Friday, 8 January 2016

Setting The Scene, The Ardennes. (part 1) Flexible terrain mat & roads


WW2 The Ardennes 1944 or Battle of the Bulge.

INTRODUCTION.

This is the start of my new project for 2016, although I started researching and collecting for this during the autumn of 2015.  I plan on making and painting lots of different terrain and figures and vehicles specific for this winter conflict.

Each blog entry I will show a few pictures of the finished article but will keep back the information on how I did this until a later date. All being well, I would like to put all the information with lots of pictures together in a small reference book for a step by step guide for wargamers interested in wanting to game this period.

There is a fair amount of information scattered out there on how to make/paint winter terrain/vehicles/figures and I have been trying to sift through what I think gives good results for minimum effort and aimed at wargamers, rather than techniques that a model maker might use for a detailed diorama, although, that would be the ultimate way to go, depending on how much time and effort you were prepared to dedicate and if the end result was robust enough for wargaming.

That is not what I am aiming for with this project but instead, sharing with you what has worked for me and hopefully striking a balance at what looks good with minimum effort, skill and cost and being robust enough for the wargames table and having all this information at hand and in one place.

I have no idea of costs for publishing or if this would even be a worthwhile adventure, depending on if there is a market out there for this with wargamers, so I will just carry on with the project regardless and cross that bridge when finished.

Over the Christmas holidays I was able to make a start on the project, kicking off with the biggest item, a flexible terrain mat for my 10ft x 5ft table, along with 39 x pieces of flexible road. The great thing about using a mat is that you can place suitable objects underneath to give you your natural looking hills and slopes.

I have placed some 28mm figures and a vehicle on the table to give you an idea of scale but as mentioned above, I will be painting specific figures and vehicles that will be more suitable and will blend into the terrain, along with lots of scenery.





      
      





The above pictures are a bit bare at the moment but will become more interesting as the project progresses.

The start of my reading collection for the conflict.
 

64 comments:

  1. Looks great Pat. I assume you made the mat yourself? I have a much smaller scale winter board I'm doing myself this year (ordered all those great new winter figure sets from Warlord) ... but I went with the "Terrain Mat" winter mat ... still on order so will see what it looks like when I get it. I'll be following this project very closely ... I've done winter stuff many years ago with good results. I'm sure my stuff will look like crap once I see your pictures ... so I'll have to burn it all when I'm done ;-) lol

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    1. Thanks Jay, yes the mat is home made. I noticed your to do list for 2016 and that you were also covering the Ardennes, will be following keenly and maybe bounce a few ideas off each other. Apart from Warlord vehicles, I have gone with mostly Artizan winter figures, although the Warlord Winter figures are very nice.
      It is the first time for me doing winter terrain, so you may find you do a better job than me and anyway the stuff with snow on it wont burn,lol.

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    2. Sounds good, you can email me at sotek486@yahoo.com if u want. I've only done snow bases before ... so have to see if the same works on terrain. Lol!

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    3. Cheers Jay, email logged thanks.

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  2. Sounds really interesting Pat - look forward to see ing this develop

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  3. This is one I will watch with interest. My winter terrain needs some improvement.

    John

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  4. I need to go and crank up the heat after looking at these photos! Would have to be some of the most realistic looking snow I have seen! Great start there Pat. Really looking forward to more!

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    1. Very kind of you to say Roger. I try visiting your blog to give you well deserved feedback but for some reason most of the time that I do, the computer slows right down?

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    2. Hi Roger, I just tried again to visit your blog and had to give up as it was taking so long.

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  5. Wonderful winter terrain, wonderful!

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  6. Lovely looking stuff Pat. I was considering doing just the same thing this year since the Bulge as long been one of my favourite battles from WW2. For reading a can highly recommend 'Then and Now:Battle of the Bulge' pricey but worth it and if you can get still it 'The Battle of the Bulge' by Charles B Macdonald. I've got side tracked onto another project so the Bulge may have to wait another year.
    The link to my blog has changed its now http://reppledeppleclubhouse.blogspot.co.uk/
    Looking forward to seeing your output over the year Pat. Its nice to be back. Regards Mark

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    1. Thanks chaps.
      Mark, good to see you back up and running,looking forward to reading your blog again. Thanks for the recommendation with the books, I will add the 'Then and Now' and Mr Macdonald to my list.

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  7. Hello, great looking snow terrain looking forward to seeing more.
    You may already know this but just in case, for the first several days of the battle there was little to no snow. I believe it wasn't until the 25th that there was snow covering the battlefield.
    I also recommend you pick up the book "Alamo of the Ardennes" for a really good account of the opening days of the offensive around Bastogne. Probably the best overall account of the battle is Charles McDonalds "A Time for Trumpets".

