Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Backing into a new major terrain project...?

Can you see the two different color mats? I could...and it annoyed me...!
 One thing I haven't been overly happy with about my terrain setup for conventions is my ground cloth. I've had a 6'x4' Hotz gaming mat for about a year. I have another semi-flocked mat I picked up a couple years back. I also bought an odd size flocked paper mat on clearance from Hobby Lobby last summer. The problem is the three look nothing like each other. So, when I run my 12' of table for my "Ohio Frontier Aflame" scenario, it looks kind of hodge-podge. I know, I know, I am being picky. When convention goers come up to you at a con and praise your layout, it can be all that bad. So, for the past year or so I've been content.

With the playtest of the Beaver Wars going on, I foresee a need for more than one 3'x3' gaming area to slap down quickly. My first thought was to just simply buy some felt and cut it to that size. Idly, I wondered how easy or difficult it would be to flock the felt. I'd love to start with an earth red color and then put Woodland Scenics flocking on top of it (like my figure bases. I start reading various forums and blogs until I hit upon a suggestion on The Miniatures Page. One gamer recommended flocking the mat first and then sealing it down by spraying a 50/50 mix of Acrylic Matte Medium and water. I thought, "Hmmm..." What's more, my Song of Drums and Tomahawks games use a 3' deep board. The Ohio Frontier Aflame scenario divides the table into 3'x3' sections. With matching flocked felt sections, I wouldn't need to use rivers or rows of trees or stuff to divide one scenario from the other. Players would be able to clearly see where one mat left off and the other started.

I should have known I would be hooked when I stopped by JoAnn Fabrics and found a perfect medium brown felt with just the slightest reddish tint to it. It was 72" wide (actually, it turned out to be quite a bit wider), so I would need only about 3 yards of it. With my internet coupon, I walked out down only $10. I cut out one 3'x3' area and then looked around for a way to flock it without having to go out to the freezing cold garage. With a couple old table cloths, some unused MDF board, and my 6' wide coffee table, I created an indoor space to try out my experiment. The article recommend using a sifter of some sort for the flocking so you can control how thick you want to put it down. My problem is the only sifter I owned had too wide of holes, so the flocking poured through there quicker than I'd hoped. I wanted to be more gradual and sprinkle it here and there more like an airbrush does on a canvas. Still, from above, the irregular, mottled nature of the green on brown looks good and realistic.
The first test 3'x3' ground cloth spread out on some chairs after it dried. It looks less like desert terrain in person, and much more like Woodland terrain it will hopefully do a good job of representing!
I mixed up a batch of Acrylic Matte Medium I had left over into an old spray bottle I had. My spray bottle was on its last leg, so squirting the matte medium on there was a bit of a pain. I did it in about 18" square patches, as the article recommended. Honestly, I think you could do the whole thing all at one go if you have a big enough area. It was looking good, but it did not feel like the flocking was sticking all that well. I let it dry overnight, and was much more pleased with how it was sticking. I also picked up a brand new spray bottle on the way home from work to spray the second coat. MUCH better and smoother. Oh, and I also picked up another jar of the matte medium. This set me back another $20. Another container of Woodland Scenics blended turn set me back another $10. I was up to $40, but this should produce six 3'x3' gaming mats. Hopefully, my big jar of matte medium will last through all six, along with the fresh jar of flocking. We shall see.

I'm pretty happy with how it looks, and I'm sure I'll be happier once my terrain is set down atop it. Not only will I be able to plop them down easily for Song of Drums and Tomahawks games, they will look even better all lined up together for my Ohio Frontier Aflame game.

So, looks like I have another five mats to flock and spray seal...

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