Saturday, 24 October 2015

Scenery - woods, rough ground and fields

I have just made myself a new war-games board to fit over the dining table and bought one of the excellent Mat O’ War cloths from Antenocities Workshop and wanted to upgrade my scenery to match the mat, my basing colours and be compatible with the rather prescriptive rules of Field of Glory Renaissance.

I already had some hills that could be re-surfaced and plenty of hedges and trees so my main requirement was for the various types of flat area terrain: woods, broken ground, brush, fields, vineyards, plantations, etc. I looked at the ready made scenery from Miniature World Maker - I liked the way this lay flat on any surface and its durability but it seemed expensive and wasn’t a very good colour match for what I wanted so I decided on the home made approach. 

Antenocities recommended a particular static grass as a good match for their green Mat O’War so I  had ordered a couple of packs of that but when they arrived they seemed too bright. Luckily I already had a bag of darker and duller static grass which I had been using, dry-brushed with yellow ochre to lighten and high-light, for basing my Italian Wars army. This mixed in to give a much closer match and plenty for my needs. 

The first question was what to use as a base material. I wanted something flexible, tough, not too thick but heavy enough to lie flat and not move about. Many years ago I acquired some green and grown carpet tiles to use as a playing surface and give a patchwork field effect for 1/300 scale WW2 (you could get away with simpler scenery in the 80s!). After pulling the felt-like covering off and singing the last fibres off, wire brushing and sanding the surface of the rubber-base, I was left with just the type of base I wanted. These were only one foot square and It would be great to get some slightly bigger pieces but all the modern tiles I have seen so far have the carpet surface too deeply embedded in the rubber. 

I decided to just use the same basic technique and colour scheme that I use for figure bases. A base of sand, glued on with PVA. A base coat of dark earth then dry brushed first with yellow ochre then a couple of progressively lighter yellow ochre and white. The static grass is then glued on with more PVA, followed by any tufts. Instead of my usual Humbrol matt dark earth for the base colour, I bought a brown emulsion match pot and mixed in some other acrylics to get a fairly close colour match. I should have just got a litre of Dulux mixed to match a colour swatch - I’ll have to do that anyway as the first pot has almost run-out now.

The first thing was to make some general purpose irregular terrain areas that could serve as woods, broken ground or brush with different types of add-on features. The rubber cuts easily with a craft knife then it was just a matter of applying the fine sand, painting and glueing on the static grass.

This shows both trees and broken ground markers - in use it would be one or another. The broken ground markers are offcuts of Amtico flooring with caulk to add height, granite chips and sand. All painted and with static grass and tufts as usual and Woodland Scenics clumping foliage as bushes.
Next on this list was some straight-sided pieces as fields, plantations and vineyards. I wanted to put some more detail into these, sacrificing flexibility of use. One advantage of the fairly thick (about 3mm) base, is that features can be carved into the surface so I cut shallow trenches along some parts of the sides to indicate ditches. I left a wide enough space around the edges to take the hedges I already had so I could distinguish between open and closed fields. 

I wanted a ploughed effect on some field sections so spread decorator’s caulk over the surface and used a piece of card with a serrated profile cut in the edge to drag across creating the furrows. I also used a coarse brush to create tracks between field sections. For the fields, I added a few small rocks and grit around the edges to add interest. 

After the usual painting I used dark washes to deepen the ditches and added dark green 6 mm tufts to represent reeds and unusually lush grass in the arid Italian countryside. I considered using a proper water effect but was worried that might crack and settled on a couple of coats of gloss varnish - over such a small and thin area I think the effect is just about OK. I only applied static grass around the edges to blend in with the Mat O’War. 

I wanted part-grown crops along the tops of ploughed areas. I imagined this would be easy - brush across with PVA which would only catch on the high points then scatter on finely minced clumping foliage. That didn’t work at all. After some more trial and error, the best result was a couple of cycles of painting along the furrows with PVA and covering with a fairly fine turf mix.

Even with painting the tops with PVA, clumping foliage didn’t give very clear definition.
Foam particle turf mix worked better, I think.

This empty field shows how the hedges fit on to make it an enclosed field. My plan is that this could also be used as a plantation or vineyard (the vines are a story for another day).
It would be great to get some comments on these posts. So far, there have been a few hundred views but no comments but I'd really welcome some constructive feedback. 


  1. Four comments:

    [1] It's great to see a blog about this period in 15 mm. Keep going.

    [2] Could you post a size comparison photo for all the Gendarmes you've used.

    [3] Can you post a Dulux colour reference for your earth brown basing colour.

    [4] As you seem to be having a few varnish problems you might like to try my varnish recovery technique.

  2. Hi. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

    1. There are some really great Italian Wars / Renaissance blogs for 28mm but I was surprised to find there was almost nothing in 15mm so I thought I'd have a go. I'll certainly try to keep going - actually I have quite a backlog to deal with so I should be OK for a while yet.

    2. I'll try to take some Gendarme comparison photos and actual measurements. Broadly though; Minifigs and TTG/Asgard/Altuos mix OK but Essex are too chunky and Venexia also too big.

    3. The cheap brown emulsion I have used so far is just a Homebase Chocolate Brown match pot with quite a lot of various darke browns and a bit of green mixed in until it looked right. Zero chance of replicating that again! I should have just bitten the bullet and got a litre of colour matched paint mixed to match a swatch of Humbrol Dark Earth.

    4. After reading your various varnishing advice and some of the threads on Steve Dean's forum, I have had much better and more reliable results with Daler Rowney varnish and a pot of talc at my side when mixing paint. Apart from a bit of silvering on the Louis de Tremouille standard (which I only noticed after posting the pic), the Essex Gendarmes, Adventurers, a big Swiss pike block and the first parts of my camp have all come out OK. Maybe I'll have a go with flat Future for those stubbornly satin figures - testing it on some scrap first!

    1. Thanks for the response. I hadn't realised you were aiming to match Humbrol Dark Earth - was it the acrylic ( or enamel ( version?

    2. I'm really pleased to read of someone else using talc. I couldn't survive without it. I'm also glad that all the articles about varnish proved useful.

  3. I was trying to match Humbrol's enamel dark earth to match my figure bases. I like the way it flows through the sand and glue, around the figure's feet when diluted with white spirit.

    I've posted up some comparison photos and measurements of the various Gendarmes - hope this is useful. Since Venexia are no longer available and I have only been able to find 11 of their Gendarmes second hand, I was wondering about buying some Mirliton Italian 15th C. Condottiere and modifying them for a more 16th C. look, for variety and to make up the numbers - how do you think they would match for size?

    1. I seem to remember being told these Venexia & Mirliton ranges were sculpted by the same person but I've checked my records and can't find the email.

      What I do know is that when I could sell both ranges I used to tell people buying Mirliton Knights from their Burgundian range to buy a few Venexia Gendarmes as commanders as they were a really good size match. At the very least they are open handed so adding new lances would be easy.

      If you want to try a pack I'd recommend CC 24 from the Swiss Burgundian range. I'd love to see what you come up with.

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