Polar Bear 6 occurred last week in Iceland and Søren explains how he built one of the tables for the tournament.
Painting and hobbying is for me closely connected with upcoming tournaments, hobby leagues or campaigns. So, with Warfare done and the associated army painting over, I moved on to the next project in the calendar. For me that means Polar Bear 6 – General Bonesteel in Iceland, the last weekend of January the 29th-30th 2022. As the tournament organiser and ringer I will only play if we end up with a player dropping out, so painting another army and maybe not use it, isn’t the best motivation for me.
“Then what is?” you might ask. Terrain!
Building Terrain is just as much a part of the table top wargaming hobby as building and painting an army. Playing on some well made or different-than-normal tables are one of those things that can make the game an even more enjoyable experience, than it already is.
This year Polar Bear 6 is focussed on the Eastern Front 1944 involving the forces that fought in Operation Bagration, so what would be more natural than making a table for that.
How did the landscape look June 1944 on the Eastern Front?
When figuring out how the actual terrain looked in 1944, google image search is your friend. A quick google search will provide you with more info than you could ever dream of.
Judging by the photos, I am looking for terrain with gentle rolling hills with forests and some open areas with grass and cornfields.
Planning and getting started
First up I needed a plan, for how I wanted the table to look. So after a couple of drawings, I ended up with the sketch in the photo below.
So a couple of hills with forests, a river, a village, some foxholes in the hillsides to represent the German defensive lines and some scattered wheatfields.
Since I will have to move the table to and from the venue, I have to make it portable and as lightweight as possible.
So I opted to go for 3/ 60cmx120cm 9mm MDF plates. The hills were built up using polystyrene making it possible to make both the hills stand up and cut down a river.
Shaping the battlefield
I used non-solvent glue to be sure the polystyrene wouldn’t melt. The hills were roughly shaped using a hotwire cutter bought cheaply from eBay and then glued down. The river was cut with a Stanley knife and the hotwire cutter.
Then everything was sanded down to smooth the edges and cuts from the hotwire cutter. NOTE sanding polystyrene will make it static and stick to EVERYTHING, so don’t do it in the living room.
I decided to add some foxhole and bomb craters to add some protection to infantry and add something to break up the uniformity of the flat plain.
Foxholes and craters
Foxholes and craters were made with the Stanley knife and raised. Edges added to the foxholes and craters will make them stand out and look more visually interesting. This was done using DAS clay and for smoothing the river bottom and where the end of the hills was smoothed using plaster.
Instead of adding large areas of crops, I chose to add lots of small patches to make for a more interesting game. Smaller patches force you to make a decision; do you want all your guns to shoot or to have them all concealed? I used a doormat from IKEA cut into the desired shape with a sharp knife. These were then spread out and glued into place.
Texturing the ground
You can buy or find basing texture from a lot of various places, or use sand and stones. I went with cork tile, placed in a blender. The longer you blend the finer it gets. If you want different sizes of texture you can let it go through a sieve/colander.
Cover the board in thinned down PVA glue and sprinkle it on. For the roads, I used beach sand to have not only a colour difference when finished but also a texture difference.
Buildings, details and painting
To add some houses, some trucks and a bridge, I got some 3D printed stuff and a single MDF house I had laying around. This is glued in place and now it’s painting time. Before I started painting I sprayed thinned down PVA all over and let it dry overnight.
Painting a large wargaming table is no different than doing the small bases on a normal FoW team, just use a bigger brush. I went with a black undercoat, then dry-brushed dark brown, light brown and a mustard colour in increasingly lighter layers. I made sure that the edges of the foxholes and craters got a heavy layer of the lighter colour to make sure they will draw attention to them.
The roads and bridge were painted in a grey tone to stand out from the brownish ground and will be a nice contrast to the yellow flock the will be applied in the end.
The ruins were done with the airbrush using a bunch of reds and browns for the brick ruins and beige colour for the half-burned house. The windows were also airbrushed in blue using a template cut out in a piece of cardboard. This is not super precise, but in the heat of battle, no one will notice.
A couple of haystacks painted in brown and yellow along with some German trucks was added, to add some visually interesting stuff, breaking up the uniform look of the ground
To get some trees for the large forests on the hills, I order 120 cheap trees online. These are not the best-looking trees you can get, but they will do the job just fine. To make sure the table is as functional as possible, I wanted the trees to be removable. This was achieved by glueing them to a small nail using hot glue. This way the trees can just be stuck down in the foam and pulled up during play with no effort at all.
When making a river or stream there are lots of guide videos on youtube and lots of different approaches. You can paint them and varnish, you can use special water products from terrain supply companies like Woodland Scenics or you can use epoxy resin, to name a few.
Since I had decided to scult the river into the table, painting it wasn’t really an option, so epoxy resin was my plan. Here it proved to be a problem living on an island in the middle of the North Atlantic!
Buying clear epoxy resin was prohibitively expensive so I decided to do a test. Luke from Geek Gaming had shown that you could mix clear silicone with IPA (presumably not the beer – Lee) to make a syrup-like substance to make waves and ripples on the river so I decided to go that way, but bigger.
First I painted the bottom of the river dark blue and the sides green using the airbrush. I then added some bushes using the bristles of an old paintbrush and glued a painted Opel Blitz in the stream.
I then mixed the crystal clear silicone almost 50/50 with IPA and poured it into the river that had the edges blocked with some painters tape. Using an old brush I moved it around until I was satisfied with the look and left it an hour or so to set. When the silicone had set I used a piece of wood to create a wave effect on the top of the river and then left it to dry overnight.
This technique has one major drawback as you can see. The river is full of bubbles that weren’t able to escape the thick silicone, but the wave effects look rather nice.
As this is a gaming table that will be used, I opted to add some edge board to prevent minis and dice from falling off the table. For this, I use some 4mm fiberboard painted black and glued on. The boards are cut, using a jigsaw, so they make a 3cm tall edge and follow the contours of the terrain.
For the flocking, I use a mix of woodland scenics static grass. Again as this is to be used for Flames of War (FOW) it is important that the woods are clearly defined, so the contrast between the grassland and the wooded areas might be a bit stark, but this works well for FOW.
I covered a 1/6 of the table in watered down PVA and then applied a mix of static grasses. yellow and brown for the grassland and greenish tones for the woods.
If you are smarter than me, you will remember to cover up the river before applying the static grass as the Silicone grabs the static grass very well. When the PVA is dry I covered the entire table in watered down PVA sprayed on using a sprayer and that’s it.
I hope you have enjoyed the journey and is ready to give it a go yourself.Soren