Saturday, January 8, 2022

The Third World War, June 13, 1958

The combined forces of Belgium, Canada, the Federal Republic of Germany, France, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States prepared to launch operation Titus, the relief of West Berlin, on the morning of 14 June, 1958. 

Forces of the united Kingdom would lead an attack from the North,  US and West German forces would lead an attack in central Germany, and US forces from the south.  The remaining NATO forces would defend the inner German border against any Warsaw Pact intrusion and protect the flanks of the three allied columns.

The US agreed to avoid employing atomic weapons, if possible, on German soil, but retained  right to readily use them elsewhere, dependent on Soviet response and escalation.  The general hope was that the fighting would be limited to German soil, though that would clearly depend on the Soviets.  

All NATO forces involved in the action, started from deployment in West Germany, and initially at least, targets of opportunity in Poland, Czechoslovakia, and elsewhere were not to be engaged.  The Warsaw Pact doctrine did not oblige in kind, with Polish, Czech, and Soviet air and naval bases involved even before the start of hostilities. 

NATO hoped that the events in Germany would be embraced as a localized conflict of limited scope, and believed that early NATO success, and social unrest in the various Warpac nations would work to NATO's favor.  Both northern and southern NATO partners, while still in a state of alert and on a war footing, would not take part in the limited offensive.

Thus far, the Soviets saw what was happening as at least a European, if not Global event.  The current actions were obviously part of NATO's bigger plan .  By June 10, Soviet intelligence was convinced that the western threat was in no way a bluff, and additional urgency and preparations were initiated.  On 11 June, at the last moment possible,  Moscow adjusted their plan accordingly.

As always, both sides misunderstood, and misjudged their counterpart, and now many people would pay more dearly than ever for these failings. In the early morning hours of Friday, June 13, 1958,  World War III began, with NATO forces in the field, largely surprised as Soviet and Warsaw Pact Forces poured across the inner German border.

Thursday, January 6, 2022

The Situation in Moscow (Cold War Hot 1958 Alt-History)

With East and West on the doorstep of atomic war, Malenkov recognized that the situation had simply become unacceptable, and that the Soviets had over-played their hand.  Possibly he, maybe more than anyone else in the Soviet leadership, understood the threat of such a war, and that any Soviet victory, if possible, would not be so good as victory in the last war.  And that victory had come at unimaginable cost.

With each step of escalation regarding West Berlin, Malenkov believed that the Americans would reach their limit, and that an underlying lack of NATO unity would force the US to yield.  But surprisingly, that did not happen.  It made no sense.  

Malenkov realized that somehow, he simply did not understand the Americans.  And he realized that his peers likely understood them less so.  The bluffing game could not be won, and war was now, at best, only days away.  So he called a meeting of the presidium and presented his thoughts regarding this desperate situation. 

He knew his view would be a challenged, but these men had each fought and suffered for their country, and he was sure that despite individual ambitions, each loved his country just as he did, and loved it enough to save it. Surely they would see reason.  

But, some men are not reasonable, and discussion of East Germany's defense turned to the discussion of the offense.  After all, Soviet forces were better positioned than ever for war, and better that American atomic weapons fell on West Germany, rather than East.

With those final days melting away in the shadow of the western ultimatum, the Soviet leadership became silent.  By the West, they were not seen; they were not heard.  Malenkov sat in his cell, alone, alternately consumed by anguish and anger, waiting for the end.


Wednesday, January 5, 2022

NATO Chooses War

After the shoot down of the American aircraft in the air corridor to West Berlin, the gravity of the situation was better understood by all.  This was far worse than in 1948-49.  West Berliners were more than worried, for they knew, more than anyone else, that they could not last for long.

Many in the American administration had been convinced that since the coupe ousting Khrushchev, the Soviets were following a path to war.  Eisenhower finally gave in, agreeing that war seemed inevitable.  Convincing some of their NATO allies had been challenging, regardless of Soviet actions.  Despite the Soviet escalation, the isolation of West Berlin had still come as a surprise to the US, and forced Eisenhower's hand.

