Sunday, December 28, 2008

Perfic Panels - Anyone using them?

There is a company I found showing at Historicon in 2007 called Precision Products (, that manufactures vacuum formed polystyrene sheets of terrain - I have been working on their rivers in one of my projects - and embossed sheet for model building. Things like brick and flagstone and such for the exterior of models.

They also manufacture something similar to foamcore, but with a thin styrene exterior rather than the more common (dare I say 'traditional'?) paper exterior sandwiching the foam.

Has anyone used this material? It sounds rather more sturdy than regular foamcore, what with being more water-resistant, and the fact that I tend to use water-based glues and paints makes this a definite plus.

Anyone have practical experience of the stuff? Leave a comment if you do!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Goodies

I received some goodies from my lovely wife of fifteen years for Christmas that are definitely hobby terrain related. Thought I'd share.

The first was a little kids' toy band saw. Well, I don't think its a ctually a band saw, but a table mounted jigsaw. Either way, its small, plastic, lightweight and not suitable for any kind of serious woodworking. It is good, I am hoping, for cutting thin sheets of balsa, basswood, and birch plywood, as I use a lot of that. It may even do some thin MDF, I hope. It won't cut anything much more than 1/4" thick, though. She found it at Michael's Craft Store. Actually, I noticed it an pointed it out to here and she went back later and got it.

I also got more reindeer moss/lichen in natural greens and browns. Always useful.

Finally, she got me this netting. It is fairly large weave, and I think originally designed for beach decor sort of stuff. Not for real fishing work, I am sure. But here's what sprang to my mind: camouflage netting for overheads. That, or anti-pterosaur netting.

In the VSF game I play around with, aerial ships have existed on Mars for millennia, and could drop bombs. So it makes sense to have developed aerial camouflage, yes?

And on Venus, pterosauroids are a terror of the air. Again, a settlement might easily develop some sort of netting to keep the pteros away from the livestock/children. Sensible idea?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Analysis Paralysis in Gaming (Rant)

So I mentioned this same phenomenon on my other blgo dedicated to Victorian Science Fiction gaming, but I think it is such a general thought and problem in the wargaming hobby that it deserved a mention here as well.

My blog-buddy Eli and I have been discussing how we sometimes get bogged down with indecision about exactly how we want some portion of a project to look. Neither of us is overly concerned in most senses for accuracy (we were discussing a VSF project, after all, and imaginary nations at that!), but just getting the right look. Developing the vision of the project, I guess you could say.

And then he mentioned the phrase "analysis paralysis." I've never heard it before, but its a common enough phenomenon. I don't know if the term is used in other venues/industries or what have you, but it fits.

The problem is that you spend so much time planning and re-planning and so on, trying to get something to a perfect vision of what you want, that you never actually do anything. This leads to the infamous Great Lead Pile most of us wargamers have laying about the house that our wives would prefer we just do something useful with, like melt it down for radiation shielding for the Big One. Or something like that.

And that lead pile is discouraging to many of us (at least to me, and so I assume to others) as well. So that further compounds our lack of production.

So what's the solution to this double-edged sword? I wish I knew. All I know is I have a ton of projects just sitting there, wiating for me to do soemthing with them.

Eli suggested this: just work on something that catches your fancy at that moment. Then at least you get some progress made. Even if its just painting the hats on the 87th Light Aero-fusiliers Regiment the lime green you always wanted them, its progress. Then shift to something else if you have no further inspiration for the 87th Light Aero-fusiliers. Eventually, you'll come back to them, and in the meantime, something else will approach completion.

So far, its the best answer I have heard. What do you think?

Or is all of this a load of horse dung and I should just man up and get back to the terrain building saltmines?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Primitive Huts

Okay, these huts are just becoming available, although they have been discussed on The Miniatures Page (TMP) for over a year.
The sculptor (whose name I can't recall off the top of my head, but who goes by the TMP handle of Cacique Caribe, or CC) finished them, oh, November of 2007 I think. Then he shopped around for someone to handle the casting and marketing and such for him, as he didn't really want to do all of that himself, but there was a lot of interest in the models.

