Saturday, December 29, 2012

Making 3mm terrain modules, Part 2

Once you've got the basic flocking down, you can get creative. If you've got a lot of glue bleeding through your initial flock toos, you can go directly to this step. Otherwise, it's time to lay down more glue. Now you toss on a contrasting flock. In this case, Ive decided to go with a finer, darker flock.

I also throw down some coarse flocking and patches of static grass to break up the monotony.

 Here's the result of final flocking on two boards. Occasionally, you'll find, after all this work, that one of your boards isn't as straight as you thought it was. Here, I discovered that one of my new modules had a corner that was about 3 millimeters off. You can just ignore this, if you like, and always make sure that the off side is never jutting up to another board. Here, however, I've built a plastic shim to correct the error. I then painted and flocked it. Good as new!

Above you see the final 80cm x 80cm layout of all four modules. Some of the roads need to be completely painted yet, as I discovered that I needed a few extra ones. All I did in these cases was strip out the flocking with a knife, lay down more Vallejo earth paste, paint and re-flock the margins. My two feet will give you some idea of the scale of all this. Suffice it to say that, gamewise, this is the equivalent of a 2 meter by 2 meter table. And it fits in my breakfast nook.

Here you can see two modules close up. The top one has a couple of fields built into it while the muddy area to the left of the river on the bottom one marks the margins of a village. Houses, of course, will be laid down seperately so that they can be moved to accomodate figures during the game. Of course, you could also claim the brown area is muddy ground and hard going, or just ignore it.

Two more modules,  marsh and a defile.

...and, finally a river.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Completed module next to two blank boards

Here's a quick post to show you what a completed module looks like. This one's sandwiched between two blank frames...

This is a board with a swamp and a hill built into it. The swamp came about as a bit of serendipity. I left it out over night to dry and found, the next morning, that one of our cats had been walking about on it.

After I finished cursing the cat, I noticed that he had pushed up bits in complete rolls. TYhe stuff was still a bit wet, so I took a brush handle and pushed up even more. I then painted it dark, shiny black for water. I flocked the area again with a darker green flock, put in some pushes and some red fall foliage. I mad sure to make a few water areas in the region where my other modules' rivers can connect to. This thing can thus also be dropped into a stretch of river as a marshy bend.

Of course, depending on the scenario, you can call the dark green flocked area marsh, forest or just plain old clear terrain.

The hills, again, are done up wedding cake style in order to clearly show where the elevation lines are.

Terrain Modules for 3mm Black Powder Games: A Tutorial, Part 1

One of the most interesting things about the relatively new microscales (2mm and 3mm) is the fact that they require new ways of thinking about and dealing with terrain on the tabletop. 1/600-1/900 is simply too small a scale for one to use normal terrain modeling approaches: the figures will be drowned out by the background details.

On the upside, no scale is more amenable to terrain module building. A normal terrain module for 15mm or 28mm scale would measure some 3x2 feet at least. In 2/3mm scale, you can easily make (and store) modules that are much, much smaller.

When I first started out with microscales, I went with the old-green-sheet as backdrop and pastels for terrain details route. You can see the results here. Not pretty, but certainly serviceable and with the plus that all the terrain involved can be stored in one toolbox. I still use this method for "away games" when I don't have access to motorized transport. I can pack all the terrain and figures in one big backpack and bike to the game venue.

But I quickly wanted to do beautiful, awe-inspiring terrain like the stuff here. I knew I couldn't get my stuff to equal that, but I wanted to get close. Using 30x30 cm composite wooden squares, then, I did these. These looked nice enough, but quickly warped. Furthermore, they were TOO detailed. In a battle like this one here, the terrain often got in the way of the figures.

So, back to the drawing board...

One day, walking through my local art supply store and musing, I ran into some cheap pre-stretched blank canvases on frames that were about 15mm deep and 30x60cm wide and long. I bought a bunch and began to experiment. So far, the results have been really good and you can see my sci-fi desert modules here. After my recent trip to London, however, and my purchase of the Black Powder rules (and a boatload of O8 ACW figures - with Napoleonics on the horizon), I knew I was going to need some 19th-century-ish generic European terrain.