Rather than having to hold back an avalanche of Soviet forces marching into the federal Republic, it seemed that NATO would have to be the first to cross the inner German border.  The Warsaw pact nations held a huge advantage in manpower, but the US still  had a huge lead in the ability to deliver atomic weapons through cannons, bombs, missiles, and rockets.

The biggest problem for NATO was the resistance by some NATO allies to the use of American atomic weapons on German soil.  Various measures were offered by the Americans to resolve the issue, as American doctrine (and its new Pentomic divisions) required  their use, but the debate persisted.  Some of the American leadership were relieved that this resistance was offered, while others believed that America should shoot first, and deal with "complications" later.

The French were dubious about America's romance with atomic weapons, but hadn't issued any ultimatums yet, though DeGaulle's star seemed to be rising again and there was American belief that he would offer greater resistance to US plans, than President Coty.

The fact was that West Berlin, isolated from the West, could not hold out for long, and the NATO window to respond was short.  Action had to be taken quickly.  Existing plans for the invasion of East Germany, being nothing more than a planning exercise,  were dusted off, modified significantly, and being acted on, even as they were being re-written.

The Soviets were precipitating what they always insisted would happen; the west would prove to be the aggressor that the Soviets feared it to be, and they would enjoy the advantage of allowing NATO to expend itself in a hopeless advance into eastern Germany.  There was no doubt in the minds of Soviet leadership, that they could out-last the American offensive.  However, some were not sure it would be worth the cost. 

It seemed that humanity was about to find out.


Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Prelude to War: Germany 1958 (An Alternative History)


Sometime back, I thought that I was going to start my Cold War hot campaign set in 1958, and posted an introduction to the setting here.  Things are now moving along, so the following is a continuation of back-story leading up to the conflict.
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From the time of joint occupation, West Berlin had been a cancer in the heart of Soviet communism.  The economic recovery of West Germany and particularly West Berlin was brandished as a weapon by the west, continuously inflicting wounds that diminished the accomplishments of the Soviet communist model.

The West constantly challenged social order, sparking unrest, resulting in riots and strikes.  East Berliners left for the west by the thousands, and among them were a significant portion of the most educated and able.  And, the western instigated discontent spread beyond the borders of East Berlin and East Germany, extending throughout the Warsaw Pact nations.

There was simply no way around it, the Soviets had to force the west out of Berlin, and eventually, all of Germany.  Melankov had always been especially wary of the use of atomic weapons, and understood that given the current situation between east and west, this was not the time to risk their use.  War in Germany was really out of the question, despite what some of Melankov's contemporaries thought, as it would inevitably lead to atomic warfare, which would impose disproportionate burden on the Soviet Union.

Though the US and Soviet Union both had attack plans for Germany, every indication from intelligence was that the US, and the west generally had no intention to invade the eastern block.  Opportunity had risen to varying degrees previously in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and even East Germany, but Eisenhower had understood the importance of, and respected the Soviet sphere of influence.

Eisenhower's policies were based on economy, not military conquest, and US allies could not afford, and more importantly, did not want to again experience war.  Thus, the most obvious weapon which could force the west out of Berlin, and maybe all of Germany, was the well employed threat of war.  Soviet leadership developed a plan of escalation, that would seemingly threaten war, while convincing the west that Soviet atomic weapon development and employment was advancing to match that of the Americans.  

First, the demand was made for the withdrawal of western forces from West Berlin; the West replied with propaganda about “resolve”.  And so, the East employed ways to make the cost of NATO staying in West Berlin greater than could possibly be afforded.  An escalating series of actions were now set in motion.

First a fence was installed isolating West Berlin from East and crossing at the checkpoints was made very burdensome for westerners, and nearly impossible for residents of the east.  Both the land and air corridors to West Berlin were policed more aggressively, with road travelers frequently being stopped and sometimes detained for extended periods.  The West officially protested each action with growing concern.  And with each protest, the East became more steadfast in their effort.

