08 October 2010

Snow Terrain - Step By Step

A quick read through my old pictures and battle reports, and anyone can see that I prefer desert and urban environments in my wargames. I decided it was time for a change! The fictional universe where I've been playing (most of) my 15mm games - the Conquest System - has around twenty planets and moons that were terraformed by the lowest bidder. As such, I've decided each world has a fairly harsh environment; most are too hot, some are too cold. Which means any struggle for resources in the Conquest System will involve some snow planets. I needed enough snow terrain to fight these battles upon.

I tried a few new techniques for my snow, building on skills I've learned doing grassy and desert hills over the years. Since these will be used predominately by 15mm miniatures, I went with 1/2" styrofoam as the basis. The pieces I used in this set were packing material from my toddler's play kitchen - low density, but exactly the thickness I wanted. And easily handled by my trusty old Wonder Cutter.
Then it was a matter of cutting them to the exact shape I need. My favorite commercially-made foam hills are the Acute Hill Pack from War-Zone terrain (3/4 of the way down this page) - well worth the money if you don't to take the time or deal with the mess of making your own. And War-Zone uses good blue insulation foam, so it's quite a bit more durable than the stuff I make. But since I only get four or five small games in a month, these should last a little while. For my initial snow terrain set (which will be a 2' x 2' skirmish board), I cut four acute hills (one with two levels), rough triangles with a bit of a waviness to the cuts.
Nothing pretty, but it works for a quick snow hill. Once the hill is cut it just needs to be painted and textured. I use very inexpensive Wal-Mart craft paints for most of my terrain. I covered the entire hill with (thinned) Folk Art Medium Gray, then painted the entire top with flat white. To add a little bit of depth to it, I drybrushed the "wavy' edges of the hills with the same white.
The next part was really where I had to learn a new technique. For green flocking and desert sand, all I had done at this step was paint 50/50 white glue/water over the top surface, use a dollar-store shaker to apply the texture material, shake away the excess, and seal it when dry. But the Woodland Scenics snow that I bought is far too light, and it floated right off of the mixture. So I ended up pre-mixing it into a paste - it was equal parts snow texture, white glue, and water. It had the consistency of a dry, sugary frosting, and was applied very roughly with an old brush.
I'm fairly pleased with the result. The brush gave the mix a bit of a deeper texture - the end result is very different from simply applying sand and painting it white. I think these will survive just long enough for me to see if I like playing games on snow terrain. If I like it when these start to crumble, I'll probably replace them with the War-Zone stuff (just as I did with my grasslands stuff a few years ago).

And now for the gaming surface itself. I've been playing my recent desert games on 12" x 12" vinyl floor tiles. I figured this should work pretty well for snow terrain. I bought four of these today. The next step will be to give them a very light spray of white paint, and then lightly apply some of the snow terrain. Some of the beige and gray texture should look good peeking through the snow, so I'm not going to go quite as heavy or thick as I did on the hills.
So it's almost ready. A little more work, and I'll have a 2' x 2' snow table with a small assortment of rocky hills. When I expand snow games to a larger table, this set will serve alongside the Critical Mass Games Otillium Refinery set (all of which will have snow bases). A table like that will do a great job repeating some of the fossil fuel battles fought in the Conquest System.

I hope to have a USE ME battle report on the finished mini-table very soon!


1 comment: