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Here is the nearly completed set up. The table is a printed mat originally designed for Frostgrave. I’ve decided that my implementation of the Tomorrow’s War scenario Lost & Found occurs in the snowy north of planet Guerzim. Buildings are Metcalf N scale. Trees from Aldi.
The fireteams are mounted on group bases. TW advises that this works well enough since groups move together anyway. This should speed up play as well.
I’m still not completely happy with the set up. It’s still a bit too open so I’ll need to get some more clutter happening. But overall, I think the general set up is similar to the book recommendation.
Every time I write 1701 I have a little chuckle, and now 1701c is just too auspicious… at least it is for any dyed in the wool Trekkie.
Anyway, planet Guerzim is part of the Crucis Union, a political body that sounds a bit Federal, that has at least four different political factions. I’ve decided (since I like to base both fantasy and science fiction on historical models), that the Union is roughly analogous to NATO. This means that their equipment will be Western European and American inspired. The Mandanin Co-Dominion, the Union’s most obvious foe, is therefore going to be based on Soviet equipment.
With that in mind I have decided the figures that need to be painted. This is a 15mm exercise, with the resulting squads being mounted on FoW bases. The figures shown are a mix of FoW guys I picked up on sale – I’m pretty sure they were designed for the Arab-Israeli conflicts: but importantly some of them have AK’s and some have the typical M16/SLR look. To fill the specialist roles of SAW and SLAM I’m using some of the excellent Eureka Miniatures Soviet and Australian troops. They really are superior to the FoW guys: not that the FoW guys are bad, far from it, but there is a surprising amount of detail on Eureka for 15mm. Here they are divided into the squads.
I’ve also built some N scale buildings from Metcalfe Models. There was some interesting chatter on the interweb about scales for 15mm. There seemed to be a strong body of opinion that going down a scale (from 15mm 1:100 to N Scale 1:150) was a good thing to do. There were also many contrary opinions. So the experiment has to be conducted and we can see how it all looks when it comes together. The buildings themselves were a delight to put together. Honestly, I could just make them all day.
When it comes to buildings in a science fiction setting we really at at the mercy of other people’s imaginations as there is no reference work. We’re not talking about hasty Mars-Habs here, this is Traveller: people have been living full and productive lives on planets for many hundreds of years. And with that in mind I decided that technically there is no reason why something could not be made of locally made bricks and morter. There was no reason why it couldn’t look like and ordinary house. It also fits my theme of basing the future on the past.
No particular connection between these pieces other than they have all been waiting to be finished for too long.
First is a Reaper Miniatures Marilith that I felt fitted the Mediterranean/Arabian Nights/Greco-Roman/Byzantine feel. Handsome girl.
Next is a mashup figure, one of Eureka’s that I added a huge Kite shield to and a sword. Unfortunately I cannot remember what range he was from and searching the site doesn’t get me there either. I seem to recall he was some kind of stone age guy and his heroic posture made me convert him to fantasy hero. He’s one of my barbarians for Frostgrave/Sandtomb, for sure.
Then I have a statue. The original piece came from one of the collectable pre-painted miniatures games – the one that had something to do with dreams? Anyway, I thought it had a good general shape and scale for this game. The pillar is a wooden block that I carved a couple of nicks in before dabbing grey & white daubs with a heavy brush so it left texture. Along with this I have an old GW Lord of the Rings piece that, while the columns do not automatically fit, it is generic enough to pass.
Finally I have another tropical fish shop find, a Chinese temple/library/tomb. Again, this doesn’t fit into an Egyptian ruin setting. But my setting is Parsantium which has connections to fantasy China. My ruined city has been wandering around in space and time for a thousand years. Any old shit could have gone on there.
Everything, naturally, has a base (and coating if terrain) that is wind blown with the red dust of the desert.