In time occasional intrusions into West German air space occurred, resulting in a US F86 Sabre being shot down in January, 1958 (The Soviet pilot was received a hero, but died in an "accident" shortly afterward).  Pilots continued to play a potentially deadly game of cat and mouse with increasing belligerence on both sides.  Additionally, there were incidents along the inner German border involving both military personnel and civilians.  These incidents sometimes resulted in injury or death and became more frequent as the tension grew.

During this period, the US increased the number of exercises and alerts involving their forces deployed in West Germany, as did most of the NATO partners with forces located there.  The re-arming of West German military forces was hurried, and France held forces that might otherwise been sent to deal with their Algerian problem.  As time advanced, each action served only to bring about the next reaction.

The Soviets recalled some of Khrushchev’s draw-down forces back to East Germany, and increased the frequency and scope of exercises.  Likewise, the number of air patrols were significantly increased, as were airspace violations by Soviet bombers along the coasts of northern and western Europe.

In the west, the recalled Soviet forces were seen by many as a build-up for an imminent attack by the Warsaw Pact.  NATO responded in kind, with US, UK, Canadian, and French reserves being activated and partially deployed.  The US conversion to Pentagonal divisions was accelerated and US reconnaissance overflights of Warsaw Pact and Soviet territory were increased, resulting is some losses both to enemy aircraft and the new SA-2 missiles that were entering service.

In March, four US servicemen and seven civilians were indefinitely detained by East German Police, while traveling to East Berlin.  They were arrested during three different incidents in the same week, and none were allowed any contact outside of East German and Soviet authorities.  A US protest was largely ignored, and land transit to West Berlin was closed.

The last straw came with the closure of the air corridors to West Berlin.  The East Germans gave warning, and just after the closure began, the Americans responded with a pair of F-86s escorting a C-119 through corridor airspace.  All three aircraft were shot down along with a Soviet Mig-19 in the process.

NATO forces were already on alert, with NATO now preparing for war in earnest.  The number of deployed reserves grew in the days following the shoot-down.   Civilians on both sides of the inner German Border began moving away from it.  The situation in isolated West Berlin grew precarious, as the west worked on a plan to save the city. 

East Germany and the Soviets were given 8 days to open the corridors to East Berlin, or “suffer the consequences of their action”.  Soviet and East German forces deployed to absorb an initial NATO advance, despite the fact that some in Soviet intelligence still believed that NATO would not attack.  Soviet preparations included the deployment of both active and dummy FROG and SCUD "atomic" missile units.  The "bluff" needed to be complete.

The corridors were not re-opened...

Sunday, January 2, 2022

Building the Road to War: Modular Terrain Boards - Part 3

This post addresses the addition of of stream, river, and some hill terrain modules for my 1950s Cold War Germany terrain project.  The  modular terrain design concept was presented in part 1, and the general construction and finish methods are addressed in part 2 of this series of posts.  This post will mostly address design of the moduler waterways, basic hill modules, and few special pieces. 


Streams

First I'll tackle the streams streams.  I've long used a rather narrow 5/16" wide stream system with my terrain, which works universally with 6mm to 15mm scale figures, though is a bit narrow for larger scales.  The stream is routed 3/8" deep into the foam with a Dremel and router attachment, and is centered at three inches inset from the near end of the tile.

The centerline of the stream is located on the tile, the edges or banks of the streambed located, and a loose path of the stream drawn on the tile, before routing the actual stream path.  The path can be widened between the ends of the tiles, but always maintains the same location and profile on the edges of the tile.

This a 6" wide tile (by 12" long), so the stream is centered 
on the short end of the panel.  On the typical 12' square tile,
 the stream would be inset 3" from the near end of the tile.

The stream system layout is much like that of the road design, except that the stream path between the edges of the tile is more irregular.  The basic tiles types are straight, diagonal, and bends.  Note that there are three types of bends, a broad, tight, and combined bend.

A mirror image of the Combined Bend shown above completes all of 
the bend configurations.  Roads can also be added as desired.

Stream tiles after routing stream bed.

Once the path is routed into the the tile, the banks of the edges are sanded to a 45 degree angle, and are cut about 3/16" deep into the the foam, leaving a vertical walled 3/16" channel for the stream bed.  In between the edges, all sorts of sanding and shaping can be done, including small islands in the stream, lower areas representing little floodplains, boggy areas, etc.

