Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Hills for the battlefield

What battlefield doesn't have hills?  Okay, I'm guessing there are a few.

Why do we need hills?  Many of the games we play benefit from having hills to block lines of sight, provide elevated firing positions, and to just provide more visual detail to our tables.  Hills are a staple for most people's terrain collections and can be easily constructed from relatively inexpensive material.  Some people put lots of work and detail into their hills and others go for a very basic design.  I've kind of hit the middle ground with my latest addition to my terrain collection.

I will be running a BattleTech game using the new-ish Alpha Strike rules.  These rules are a simplified system with less record keeping and fewer to hit rolls.  It makes the game play much faster and allows for large battles to be played within a few hours.

For this game, I needed some hills.  I usually play at my local game store, Gauntlet Games, and they have plenty of hills for me to use.  Since I'm traveling for this convention, I need my own hills.  I've got some that I made years ago, but I really didn't want to put those on a table at a convention because it would be too embarrassing.  So time for a new project.

I started with pink foam.  This is used for house insulation and can be found at home improvement stores.  I used 1" thick foam because for BattleTech, levels are measured in 1" increments.  I will do some 1" and 2" high hills.  At some point I might add some 3" high hills, but for now, I can stack them if I want that.

You can adjust the thickness to whatever scale you want and that fits your game.  I will use these hills for most of my games and they should transfer well from scale to scale.

I drew out some rough shapes on the foam and used my trusty hot-wire foam cutter to cut them out.  I decided to cut them with the sides pretty much vertical.  Some people like to slope the edges of the hills to make them look more realistic.  Either works, just pick which one you want to go with.

After cutting the shapes out, I used some caulk to texture the sides.  I started texturing the sides and tops, but decided I didn't need to texture the tops as I would be flocking that area.  I squirted some caulk onto the hills and used my finger to spread it around.  This is kind of messy so make sure you have some paper towels handy to clean up with.

After letting the caulk dry, it was time to start the painting.  I enlisted my wife to help with this.  (Thanks, Amy!!)  We used a pot of cheap dark brown acrylic paint from walmart.  It took two coats to cover the sides.  I just did one coat on the top as it would be covered with flock.  I wanted a brown undercoat so the pink wouldn't show through, but it doesn't need to be a perfect on the top.

Next I used a light tan acrylic paint to dry brush the sides of the hills.  This shows off the texture a bit more and gives a good look to the finished product.

The next step was to flock the hills.  I picked up some bulk woodland scenics flock for projects like this.  I have a yellow fine grain flock and a green fine grain flock.  The multiple colors adds texture and breaks up the area a little.

To apply the flock, I mixed up some wood glue with some water and a little bit of liquid dish soap.  I usually do about 2 parts glue and 1 part water and then just a small drop of soap.  You can use white glue, but I think the bond from wood glue is stronger and holds up better over time.  The soap helps the glue to spread better and keeps it from clumping up when spreading it over large areas.

After spreading the glue I sprinkled on a little bit of the yellow flock and then covered the rest of the area with the green flock.  I lightly tap it down with my finger and then tap off the excess.  Let that dry and you will have this.

I sprayed the hills with a polyurethane dull coat to help hold the flock on.

For not a lot of money and only a little bit of time you can have some pretty nice hills that will work well for several games.

 Here are a few pictures from the convention game that inspired me to put these together.