Enter Alex Bates in Alaska, of the new Forge of Ice company. They get a deal worked out, and now, they are in production.

First, a group shot. There are four different designs:

Now a close up of one:

I have nothing to do with the paint jobs (nice work, though, especially the snow) which were done I believe by a Mr Robert Phipps of the United Kingdom, a customer of Forge of Ice and friend of Alex's. I hope no one minds me swiping the photos, but I'll remove if you want me to!

I pinched this tidbit regarding the snow effect from TMP (

"Regarding the snow effect, Rob [Phipp] says:

I Just use a bit of PVA wood glue on the bits I wanted covered in snow, then used a white flock, then another coat of PVA and then Bicarbonate of Soda for the snow effect. You get a nice brilliant crisp white from it.You don't have to use a white flock underneath but it stops any colour from the tent from showing through if your PVA is too thin.
And that's how he does it!


The reviews have been most complimentary, for both sculpting and quality of the production castings. You can reach Alex through his blog, and here's a link with more info and pictures of the tents.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Rivers, Part 2

So, this is a basic multi-part "how I did it" for the rivers. I have a few pictures to go with, as well, though they are of different pieces.

Just to re-cap, I am using the styrene sheet rivers from a company called Precision Products []. The sheets are 16"square, 0.025" thick, with vacuum-formed terrain impressed into the sheets. The stream is about 1" (2.5 cm) across, with banks of about equal width.
Materials and tools: wood putty, styrene rivers, kitchen shears, hobby knife, 1/16" thick plywood, glue, felt, a few heavy books
  1. Cut out the river piece. I cut mine all the way to the edge of the banks, but you could leave a small lip or flange of plastic around it. I used kitchen shears to cut them out.

  2. Wash the piece in warm water with some dish detergent, just to make sure there's no mold release on it.

  3. Mix the wood putty. I used to have Durham's, which I actually prefer, but the DAP brand stuff works as well. You want to mix water with the powder until it gets like a really thick milkshake consistency.

  4. Fill the underside of the river piece with the wood putty and let it dry overnight.

  5. Next day, trace the shape of the river out onto some thin plywood or MDF. I use 1/16 inch birch plywood (about 1.5mm), that is supposed to be for R/C airplanes or something.

  6. Cut the shape out. A bandsaw with a fine-tooth blade would be perfect for this, but I don't have one, so I use my hand jigsaw (sometimes called a fret saw or jeweler's saw, I think). Sand the rough edges.

  7. Glue the river piece to the base. I use Allene's Tacky Glue usually, but I have also used superglue (liquid, not gel) with good results.
  8. Clamp or weight down the piece and leave two+ hours (PVA) or twenty-ish minutes (superglue). I have tried lots of ways to weigh it down, and I am still least happy with this step of the process. Best so far has been a layer of felt or something, then a few large heavy books on top. It still leaves a few gaps at the edges, though.

  9. Spray with flat white paint. I tried black paint on one piece. It doesn't work for me. Let dry (duh!).
At this point, you should have a piece of nicely detailed river, with the hollows filled and attached to a base for a nice, weighty, durable piece of terrain.
Next post, I'll discuss painting and filling the stream with water effect.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Fields, Part 1

I have a way to make plowed fields for your troops to fight across that is just great, in my not-so-humble opinion. Its not my own idea, unfortunately, and many of you may already know how to do it, but for those of you who do not:
  • Its flexible and sturdy.
  • It can be about any size you reasonably could want.
  • Its dead easy and quick to do.
  • Materials are cheap and pretty easy to find.
What more could you ask? Oh, you want to know how to do it? Okay.
  1. Buy some dark brown spray paint. I used Krylon, but you can use any of them. Gloss or flat, doesn't matter much. (Gloss looks more like a wet field, I think).

