Monday, February 18, 2019

The Great Terrain Adventure - Part 1

A couple of years back I came across a bunch of photos like this one:

Worse, it was a whole set of photos in a gallery. This made my not-so-well-concealed inner-geek squee with wonder.  I love games like AD&D, and having spent the last several years at Gen Con staring at the big terrain setups there and sighing, the photos kind of pushed me over the edge.


Never mind that I already have way too many projects. Ignore the fact that I don't have a big, pretty room with shelving and such like in the pictures. Do not even begin to consider that I rarely can make anything crafty look like it does inside my head. It simply must be so.

But how?

I watched how-to videos. I waded through websites. I consulted with my friends who paint minis and sculpt and stuff. I watched even more how-to videos. Eventually I had a pretty good idea of how I was going to do it all. So drew up some sketches, bought some hardboard and foam-board from the hardware store, and I set down to work.

I wanted to make the setup modular, so I cut the hardboard into 1 foot squares and used a hot-wire foam cutter to cut the foam-board to the same size.  With the foam and hardboard glued together these would be the base for the whole thing.

I let the first few squares dry overnight, and then the table in the basement sat looking this way for a couple months.

There were problems. First is that the cheap hot-wire foam cutter I had didn't work very well.  The edges of the squares were going to need a lot of sanding and they didn't line up very well. It was turning into more work than expected and the results weren't as clean as I wanted. Also, cutting the foam made all sorts of noxious fumes. I needed to find a different approach, so I stopped to mull it all over a bit longer.

Here's what I worked out.  First, I needed to work in larger sections. Fewer seams would make for a nicer looking final setup.  Second, I needed to use thicker foam-board. I wanted to sculpt some things into the base level and needed a little extra depth.  Third, I had to get it into my head that this wasn't going to be done in a single weekend.

So I watched some more how-to videos and started again.  I was going to make three large sections first.  Some mountains on one side, a narrow section with a river, and the largest section would be for a town. I cut more hardboard for the base sections, cut the foam-board to fit, and then used extra pieces to build up one side.

This is the point where things start taking shape. You can see the mountains on the left, the river carved into the center (with it's built-up embankment in the back), and the trench on the right which will become the town's sewers (ya gotta have sewers in the town so the giant rats have somewhere to live).

You can also see that I'm not very good about keeping my work area tidy.  Yeah.  Deal with it.

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