Today, guest writer Mike Everest talks about building big tables.
A few years back I, broadly speaking, threw in the towel with Flames of War and got interested in really silly hats and gunpowder in 28mm.
Zip forward to 2020 and the plague sweeps the land. In those first lockdowns I pick up the pace with painting toy soldiers, every Friday night on discord, with mates. Suddenly, armies are getting painted! But where to play with them if lockdowns ever lift and it becomes safe to do so?
Well, I’m incredibly lucky to live in the countryside and have my own steel barn! Owing to a massive over order on floor boards during a house refit, I was left with huge numbers of 2x8ft boards. So I started putting them together to make huge mega gaming boards. The average board size we play on at the Big Barn is 16x6ft if we are playing a big enough game to warrant it. And frankly, with precious few opportunities to do so, you might as well make them big games!
During the summer, the Breakthrough Assault guys came to the Big Barn to throw around 200pts of Desert stuff on my 16x6ft desert boards, and a cracking game it was too.
This was my first proper foray into V4 Flames since an open day stint where Lee ran us through a Hit the Beach game (More on this shortly). After the game I dwelled on the old armies I had massive fun with and looked at my 1st Infantry division from D Day. What character those models had! Tearing through painting them I was back onboard the Flames of War train. Now armed with a fully painted (Only took me 48 hrs after ten years of waiting) 1st Infantry Division force I said to Duncan, Lee and Eddie ‘be great if we had 16 foot of Beach table wouldn’t it…’
Well, the Devil makes work for idle hands. I went down to the barn and drew up the plans for a 2×16′ edge board to connect to the usual temperate boards.
The boards were split, per the Beach Landing rules, with a sea zone, a surf zone, a beach zone and a sea wall zone. As I looked at it, the rise of the sea wall would make the difference look odd and out of place. How to make it look better with an artificial rise though? Raising the other two rows of boards by 40-50mm would effectively make the sea wall butt up against the ground level cleanly, meaning a drop down to the beach looking natural rather than out of place.
I placed two sets of boards under the textured boards to raise them up at an equal rate. Raised by 44mm, I could then butt the foam up against it vaguely flush.
Cliffs and Sea Wall
The foam I used for this was a single sheet of 25mm Insulation Foam. Its super tough stuff, cuts really easily with a carving knife, sands perfectly and even takes spray paint rather than melting. Its great stuff; the only problem with it is peeling the silver insulator layer can be fiddly.
Scaling for the sea wall and the cliff was tricky, and to be honest, if I really went back for it, I’d raise the central two boards even more, but at that point the weight of the boards can start to become an issue for the eight trestle tables holding them up.
Being a 1:100 scale game, the cliff face should actually be in places upwards of 30cm (12 inches basically), and that simply isnt conducive in wargaming basically. Similarly the sea wall is 25mm on the model making it 2.5meters in real life. The actual sea wall at Omaha varies in parts between 1.5 and 4 meters tall. So its all about what can be effectively and easily represented in game.
Sculpting the Sea Wall took some calculation. At roughly 60° across the whole thing, I used a sharp carving knife to scallop the edge off of the full length of the wall. This was followed by a rough sandpaper job and then glued with some heavy duty furniture glue. I’d normally use regular white PVA, but furniture glue cements it in position really rapidly.
Behind the sea wall are the cliffs that lead to the main boards. For these, I’d cut chunks out of the styrofoam to make them look weathered before I cement them in position.
Painting the wall, I used black emulsion as a base, then a matt grey car body spray, then used a large foundation makeup brush to drybrush Vallejo Model Colour “Sky Grey”. This works as a really effective weathered concrete look to it.
The beach would now be painted with Sandtex Midstone. This stuff is awesome for terrain making. I use their smooth version and add in a bunch of sieved sand before mixing it as this gives really effective texture to it than just the base product. I dry brushed this with some old magnolia paint I’ve had knocking around the barn for a while and it works really well when you look at it on a massive scale. My huge desert boards are done this way and they are super effective for it. Unfortunately the black marker pen I used to map out the boards showed through this, so I had to go through a couple more coats of midstone.