So, to work! I thought I'd document the process so that y'all can learn from it, such as it is, and use or modify the tecniques here to your own satisfaction.

The basic idea is this: cardboard or styrofoam-backed artists' canvases with roads, rivers, hills and a smattering of other terrain, with the rest of the terrain features being pinned in place by map-pins flocked to look like bushes and trees. The pins go right through the canvases and into the underlying foam/cardboard and hold the terrain down. This is important because moveable 2-3mm terrain is very small and light and easily jostled during play. If you pin it in place, however, it stays put until you want or need to take it up.

This system works extremely well and looks great, so I'm very pleased with it so far.

I recommend 30x60 cm canvases, because this will give you 1x2 foot modules. The ones here are 20x40, however, because when I started the project I couldn't find any in the size I wanted. The ones here are el-cheapo brand, at 5.00 reais (2.50 USD) apiece. I could have bought some pricer ones at 12.00 reais (6.00 USD), but I wanted to keep costs down. I'm not pleased with the look these 20x40 canvases give, however, so I'll probably be doing some 30x60s some time in the future.

There are two considerations you need to keep in mind in Step 1:

1) Make sure the canvases aren't warrped. Line them up one the floor next to each other in various configurations. They won't jut up against each other with no gap at all, but you want to avoid out-and-out abysses.

2) Make sure the canvases are all the same thickness. Try to buy a common thickness here - like 15cm or 3/4th inch - so that you can easily find new canvases for further modules later.

Glue styrofoam or multiple layers of cardboard into the backof the canvas. Seal the back with a piece of cardboard.

I use 3mm thick cork, glued down to the canvas. Of course, you could simply make all your hills seperately, so that they can be moved, but I'd rather have the main landforms solidly down on the modules, myself.

Make sure you carefully measure where the roads and rivers come in on each board. Mine all come in 5cm off the corner on the short end and 15cm off the corner on the long end. They are 1cm thick.

In this case Vallejo Dark Earth paste.

Including the sides.

This is ironically one of the hardest things. You need to record what paints you use so that you can get your roads to look the same on later modules. I didn't do this between the first and second batches of modules I built, so things look a bit off. Make sure, in this step, to paint the sides of the module where the roads come in the same color as the roads themselves.

First, however, re-mark your roads as they exit the module so you can flock their borders precisely. Brush a thick load of white glue over everything, shake a thick coat of flocking down on top, let stand for a minute, shake the excess flock off onto newspaper and pour it back into your flocking jar. The big thing here is to not let the glue drip down the module's side or get on the roads. If you mess up. take a wet brush and push the flocking off the roads and sides before it dries

You could let the flock soak up glue for several minutes if you want. To me, however, that's a waste given the next two steps. I just wait a minute, shake it off and let everything dry. Note: do not do this where the wind or a fan can reach you, unless you want a very pissed-off significant other hacking up green foam for the rest of the weekend...

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

What do 3mm figures REALLY look like?

3mm is something of a maligned scale. If you say you collect, paint and play it, sooner or later some "funny" guy will make a crack about how you can't tell the figures from a grain of rice or a wargames counter.

Haha. Funny and original. These guys....!

Well, here's a couple of comparison shots to show what 3mm really look like. Are they small? Yes. Are they indistinguishable from rice or wargames counters? Only if you're blind and an idiot to boot.

This is rice...

This is rice and a wargames counter...

This is rice, a wargames counter, and O8 3mm figures.

Another angle, showing height.

Are 3mm figures as visually impressive as 28mm figures?

Individually, no. Your entire setup, taken as a whole, however, can look just awesome.

Should you care if the figs aren't as individually impressive as larger figures, however?