The stream tile edge profile

Stream tiles after sanding.


Completed stream tiles


Stream Bridges

The bridges over the strams were made by simply cutting a slot with a hobby knife and sliding a retaining wall into place made from a piece of 1/8" wide foam.  Two bridges are smooth and painted to be  of concrete, and two had a stone pattern etched in with a ball point pen.





With concrete retaining walls.


With stone retaining walls

If the terrain is intended for a single or narrow range of scales, you can add rocks and whanot to the streams, though I avoid this, as rocks that look fine in 15 to 28mm, don't always look right at 6mm.  Additionally they can interfer with the "stackability" of the foam tiles, which may or may not be a consideration. 


Rivers

River tiles are similar to the streams, except that in this instance, the waterway will be three inches wide, the tiles with roads will be dedicated to 6mm, but roadless river tiles will work in any scale.  The three inch water obstacle may not seem very wide, but given the game scales that I use in 6mm, it will represent a 30 to 150 meter wide waterway.


The rivers are cut with the dremel/router, as per the streams, with the river bed 3/8 inch deep and 3 inches wide.  The terrain is shaped and sanded in the same way as previous tiles, with the bank edge profile cut 3/16 inch deep into the routed bank, and extents on a gradule rise to a point 1 inch from the edge of the router cut. Both the streams and rivers are painted after the rest of the tile, and coated with two coats of artist's acrylic gloss medium, prior to flocking the tile.

The routed river bed.

The river tile edge profile design above, and result below.




Sanded river tiles with completed bank profiles.




Completed river tiles


 
River Bridges

The river bridges were mostly constructed from varying thicknesses of insulation foam.  Pathways for the water were sanded with Tuff Grit sanding sticks, with detail glued in place with matte medium, and pinned until dry.  Then they were coated in acrylic pastes and painted.





The bridge in the distance above and to the left below used a 
piece of sheet styrene plastic for the road bed, with a strip glued 
underneath to represent the supporting structure and strips glued 
in place for the retaining walls.  The lower supports were made 
from foam.






Views of the finished bridges.  The bridges fit into slots cut into
 the foam tiles, and can be removed so that destroyed bridge 
models can be placed if needed.

Road/Slope Tiles

To make the new 6mm roads compatible with my existing hill/slope tiles, I needed to add a few basic road/slope tiles.  These use a 1" rise over 6" run on "straight slope" tiles with a road running up them.  

Basic 12" slope tile edge profile.

The road and slope are both laid out on the tile top and edges, 1 inch rise over 6 inches of run, and the basic slope edges cut.  I just use a hacksaw blade, though an hobby miter box saw may be a better choice to get a constant slope.  I then shape the slope with out cutting into the road bed of the tile, Once the slope is cut, the road bed of shaped to blend into the slope.

The road bed and edge profile drawn onto the tile.

The edge slope cut a hack saw blade.  Tuff-Grit files to clean
 up the edge profile.

With the rest of the slope roughed out with the hack saw blade. 
The road bed is left to be cut later.

The slope is further roughed out with a Surform tool.


The road bed is roughed out with the hack raw, the Surform, 
and the Tuff Grit files.


A different angle of the roughed out road bed.

The cut along the road bed, and ditches are further shaped
 with the Tuff-Grit files

The tile is sanded.

Another view of the sanded tile, better showing how the slope 
across the tile blends with the standard edge profile.

I made four total road/slope tiles, two each with the road set 
to the left or right side of the tile.

New road slope tiles with my older hill/slope tiles.  Note the 
road slope tile stacked on a regular flat road tile to complete 
the road across the span of the tile.

Finished road slope tiles.

Towns

I made two small town tiles in this batch of tiles, each based on towns that will be on the first tabletop in upcoming battles.  The towns are shown below, mated together, such that they could represent a larger town.

I started off by drawing a three inch grid on the tiles, then transferring the primary town roads from a 1:25,000 German army map from the 1950s.  The primary roads were drawn onto the tile in 1" width, and then secondary roads were added.  The tiles were lightly sanded, coated with acrylic paste, then painted, and flocked.


