Tuesday, September 27, 2016


As I mentioned in the original post about my REGINA TRENCH! game for ToonCon 2016 I planned to keep you all up to date with the progress I was making on the terrain… well… rather then regular updates here are all the process pictures I took along the way with some commentary on what they hell I thought I was doing. Not-so-much a “how-to” but more of a peak into the mind of a madman (or maybe just an idiot...) and the silly things he gets up to  - which will hopefully provide some manner of inspiration to similarly afflicted madmen – or madwomen! - to create their own shell-holed terrainifications! (or scare off more sensible peoples)

For further inspiration I would HIGHLY recommend checking out Sidney Roundwood’s blog, click on the Trench Terrain label and bask in the glory of his magnificently beautiful miniature Great War battlefields!

The most time-consuming part of this whole process what simply cleaning up the War Room to a state where I could actually… you know… WORK on building some new terrain!

Three years ago we went through some extensive renovations to our house, during which all the stuff from the second floor was boxed up (rather haphazardly at times!) and crammed into the basement. The basement has yet to recover.

In fact that basement is rather like a Rubik’s Cube at this point. It is so full of stuff to put something somewhere requires displacing something else! So I needed to do some purging. And I did. A bit. I could do with some more. But I’ve cleared enough space that I could do some work – and some actual GAMING in the basement!

I also got to work on planning the terrain I was going to build.

I had two sort of concurrent goals with this terrain. I wanted to make the terrain that roughly represented the battlefield the Canadians fought across, but I also wanted to make it generic enough – and MODULAR – so it could be used for other things.

Not quite generic an modular enough to be used with the Vimy terrain… but…

This is kind of what I settled on for terrain – four boards roughly 2’x2’ (600mm x 600mm to be precise!)

Step One complete – a more or less clear table to work on (with more or less clear floor to move around it!)

I’d cut four 600mm x 600mm x 5m MDF boards for other terrain projects some time ago – which saved me having to go rummaging through the garage to find one of my larger sheets to cut up (or head off to the hardware store to get some more!). On these I started roughly marking out where the trenches were going to go.

The four boards from the north (German) side looking towards the Canadian jumping off line.

Setting out the Germans to see how many I’d need to defend these lines.

Setting out all the forces for a bit of a play-test on the boards – before I started actually making any of the actual terrain – to make sure it was going to work out.

There are a few more pictures of the play-test at the end of the September Challenge Part Two post.

The playtest being a success (in a way…) I started gluing up the boards – to the boards I affixed 30mm strips of  3/4” Finished Plywood. They were 30mm deep because I was using 2 layers of 15mm Extruded Polystyrene to fill them with and create the battlefield over which the miniatures would fight!

More gluing and starting to cut the polystyrene.

Now the problem I realized at this point was that it was all very good to have the trench lines drawn out nice and neatly on the boards – but how was I to transfer this to the polystyrene I needed to cut.

As luck would have it I went a rummaging through the rubbish in the basement and came out with some Staedler drafting vellum that I’ve had for… oh… 20+ years…? I used that to trace the lines I’d drawn on the boards and then – like a sewing pattern – marked those lines out in the polystyrene.

The hill was the trickiest bit – requiring steps within the trenches. Which means the WHOLE of the Vimy terrain is going to be rather tricky!

Started making shell holes by very slowly and carefully drilling through the top layer of polystyrene with various sized hole saws in my new-ish cordless drill.

Making a right big mess.

Sorry this one is out of focus (well, MORE out of focus than the rest) but it was the only one that illustrates that I was piling up heavy things on the layers of polystyrene as I glued them down in the bases. Meanwhile I was experimenting with extra bits of polystyrene and some self hardening clay-like product to creat piles of earth lifted out over the lip of the shell-holes. I didn’t end up doing this for ALL the shell holes as it got to be just too much work and I decided it looked okay with just some of them like this… 

More details of the shell holes.

The hill with its steps and stuff.

I’d really left this to the last minute – but over the last weekend I’d made a plan and I thought I’d be able to stick to it. Luckily I have a fairly flexible schedule and I was able to devote an entire week to doing pretty much nothing other than wokring on the terrain. I had gotten the battens glued up on the Saturday – before and after going out the the Saskatoon Comic and Entertainment Expo with The Boy. On Sunday I was to get all the cutting and gluing down of the Polystyrene done – which I did – I think I even started on a bit of the revetting and duck-boards Sunday evening. The plan was to complete the revetting and duckboards on Monday. Goop the whole mess on Tuesday. Make all the sandbags along the parapets on Wednesday. And have Thursday and Friday, if necessary, to finish up with the painting.

That didn’t quite work out. The making of the revetting and duckboards turned out to take a  LOT longer than I’d anticipated.

I got the two front line trenches done on Monday – but that was all…

Cutting up bits for duckboards.

I recruited The Girl to help out with the gluing of the duckboards while I worked ahead on the revetting. She LOVES working on crafty-projects of all sorts – especially modeling and terrain projects and jumped at the opportunity. I have to give her a big thatnks at this point, because there is no way I would have gotten it all done on time without her help!

End of the day Monday – front line trenches

Working on the hill on Tuesday.