The printer, or as I like to call her, Sammy the Fabricator, continues to operate like a traditional Jaguar. It needs to be tuned after every outing and even then may stop for no adequately explained reason. This time I got three quarters of the way through this interesting Aztec inspired piece before the filament quit feeding, leaving him with an open head – brains exposed.
Since the rest was still pretty good I imagined a statue that had been exposed from a tall rock, leaving some of the original rock still in place.
The top is a piece of pine bark, sanded and roughly shaped to conform to the existing top of the figure. Then I used some thick paint to thematically bind the two elements together, and finished it in greys, dry brush whites and scraped dry pastels to give a dusty look.
My only complaint with the result is my mix of the desert dust, which is far too orange. But overall I think this is a playable piece, and can sit alongside the other ruins I’ve been constructing.
On guard are two Cayman Warriors from Eureka.
The mysterious obelisk clearly belongs to an older civilisation than the one that built the city where Sandtomb/Frostrave currently lies. The markings hint at Aztec. They also remind me of the ‘libraries’ at Angkor Wat.
This was a 3D print I made using the M3D printer I bought over a year ago through a Kickstarter campaign that is only now starting to pay off because I’ve abandoned the supplied software and am instead using an open source third party product.
If you have read here before you will have noticed that I don’t mind urban scenes for my pike & shot games. This is because my major area of interest is in the big skirmish scale where there is every chance that the action concerns attacking villages.
The problem I have found is that when you lay out your buildings on a regular gaming mat it looks as though it is some kind of theme park. All green and clean and pristine. All of the things that 17C European towns were not.
Quite by accident I found an Italian firm (PWork Paperwargame) that produces, amongst other things, base mats that you can download and print at home. You can buy these in various sizes right up to a single piece 6′ x 4′ (120cm x 180cm).
Here is one in the images to the left. I bought this for an incredibly cheap price of 6Euro and sent it to a local printer to be printed on vinyl.
Note the detail in the broken ground (you can see a full version without other terrain on the PWork site). This really conveys the illusion of depth and I can add my bits and pieces and suddenly the table looks full and interesting.
Nit-picking, I might suggest that some of the cobbles and plank floors may be overscale for 28mm (they are certainly wrong for 15mm), but in truth no one is going to quibble once you get the extra terrain and models out on it.
This particular mat, the Dark Burg, is perfect for Medieval or Renaissance skirmish. It is also a perfect fit for Mordheim and Malifaux. I’m sure there are many more that it suit.
The PWork chaps have several more mats available. Some are clearly aimed at the Warhammer scene with their chaos symbols, but most have general application. The alien landscapes are inspiring pieces of art, and the green field with snow drifts is very evocative too.
Conclusion: excellent quality, general applicability, when printed on vinyl they will be more durable than your flocked mats and far more interesting to have as the base for the rest of your set up. Recommended.
Our dog lost her collar in the undergrowth, again, so we found ourselves at the pet store.
This is the latest acquisition that came from that exercise (apart from a very pretty new collar).
This piece weighed in at around $24 and is nicely scaled for 28mm figures.
Even though it has absolutely no purpose for my core pike & shot period, I can see it getting a run if I play some Solomon Kane games for Savage Worlds, specifically if we head him into Africa. This would be entirely true to the original, of course, and having written it I am starting to like the idea.
As a model it is nicely moulded and painted with good sized openings front and back. A 28mm model could stand comfortably in the opening. The top is flat and just right for setting up a gattling gun (oops, wrong period). A fanatic modeller would add some more paint in highlighting, some more flock and develop the foliage a little more. However, it is unlikely that I will spend that time as it is perfectly serviceable as it is.
This is not the first time that I have discovered aquarium decorations for wargaming. It is a rich source.
Instead, I found a product from a startup company by the name of Bold Frontiers.
Card, MDF CDC, products are not new. The idea of precision cutting something that approximates a structure is a well established principle. For the wargmaming table these structures can look good enough – very good indeed with a little detailing. The idea of slot together objects such as trees is not new either. Though I cannot pick where I’m sure that the Bold Frontiers offering didn’t strike me as being out of left field so much as being more a damn-fine implementation.
