Friday, March 12, 2010

My Helmand Project Part 1

(Note: to see all the posts for this project in the order they were published, click on "HELMAND PROJECT" in the CONTENTS menu on the left of the blog.)

Well here I am at the start of another project.  For those of you who have been following my blog for a while, you would remember the list of projects that I want to achieve in my lifetime and in fact, make considerable progress in 2010 included this very project.

What is the goal of My Helmand Project:
* to accumulate and build a set of 20mm (1/72) terrain and scenics to wargame current conflict in Afghanistan
* to assemble various sets of 20mm (1/72) scale miniatures to wargame the current conflicts in Afghanistan using Ambush Alley and Force on Force rules
* to build this project in a way so as to be able to move it to gaming halls and people's houses for demonstrations and participation games
* to inspire and therefore give a little back to gaming community
* to journal the entire process including lots and lots of pictures

What are the major milestones in this project?
1. Create a desert gaming table
2. Create scenics for the desert gaming table
3. Create filler for the desert gaming table
4. Create an Afghan civilian population complete with vehicles, animals and carts
5. Create a UK coalition force with a couple of vehicles
6. Create a Taliban force with a couple of vehicles
7. Create an ADF coalition force with a couple of vehicles
8. Sundry (More Taliban, US coalition force, Special Forces, Danish coalition force)

What do I envisage for the terrain and scenics?
I have been working on different ideas for terrain and scenics for years.  With all my Napoleonic gaming, I have tried creating tables out of foam, wood, felt, card, fabric, mdf and clay with and without modules and even spray painting large sheets and placing it on top of teddybear stuffing and pinning it down.  I have never been satisfied. 

So.  Recently I have had to sit myself down and decide what I do like and what I don't like and what I can realistically achieve with my limited level of creativity.  Working in 6mm can often restrict you in a lot of ways.  For example, if I were to use modules I need to ensure they are 100% square and straight and 100% in size.  Something Bunnings (local hardware store) cannot even achieve under my direction.  You end up with inconsistent sizing, shapes and gaps between portions of the modules which normally would be okay but really stand out when working in 6mm.  You also cannot pretexture the base board and add terrain pieces to it as it creates a whole bunch of shadow lines no matter how hard you try to avoid them.  A building can't just be cut out of card and assembled.  You need to get some weight into that sucker or it's going to move around as soon as someone takes a deep breath.

So. So.  Having sat myself down, picture it if you can, my conclusion was to create a painted table made up of a number of the biggest pieces of mdf I could reasonably use, that are consistent in size and shape.  For this I chose 5mm mdf cut into 2' x 2' square sections.  I then create as many scenic items as possible using 3mm mdf or 2mm plasticard, again cut to perfect size and shape and fill as much of the board as possible. Having the board untextured and only painted, means all the items will sit nice and flat and will reduce any underlying shadow mentioned above. Having tonnes and tonnes of them all mounted as "little models or dioramas" means that as they butt up against each other, they now only hide their shadows but they create a continuous and flexible grouping of scenic items.  Such items would include houses, manors, compounds, estates, churches, markets, farms, fields, rough ground, ditches, crops, hills, hedges and fences.  Each piece will butt up against each other making it into an almost singular piece of scenery.

Here are some inspiration sites that helped me out:

And in particular, this picture:

So lets get onto Phase 1.  The desert terrain board!

... to be continued ...


Donogh said...

Sounds like a plan.
Look forward to seeing this develop myself.

ScannableGoose said...

I'll be watching this like a hawk mate.
Just picked up some more brits in helmand books from QBD, and they've reminded me that I have a pile of 15mm modern brits and WMIKs sitting in the cupboard.

David said...

=> Donogh
Thanks for the comment. Hope to inspire further. Stay tuned.

=> Scannable
In the cupboard! That's a bloody outrage. Get them in the game at once. he he
Make sure you get Attack State Red by Richard Kemp. Very detailed book on the operations of a Brit battlegroup in Afghanistan. I have not read mine yet but I am itching to finish some others and get into it.