I have to be honest with you, dear Readers .... the next part of the building of the Rattenkeller terrain board is pretty uninteresting. It’s a reminder that big chunks of terrain building is, well at least in my book, all about patience and doing repetitive tasks as well as you can. The overall effect is worth it in the end – you just have to tell yourself that as you start getting very, very bored!
I did find a couple of podcasts (Life After The Cover Save episode 50, The Overlords episode 101), some decent music ("Seventeen Seconds", The Cure) and a couple of DVDs (“The Guard” and “Drive”) on the portable DVD player helped a lot to keep the concentration going. Well, I know …. but it was a lot more interesting than the Jubilee concert on Monday night!
Anyway, how far did I get towards finishing?
In the end, I was reasonably pleased with progress. I could have done more, but with the kids being off school (half term) and the garden growing like wildfire, my time was a bit more limited than I’d hoped. I started with the best of intentions though, cutting out the boards for the trench sides from artist’s mounting board. I’m sure that some enterprising chap will come out with some resin cast trench revetments in the future, but until that day I employed a DIY method of card planking, ridged card representing corrugated iron and matchsticks from the craft store. As with a lot of terrain, you get into an industrial process of churning this stuff out fairly fast, although it’s pretty dull work. (Oh sorry, did I mention that before?)
One of my problems with terrain making is that once I notice a problem I try and solve it. Here it’s the problem that the insert for the intact and damaged bunker is fixed to a piece of hardboard with 3mm thickness. Without doing anything, that means that the Styrofoam in the insert sits above the level of the terrain board. In the past I had messily cut away 3mm from the height of the Styrofoam. But there was too much Styrofoam to do that on these inserts. Instead, I built up the area surrounding the inserts with 3mm thick foamboard. I got to the same result, but hopefully with a better solution.
OK, on to design philosophy... The previous pillboxes for the Passchendaele terrain boards had been solid, with troops unable to be placed within them. I did this partly for speed, but also because they were too small to allow more than a couple of figures in anyway. For the Rattenkeller bunker, I was aiming for something more substantial. I’d tested the height of the bunker for standing 28mm figures, and calculated that a detachable roof could be placed on top. I needed something to “anchor” the roof in place while we were playing. I thought about using rare earth magnets, but the pull on those is pretty strong and is over and above what I was looking for (at least at present). I settled upon simply gluing a 3mm foamboard area to the underside of the roof which fitted fairly snugly into the top of the bunker walls. This seems to do the trick of being a practical roof – easy to take on and off while not wobbling around – while also looking chunky enough to represent the reinforced concrete the Germans were using in the Siegfried Stellung fortifications in 1916 and 1917.
Next, I wanted to mark some damage into the walls of the bunker. There are quite a few photos of Siegfried Stellung bunkers which have clearly been pounded by field artillery while remaining intact. The concrete seems to have flaked away, revealing the steel lattice work underneath. The concussive impact of the bunker being hit directly was possibly enough to stun the occupants, but the material of the bunker was likely to remain intact – at least from many field artillery shells and before “pillbox-busting” heavy artillery and rail guns were deployed.
Marking the damage is simple. Chip away with a small chisel or sculpting tool and carve out a little more with a modelling knife. The much-loved Games Workshop method of melting the Styrofoam with super-glue also works, although I’m finding the same result (if not better) with just a modelling knife. (You’ll also notice that I was unhappy with the width of the apertures on the front of the bunker – so I’ve narrowed those. They should look fine once the modelling putty or Milliput is applied).
Then I added the lattice work under the shell damage. This is actually fun to do. I bought the grille from the awesome 4D Models in East London. It cuts easily and bends well. You can try the (much cheaper) wire grille for car repairs but I don’t think it looks quite as good. I also added some thicker wire and thinner wire just to make the effect slightly more chaotic. Photos form damaged bunkers are sometimes covered with a spaghetti of revealed wires – I’ll post some photos next time.
I also wanted to add some flooded areas to the rear of the bunker. Now this seemed like a good idea, but I am far less sure now. Unfortunately, it’s a bit late for me to change it as you’ll see. The contouring is foamboard, glued down with contact adhesive. I can almost see a few of you looking at the contour levels sagely and shaking your heads. Yes, I know – while there’s not a lot of contouring there, there’s more than enough to make it hard to conceal the shapes on the final model. As I always say …. making mistakes is one of the things you can’t avoid in terrain making however long you’ve been doing it. You just have to live with them and embrace them.
I ended up with this sometime on Monday evening, with the trench revetments finished and the contouring done.
Next up was the trench bases. I masked off the areas at the end of the trenches with foamboard – again this helps keep a clean edge for the insert area, and keeps the ground height of the trench and the bunker inserts (when inserted) equal and level. I also added a couple of firesteps and boxed off a couple of areas in the trenches (marked with red hatching) where I could “flood” the trench with Solid Water. The duck-boarding was easy to make from more cardboard planks glued to a strip of thin card for ease of deployment. You can glue the “planks” on individually to the trench bottom but it does take ages. Horses for courses, I guess!
Then there’s a very messy bit, which means mixing various shades of brown paint. I love the Louvre paint range for terrain painting – they’re very forgiving on brushes, mix beautifully and are a lovely creamy consistency. A little goes a long way with these paints, but you really need a medium into which they can be mixed. I use simple household matt emulsion – about £10 a tin. Simply add the emulsion to a container, mix in the Louvre paint for the right colour, then add about the same amount of PVA as you have paint and then add Polyfilla (or powdered wall filler) until the mix is like thick porridge. You know the drill by now – and if not, have a look at this earlier Blogpost which takes you through it.
I then sprinkled gravel and sand along the trenches, making sure to scrape away any excess from the insert area.
And here’s where I got to by last night. Trenches done, with the bunker to follow. You can probably see the problem with the area to the rear of the bunker – which is very uneven despite the duckboards. This might all come good in the end, but (being a worrier) it’s a concern.
Oh, and to add to all that, I’m now thinking that the bunker is, just possibly and after all, just very slightly too large even for a10ft x 6ft table. Oh Lord….terrain making – why do I do it??