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Building Attractive Wargame Terrain

One of the reasons we game with miniatures instead of (or in addition to) computer and board games is the visual appeal of the gaming table and well painted figures. Fire and Fury Games' founder, Rich Hasenauer, is a graphic artist in "real life" and he uses his artist's eye to create attractive terrain for tabletop battles using relatively simple techniques. Here are some photos from a recent gaming session held at Dave Choat's house where we fought a two-table battle of a German assault on a Russian position. The pictures below show some of the techniques Rich uses to create an attractive tabletop and then we have some photos of the battle in progress.
Click on the Thumbnail for a full-size photo Description
Bare Tables
In the Beginning...
You need to start with a solid gaming surface. Dave provided us with some sawhorses to support some building material.
Blanket Covering
Base Terrain
The first step in building an attractive table is to provide a base covering to cover up the bare surface. This provides a general ground cover of the proper hue. Rich is partial to blankets, not only because they give a uniform color, but also because they conform to the hill shapes underneath them better than some stiffer materials. Here a light brown blanket simulates the sun-blasted steppes. As the covering tends to get dirty, it is best not to use blankets that are in active use as bed coverings :-) You can also use commercially wargame terrain coverings for this purpose.
Hill setup 1
Laying out the hills
Here Rich is using some cut insulation materials for his hills. He lays the hills out on top of the blanket to get the general feel for the terrain.
Hill setup 2
Setting up the hills
After figuring out where the hills will go, they are put under the blanket to make rolling terrain. We prefer to put our hills under the terrain because it the rolling terrain look more realistic.
Swamp Pattern
Swampy Material
Rich found this fabric pattern at a local fabric store. It is almost perfect for swamps (men and women go to the same stores but for different purposes :-)
Dirt Roads
Dirt Roads
We lay out tracks of railroad sand for our dirt roads. You can pick it up at the end of the gaming session with a dust buster.
Towns and Fields
Towns and Fields
Squares of courderoy are placed to simulate plowed fields. Commercially available buildings are put on top of town sector layouts.
We place model trees to deliniate wooded areas and fill in the swamps. Some RR model telephone poles add color. One good source of trees and modeling equipment is your local Railroad Hobby shop. Much of the terrain and modeling equipment they use are useful in wargaming as well.
We made some models of entrenchments to show our dug-in and entrenched positions.
Lichen Hedgerows
Lichen (also obtained at Railroad Hobby shops) is used around the edges of our fields to show hedgerows.
More Lichen
Lichen is also used to fill in the edges of the woodlines. Russian reserves lurk menacingly.
Battle Photo 1
Battle Begins
The Germans are in their jump-off positions.
Battle Photo 2
Russian Position
The Russians await the onslaught on table 1.
Battle Photo 3
Russian Position on table 2
Other Russians await the onslaught on table 2.
Battle Photo 4
Aerial view of table 2
The start of the German Assault on table 2
Battle Photo 5
Table 2 Again
Another view of the German assault on table 2.
Battle Photo 6
Table 2 Turn 2
The Germans close with the trenchline.
Battle Photo 7
Three German Tanks
A closer view of some of the assaulting Germans.
Battle Photo 8
Table 1 Crucial Moment
The initial German assault suffered a bad roll, and almost was beaten off, but the Russian SU-85s came too close and were destroyed in a sudden turnaround.
Battle Photo 9
Ferdinands stalled
On the other side the early Ferdinands were impervious to fire, but couldn't force their way through the Russian positions. At one point the Russian infantry assaulted them and had a reasonable chance of getting an "Exchange" result in close combat.
Battle Photo 10
Table 2 Breakthrough
The Germans break through on the other table.

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