Right now, I'm getting set to buy two complete Napoleonic armies for Black Powder / LaSalle. They will each contain something on the order of 30 battalions and the whole set up will cost me around 200 USD. The armies can be played on my coffee table - a 2 ft x 3 ft expanse - with plenty of room for manuever. They can be stored in cigar boxes. And the game looks just fine.

I'm not a middle-aged American man living in a suburb. I live in an apartment in Rio de Janeiro. Space is tight. Money is tighter. 3mm allows me to play beautiful-looking, epic battles on a budget and store everything (including paints, terrain modules, and flocking) in a single bookshelf unit.
So are they harder to paint?


I'm 45 and my eyes are going. Still, by using basic wash and drybrush techniques, I can paint an army to a table standard in the space of an hour or two. By spending half the ammount of time I would use on 15mm figs, I can do much better than that, as these figs are incredibly detailed for their size. And sure, while getting some of the small details can be a pain, so can painting the belt buckles on your 15mm knights.

One final advantage to 3mm: it allows you to collect armies and periods you'd otherwise ignore. As I mentioned above, I'm now diving into Napoleonics, a period I'd avoided so far in my miniatures collecting life due to costs and complexity. 3mm, however, lets me play large games at low cost and with a very small storage footprint.

Finally, it should be mentioned that O8's 3mm stuff is an order of magnitude beyond Irregular's 2mm stuff. Not only does the extra millimeter allow for much more detail, O8's sculptors are simply much better than Irregular's.

I urge you to give O8's 3mm figures a try! Use them to do a periopd or army you've always wanted to dabble in, but couldn't afford. You'll be surprised at how beautiful and functional this scale is!

Monday, December 24, 2012

NVL reinforcements arrive on Smade's World.

I really wanted to have these guys done by Xmas, but I'm only 2/3rds of the way there. Still, that's better than nothing. So, without further ado, here's what the New Vistula Legion presence on Smade's World looks like so far...

The entire force, laid out in parade order outside of the village of Crappensburg.

Most of the armor and infantry is 3mm stuff from 08.

 The regimental command echelon and most of the support companies. To the left we have the heavy mortar battery, to the right the walker platoon, with hunter-killer drones attached. To the either side of the Regimental H.Q. we can see the rest of the drone company: two recon swarms.

Here's a close-in picture of the drone company: two recon swarms and a  hunter-killer swarm. About half of the drone company still needs to be uncrated and activated.

One  of the two Legionary motorized infantry companies already on-planet. We're currently awaiting the third. This is three platoons of infantry, a medium mortar battery and a jeep-mounted recon section, plus headquarters.

The light attack company. Unfortunately, the photo's a bit blurred. Three platoons made up of a mix of armored cars and Fast Attack Buggies, along with a medium mortar section, headquarters and jeep-mounted recon.

An armored regiment from the Second Mechanized Brigade (Regular Army) is inbound and expected in the next two weeks. This is it's first squadron: four troops of heavy tanks.


The 24th Uhlans have had some shipping problems and only one of their line squadrons has made planetfall. The regiment's command echelon and its heavy support company have managed to join Squadron A on Smade's World, however.

The figures are fleet-scale Earth Battle Frames from Dream Pod 9.

 Two squadrons from a Fast Attack regiment have also made planetfall. Here we see them moving out from Crappenburg in front of the heavy armor. Until their command echelon disembarks, however, these 'speeders will be relegated to an infantry support role.

Close up photos of the 'speeders with MBT for comparison. The 'speeders are Harrier Class Gunships from Arbon Engineering, sold on Shapeways, done up in white detail material. As you can see, they scale well next to the MBTs and look like a fast GEV or landspeeder-like attack craft.

The 3rd Heavy Assault Regiment is made up of three "Spectre" class titans, nicknamed "the three graces". From left to right they are Maryla, Gabrjela and Serafina. They are made to order for the Neo-Poles by the Siliaz aliens and use black-box technology that's far beyond anything the human sphere can produce.

The figures are actually modified Dakini tecbots from the 28mm skirmish game, "Infinity".

A slightly out-of-focus shot of Serafina.