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In this post I am going to show you how I made some terrain pieces, in particular I am going to show you my 15mm river sections.

First, a bit of background into how I got into 15mm wargaming, and terrain making in general, you can skip past this bit if you like!

Over the past year or so I have started to play a 15mm wargame called "Flames of War" by Battlefront miniatures, I am a veteran wargamer of many wargames systems, but the most popular being Those produced by Games Workshop.

My love for Flames of war started when I saw a FoW gaming table for the first time, to be honest, it wasn't even a particularly good example of a historical wargames table, but compared to what I was used to, it was amazing.

Usually with your average game of 40k, the table will be a 6' x 4' board, painted either green or grey with textured paint, then a few buildings and or hills placed on it, and the coverage will be about 10-20%. For these types of game thats enough, you can get more but it can slow down the game and over complicate it, and the size of the figures means you wouldn't be able to realisically play the game with a heavily kitted out board anyway.

This used to be enough to keep my interest, but then after seeing the FoW table, I knew I wanted to give this game system a chance.

So I got a copy of the rules, and bought a boxed set and set about learning the rules (badly), along with a few other people at my local gaming club we came to fall in love with Flames of War.

For most of the people they fell in love with the system, or just found it it a nice refreshing change from the 40k tables we were so used to.

For me though, the main draw was the terrain.

The difference between the GW produced books and the FoW books is that in the GW ones, the terrain all looks fantastic, but you can look at it, and its ALL made from GW products, and it would litterally cost thousands of pounds to play on tables like that buying at consumer prices. Of course you could make your own, some of the best terrain makers still use pringles tubes and yougert  pots to make terrain, but the best results always come from the modular building kits they produce, they are fantastic they fit the "fluff", but the price means that anyone but the most wealthy has to make do with using only a couple of these buildings, or, worse, playing on a "snooker" table. However in the FoW books, the tables rarely have photos of battlefront products being used as terrain pieces, and for the most part, all of the terrain pieces look very simple to make.

Obviously they still lavish time and attention (and money) on these boards to make them the best they can for the books they produce, but they LOOK acheivable, which is what first got me thinking.

After a while we started to realise that we could play with unpainted figures (although some refused to, but thats a whole different argument), but we couldn't play without terrain. So I decided that I would have a go at modelling some terrain, I started off with hedges, and moved on to some other things like roads, cornfields and train tracks. All of which I have either already blogged about, or will blog about very soon.

My latest project has been a river. As I have the British paratroopers, I decided that I would buy the "pegasus bridge" model, an obvious choice for fans of the paras in world war two (well, airlanding, ox and bucks regiment anyway), but I had no river to put under it! So, I decided that I would give myself an excuse to field my bridge, and make some river sections.

As I play 15mm wargames at various clubs, and play different scenarios each week, as well as not having a place to perminently play at home, I have to make my terrain "modular",  that meaning I don't make one 6' river section to lay across a 6' board, I make lots of little sections, that can be rearanged however I like, that make up a 6' river. This way, I get to make a variety of layouts from one set of pieces, and, I can expand the set by making more pieces, as well as having the ability to pack it away into a box (or four boxes as my terrain collection keeps expanding!!)

Here is how I made my river.

 Firstly, I'll tell you what I used.