  2. Buy a ridged polyfiber doormat with rubber backing, with ridges about 1/4 inch wide and 1/8 inch deep. I got mine at Target, 2' x 3', for about $3.99.

  3. Using heavy scissors (I used kitchen shears), cut the mat into desired shape and size. I made small rectangles with rounded corners, approximately 4" x 6".

  4. Spray the mat. Let it dry.
You are now done. If you want to make it a bit snazzier, drybrush or lightly spray a slightly lighter shade of brown over the original dark brown.

There you have it: quick and easy fields. To see the results:

In Fields, Part 2, I'll discuss how I am making a planted field.

"A date that will live in infamy..."

The attack on Pearl Harbor (if I have my time zones right) began almost exactly 67 years ago.
All I can say to those Allied soldiers, sailors and marines who gave their lives in World War II, and those who fought and came home, is this:

We now return you to your regularly scheduled gaming blog.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

New Feature - No Big deal, but...

I added a counter to the blog. I am always curious to know how much traffic my sites are getting, because I don't see a lot of point in spinning sutff off into the void we call the internet if no one is looking at it.

So, you have been weighed, measured and counted. Or something like that.

Oh, and I promise I will take some pictures of the river sections I have been working on to post this weekend. They are not finished, but you can see a little bit more of how it goes.


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Pot Toppers

There has been a lot of discussion about using 'pot toppers' for terrain projects.

I first clued into them through a Yahoo terrain makers group.

Then, Tas mentioned them on his excellent VSF blog, Yours in a White Wine Sauce! [ ]

So, I felt it only right that I should mention them here. I have yet to obtain any of them, although there is a Michael's craft store not a mile from my home. It is definitely in the project queue to try out, though, as it looks like it can be used to fantastic effect. To wit, check out this page:

If any of you have used pot toppers, please let us know your experience with them. How easy were they to work with, were you pleased with the results, what adhesive did you use - any comments would be great!

Monday, December 1, 2008

About the poll...

I usually run polls for a long time. I like to get plenty of responses to pretend its a decent sample size of the target audience.

So this one runs until one minute to midnight on New Year's Eve. I stopped it at a minute till so that the diehard geeks (you know, like me!) could step away from the Internet and go kiss their significant other at midnight. Call me a romantic.

So, let me know what you think. My vote is already cast.

Its December. Let's talk snow.

Okay, so I practically never see the stuff down here in Houston. I grew up in Dallas, and we usually got ice, not snow, pretty much every year.

I have visited the white cold stuff on a few occassions, and even spent some time figuring out how to go down a mountain covered with the crap while balanced precariously on two thin strips of wood. Why anyone would do this for fun, I don't know, but to each their own, I suppose.

The real point of this post, though, is to ask for comments on how to model snow on the gaming table.

Naturally, a large heavy white cloth could do for an entire table. But for features, how do you put snow on them? Let's assume the project is a cluster of large rocks, covered with snow, and a snowy base around them. The rocks are easy - carved and painted foam, attached to a base of either MDF or plywood, depending on what you use for snow. Trying for something kinda like this:

But what do you use? Soap flakes? Powdered sugar (ants in no time)? I bought some snow effect stuff that is designed to be used on those seasonal displays, but I haven't tried it out yet and have no idea how long it will last, etc.

So, guys and dolls, what do you recommend?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Handwavium Crystals

Ahh... the fabled handwavium crystals of Mars... such beauty and power...

How do I make some?

Basically, the handwavium crystals are nothing but pink foamboard insulation glued to a thin (1/16" or 1.5mm) plywood base, painted and flocked. I made them in a way that is essentially scale-neutral, like most landforms. In 25/28mm, they are big rocks. In 15mm, they are huge crystals.

