Creating Battlefield Terrain #1

After reading through the Long Rifles rules – several times! – and believing I have a good outline notion of how they work etc, my plan is changed.  I will use the “Campaign” rules in Long Rifle to start a series of learning games.  There is an interesting method of determining what the battlefield terrain will be; that is, what you need on the table top.  Naturally, it involves dice and tables!  I’ll set out here what I did last night in preparation for building tabletop terrain so you can “watch over my shoulder” as I go through the rules.

First, draw a square or rectangle to represent your gaming table,  divide the drawing into nine square sections – the sections may be rectangular if your table is a rectangle; that’s okay – and number the squares starting at the upper left.   My table is four feet by four feet, so each of these sections is sixteen inches by sixteen inches.  Determine the overall terrain type by rolling one six-sided die (1D6); a 1 or 2 result gives a Clear type, a 3 gives Hilly, and a 4 – 6 gives Wooded.  Next roll 2D6 to determine the terrain type of each of the nine squares, consulting another table and rolling for each square in number order.  My results were as follows:  Clear, Wooded Hill, Wooded Hill, Wooded Hill, Woods, Woods, Clear, Woods and Clear.  These terrain types are specifically defined in the rules and I’ll get to those in a bit, as they have implications for how the terrain should be constructed.  Once you’ve got that, then leave the terrain in Square #5 (the one exactly in the middle of the nine squares) where it is and move the others around to suit your idea of how the terrain ought to look, but the squares of a terrain type have to be adjacent to the others of the same type.  I re-arranged mine to Woods, Wooded Hill, Wooded Hill, Clear Woods, Wooded Hill, Clear, Clear and Woods.  (Here I can see one implication of this system already:  I need to use a painting program to draw the battlefield terrain squares so I can show them on the blog and (more importantly) so I can save each battlefield arrangement as it is created for the “real” Campaign.  Why?  Because in a campaign, you may very well be travelling over the same terrain over and over in the course of your adventures and fights and you need a way to have the plan of each battlefield available so you can easily set it up if you need it again.)  Now you have the terrain plan for this battlefield and we’ll consider building the terrain next.

To start, let’s see what I need to build for this first battlefield in the test Campaign.  Three 16 inch squares of Clear Terrain.  “Clear” is defined as open and providing no cover for figures moving through it.  Nothing is said about concealment … I’ll assume for now that neither cover nor concealment is provided in Clear terrain.  So, flat, open, maybe with a couple of trees and a clump of bushes or two for decoration.  Easy to build as it only takes – say – two 3″ – 4″ trees and one clump of whatever you use to make “brush”.  I have a green-colored sheet that covers the table and that will do for the ground color/ground cover.  Next?  Three 16 inch squares of Wood Terrain.  “Woods” are defined as dense woods which affect movement and visibility within them.  Figures within one inch of the edge can see and be seen, outside of the wooded terrain.  Wagons can only move along a Road in Woods.  Visibility is reduced to 12 inches during day and 6 inches during night or inclement weather.  Moving figures are counted as being concealed within the woods and stationary figures are counted as in cover and concealed within the woods.  This sounds like the old-growth forest, with the ancient elm and oak towering up a hundred or more feet to create a canopy that deprives the undergrowth enough light to cover the ground entirely (but allows some).  Okay.  How to build?  It needs an identifiable “edge”, it will needs large tall trees and some smaller bushes than Clear … also, so I don’t have to make up yet another terrain type, Hills may have Woods on them, so the Woods need to be on a flexible base, with Trees that are on flat bases and moveable – ditto for the bushes.  Sounds like a 16 inch piece of cloth – Army blanket maybe, cut to size, it has the right color and texture – in a darker green color than the ground cover, with six to eight Trees.  Trees need to be as big around as the figures or bigger and about six inches or more in height.  Let me calculate a bit … 28 mm figure equals five foot, nine-inch man.   If I did the ratio calculations correctly, that means a model tree some 48+ centimeters high …. well, no.  Let’s say six to eight inches in height, with a nice “canopy” of spread branches and thick leaf cover on the top.  Separate bases, to allow for flexible placement within the Woods, and sturdy enough so they won’t easily tip over.  Sounds like four to six-inch balsa wood squares with the edges sanded to taper into the Woods ground cover (the Army blanket; remember) and the base painted to match the Army blanket.  Large tall trees means using twists of wire covered with Sculpy or paper mache and painted.  Okay.  That gives a start on the Woods.  “Wooded Hills” are Hills with Woods.  (I know:  “Duh”.)  More specifically, they are defined as being a gentle elevation (I interpret that as being a slope of 1:6 – H:L – or greater) with a crest, ridge line or high point in the middle of it.  If we take 1:6 as the steepest grade allowed, that gives us a minimum of a four-inch flat area for the “crest, ridge line or high point” at the top.  (Math:  1 inch in height requires a slope that is 6 inches long all around it.  Six plus six (all sides) equals 12; 16 (section size) minus 12 (slope) equals four inches left for the top.)  I happen to have several new four-foot by eight-foot by two-inch sheets of blue insulation foam, including one that is already cut up.  Using patience, some sharp tools, and sandpaper, carve some of those pieces into Hills that meet the specifications, including some Ridges, some Crests and some Hill Tops.  Don’t paint or anything, just sand them smooth.  Be sure to wear a mask to prevent breathing any tiny particles of the foam, but save the “bits and pieces” as they can be used to make rocks for rocky stream beds and things like that, particularly when you have to make something that is a special terrain piece for the Campaign.  So, take the ground cover sheet off of the table.  On the exposed base, using masking tape, mark out the 16 inch terrain sections, then figure out where the Hills ought to be.  If the Story of the Campaign requires a “saddle between two Hills” then position two Hill Sections to create the saddle.  Using T-pins, pin the Hills to the table base which is a 4′ x 4′ piece of that same blue insulation – or, use double-faced carpet tape or masking tape rolled into a loop – to hold the hills in place.  Then replace the ground cover sheet and where necessary, use more T-pins (painted to match the ground cover where possible) to secure the ground cover sheet in place.  Position the Trees and Bushes, using T-pins or carpet tape as required (paint will cover the tape and pins), and you have a Wooded Hill.

I’m going to start building the terrain for this first Battlefield and as I do, I’ll take pictures and when each different Terrain Type Section is finished, I’ll post about building it and provide photos.  Finish this week?  I don’t think so, because I still have to move my computer not to mention grocery shopping and all those everyday domestic chores.  But, I’ll see what I can accomplish.  More later.

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