  • Plasticard (Purchased from Modelzone in A4 sheets, for £2 each, I used about 4-5)
  • Woodland scenics realistic water (also purchased from Modelzone 1 bag at £9.75)
  • Games Workshop Scorched earth Static grass (around £4)*
  • Games Workshop modelling sand (around £4)*
  • ready mix pollyfiller (£1 for a pot, used 1.5 pots, from poundland)*
  • Woodland scenics small boulder mould and some resin plaster (I'm not going to include the price of these, as these were used as a test, small stones from the garden/beach would do exactly the same job, for free)
  • "Java bean" tester pot of paint from Wilkinsons (cost £1 a tub, used about a quarter of one) *
  • Deneb stone (gw), graveyard earth (gw), necron abyss (gw) chaos black (gw), mordian blue (gw), dark/royal blue (vallejo)*
*these items are always part of my toolkit/terrain/modelling equipment, so I wouldn't really add them into the cost of the project, also they last far longer than the project the paints especially will last for a very long time, and the amount of painting in this project is quite small considering the scale of the project.
I started by drawing out on paper the size which I thought would work for the river, I decided on 85mm width for the whole piece. This would give a bank on either side (which would also contain the water after it is poured in), and then the river in the middle section. I made the river slightly wider than the shortest side of a FoW infantry base (the base is 30mm long), that way I can comftably stand a base inside the river if needs be.
 Once I worked out how wide it would be, I constructed my "high tech" measuring device to keep the width of my river constant. This consisted of taking some scraps of plastic, and taping them to two mechanical pencils where the nibs were measured to be exactly 85mm apart. Obviously they didnt need to be exact, but I thought that this guide would be the best thing to work from.
This worked well, and I drew out the lengths of river I needed onto each A4 sheet, unfortunatly, this width meant that there was a lot of width on each sheet, I tried to be as economical as I could, and the "waste" isn't really waste, I can always find uses for it in other projects.
I managed roughly to get two lengths (12'' long) out of each sheet, then one sheet was made nto smaller sections of curves, and another sheet was the Y shaped join where the river splits/joins.
This was in total four sheets, but I plan to make another sheet worth of smaller sections to give myself a bit of breathing room for layouts, so all told eventually it will be about sheets to complete the project.
The first section I did was a test section, I'll show  you how this played out, then what I learned from it, then continue. Basically, the first section was just a straight (there were two of these), I know rivers are rarely this straight and clearly defined, but it was a test piece, so I needed it as simple as possible, and, I  wanted it to create as little waste as possible.
I forgot to take photos of this section as I was making it, so you'll just have to believe me when I say that I cut the plasticard (with a scalpel blade),
I scored the plastic as much as I could (see my bunker tutorial HERE to see how exactly I did that) , Then i slapped the pollyfiller on the base quite liberally and shaped it into the shape you see in the photo above, after that I set into it the rocks (thepollyfiller held them in place a treat!) make sure you put some polly filler in the centre section, this acts as the river bed and gives it some depth and interest. After that I waited for it to dry. Then I applied PVA glue to the edges and then scattered on the modelling sand. After this was dry I then painted the whole thing black.
When this had dried, I then painted the inside of the river section blue, Its not as bright as this in reality, but I'm using my point and shot camera for this tutorial, so the picture quality isn't brilliant (although its very convenient!)
As you can see, I haven't been exteremly neat here, but its fine, the beauty of terrain is that you don't have to be really neat for most of it. there are some places you do, and I'm not saying i'm slacking here, but there is no point in spending hours carefully painting the edge of the river, thats going to be covered by static grass pretty soon.
The banks were painted with Wilkinsons "Java Bean" tester pot paint, I should probably just buy a tin of this stuff and be done with it, but for now the tester pots are doing just fine. They are mega cheap, and are a great base coat brown colour for terrain pieces and bases, I would never use these on a mini, but they are brilliant for terrain!
The next step was to give the river some depth. As I had painted it bright blue it looked a little bright, so I darkened this down by using mordian blue, this was concentrated on the edges (no point doing the middle), but leaving a bit of the bright blue showing right at the edge.
Then in the centre, I painted a thick strip of necron abyss, this gives the perception that its deeper in the middle than it really is. Once these were dry, I did a very light drybrush on the raised areas with white. This  gives everything a nice highlight, and makes you think the water is moving. This is the reason we put some polyfiller in the centre section earlier.
The stones were painted in vallejo German Grey, then they were drybrushed with Codex grey (gw).
Here is where we hit the first stumbling block! I'm planning to pour the water into the centre section, but with the current layout, it will just pour out the edges, so, What we have to do is take some plastic (i used the clear stuff that usually comes in a battlefront boxed set), cut to size then PVA it to the edge. Now I know you are thinking "well thats pretty obvious, how did you forget that? idiot", well, I hadn't actually forgot it, I was always planning to put it on at this stage. However, I didn't think that I had rounded off the corners of the banks, so there was still places for the water to run out the sides. Never mind, it's a test piece for a reason! I managed to salvage the piece by leaning the plastic in as far as possible, instead of it sitting up straight. Then I was really careful when I pored in the scenic water!
Here is a photo of what the scenic water looks like when it comes in its packet. As you can see, its in lots of beads, you just simply heat these in a pan and then pour the liquid out. A word of warning here, I bought a pan from the pound shop. Yup, thats right, I got a "milk" pan for a £1. bargain, worth it though, cos this stuff doesn't come off the side of the pan, and I didn't want to pour it down the sink, so other than continued use of scenic water in this pan, its pretty much ruined. DO NOT, use your mother/wife's best pan. I guarentee she will kill you.
here is what it looks like melted.
I used some coffee stirrers to stir this while i heated it, no idea what heat you are supposed to heat it on, but I just put the thing up as high as it would go and with some stirring it all melted in a couple of minutes. Didn't have any kind of toxic smells or fumes come off either, which I was quite impressed about. This stuff (obviously) gets really HOT though, so I wouldn't advise letting kids do this. I'm 25, and I still had visions of my tripping and covering myself in this stuff. Luckily that didn't happen.
This picture was mid pour, probably a stupid idea, as it was bloody hot. but, I think you get the idea, I just heated the stuff, then poured it straight in. It's that easy.
there is a slight yellow tinge to this stuff, which I was initially quite apprehensive about, however after it dried it was all clear. Which is nice. I promise I haven't just shown you a picture of me pouring my own heated piss onto my terrain! its the scenic water! honest!
I was really happy with how this turned out, it only takes a fw minutes to dry (but it stays hot for ages)
as its very clear, you don''t really get the full effect in the photos, but from this close up I hope you can see that it looks pretty good!

