Monday, February 14, 2011

Terrain Building Project

So, it has been some time since we built a terrain board, so Ashley and I decided that we wanted a project as we have far too much free time on our hands.  I easily had 5 minutes a week that I needed to fill in with something to do, can’t have that kind of downtime without the wife trying to utilize it!

We decided to chronicle the process as we always get questions from people about how we did certain things on other boards that we have created.  This is a work in progress, and will run for a few months I would guess.  We may also need to go back and correct things as we go, we make this all up as we go along, and sometimes don’t get it right on the first try…

We settled on stealing an idea from a friend of ours, Patrick Lebeau.  At Johnny Con last year, he ran a Squad Leader game.  He had taken a cloth, and drawn on hexes in magic marker.  Said he almost passed out from the fumes as well, so good times for all!  Ashley and I decided to take his idea, and step it up a little.

We decided that we would run some winter scenarios utilizing some of my 20mm WWII figures.  Patrick had used 15mm, which is probably a better scale for this, but since we already have some much 20mm, it is my favorite scale after all, and because it ties into my product line, we didn’t really want to re-invent the wheel. 

After some careful thought, hex counting, and comparing vehicle sizes in 20mm, we ended up going with 90mm hexes.  This allows a Sherman to fit in a hex, while the big cats may hang over just a touch.  The final decision for this size was made by practicality of gaming space.  Most scenarios use two boards; therefore we needed to be sure that two boards would be wider than 6 feet for ease of reaching the center of the table.  In the end, it looks like for 2 board scenarios, our miniatures table will be 6’2” by 8’5”, or somewhere close.

We considered a few different options in making the board.  We have a friend with a computerized routing table, but his table has never been leveled, as he only does small projects on it.  This means that if we had used it to cut a hex pattern into a sheet of foam or MDF, the machine would likely have cut too deep on one end of the board, and maybe not at all on the other end.  He didn’t have any plans to work on leveling the thing out, at least not this year as he is pretty well booked up on other work, so we needed to come up with something else.  We bought some cookie cutters in hex shapes with the hopes of cutting out foam hexes.  Alas, this didn’t work either, as it had a tendency to crush the foam more than cutting through it.  In the end, we opted for hex shaped MDF bases as manufactured by Gale Force 9.  I sent them an e-mail, and they were very accommodating in making me a special order.  So, I ordered up a few hundred for starters.  As this project grows, I will likely need to go back for more.

The nice thing about these hexes are that they are all machine cut with a laser, so they are, for all intents and purposes, exactly the same size.  In addition, they are hard.  When we were going to make our hexes out of foam, we were worried that people leaning on the board with elbows would be leaving too many marks.  This won’t happen with a base of MDF.

We opted to do the boards in sections.  Because the length of the finished board is over 8 feet, we decided to build in halves.  Therefore what would normally be a single board in Squad Leader will now be 2 boards in Miniature, but that will fit together and play just like the original game.  Therefore for our game table, we will have 4 terrain boards.  This will make transport much easier, as the MDF can be heavy when you have too large of a board.

The next thing was to start gluing the hexes in place.  Our original plan was to use toothpicks to separate the hexes so that they would remain clear during games.  This didn’t work too well, they were hard to get out once the glue dried, so we ended up using some other small bases from Gale Force 9, giving a nice separation to the hexes as can be seen in the pictures.  We went with 2 Inch insulating foam as the base, and used Liquid Nails Panel & Foam adheasive to lock them in place.

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