The original thought was to throw together a generic scenario just to do something simple. Then I decided to use existing stuff to do a passable version of the first day of Gettysburg. Then that turned into a full custom battlefield. Things often go this way for me...
I started by cutting a 6 by 7 foot piece of tan craft felt as a ground cloth, and then sketched out the roads and hill contours using a brown sharpie pen. I love tan craft felt. It comes with color mottling so it is not a solid color, and comes in 6 foot wide bolts which gives it great flexibility. It is only $6.99 per yard at the local Joann's fabric store, and there are always sales or 50% off an item coupons (this piece was cut from a full 10 yard bolt which I got for $30).
I marked the lines of streams and woodlots with rows of beads, and then painted the outlines of the woods green, and the streams a medium-dark blue (cheap craft paints). The battlefield was way too tan at this point, so I took the cloth outside and spray painted it with a combination of medium-light green and light green to give it a mottled green look.
|Gettysburg - Day 1, at start, from the West|
For additional detail, the roads were painted brown between the sharpie border lines, and the smaller streams were simply drawn in using a wide point blue marker. Then, rather than using drawn in "quickie" contour lines, I decided to carve the elevations out of styrofoam insulation board and cover them with additional tan felt. These were then spray painted like the ground cloth. Seams between the hills and the groundcloth hide very nicely.
|Heth's Divison of Hill's corps deploys for battle|
The insides of the outlines of the woods were stippled and dry-brushed with a dark green, then a medium green, then a light yellow-green for a little pop.
|Woods Detail - Herbst's Woods|
Various detailed map references were used to place cosmetic outlines of orchards in the proper locations. Roads were dry-brushed with a lighter tan color, and the wider streams were highlighted with a light turquoise-blue. The major roads then got a heavy dry brush of a light gray to distinguish them.
|Road detail, fur fields, simple orchard markers|
Lastly, labels were printed for the main terrain features and then glued down.
|Buford defends East McPherson's Ridge (Seminary behind)|
All buildings, fences, trees and figures are from existing stock, and I already had base labels for F&F Gettysburg from years ago.
I'm very happy with how things turned out. Doing a project this way also has the advantage of being easier to store than a full styrofoam board battlefield (which would be two 6 foot by 4 foot sheets). This is four pieces of hill elevation each no more than about 1 by 4 feet, and a rolled up ground cloth. What started as a "throw something together for a quick game" turned into a full custom battlefield for the northern half of Gettysburg. In total, it took maybe 6 hours over the course of a week's worth of evenings. I got on a roll. And a little obsessed. Oh well, the end result is nice.
Now I guess I have to make the southern half of the field as well...