Odd Sized Tiles

I also made some odd sized tiles for filling in spaces created by some of the diagonal road tiles.  Half and quarter tiles, measuring 12"x6" and 6"square.  

6"x12' and 6" square tiles.

Some of the odd sized tiles completed.


Completed Terrain Tiles

The views below show completed tiles from this batch, demonstrating how the roads fit together with the odd sized tiles.



The second view shows the tiles spaced apart to more readily 
show how they fit together.  One of the town tiles can be seen 
in the foreground of the views above.

This batch totaled 65 tiles making about 51 square feet of terrain.  For games, I set up the tiles on top of a sheet of felt, which keeps the tiles from sliding around on the table top.

That completes the tiles for use in gaming battles set on the North German Plain.  The next group (sometime later in the new year) of tiles will be geared for games set in the Fulda Gap and other more hilly parts of Germany. 

Hope everyone had a great Christmas and New Year's day.

Saturday, January 1, 2022

The Old Year Ends and a New One Begins

2021

In general, despite the struggles of 2021, my family and I were very lucky through the year, and I am thankful for it.  In my case, a lot of focus on my hobby helped to ease the experience.

2021 was the most productive hobby year of my life.  I keep a running list of ongoing projects, and on a really good year, I might finish 35 of them.  In 2021 I finished 97, reducing my list from a peak 321 to 224.  Basically, I got three solid years of work done in 2021.

A lot of the work was on the research side of things, completing TO&Es, stat and unit cards for rules, campaign information, etc.  It also involved a lot of terrain for 6mm CW gaming, 15mm WWII miniatures, and 20mm Vietnam terrain, as well as painting 1258 miniatures.

Other periods that saw some progress were 28 mm post apoc , 28mm near future, 6mm WWII, 15mm CW.  Probably the most surprising was 20mm Vietnam getting some attention, after years of neglect.

Ironically, the year ended with a little bit of a fizzle, as I have about 10 projects that are very nearly done, but couldn't squeeze out the time to complete any of them, despite having time off over the holidays.  

Actual gaming didn't make the big comeback that I expected it would, playing only 7 games in 2021, better than 2020 though.  This was really a big surprise, as I had expected 2021 to be a big gaming year.  My Cold War campaign got put off for the entire year due to a recurring problem regarding available space (which I am now going to work around).  

I'm not sure why I got so motivated to wrap us loose ends in 2021; it ended up being a very odd year on the hobby front.  But I had a total blast in 2021, and amazingly enough, I'm going to miss it.


2022

I can't help but believe that 2022 will be "the big gaming year". I have so many campaigns active or on the brink, that some games must materialize.

In one form or another, the Cold War will go hot (1958 style) during 2022. I've worked out a sort of mini-campaign system that I can manage with my Cold War "map room" still largely occupied with my daughter's college (and other) stuff (now), instead of doing the whole war at once.  The Soviet problems in Mugabia are likely to develop somewhat, as a scenario that opens a whole new chapter of gaming, has been setting on the hot plate for some months now.  The Germans are bound to invade 1940 France any minute now.  And with any luck, our Star Fleet Battles campaign will pick up again (Omicron has been shaking its head "no", most recently).

2022 will start off in stride with 2021 with the completion of projects.  My Cold War terrain project will be wrapped up today, and I expect several painting projects to be completed in the next week.  Beyond that, I am going to take the plans-free approach again in 2022, since it worked out so well last year.

River and stream "bridge" tiles awaiting completion for 
Cold War Germany, awaiting completion later today.


I still have 224 items on my "to do" list, and they include items for 18 periods and settings.  Most likely to see attention at this point are, 28mm post apocalypse, 6mm Barbarossa and Kursk, and 1960s-1980s 6mm Cold War hot, but who knows where a stray whim might take me.

Kursk research awaiting attention, 
both are fantastic books by the way.


Happy 2022 everyone!  Hope you have the best year ever!

