Monday, 21 December 2009

Rivers for Small Scale Gaming

A long held frustration of mine when it comes to terrain for use with the smallest of Small-Scale miniatures is the depiction of rivers on the tabletop. As I mainly use terrain mats with 2mm troops, all scenics or terrain pieces are necessarily those that are placed on top of this mat.
Now this expanse of green, in my case, can often be found broken up by road networks which are temporarily laid using dark flocking powder or even dried coffee grounds, that can be vacuumed up afterwards, but the putting down of water-courses presents much more of a problem.

I have found that most of the commercially available product out there is simply too large and too wide to represent anything other than the widest of rivers, estuaries in scale, even, when put against those 2mm unit bases. Whilst I do own some of the useful river sections made by Terrain Mat in the UK, they are really too wide for your average stream or medium sized river.
Now of course Irregular Miniatures themselves offer a very useful Roads pack in their Scenics and Accessories range, helpfully pictured by Tony Hughes of Tiny Tin Troops here:

these can be painted to represent rivers as well as roads, but here comes part two of my pet peeve: although 25 sections are available for UK £9.00, the sections themselves are in relatively short lengths, so much so that the river, when laid across the tabletop, looks more like a jigsaw than a coherent watercourse!
What I wanted to get my hands on was something that would come in long single lengths that would naturally span the surface with fewer joins, whilst at the same time not being too wide to throw a bridge across.

I was very pleased, then, to come across the DH1000 pack of Ditches from S&A Scenics, offering some 60 inches of ditch for £11.00. As you can see in the first photo above, a decent selection of lengths and curved parts, the longest of which coming out at just under 30cm, with an overall width including banks of 25mm, with the inner 'ditch' itself being 10mm wide.

In a hommage to the Road/Rivers from Irregular, then, I set out to give these ditches a repaint to look more like what I was after.
The strips themselves are basically a thin slice of MDF, with built up edges, painted in the centre with a very dark brown stripe, and having some rough vegetation to the banks added probably with a flocking gel or paste containing grit or sand. These lumps have been dry-brushed in a rather lurid yellow, the banks in a light green.

The pack contains three of the longest sections, with a nice meandering profile, two half-lengths that are even more curved, and finally the constituents, in four further pieces, of a nice curve.

Plenty, then, to make use of, and remember an overall length of 60 inches to cover the width of the tabletop with as few joins as possible.

Next, I had ago at an example stretch, just to see how well these might perform in their dramatic conversion from humble ditch to noble river!
A few splodgy dry-brush strokes with a dark shade of green took care of the worst examples of the yellow blobs-as-vegetation, and some watered down PVA was then attacked with some flock and a few wafts of static grass. The 'water' itself already had a nice undercoat in the form of the dark background of the ditch, so some Prussian Blue was washed down the middle:

Of course, I was far too impatient to let this properly dry before blowing off the excess static grass, so some of it ended up, shall we say, as if 'floating' down the river - more attention to detail required for the other sections, I think!

Anyway, not bad for a quick example piece, and hopefully this gives some idea of what the whole might look like, seen here with a couple of bridges from Irregular Miniatures, (BG126) shown for scale:

Finally, with a few blocks of troops approaching what should be, rather than an impassable object, an inherent part of the terrain they will have to fight over:

I think the ditch lengths should reward some more care and attention to detail, and hopefully will give the aesthetically pleasing lack of so many physical joins that I was after. In conclusion, of course, these would also stand in at larger scales for merely smaller rivers, or even streams, so may well see some double duty in the future!


  1. Well done old Man - thats come up trumps in my Book! Got me to thinking its just the thing to try some medium altitude bridge-busting sprties with some Harasser sqaudron 'Nefs!

  2. Cheers guys, I'll hope to showcase the completed river sections in a forthcoming post! :-).