How I was doing the revetting – I made it out of 1/8” strips of spruce I’d cut from scrap 2x4s on a tablesaw (the shavings produced by all this cutting I also use as grass on other terrain boards!). First I measure the section that I needed.

Then using a knife and a speed square I scored and cut the strip to length

Then I would score the strip with the pointy end of a fine file I had to make it look like individual boards once it was painted.

Then it was glued into place with Weldbond.

For areas that were adjacent to shellholes I would roughly measure out the area that would have been blasted out by the explosion and cut that out with a knife.

Then carefully pull apart and tear bits away to make it look like it had been blasted apart.

Then glued in next to the crater.

The girl helping with more duckboards on Wednesday as I finished up the last of the revetting.

Revetting complete – just a few more duckboards to go in.

So it was time to do some GOOPING. The goop was a mixture of Weldbond carpenter’s glue, some filler product, flat brown acrylic laytex paint and sand.

As I went on I used less and less of the filler product and just put in more sand – which is pretty much what I used to goop bases of miniatures. It creates a very hard – almost concrete like product when fully cured.

Gooping. This was probably Wednesday evening…?The week ended up being a bit of a blur!


And after it was all gooped I painted the whole trench with flat black acrylic latex paint.

And that’s apparently the last of the pictures I took. After the black paint I drybrushed on successive layers of dark brown, then lighter brown, then grey (for weathering) and then blotches of the muddy brown  on the duckboards – to look like mud tracked about by troops walking over them.

The ground I touched up with the same dark brown I used in the goop mmixture to cover anything that hadn’t been fully covered by the goop. Then drybrushed with successive layers of lighter browns.

I had hoped to add grassy areas between the trenches and shell holes – especially towards the rear of the defensive lines. But I just didn’t get to that… I had also hoped to line all the parapets – at least of the fire trenches – with sandbags and build up the areas around the MG emplacements and maybe model some bunker entrances into the sides of the trenches… but that just didn’t happen either.

For a bit I thought the goop might not cure in time and I ended up painting the final coats of paint Friday night – the night before the event – AFTER going out and playing the Friday night games at ToonCon.


What a lot of work.

You’ll have to wait to see the pictures of the fininshed project in the next post REGINA TRENCH: The Game!

I do plan to finish up these boards – and add some grassy areas and sandbags. (and I do hope to make use of them in the future!!)

A side note about other preparations for the event. I realized, sometime after I got back from Calgary, that I didn’t actually have any German machine-gunners! In the previous Vimy game I’d had them all in concrete bunkers and so didn’t actually need MG teams… having less than six weeks I quickly ordered some from North Star Figures as they distribute Great War Miniatures (which are fantastic miniatures!) and typically orders I have placed with them in the past took one and a half to two and a half weeks to arrive. But I guess there were busy at North Star because they only just arrived Friday afternoon. The day before the big event… So I ended up using and Early war team from Renegade Minaitures – which are prone and not even shooting over the gun emplacement –and a German Sailor team – which I borrowed from my East African collection!

Coming soon on Tim’s Miniature Wargaming Blog:



  1. Wow, great stuff!
    I'm happy I don't do trench warfare as this would be dangerously inspirational... :-)

    1. Thanks Joakim!

      I build my non-trench boards the same way - the trenches could just as easily be rivers. My hope is it will inspire you (or anyone else reading) to build some snazzy terrain for WHATEVER period you (or others) wish to play!

  2. Marvelous result! Excellent step-by-step tutorial that you make look quite straightforward.

    1. Thanks Jonathan! I do try to go for simple, straightforward, and sturdy - but looks the part!

  3. Superb work- great to see it all come together. I keep promising myself that one day I'll do a similar set up for myself.



    1. Thanks Pete - I'm hoping to get a bit of use out of these - while obviously they're made for the Great War, I'm hoping they could pass for static defences in other conflicts... I have lots of WW2 Russians that could be defending Leningrad in these. They sure look like something my 40K Imperial Guard might construct against an invading horde of Orks or Tyranids!

  4. Fantastic looking piece of scenery and very clear step by step, your going to end up with a lot of trenches if you can't use this for your Vimy project!
    Best Iain

    1. yes... well... AND I was planning more trenches to go with THESE - a wood... maybe a ruined town with trenches going through hit.... trenches with a bit concrete pillbox.... It could get out of hand!

  5. My word that is something else! It already looks spectacular and can only get even better.

    1. Thanks, Millsy!

      I actually started trying to put sandbags on the parapets this afternoon. It ended up being a bit more time-consuming than I'd imagined... so I may not line ALL of the trenches with them... we shall see...

  6. This puts my 3mm painting walkthrough to shame - but it is also inspirational! I'm just glad the boys at PicoArmor aren't doing any scenery right now, but I'm sure this post will inspire them! I'm curious how heavy each of those sections are?

    1. Thanks Nina!

      One of the projects I have planned for when I'm done with the Great War is Modern Micro Armour - So eventually I'll be making terrain for that - which might be more relevant to what you're doing.

      The boards aren't too bad - about 4Kg each. They're mostly extruded polystyrene - which is fairly light. But the concrete-like goop and the wooden battens do as a bit of heft - which is good as they're less likely to be bumped around on the table.