Representing a forest scape is a tricky proposition. The GW trees I use are bottle-brush fine, but they serve the purpose. I have spruce trees from a model train manufacturer as well. What these excellent models cannot represent is the clutter that surrounds a forest floor. Anyone who has ever been near a natural forest knows that that the ‘difficult’ terrain classification applies because vision and movement is truly obscured. We reflect this in rules, but the table still looks bare. Personally I try to add extra bits and pieces to imply deadfall and clutter, but it is still just an approximation.
This is where Bold Frontiers trees seem to offer the solution.
Out of the box
The Forest Pines Screens: Set 2, includes four sheets of thick card gloss printed material. These pop out easily to create 3 stands of conifer forest ranging from 23cm to 14cm. The important thing is that these are not individual trees as one usually expects. They are forest stands representing several trees superimposed over each other and implying depth.
Once slotted together, and the fit is generous, the trio provide the illusion at LOS level of a dense forest scape.
Construction is easy and no fuss. There is no chance of failing to figure out how the pieces go together.
On the table
Here are a few shots that show how the trees look at LOS with some 28mm figures. At this eye line the view of a forest works well. It makes a pleasant change from the conscious trick that we play usually where we agree that that abstract area represents a forest with all that it implies. Here LOS of sight is direct, true and realistic.
From above we have easy access to the figures to move them around. How often have you had to move the tree to move the figure, apologising that the model tree was an abstract rather than literal representation?
The artistic representation itself what I would describe as ‘cartoony’. There are a limited number of colours and the lines are bold with limited shading. The colour choice suggests depth, however, and one is given the pleasing impression of a forest rather than a bunch of trees. Overall, the rational choice of colours and shading is enough to convey the artistic impression of a great depth of trees at eye level. It’s not a photograph, but it gets the message across.
I like the whole notion of representing a forest at LOS level while still giving easy access to move the figure.
I like the price. I bought my sample set from Mind Games for $15, and I know I can get them cheaper from MilSims. But at $5 a stand of forest it compares favourably with the $46 for a single GW wood stand. But…
Here, ultimately, is the artistic difference. Personally I model because I like to play with toy soldiers. As such, this offering from Bold Frontiers is beautiful as it is low effort and is an abstract representation. However, if I were a more literal modeller I would be disappointed because they are, after all, two dimensional presentations and not all all as beautiful as a fully rendered tree.
This is taste rather than a con, of course, as Bold Frontiers have produced a sound product at a sensible price that fulfils a need. I found no reason to accuse them of false representation: the packaging is transparent and the product offering is clear.
I dropped an email to Chris asking after his plans. He was prompt, and friendly, and gave me the impression of a bold artistic vision heading into the future. For me, this is a strong endorsement. Personally I like the idea and I like the product, and I will be using them in future.
Chris tells me that a website will be up soon where the expanding range can be viewed. I know that he has three sets out, and there may be more. Drop him a line at email@example.com for more information.
I started a set of modular hills ages ago but sadly painted them in an ugly set of earthy colours. As a result I was too ashamed to ever put them on the table. Repainting Alan’s desert table gave me the inspiration to retask those hills and finish the planned set in the same colours.
Here are a few shots demonstrating some of the ways they can be put together. One, you will see, even has some trench works imbedded to represent just a part of a siege, if needed. Otherwise I can slap another piece on top to cover of it.
Each piece is measured to fit together and so make larger pieces.
The shapes are cheap foam cut with a hot wire cutter, backed with recycled cardboard from boxes, and then textured with polyfilla, or plaster of paris (depending on when done). The base colour was a creamy sand, with a partially mixed wash of Red Oxide and a final dry brush of the sand mixed up with white. The most time consuming part was waiting for the paint to dry.
I’m pleased with the results and can now move on to feature pieces such as buildings, mine works and whatever else comes to mind.