Winter is coming all over your table

Winter around here is usually cold, damp and unpleasant. Who wouldn’t want to model that?


So new you can still see the masking tape

A couple of weeks ago I was browsing through Wargames: Soldiers and Strategy  (specifically issue 69) at my local bookstore. My attention was caught by the article ‘A quest for the ultimate flexible gaming mat – the philosopher’s portable battlefield’. The article showed how to make a durable, roll up gaming mat in whatever manner you desired, something which would perfect for a small apartment.

A week later, I went back for it, but it was gone, which is typical.

Instead of lamenting my infirmity of purpose, I used the google to find the inevitable precursor of the article. Rather than reiterate here, you can read it yourself!

I have always wanted to have some winter terrain, but it seemed like it would be a giant pain to make. Not the Swiss Alps fluffy snow terrain, but real winter terrain; disgusting sleet, patches of snow, bits of ice, etc.

However, according to the article, project like this wouldn’t take very long, especially because I was only covering an area 75cm by 75cm. What could possibly go wrong? Much to my surprise, nothing of consequence.

From start to finish, the procedure went like this:

  1.  Have coffee in the morning, decide what to do.
  2.  Hey, let’s make a mat!
  3. Figure out I want winter time. Go to hobby store and buy some GW snow flock and dead grass (it’s all they had). Find out later I already had snow flock.
  4. Get groceries for dinner, stop at hardware store. “Excuse me, I’m looking for caulk. Can you show me some latex caulk? I don’t want silicone caulk.” Good times. Also a drop cloth. Don’t want to make a mess, after all.
  5. Go to the art supply store next door, pick up cheapass paints from their bargain bin.
  6. Find some sand in the car trunk that I use in case I get stuck in the snow. Note to self — get more sand.
  7. Follow procedure found on the internets.

According to the article, I really only needed some dirt coloured paint, and appropriate flock. That meant:

  • Dead grass
  • Other colour of dead grass
  • Dirt colour
  • Green colours
  • Snow
  • Gravel

Once I applied the slather, then I had to artistically apply the rest. That more or less sums it up. I had a few changes though.

I didn’t screw my mat to the table. That would have ruined our table, and made me and my wife very unhappy. What I did was cover the table with the drop cloth, put a piece of canvas (also from the art supply store) over the plastic, then taped the whole thing down with masking tape. It held relatively well, except near the parts where I did a bad taping job.

Next time I may put the drop cloth on the floor, as I did manage to kick over a jar of thinned glue.

Like the article says, applying the flock makes a mess. It made even more of a mess because I couldn’t find the strainer I normally use to apply it. Well, I did find it, then I put it down and was unable to find it again. Which is completely bizarre, because even after cleaning up everything, I still couldn’t find it. I think it went to lost sock land.

To actually apply the flock artfully took about an hour and half or so, and that was mostly artistic decision making.

I also didn’t shake off most of the flock. Instead, I used the model railroader’s trick of applying flock, then soaking it with white glue (or, in this case, thinned acrylic matte medium) to seal it in even further.

To make the wet/icy mud, I painted the wet areas a slightly darker brown colour, and then afterwards applied some Future floor polish to make it shiny.

The whole procedure worked surprisingly well. Initially, I was skeptical because I thought it looked unnatural. Then I placed some buildings on it, and it magically transformed itself into a grim winter landscape. And by winter I mean early winter or early spring. Or winter in a place that doesn’t get six metres of snow.

The only thing missing was winter deciduous trees. As I had spent very little time to this point actually making the terrain, I didn’t want to burden myself painstakingly making wire armatures for trees. Instead, I had a wander around the neighbourhood, and found that dried up hydrangea heads (trimmed to the appropriate size, of course) make reasonable winter trees.

I slapped together fourteen trees in less than an hour using this simple procedure.

  1. Find some washers
  2. Cut some cardboard to cover the hole in the washer
  3. Poke a hole in the cardboard
  4. Shove the tree into the hole and stick in place with super glue
  5. Super glue the cardboard onto the washer
  6. Follow the same procedure as making the mat for texturing the base (in this case, I used gesso instead of caulk, but the idea is identical).

I feel the bleakness speaks for itself.


Whoever thought hydrangeas could be so depressing.


Winter’s cheerful embrace.

The whole thing took about 4 hours of work from start to finish (plus a night or two of drying time). It was shockingly easy, and looks far more convincing than my modular boards. It can also roll up smaller, and I can use books for variety of gently sloped hills. Or, perhaps, the modular hills that I built.

I’ve already bought some more canvas.


One Comment

  • Sarah the Axe Maiden wrote:

    Sugoi! Paul, these are beautiful… in their freezing depiction of Winter desolation. Ha! Which is to say beauty is relative. Excellent use of hydrangeas.

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