I'm Ironmonger, and this is intended to be the first in a running series of posts concerning my foray into creating and producing various pieces of terrain and other scenery for usage in a variety of table top wargames. The pieces of terrain will be constructed first and foremost within the games' settings of Warmachines/Hordes, Warhammer 40,000, and Warhammer Fantasy Battles firmly in mind. That of course is not to say that other games systems could not be played over these future terrain pieces (say, for example, Secrets of the 3rd Reich: 1949), but rather the scale, as well as the passage through certain locales, and the cover afforded by certain scenic features, have been designed and executed with the three above-mentioned systems as the ruler to which the terrain has been measured (so to speak...).
With all that being said, let's drive right in, and start taking a look at the first major terrain project presented to the Santa Barbara Wargames blog, step by step... a large forest/woods area, divided by a worn track way.
The first step in this moderately ambitious area terrain project was the selection of the best material with which to base the whole thing. I knew right off the bat that I was wanting to do something big... no, BIGGER then that, and that meant probably something in the ballpark of 1'x2'. Having a general idea that there was going to be 2 primary 'pieces' of forests/woods both connected and separated by a track of wheel ruts, I knew that I was going to need a basing material that was sturdier then cardboard, and both thicker and more crack-resistant than plasticard/sheet styrene. The obvious choice remaining was Masonite (or tempered hardboard, as it is also known). I went down to the local home improvement centre and purchased a 4'x8' piece of Masonite: more then enough for the task at hand, and something that I've been meaning to do for quite some time now. I would now have enough Masonite to make any number of terrain pieces, from long-planned river systems, to truly EPIC hills! The table top shall never be the same...
Anyway, on to the job itself! Since I was already sure that the basic footprint of the terrain piece was going to be 1'x2' I set about measuring out that area on the Masonite itself, using pencil at first in order to determine the roughest idea of a footprint:
The next stage was to refine the shape just a bit. Since I had long-known that I was interested in creating a woody area that had had a track way worn through the centre of it, I wanted a vaguely 'figure 8' shape to the whole piece. I grabbed a handy plate (approximately 10" dia.) and began to trace out the shape of the two 'blobs' of the head and tail of the 'figure 8':
So far, so good. The only problem was that the plate was not wide enough to match the rough 1' width that I had in mind for each of the 'ends.' A little bit of shifty work back and forth with the plate and the pencil solved the problem!
I then took the plate, 'inverted' it (as it were) in order to draw the roughly 'waisted' portion of the figure 8 between the two ends:
This worked pretty nicely for the task at hand, though it was a decidedly low-tech approach to solving the problem. One of the first pieces of first-hand experience I can impart: when it comes to making terrain, often the low-tech quick-fixes are the best and EASIEST. Sure, I could have stopped, evaluated a bit longer, tracked down one of my illustration compasses and a few french curves, but that would have required far more time and energy investment, and would almost surely have produced nearly the identical result.
Moving along, I decided that the rough shape I had created was just perfect for the type of large area terrain I was aiming to create. Now was the time to break out the sharpie and get outlining in earnest! Not all of the lines were the way that I wanted them in the end, and I ended up having to trace back over lines, but remember: we're going to be painting and sanding the heck out of this Masonite, so don't worry if their are a few strange looking or 'extra' lines; they'll be covered up in the end!
Coming soon: Pt. II: cutting, sanding, and positioning trees! Stay tuned...