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    1. Thanks John, if I play a campaign with this at some point in the future then I guess there may be some figures and vehicles with snow bases, playing on non-snow terrain if fighting it out in the early stages but hopefully most of the gaming will be in the snow. Once again thanks for the recommendation with the books, as Mr McDonald has come up twice already, I will definitely be buying that and I will check out Alamo of the Ardennes, thanks.

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  8. Now that's a strange coincidence! I'm working on some Battle of the Bulge stuff at the moment as well. Although I'll go 15mm for this venture. I'm sure a 'How to' guide by you would certainly sell like hot cakes. I for one would certainly buy it and even if it's just as a PDF via the Wargames Vault. Thank you for the reading tips as well. Might get me the one or other of these books for additional reference.

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    1. Thanks Nick, it would sell even better if I could get you to do the painting for me. Look forward to seeing your 15mm work.

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    2. Hmmm... maybe we could arrange something. Just drop me a line at moiterei1984[at]gmail[dot]com

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    3. Hi Nick,
      Your email above came up as invalid?

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    4. Don't know why.... hmm, well than try moiterei[at]web[dot]de

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    5. No joy with that either Nick. I have left a message on your blog, if you want to email me on my wife's address. www.kerstinsmith@ntlworld.com

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  9. Great stuff - looking forward to more!

    Warburton

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    1. Thanks Warburton, loved your Barn on your blog.

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  10. My world Pat, that's an impressive start, really capturing the feel of the period already.

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  12. The mat and roads look absolutely amazing! I think a small handbook on the techniques you use should sell well. Your blog has been a source of inspiration in the past as you are able to make things that are great looking but also practical and reasonably easy to make. I know it's cheeky asking, but could you elaborate on what substrate you used to make the mat and road? I'm embarking on a similar project as I just purchased some of the new winter germans from warlord, though I'm going with the eastern front. I've been thinking of using door mats like you used for your fields a while back but reversed for roads and painted with a mud paste mix. I'm finding it hard to get the right material for the gaming mat though as it needs to be strong, resistant to warping but still be flexible and lightweight. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

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    1. I wouldn't use doormats reversed for your roads, they will be much too thick. You want to keep them thin, so that they blend in with your terrain.

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  13. Thanks Evan. I know what you mean about finding it hard to source the right material. Even when you search the net and given a specific name for the materials used it is still a lot of trial and error as there is so many variations and unless you can actually see and feel the material in the flesh, then you sometimes have to make a guess with your purchase. I will try and address this with as much information, references and close up pictures when writing the book and have already taken many pictures and notes during the work in progress for the mat and roads. Without going into to much detail at this stage, the material I used for both the road and mat is caulk and calico.

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  14. Not surprisingly it looks excellent Pat and I'm beginning to get cold looking at it! I think doing a "how to" book would be wonderful and I'd be a buyer! As an aside I also enjoy mats or in my case a cloth because you can model hills and elevation under it.

    Christopher

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  15. Atmospheric and beautiful snow terrain Pat...Awesome!

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  16. Very impressive. You really should write some sort of book or guide on terrain scratchbuilding. I really like the slush effect on the road sections and the patches of grass showing through the snow. Brilliant!

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  17. Great looking start and the snow looks soo real!

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  18. Oh nice, look forward to following this.

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  19. Well i like the look of your project,and i am a firm believer if you don`t like the off the peg stuff,make your own. Be it scratch building or layout bases using ones imagination is the bright shinny key! I look forward in following along. Beano Boy

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  20. Pat, fantastic terrain and photography as usual, very well done indeed!

    I am just starting down the road to a WINTER/SNOW terrain project with my Christmas 1841 "Bala Hissar or Bust!" What-If? version of the British withdrawl from their Cantonments just outside Kabul in the First Afghan War. I haven't even begun my own experiments with different forms of "snow" to cover my terrain boards, so I'm excited to learn exactly what materials you used and how you used them.

    One detail I will have to deal with is ice-covered water, as my layout includes a river and a canal. I'm no expert on The Bulge but I know the battle took place around multiple rivers, including various bridges over the Meuse. Were any of the rivers frozen, and will your special Winter terrain include any water features...?

    BTW, though I don't play WWII, I'd definitely buy your Battle of the Bulge gaming guide, our of pure fan admiration for your work and gratitude for you having shared so much of it since starting this blog!

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    1. Thanks MG.
      A winter Kabul First Afghan War scene would be a wonderful visual treat and from your superb past terrain making projects, you are the right man for the job.

      I guess it depends if you are using your existing terrain and the winter effects are only temporary or if you are building from scratch and the ice-covered water is going to be a permanent fixture?