The cliff walls were done with sandtex midstone again with a magnolia drybrush over the top of them to make the effect of sandstone or limestone cliffs. I thought about white but then that immediately screams chalk which immediately screams assault of Sussex and Kent rather than France.
As I was running out of full, 8 foot, lengths of insulation foam, I opted for cutting 45mm (2 inches-ish) wide and roughly 600mm (24 inches) long lengths so I could place gaps in them for the “draws” up to the main board. Though the actual passage to the beaches at Omaha were done through winding roads and a few gently sloping sections of broken ground, for the sake of a practical gaming board I chose to do it this way.
Its important to note that this is a representation rather than a chapter and verse photograph diorama of Easy Red WN62 Bunker etc. This table is meant to have excited mates make machine gun noises over while they push toy soldiers all over it basically. So anything to facilitate that was important.
Next up was painting the cliff tops and foot of the cliffs where the asphalted sea wall stops. I’d have used Wilko brand “Nutmeg Spice” but, after finishing the main boards in the summer, they had pulled the line. Disaster! I had to then scour wilko stores if they had any, and then finally settled on a ‘close enough for government work’ brand from Ebay.
I painted the newly procured brown as a base, then highlighted with a lighter brown (Wilko Brand “Chocolate dream” mixed with the dark brown), and finally a light drybrush with just “choc dream”. Then I applied standard clear set PVA with Woodland scenics fine turf over the top of it. Finally a bunch of scattered Gamers Grass marshy tufts across the length of it. I love tufts; they really bring it to life!
The ramps to the main board, or draws, were done by taking a 25mm section of insulation foam, cutting it to size and then slicing it pretty much in half long ways, in a wedge formation then finally giving it a quick blast with a fine grade sand paper. I’ve left them free standing for the moment but if needs I can use a dress makers pin to hold them down.
Painting the sea started with a few simple couple of coats of deep blue emulsion. Again, this was the cheapest stuff an internet search could yield me. Working on mega terrain projects can spiral out of control cost wise, so basically I have a value that no large tin of emulsion should cost more than 18-20 quid, basically. Any more than that and you have to really start justifying it. Expenses for boards and terrain should be held back for things like tufts, and if you are being brave with water, resin (I’ll be doing an article on a massive river I’m making, and have made expensive mistakes with resin with).
I then made a hard edged paintbrush by dipping it in pva and letting that dry so it was basically ruined for any other job. I then took that brush and started rapidly stippling the shore line and both immediately in front of the main ‘wave’ and on the beach as foam, effectively. The two colours I used for this were white emulsion, and a hammerite ‘lagoon’ colour which I had bought to paint a WW1 Italian helmet restoration but was totally wrong for the colour, but was perfect for this.
Waves in place, the board was pretty much set.
With the board now completed, all it needs is Bunkers, nests, sea defences etc. These will all be free standing and placed when battles are played on it. Making the board both broadly scale agnostic and not 100% set in stone as to its final layout, allowing for tactical nuances and different games etc.
Summary of Materials
Here is a list of materials I used and their basic costs:
- Boards: Covers locking floorboards, £14 each (I had SO MANY laying around after reflooring the entire house. Long Story)
- 25mm High Density Loft Insulation foam board. £45 (Used on so many projects for the desert boards as well)
- Sandtex Midstone smooth paint: £15
- Some Sand to mix in: Free
- Cheap Paint brushes: £5
- Woodland Scenics Fine Turf flock. £11, buy the big shakers!
- Cheap Blue Emulsion from EvilBay £15
- Clipper Tea: Several Thousand bags of it to be consumed during the construction process. £Insurmountable.
Thanks for reading gang! I’ll do a set of nice photos and a write up of the first battle we play on this board hopefully around June 5th and 6th 2021!