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Building the Road to War: 6mm Modular Terrain Boards - Part 2

NOTE: The discussion below addresses the use of a variety of power and hand tools.  Please be aware of, and be sure to follow all safety instructions and practices while using any of these tools. Proper methods, safety guards and equipment, and ventilation should be incorporated at all times to avoid injury.

__________

I cut my foam terrain tiles on a table saw primarily, but over the years have also used a band saw, panel saw, hot wire foam cutter, and a straight edge and hobby knife. I've found the hot wire to be the most tedious, generally being the slowest method, and offering the least consistent edges.

Cutting it with a hobby knife actually works fine once you learn to hold the knife perpendicular to the face of the foam.  You can cut or sand a slight inward bevel from top to bottom that will eliminate any problems caused by the angle of the knife going out of perpendicular during cutting.  This may be most easily done by making an "L" shaped sanding block with a very slight, maybe 1 degree angle, and sanding the edges of the cut foam.

The tiles are cut from 4'x8' sheets of 1 inch thick polystyrene insulation board.  These are the greenish foam from Lowes, though I prefer the blue Dow Corning, as I find the green board tends to vary much more in thickness, both across a single sheet and from one batch to the next.

The cut tiles arranged relative to the road design that they 
will receive.

My design notes for the most of the new terrain tiles.

Once the foam tiles were cut, I created a road edge locator template with the first tile, marking the road location with the center-line inset three inches in from both ends on two opposing ends, as if I was going to have two parallel roads on the tile.  This acted as a template to locate road edges on all of the other road tiles.

Note the four black tick marks along the near and far edges, indicating 
the edge of pavement locations for the 1" wide roadway.

The road edges were located on the end of each tile, then the pavement edges were lightly drawn across the tile with a black Papermate ball point pen.  Don't use gell ink, use an old school ball point, and I find that the Papermate ink doesn't bleed as bad as most other brands.  

After marking all of the roads on the tiles, I sanded the surface of each removing the gloss or "glazed" finish from the face of the tile, and sand in any features, such as ditches along the pavement edges or depressions in the tile.  For deeper depressions, I rasp out a little foam with a Surform tool.  


The sanding is done with an ancient Black & Decker/Minicraft hobby sander.  Proxxon also used to make a similar sander, and Micro-Mark currently sells this version.  Proxxon offers this model, which may work in this application.  Be careful not to gouge the foam with the edge of the sanding pad.  The older sanders with a rubber sanding foot and with mechanical clamps were actually favorable to newer versions with a plastic foot and velcro type sanding pads.  Unfortunately, this appears to be another instance of progress and technology maybe moving in the wrong direction.

Other small orbital sanders, such as the "Mouse" type will work, but are less forgiving and all require a "sense of touch" when working with the foam.  Additionally, a combination of orbital sanders and sponge foam sanding blocks will work.

Some hot wire cutters can be configured to cut depressions, but I find these less favorable and more time consuming than Surform and sander.  The hotwire creates fumes, and the sanding creates dust, so both come with their own "baggage".

After the sanding is completed, any blemishes, gouges, or defects can be filled with one-step or light weight spackle.  I apply it with a small flexible putty knife and by hand, while wearing disposable gloves.  It should be applied to as close as a finished state as possible, taking care to create smooth transitions from foam to spackle and back to foam again.  The spackle will dry harder the than the foam, so sanding must be done with care so as to avoid creating a "step" at the transition point of foam to spackle.

Instead of sanding, you may be able to smooth and wipe off excess spackle with a smooth damp cloth at the time of application.  This is a technique that may require learning some sense of touch, but will eliminate most of the need to sand after drying. 

I avoid conventional spackle, despite it sanding more favorably with the foam, because artist's acrylic paints and at least some some craft acrylics do not stick well to it.  They will form a skin that can easily and accidentally be scraped and peeled off of the spackle with a relatively light touch.

The next step is to apply a coat of acrylic modeling paste to the foam. This will help protect the foam from puncture or gouges, and will add an elastic, rather the brittle skin to the foam.  White glue concoctions will also work, generally creating a more rigid surface, but my experience is that in time, the rigid surface receives damage more readily, than the elastic/paste surface, and is rigid skin can be more burdensome to repair.