      For my project I will be having rivers but they wont be frozen, so I haven't looked to deeply into frozen water but there is information out there on the web with such things as using the wax from melted candles to using a brush and lightly stippling with white paint over your water, to buying commercial products. It is a process of trial and error and see what works for you.

      From what I have read so far on the Bulge, still on my first book at the moment, I get the impression the rivers at the time weren't frozen as there is mention of escaping by abandoning their vehicles and crossing the freezing water, fighting for the bridges and crossing a river barrier using rubber assault craft.

      Cheers,
      Pat.

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    2. That should say, swimming across the freezing water.

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  21. What a treat! You did master the autumn theme and I see that you will do the same with a winter board. Love the mat. An all white board is seldom visually interesting but you've managed to make it look great with those areas of less snow. The roads are great aswell.
    I'm really looking forward to follow this project, and also look forward to some sort of publication. I always find that you achieve great results with reasonable effort and money - but not forgetting true talent! /Mattias

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  22. Really looking forward to following this project in 2016 Pat. Always love trying out your ideas and tips in my own amateurish way. The flexible mat will be keenly looked at.

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  23. That really Looks the biz. The only way I´ve managed to recreate half decent looking snow was to use shaving foam..smelt ok but not very robust.

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  24. Really looking forwards to seeing your progress. I have had a winter terrain in mind for a while, so am truly excited by this. Love the effects so far. You could of course just stop now....the pics you have taken already look great for a snowy waste Russian game!

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  25. Looking fantastic already and really looking forward to seeing this progress. I also would be interested in a 'how to' pdf/booklet. I would echo comments above about Charles MacDonald's 'Battle of the Bulge', which gives a great summary of the Battle and is an excellent read. The following might be helpful as well. DuPuy's 'Hitler's Last Gamble' is not quite as good as MacDonald but has lots of TOE information and some interesting analyses. You can get the official US Army history volumes which cover the Bulge ('The Ardennes' and 'The Last Offensive') as free pdf downloads and apart from being very thorough if somewhat dry narratives, they have quite a few useful photos. Caddick-Adams' book on the Bulge is not my favourite (too self-indulgent with some rather dubious psycho-analysis of Hitler), but does contain some interesting information on the composition and capability of the respective forces in its earlier chapters. The Rapid Fire website has two 'Battle of the Bulge' photoguides with lots of useful images of the terrain in a couple of Bulge battlegrounds. And when the wargaming begins, the Osprey book by Steven Zaloga on the fighting on the Northern shoulder of the Bulge has some interesting comments on the SS units. Far from being elite super-soldiers, they are criticised for tactics relying on brute force, due to the large number of inadequately trained replacements they had to absorb after the catastrophe in Normandy.

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    1. Thanks Peter, you sound well read on the subject and I appreciate your helpful advice.
      I have MacDonald's 'Battle of the Bulge' on order and checked out the two Rapid Fire photo guides yesterday, which as you say are very good thanks. Will have to add the Osprey book to the shopping list. Just need the time to start reading my way through them all.

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  27. Absolutely fantastic! I love your gaming board setups in general, but the Ardennes is one of my personal all-time favourites...maybe because I'm from that region...who know's?

    Absolutely looking forward to your project! I did paint some US and German troops in winter clothing around christmas 2015, now this gives me the motivation to build some terrain aswell. You can check out the pictures here:
    http://www.lead-adventure.de/index.php?topic=79815.15

    But as I said I'm really looking forward to your stuff! I'm also reading Anthony Beevor's book atm - really captivating!

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  28. Thanks Mark, I have just checked out the link and also visited your blog. Your painting is absolutely stunning and I advise anyone reading this, to pop over and visit Mark's work.
    You are a lucky man, the Ardennes looks a wonderful place to live, although in 44 maybe not and reading about what happened in an area that you are from must really hit home.

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  29. Wow thanks for that amazing feedback! This blog was shared with a few other hobbyist around the LOTR game. I think I'll create my own though for all the historical stuff!

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    1. Look forward to seeing a historical blog from you Mark.

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  31. Hi! Im workshopsng on flexible gaming mats myself and I've been looking for methods of using snow everywhere. Can you share some details on how you did yours? I've been using a mixture of sand,paint and acryl paste to create the ground. Any idea on the snow is most welcome!

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  32. Hi! Im workshopsng on flexible gaming mats myself and I've been looking for methods of using snow everywhere. Can you share some details on how you did yours? I've been using a mixture of sand,paint and acryl paste to create the ground. Any idea on the snow is most welcome!

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    1. Hi Hendrik,
      If you can hold on until the release of 'Setting The Scene', as if I start passing on the information beforehand it will negate doing the book.
      Cheers,
      Pat.

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