of the boards later in this post.  For now, here's another shot of the boards in action.
Now, I should point out that I constructed six boards.  You've seen the four that I finished.  The other two were never finished.  I can't remember why exactly.  I think there were many reasons, some of which were probably lost to the mists of time.  But the main reason was their restrictive nature.  You can't field massed armies of troops on boards like this.  There are not enough flat sections.  At the time I had been playing that kind of game.  But more than that, I had grown distinctly fed up of the ninety-degree angles in them.  It'll come as no surprise for you to learn that the two boards I never finished were river sections.

You see, in order to make modular terrain boards really work, you have to be able to use them in as many different configurations as possible.  And if you're going to have a stream, road or river on the board, it needs to enter and exit in a way that will like up easily with its adjoining board in as many ways as possible.  That meant meeting up in the middle.  It also made a rather horrible right angled turn in the river as you can see in the next photo.

Net result: it didn't look good.  So my heart went out of the project.
 I had also assumed too deep a cut in the boards for the river.  I had attempted to alter that with some judiciously placed foam core as you can see.
 At least you can see how I constructed the boards in the next photo.  I added 1" framing to the edges of 18mm MDF sheet, each cut into 2' x 2' sections.  These were held in place with PVA and screws.  I then filled the space inside with polystyrene sheet and tiles.  And because I had the cash back then, the boards were covered with plaster-impregnated cloth and given a coat of sand for even extra rigidity before they were painted and flocked.
 Yesterday evening I had time to pull down one of the boards and have a think about what I could do with them.  I figured I'd go for the one that had already been faffed about with the most.  I figured I had least to lose if I ruined it.  So here's what I took down:
 Yes, I had tried faffing about with this one a couple of years ago when Frostgrave came out.  I wanted to make use of the opportunity these boards afford to play about with the height of things.  I decided I wanted to create a lower level, almost like a courtyard.  However, I didn't like the thing when I had done it and ditched the idea.  After all, it looked like I was making a swimming pool...
 So I decided (with the help and encouragement of my lovely wife who seems to trust in my abilities to make something out of a mess a lot more than I do) to have a go at doing something different.  I decided to make a wide river's edge.  That would be a lot of work, but it would make good use of the low-level space on the board.  It would need a lot of work.  A lot of messy work.  So I took to the garden for the next bit.

The plan was to open up a corner of the board.  To do that I'd have to remove one of the short batons and cut away half of one of the long ones.  Before that though I had to remove some of the polystyrene sheets.  I took a plastic bag outside to keep this stuff in as I'd need it for a later stage.  As the batons were fastened in place with both glue and screw, I removed the latter first and then set about working them free with the aid of a chisel.  This didn't work too well, so I changed my plan, cut into them at roughly three-inch intervals and then prised them loose.  Not ideal, but it worked.  I was left with this:
 I then set to work sanding down the bare MDF.  Not an easy thing, as it's MDF.  I did, however, manage to remove much of what you can see in the next photo.

 Back inside, I began to recycle the bits of polystyrene by laying them out to form the water's edge.
 I used PVA to glue the sections into place.
 Gradually, like putting together the pieces of a jigsaw, the water's edge begins to take shape.
 Finally, the board comes together:

 Now, if you've got money, you don't do what I did next.  If you've got the funds, this is when you get the plaster cloth from Woodland Scenics.  It's great stuff.  You cut it into the lengths you need, dip it into a basin of water, drape it across the terrain, pushing it into the contours as you go.  In a short while, you have the whole thing covered.  Leave it over night and you have a rock solid surface that looks awesome and is solid enough to take the weight of your little metal men.
 That's what I did with the original boards.  But I haven't the funds to do this.  So I'm doing the next best thing.  Paper mache.  Of course, that means newspapers.  But as I get my news via an app on my phone, I don't have any of that either.  So I decided to use the next best thing.  I raided my 'to be shredded' pile of papers.
 Make no mistake.  This is a long, long process. The papers were cut into strips with scissors and then torn into tiny bits by hand to fit the bits I was working on.  I diluted my PVA roughly 50/50 with water and used a thick brush to apply it to the boards.  I finally gave up when Tuesday was about to become Wednesday.  By that time I had achieved this much:
Come this morning, daylight revealed a still very wet board.  Not to worry though, as there was still a lot to do.  
 Hours later (I kid you not) I had finally worked my way around the whole board as you can see in the next set of photos.

 This next one gives you a real sense of the height difference.  This is one of the real benefits of modular boards.  Unlike drop on terrain (which I use all the time and I love), you can fit the terrain into the landscape rather than have to tolerate it sitting on top of it.  Streams and roads cut into the ground.  Water is at a lower level than the surrounding landscape.

 And with all this done, I decided to make some pretty squiggles with my PVA.
 No, seriously, there's a good reason for this.  I need to seal the MDF for what comes next.  If I don't size the exposed MDF, it'll start to expand and warp under the volume of water and glue that's going to go on it to make my water.  How I do that will be the subject of another post in the coming days.
 So just when I thought I had finally gotten somewhere, I took a step back from my handiwork...and watched the joy slide from my soul.  Why?  Because of that bloomin' obvious straight line along one side of the riverside.
 It hadn't happened on the other side, mind.
 I thought about letting it dry and then applying some miliput. But that seemed to be a bit of a cop out to me.  I decided instead to do some more paper mache work.  I rolled suitable lengths of paper and gave them a squish.  I then put them into the gaps and began adding paper mache over the top, one thin strip at a time.
 Which made what was above into what you see below.
 I then continued to do this process along the length of the offending section.
 Which honestly now looks a lot better than these photos make it appear.
 Here's the finished section looking much more appropriate.
Oh, who am I trying to kid?  These photos look like extreme close ups of a land fill site.  Right, I've no choice but to let it dry out thoroughly.  Which will probably be about 72 hours.  When I'm happy with the terrain, I'll be able to start work on the water effects which I'm really looking forward to having a go at.

Until then, thanks for stopping by!


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