I've used a mix of brands of acrylic paste over the years; Grumbacher, Liquitex, Royal, Golden, Blick, etc.  They all seem to work fine.  Some are softer/thinner than others and apply more readily, but offer maybe a little less protection than thicker pastes.

Applying artist's acrylic paste. The road edges can barely 
be seen, roughly centered in the white paste area on this tile.

Once the paste is dry, you may notice that the black ink of the roadway edge lines has bled through the paste and is maybe more distinct than it appeared after sanding.  I usually give just a light spray of Testor's Dull Coat of other matte spray coat to seal the ink.  Otherwise the ink may continue to bleed through the paint and even the flock to some degree.  Usually the Papermate ink doesn't do this, but most others will in my experience.  The application of the spray need only be over the inked portion of the foam and can be very light, a single quick pass of spray should do.  I sprayed all 69 square feet of terrain and didn't finish off a partial can of spray.

Next comes the painting.  I use artist's acrylic paints; in this case, a mix of Dick Blick, Royal and Liquitex.  I generally use a thinner bottle of economy artist's paint for the primary color and then mix in whatever else I have, as needed for the desired shade.  In my case, I use an undercoat of the same basic color as the flock to be applied, so green grassy areas get green paint, blown get brown, etc. 

Different methods of painting can be used, particularly in association with how you will finish the tiles with flock.  In my case I flock dirt roads, there is no exposed paint, except for the paved roads and waterways, and I usually give those surfaces an extra coat of acrylic paste. 

If you plan to leave dirt areas as exposed painted surfaces, you can apply texture to the acrylic paste such a ruts from wheels, or footprints, or you can apply a fine texture material, such a sand or gravel to be painted to a final finish.

While painting, I tend to highlight rises yellower or lighter, and depressions darker, as this helps with the application of the flock in the next step.  Otherwise, the shallow rises and depressions in 6mm are not always readily obvious when hurriedly applying the flock.  Once the base coat of paint is dry, the road is applied.  In 6mm, this is just painted onto the foam, in larger scales I would apply a textured layer, typically a fine sand or ballast.  Paved surfaces would typically get an application or two of acrylic paste over the sand/ballast.  Or, may be painted or left natural color if representing gravel and or dirt roads. 

To mask the edge lines of the roadway, I use an artist's white 3/4" masking tape, which has a favorable tack, that doesn't damage to the acrylic paste and paint.  It is available from most artist supply stores in my experience.  This is a paper tape, that isn't ideal for masking curved roads, so I simply free-hand those.


The ballast can be added before the initial paste application, or later, resulting in a quite durable road surface.  I apply the ballast/sand using artist's matte medium as a glue.  For the paved surface, I will apply a layer of white artists tape along the edges of the road, paint on a coat of the matte medium, making sure to apply a solid, even coat, and while it is still wet, apply a generous coat of ballast/sand.  Remove the mask after applying ballast, as he matte medium can stick the tape, resulting in flaws if the tape is removed after the ballast is dry.

Let dry (drying time varies considerably with ambient humidity (20 minutes to several hours)), and recover the unused portion of ballast (probably 75-90 percent of the applied volume ).  If you find that you have unwanted "potholes" in the road surface, where ballast did not stick,  you can apply matte medium to those ares with a fine brush, and reapply ballast over those spots.  If you have unwanted lumps of ballast/sand, you can sand those off after the they dry.

Whether I use ballast or not, I tape off the roadway along the edge-lines before painting, then paint the road surfaces accordingly.  Roadway markings can be added before or after flocking, though in small scale, I would suggest adding them before the flocking process.  They can be added with color pencil, paint pen, or by masking and painting.  I typical give the roads a light coat of matte spray after adding road lines.  

I'll be adding some city panels later, which will get some roadway markings, but from the photographic evidence that I've found, it looks like many of roads of this type, did not have much in the way of markings in 1950s Germany, so for now, I'm not adding markings to the road surfaces.

Example of 28mm desert road with ballast surface and 
edge-lines painted added with fine point paint pen.