As You can tell from this next picture, I have added some static grass to the river banks
The picture was taken straight after the grass was applied (I'm taking these photos as I go), so it still shows some wet PVA glue through the grass. it darkens down once the glue dries and goes clear.
This is where I hit my second problem. The plasticard and the pollyfiller are quite flexible, as is the scenic water, the water gripped the pollyfiller and contracted as it dried, which pulled the edges of the piece up over, which gave a horrible bend in the middle.This then snapped under its own weight, and laid flat again. This sounds like it was curling loads, but really it was only about 5mm off the desk on each end, the only thing to snap was the scenic water, which on this piece now has a line which runs over it, you can just about see it in the photo above, its just next to the middle boulder.I fixed this problem in the rest of the pieces, which all had no problems what so ever. I fixed it by using wooden lolly sticks underneath the banks. these had three effects, the first reinforced the plasticard so it didn't warp when the water dried, the second was that I used less pollyfiller, which in turn meant that the pieces weigh less. I should have thought about this when I first did it, but it slipped my mind.
So, after this piece was complete, I went ahead and cut out the rest of the bits and got going with the mass production of the rest of hte pieces!!
Lolly sticks

Lolly sticks on base

plastic edging

plastic edging

  after the first piece, I remembered to put in the plastic edging first! that way I get a nice neat flush edge for all my pieces to but up against each other. This was stuck on with mega cheap super glue. it only needs to stay on until the water is set, then I pull it off.    
pollyfillered and rocked

pollyfillered and rocked

this is how it looks once its ready to be painted.
sprayed black
sprayed black
Had an old tin of black spray paint, which is what I used to spray these guys with, for miniatures I usually use my airbrush, but for terrain, I'm using up my old stock of "pre airbrush" spray paints.
this is the "Y" section, shows the highlighting very well of the banks before they are flocked (the flocking is the last stage)
All of these sections were made in the same way as I described in the top section, only I added the wood lolly sticks underneath first, and stuck the plastic to the edges before I polly fillered them, that was the only differences.
painted and water applied
painted and water applied
painted the inside of the river, and then after the water was applied.All of the water in all of the sections were done at the same time (other than the test piece)
The method I used this time (i.e. putting the plastic stopper on the end first) worked very well, I had just enough water for the sections I had made, which will cover  a 6' table.
finished Y piece

finished Y piece

most of the completed sections and some of the crap on my desk

most of the completed sections and some of the crap on my desk

finished bend

finished bend

Hope you have enjoyed this post/tutorial, please feel free to comment and tell me what you think! (i'm a comment whore! :P)I shall be posting more terrain articles very soon.

3 Responses

  1. Ralf

    Yes! Thank you. I know you published this a couple of years ago, but I’m looking to make some river sections for wargaming (15/18mm 19th Century) and found your blog by googling ’15mm river…’ to which the computer helpfully added ‘…sections’. Will certainly follow your instructions, they look excellent. Will also take your advice about the Pound Shop Pan – my wife would, indeed, ‘kill me’ if I used one of the cooking ones! Happy wargaming (I’ve been doing it for about 40 years and it hasn’t done me any harm). Best wishes, Ralf

  2. Chris

    Hi Ralf!

    Glad google got you here and you enjoyed my article!

    Would love to see some photos of your river sections once they are finished!


  3. James

    Awesome thanks so much for posting this up. My son and I were looking at the water stuff tonight at our hobby shop but wanted to Google it first to see just how hard it was going to be. You make it look really easy. Were not using plasticard instead going to try very thin cordite board I have laying around. Everything else were going to follow your lead. Using it for Flames of War and hope it turns out as good as yours.


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