Gaming on a Budget: The Silent Hedges Part 1

Well, if you thought that I was about to stop titling these posts after dated music allusions, then you were damn wrong! 

We’re coming close to the end of the tutorials related to my gaming table.  It’s been done for weeks now- on target with my hopes, so be expecting the big reveal to come any time now.  For sort of a last hurrah, I’ve saved my favorite part of the table for last- my hedgerows. 

As soon as I picked up FoW I was instantly drawn to the Bocage rules and as such knew that I was going to need to build a shitload of terrain to support them.  Seriously though, having hedgerows not only makes a fun and different gaming experience, but also makes for some seriously bad ass looking tables.  Working from the sorely lacking semi-instructions from Das Book, I plowed into the project with gusto. When I say sorely lacking, I am dead serious.  Not only were there about 20 missing steps in what is provided, but the directions would have made some of the flimsiest shitty terrain ever.  Needless to say, I made a lot of improvements of my own on the plan and will be sharing some things that I would do differently if I were starting from scratch again.

It also goes without saying that I made these hedgerows (almost 9′ worth) for pennies.  The materials used were all readily available and, with a few exceptions, dirt cheap.  Tools notwithstanding, making enough hedgerows to cover a table shouldn’t cost much more than $20 all said and done.  Not bad bang for your buck, really.

Making Templates 

As with my roads and various other parts of the table, I laid out a mockup of what my hedgerows would look like on the table.  Using a ruler I marked out and labeled 1.5″ wide pieces of hedgerow on construction paper.  I made sure to make a lot of different sizes, ranging from 1-2″ long to 8″ long and covering curves, corners, and intersections (t and x), to make sure my terrain would be as modular as possible.  These would be my blanks for making hedgerow segments and blocking out where I wanted the terrain to go. I made extra blanks as well that weren’t on the table, so that I’d have lots of extra options for creating many different hedgerow layouts on my board.

I clearly marked the ends of my paper mockups so that I could line everything up and recreate my main layout plan later.  A piece may be marked with a 1 on one end and a 2 on the other and would line up with a piece marked with a 2 and a 3, and so on. 

finished table.  Too big for one shot, but you get the idea
lining up the labeled pieces

Cutting the bases

Using my construction paper blanks, I traced my hedgerow pieces onto a piece of 1/8″ hardboard.  Since I meticulously measured all of my templates, I could trust that tracing them would leave me with perfect shapes. 

One the outlines were all traced, I used a jigsaw to cut everything out.  I have been using the same piece of shit $8 jigsaw that I got at Menard’s 5 years ago for all of my terrain projects.  Since cutting hardboard and other gaming materials isn’t particularly high impact, cheaping out on the saw has not bitten me in the ass yet.

With everything cut out, I lined them up on my board again and proceeded to label the bottoms of all my pieces as with the paper mockups, so ensure that they could line up later.  I also marked where I would put gates or other gaps later.  I made gate openings 1.5″ wide, just wide enough to accommodate most tanks.  By marking the gates while my bases were laid out in order, I could ensure that I would have an even dispersal of gate sections.

With all that out of the way, I reached for my trusty wood rasp and set about putting a slight bevel on the hardboard edges.  I only beveled the long edges, though, so that the short ones would line up better with no gaps later down the road.  This process was incredibly time consuming and absolute murder on my hands.  I think I broke this task up over about 5 30 minute sessions in the end.  Plan ahead, this will take lots of time.  As you can see I did this whole process over a garbage can.  It’s pretty messy, so this saved me a lot of cleanup time later.

I wasn’t looking for an extreme edge to these, so a few strokes with the rasp were enough to get the job done.  The picture below shows the bevel I was looking for.

beveled edge

Mixing up Some Mortar-type Stuff 

This part was super messy.  I covered my entire workspace as well as what I deemed to be a probable splatter zone with those stupid advertising papers that are delivered to my house for free.  Clap your hands if you believe in fairies like free drop cloths. 

Splatter zone protected I grabbed my axe and covered my designer suit with a clear rain slicker.  Wait, that was something different.  What actually happened next was grabbing a bag of kitty litter.  I don’t have cats myself, since they are mostly evil, so I did have to buy this, but you may have some laying around already.  Due to what we’re going to be doing later, I would advise against getting something that’s super absorbent.  For just under $2 I was able to get 10 pounds of crappy litter.  In the end, I probably didn’t even use more than 2 pounds of it either, so I’ve got lots left over to use as rocks in future projects.

making wet water

Bag o’ kitty litter in hand I went ahead and mixed up a batch of wet water.  Yeah, stupid name, but it’s a great trick for modeling.  Wet water is water mixed with something such as soap or rubbing alcohol to break the surface tension. This helps it absorb more quickly into things like spackle or plaster if you’re looking to thin those things out.  To make my wet water, I added about 1 teaspoon of dish soap to about a gallon of water. 

fisting, I mean thinning spackle

I then used an old container to thin out a batch of spackle with my wet water.  I found, through much trial and error, that 2 parts spackle to one part water was ideal. 

mixing up the mortar

To my thinned spackle I added kitty litter.  A 50/50 mix of spackle to kitty litter is about what you should be looking for.  I mixed this by hand, wearing latex gloves, and was soon ready to move to the next stuff.  Be careful to not mix up too much of this at once, it tends to dry fairly quickly and could lead to quite a bit of waste. 

Laying the Stone Foundation

Now that the mortar above was mixed, it was time to lay out the stone walls that hedgerows in Villers-Bocage were built on. 

stonewalled

The material was spread out onto the hardboard bases by hand and set aside to dry.  Covered in spackle and kitty litter as I was, I didn’t measure the height of the walls at this time, but kept a base of infantry handy for comparison.  Making the walls the height of a man is perfect for this.

Since larger trees are often found growing out of the walls of hedgerows, I was sure to bury the removable tree bases in the kitty litter mortar mixture, leaving the opening exposed to stick the tree in later. 

As my segments began drying, I noticed two huge problems:

  1. The walls were not sticking to the hardboard
  2. The walls were crazy fucking fragile- like they would crumble if you breathed on them too hard.
couldn’t get them all in the shot, but you can see I made a lot of these

Looks like thinned spackle and kitty litter aren’t the strongest building materials- who knew?  Other tutorials will tell you to brush on some more thinned spackle, but that’s pretty much pointless.  To fix both issues I had, I pulled out my trusty white glue.  Thinning it heavily (1:1), I brushed this onto my walls.  This would go on create a hard exterior, preventing crumbling, and to adhere the walls to the hardboard via the magic of capillary action.  Unfortunately it would also go on to stick newspaper to the bottom of my bases, covering up my labeling from earlier.  If I had it to do all over again, I would have gone to a thrift store and purchased some cheap backing racks to dry these on, so as to avoid the newspaper issue.

The importing thing, however, is that once this was all said and done, I had a great base to build my hedges on.

That’s it for today.  I’ll be back for part two of the hedgerows this weekend.  Until then, be sure to drop some comments here, or suffer the dire consequences.

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