The last major step is adding the flock.  I use the Woodland Scenics grass and earth blends primarily, and have mixes of lighter and darker shades using about 9 parts other color, and 1 part of the grass or earth blend, depending on whether the base color is green or brown/yellow.  

I mask off the road area and apply a solid coat of artist's acrylic matte medium, then highlight lighter, raised areas, with a a lighter green, depressed areas with a darker green, add a little darker brown to the bottoms of ditches, and lighter brown yellow along road edges and whatnot, and then give a solid covering of the grass blend.  The process is sort of like painting with flock.  I use a large brush 2-4 inch for application of the matte medium, applying a liberal coat, and keep reapplying if it starts to dry out.  

On small terrain tiles, the matte medium drying out tends not to be a problem.  But if applying to a large area, I start at one end, apply matte medium to maybe a 12 inch wide area across the entire width of the tile, apply flock to the trailing 6 inches of medium.  Re-wet the exposed medium and apply medium to the next six inches, and repeat the process until done.  You always maintain a wet leading edge of medium across the entire piece, until the application is complete.  This avoids medium drying out, and avoid seams/ridges/textures in the application of flock.  I also try to maintain an irregular leading edge of wet medium, rather than a uniform straight line, as this helps to minimize any sort of pattern or "striping" effect with the flock.

Again, let dry, with drying time ranging from 20 minutes to a few hours, dependent on humidity.  I usually locate a fan in the area, but not blowing directly on the surface of the loose flock, so as to avoid blowing the stuff off of the model and across the room.  Once the matte medium has dried, brush off and recover the excess flock.  You can touch up any blemishes, applying matte medium with a fine brush and adding flock as needed.

I apply a light spray of matt finish, such as Dull Coat, or Windsor and Newton matte spray to the final product, particularly over the road area to reduce the sheen of the paint.  This can be done prior to the application of the flock, if preferred, to avoid getting stray bits of the flock stuck to the road surface.

Some of the finished tiles from the first batch.

I would normally apply some weathering to the road before applying the flock, but in this instance I'll probably wait until all of the terrain is finished, and weather it all at once for consistency.

At some point, you've probably noticed that one thing is missing from this terrain; farm fields. I have focused on making a fairly flexible system of roads, waterways, and hills in coming up with this terrain system, but have not found a good way to incorporate farm fields into the tiles.  I've played around with a bunch of different ideas, but they either fail to meet my expectations, or add a lot more tiles and work.  So I've simply chosen to ignore them.  

Fields will be indicated by tree, foliage, and fence lines, and in some cases by separate terrain pieces that set on the basic tiles, though due to material thickness, in 6mm I tend to avoid stacking things that really shouldn't rise much above the grade elevation.  I try not to disrupt true line of site any more than I have to.

In most of my games, I use a WYSIWYG sighting system.  If figs can't see targets, they generally can't shoot at them.  This means, that using a mat with roads, waterways, etc.set on top, and that rise up above the basic elevation of the terrain, block line of sight, particularly at small scale, and disrupt the games that I play.  This is one of the reasons for building all of this terrain. This style of terrain also allows for shallow meandering depressions that are often lost in miniature gaming, is more stable than cloth spread over terrain forms, and accommodates more realistic sharp changes in topography, particularly depressions, than other types of terrain systems. The trade-off is that you have a grid on the table, which offends some eyes, and may play into rules that require players to estimate ranges or movement.

Regarding tile sizes, thinner 1/2 inch foam could be used, or thicker, such as 2" foam for that matter (which I sometimes use for specific terrain modules). But, I find that 1 inch best meets my needs.  The 12 inch square basic tile is arbitrary, but allows for a fairly rapid set up, while still being relatively adaptable and flexible in copying actual terrain and maps.  A friend uses a similar system, but chose to use 11" squares as his base tile, as he gets more tiles out of a sheet of foam.  I'm aware of gamers who use other sizes for a variety of reasons relating to games scales, and other needs.

The next "Road to War" terrain post will present stream, river, and slope/hill tiles, as well as a couple other odds & ends.  I've already started working on the tiles, and hope to have the post up before the new year.

Hope you have a great holiday season.