Saturday, June 27, 2020

Bogs or Fens Done Inexpensively

My 28mm Dark Ages Irish thread their way through my new bog pieces I created for Saga games
 One of the terrain pieces I have not made in years -- since my early days as a DBA Ancients player -- are bogs (or marshes or fens, if you prefer). They are listed as an eligible type of terrain to deploy on the battlefield for games of Saga, so I figured I should probably make some pieces I can use for them one day. This past Winter while shopping at Hobby Lobby, I saw plastic pieces that I thought might work for them.
The inspiration - rippled plastic sheets - two for $3.99 (don't forget to use your free online 40% off coupon!)
They are from JTT Scenery Products Embossed Pattern Sheet line (#97481 Still Water = $3.99). Each pack comes with two 7.5"x5.5" (19cmx14cm) sheets which are clear with a rippled pattern on their surface. I figured that I could either paint the bottom surface of them or find something to glue underneath them that looked like stagnant water. A few weeks ago when I was looking for accessories for my kiosks, I saw in Hobby Lobby's printed paper lines crinkled paper with a mottled green surface. I thought it would look perfect for the underside of the plastic sheet, so picked up two of them (about $1 each). When I got home, I checked, and yes -- I thought they definitely looked like swampy water with the rippled sheet place over them.
The plastic has been cut and snapped into an irregular shape, which is placed over the paper and traced to match
I bought a second set of the sheets, and proceeded to make my bogs. I had to do them one at a time because of the need to keep them from warping (see below). I supposed I could have glued the plastic sheet to thick enough styrene and I would not have had to worry about it. I was running low on styrene, though, so decided to see if just the paper and sheet would make it sturdy enough. The first step was to score the sheet deeply in an irregular pattern with a sharp box cutter knife. Being plastic, it then snapped fairly easily along its score lines.
Paint the surface of the crinkled printed paper with white glue to join the plastic to the paper
Next, I placed the sheet atop the paper and traced along its edge with a ballpoint pen. I cut the shape out going just slightly inside the lines to keep the paper from extending out underneath the sheet. I lined up the paper and sheet with their identical cuts. Then I painted one white (PVA) glue onto the surface of the crinkled paper. I didn't soak the paper -- just enough to allow it to bound with the plastic sheet.
The first of a number of "tamp downs" -- heavy weight placed on the plastic to affix it to the paper (& prevent warping)
The next step would be repeated several times at each stage of the process. I placed heavy objects -- in my case large 8 oz. bottles of craft paint -- on top of the plastic to "tamp down" the plastic onto the paper. I let it dry several hours. I was pleased the white glue dried clear and you couldn't see any signs of it underneath the rippled plastic or on the mottled surface of the paper.
I had earlier Googled images of bogs and fens and found one that I wanted to try to duplicate. It would have numerous pools separated by strands of marshy land or thick vegetation. I wanted the vegetation to be built up a bit above the surface of the rippled plastic, though. So, I took a bottle of white glue and squeezed out a thick line of it around the perimeter of the piece. Holding the piece over a bin, I poured Woodland Scenics Fine Brown Ballast over the glue with a spoon. The excess was dumped off, and then I place the piece on my cutting board. I squeezed out more white glue for the pattern of solid land dividing the piece into 5-6 pools. Ballast was poured over the white glue and I had my irregular outline, with some pools being larger than others.
A Google image of a fen or bog - I went with green rather than blue water to make it murkier and more swamplike
I flipped the craft paint bottles upside down and placed them back on top of the plastic sheet, tamping it down while the glue dried. I hoped this would prevent warping, which it did fairly well. So, if you do this, make sure your pools are wide enough that your heavy objects will rest upon just them and not extend into the glue and flocking.
Now to add the "solid ground" -- white glue squeezed out onto the surface then covered in fine brown ballast
After the second tamp down, it was time to repeat the process with green grass over the ballast. For the first time, I used 100% white glue and completely covered the ballast. However, the Woodland Scenics Blended Green Turf soaked up the glue and stayed fairly soupy looking. Yes, I know it is supposed to be a bog and waterlogged, but I didn't like the look as much. For the next three bogs, I painted the ballast with a 50/50 mixture of white glue and water instead. I found the turf attached to this mixture just as well, and it provided the look I was hoping for when I planned it. Once again, the piece was tamped down with the heavy paint bottles to keep it from warping.
Yep, another tamp down! Note how I sized my pools to fit the reversed bottles of paint
The final stage was to add pieces of Woodland Scenics clump foliage spaced out irregularly along the "solid" ground. I also added a few flower tufts in there for color. And finally, I glued one marshy looking clump of grass directly onto the rippled surface of the ponds. This would represent vegetation sprouting up out of the bogs. The weights were place back atop the piece again. Maybe I was being paranoid about warping, but I did notice on earlier pieces that it could happen.
Blended green turf and clump foliage has been added (but not the tufts, yet)
Once these were dry, I did what I called the Final Tampdown. This was simply painting the whole flocking, clumps, and flower portions of the piece with 50/50 white glue and water one final time. The paint bottles were put atop the plastic ponds again for the final time and it was left to dry overnight. I should state that I NEVER sprayed a clear coat on the bogs. I worried that this may "frost" the clear surface of the plastic.
Here is my fourth bog getting its "final tampdown" - yes, I was humming the Europe song while I did this!
I was very happy with the result. I now have four bogs, roughly 5"x7", to use for Saga games or whatever. I like how the rippled surface reflects the light of the room in a dappled pattern. I like how the murky green paper looks like stagnant water, and gives a feeling of depth to the ponds. And I like the three dimensional nature of the clumps and the color of the flowers.  I have included a couple photos of my 28mm Dark Ages Irish in and among the bogs to give you an idea of their scale.
My Dark Ages Irish slosh through the fens on their way to attack an enemy


  1. Nice work, they came out great. Swampy ponds are one scenery item I have not yet made.

  2. Very good result and a good enough explanation of your process that I may steal your idea on my next visit to the craft store.