Generic Terrain: Dirt Roads Part I

I love making terrain and scenery for my wargaming. Truth be told, it's probably the main reason I game. Being able to place my little painted plastic and metal men on detailed terrain beside appropriate scenery is a big thing for me. You could say I'd enjoy gaming more if I wasn't universally detested by whatever dice I use. But I don't mind that my dice rolls give me all the tactical acumen of Charles the Bold. I'm okay with that. What I'm not okay with is unpainted minis on a table. Or a table that isn't correct for the period and location the game represents. Sorry. It's just the way I am.
Of course, holding to this view means that I have to make a lot of stuff. Not that I'm bothered by that. But what is perhaps surprising is that I don't have a lot of generic scenery made for my games. I'm trying to figure out why, but I honestly can't come up with a decent answer.

What do I mean by generic scenery? I'm talking about fields and roads. Hedgerows and fencing. How did I manage to avoid this lot? Frankly, I have no idea.

Sure, I have a large bag of lichen which has helped out with the hedging problem on the odd occasion it has been necessary. I have a lot of trees. And I have a lot of railway wall sections I use as well. But it's not as if I game big battles only where the main terrain is flat open ground. It's a mystery to me.

Still, at least it means I can share my attempts to rectifying this problem. And I'm beginning with dirt roads.

Dirt roads? Everyone needs dirt roads for crying out loud! Whether your setup is ancient or modern, there's always going to be a use for some dirt roads. But for some reason, this basic necessity seems to have eluded me thus far. This is partly because I used Hexon terrain for a long time. Some of my boards were textured for dirt rather than grassland. With some buildings placed strategically and my trusty lichen and walls placed in any offending gaps, it was easy to represent these on my gaming surface. But with these modular terrain boards, that level of versatility has gone.

I suppose this is really the answer to my conundrum. I love modular terrain boards. The level of detail is fantastic. It's like wargaming on ridiculously over-sized dioramas! Rivers cut into the landscape. They don't sit on top as they do when using drop-on terrain. Roads fit into the contours of the surrounding landscape.

But I didn't add any to my modular boards.

This wasn't an oversight. It was actually a deliberate choice. The reasoning was both cost and space. I couldn't afford to make more boards, and even if I had there was absolutely no way I could have found storage space for them. You see, the problem with roads is that they limit your configuration options. And with only six modular boards available, that wasn't an option for me. So I didn't do it.

But now I need some roads.


Now I've done a lot of reading about this. There is pretty much an infinite way of going about making dirt road sections. I like a lot of them but have rejected all but one for a whole slew of reasons. What I want to do is show you how I'm going to have a go at making dirt roads and explain why I've chosen this route.

I've chosen to have a go at making my dirt roads from decorator's caulk. You can see the original article about this on The Warband. You can go straight to it by clicking the link right here

The method really appeals as it creates flexible road sections that are by all accounts really durable.  Plus they have a low profile which suits my aesthetics very well indeed.  Before coming across this method I had planned to have a go at making some dirt road sections by applying a mix of decorators caulk to strips of decorator's cloth.  I've seen this done a lot.  My only caveat to this method is that sometimes the cloth doesn't like flush along its edges.  I'm hoping that Brian's method will solve that problem. 

And yes, if you're only buying decorator's caulk then it becomes an awful lot cheaper too which suits a man with a virtually non-existent budget like myself no end!  You can buy brown coloured caulk.  I haven't done that.  I went for the bog-standard white variety.  The white costs 98p.  The brown was almost £6.  And since I'm trying the method for the first time, I didn't want to blow more than a fiver on something that could be rubbish.  I should also add that I made sure the caulk was acrylic caulk so that my acrylic paints will stick to it rather than slide off. 
My wonderful wife was slightly intrigued when I asked for four of her medium resealable food bags.  When she saw me dead off to the dining room with some empty cereal boxes, she seemed to understand.  I measured the bags and then cut the card slightly smaller (27cm x 25cm).  I measured out some guidelines that would allow me to make two 3" wide dirt roads on each.  I even went so far as to add a junction to one section. 

It's a bit of guesswork when it comes to deciding how wide to make your roads.  My modern city boards have roads with 4" wide lanes.  I decided that 3" would look good beside them.  Admittedly you may want to g for something a little narrower yourself.  They felt a little wide when I was spreading the caulk, but they look fine with a figure next to them. 

I put these in the food bags with my guidelines visible through the plain side of the bag.  According to Brian, if you have the writing side uppermost the caulk will stick to it.  Not something I want to risk...
With the card sections inserted into the food bags, I was ready to begin.   Well, once I had put down my trusty protective Spongebob Squarepants tablecloth.  My children might have moved on from this period of their lives, but I'm delighted to be able to put it to good use.
 You can see in this next photo that I splattered and squeezed my caulk over the 3" wide sections before pushing it about the area with my piece of plastic packaging.  Yes, I was really using top-notch sculpting equipment here! The caulk is quite happy to move about as you wish, although sometimes it likes the sculpting tool more than the food bag so watch out if you try this yourself!
 I used a plastic cocktail stick to add wheel marks to the road sections.  I'm not sure that the photos are the best, but the result is really rather impressive. 
 Anyhoo, here's the sections ready to be left to dry for 24 hours. 

 Now I have to be honest, I'm a little concerned.  I spread them thin as the tutorial suggests, but I'm worried that I might have done it too thin.  I went back to the thinnest and used what little I had left in the tube.  This, of course, meant I had to add in the wheel marks again. Not that I minded.  I have to confess I rather enjoyed the process. 
 All I can do is leave them overnight to dry out.
When I get home from work I'll take them off the food bags and turn them over to make sure that they dry out completely. 
 Then I'll be able to begin painting them.  Assuming that they have worked of course!
I'll let you know how it goes, whether good or bad. 

Fingers crossed!


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