Anyway, step-by-step (and yes, I should have taken photos. It was late and I wasn't thinking about the blog. Sorry.):
  1. Make the crystals. I took some scrap pieces of foamboard, and cut them into basically crystalline looking shapes, making sure I kept at least one side as flat as possible. I used a hotwire foam cutter to cut the foam. To make the thicker crystal, I glued two pieces of foam together after cutting them into shape.
  2. Make the bases. I took bits of scrap plywood from my River project, and cut them into irregular shapes with a hand-held fret saw. If you had a thin blade for a small bandsaw, that would work brilliantly as well, but I don't have a bandsaw yet.
  3. Glue the foam to the plywood using Tacky Glue (a thickened PVA, like Elmer's White Glue, available at craft stores in the US). Let that dry.
  4. Paint the plywood base. I painted mine with Burnt Sienna craft paints, as they are destined for Mars' red soil. You may want to try a different color for other planetary surfaces.
  5. Paint the crystals. I chose green shades, to stand out better against the reddish soil of Mars. Again, you may choose your own colors. I painted the whole crystal in Vallejo Deep Green, then painted ridges and edges in Vallejo Intermediate Green, and finally did a thin line of Vallejo Light Green along the edges and drybrushed a bit in the center of the facets for a light effect.
  6. Flock the base. Last, I painted some thinned down PVA glue on the bases and covered the bases with the reddish-brown sand I am using for Martian terrain. At this point, I also added a few small details around the crystals, like gravel and undergrowth.
I am going to use a similar technique, but different colors and shapes, for some "unobtainite ore" on Venus soon. I'll post photos when I am done.

If you want to see more photos, check the photobucket link in the margin for wargames terrain.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Battlefield Architects

This fellow does some really nice work. I have bought from him on eBay more than once, and I recommend his stuff. It looks nice and is quite sturdy.

That's the eBay store link.

Rivers Project

[Carried over from my defunct Napoleonics blog]

[Originally posted Saturday, September 27, 2008]

I started a new terrain project last night, one that has been sitting in the Closet for more than a year. I bought some styrene sheets last year at Historicon from a company called Precision Products []. These sheets are 16"square, 0.025" thick, with vacuum-formed terrain impressed into the sheets. The two sheets I bought are 1" Straight Rivers [SKU 16091] and 1" River bends [SKU 16092]. The Straight Rivers has four lengths of straight river, each approximately 15" in length. The River Bends includes:

2 x 45 degree bends
2 x 90 degree bends
3 x Y-Junctions, and
1 x Wooden Bridge

I have cut out two pieces so far, the bridge and one 90 degree bend. Yesterday I filled the styrene hollows with DAP Water Putty to prevent it from crushing or flexing, and then glued each piece to a 1/16" plywood base. Late last night I primed the two pieces with flat white spray paint, the cheap stuff from WalMart. Today, I applied basecoat colors, using cheap craft paints. Sorry about the blurry picture, I was hurrying.

So far, I am pretty pleased with the results. The water putty has added some heft and rigidity, as has the plywood base. It is taking the paint really well, too.

I will be adding a link to all the photos to the margin tonight. I'll post more when I make some more progress.

Still to come:
Drybrushing for detail
Add flock and ballast
Pour scenic water into riverbanks
Build a hand rail. The only drawback is that the piece will lose its scale-neutrality if I do that.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

First Post!

Hello, and welcome to my new blog.

I'm going to talk about my projects for making wargaming terrain on this blog. I'm not going to bother to be 'in character' like I do on my other blog, Victoria's Boys in Red. This blog will be leaner. Meaner. Greener!

I will start off by crossposting or importing some of the older posts I have done about terrain on a blog I will be deleting soon. Look for it either later tonight or more likely tomorrow.

A little more about what I do:

I push little painted lead soldiers around on the table for fun. My friends do too. Part of the fun is creating a table that looks great. That's where the terrain comes in to play.

Technically, "terrain" falls into two categories: terrain and scenics. Terrain consists of landforms, trees, rivers, fields - all the stuff nature puts out there, plus roads and, I suppose, canals as well. Scenics is the man-made stuff: buildings, fortifications, obelisks, and so on.

Well, enough for now. She Who Must Be Obeyed wants to be tucked in for the night.