Saturday, November 30, 2013

Modular Terrain Boards

As part of an effort to get rid of a bunch of things taking up space in the basement, I have been wanting to create a set of modular terrain boards. This would give me a lot of flexibility in setting up the table for games, as well as minimizing the storage space requirements to do so. After a few false starts over the last year or so, I have settled on a plan, and have made good progress towards accomplishing at least a solid phase 1. The end result, when complete, will be a series of one and two inch thick pieces that can be put together like a jigsaw puzzle in a variety of ways to create all sorts of different battlefields. A side benefit (but an important one) is that I have been able to dispose of several larger pieces, ranging in size from 2 by 4 feet to 4 by 6 feet.

#1 - Cutting jig (and hillside template)
For the basics I am starting with a relatively new Owens Corning product (at least to me) called "Foamboard for Projects" which is sold at the local big box home store in 2 foot square panels (1 inch thick). I was thrilled to see these in the store, since getting a four by eight foot sheet home is more of a pain, and harder to cut into smaller squares accurately. Since my gaming table is 6 by 8 feet, I decided not to use the 2 foot squares as is, since the tabletop is recessed about 3/4 of an inch down from a surrounding lip and a test fit didn't really work. I opted to make a jig out of strips of 1 by 2, which creates a 1.5 inch reveal. I use this jig to mark two cut lines on the panels and end up with a 22.5" square, since a 2" wide board is actually 1.5" wide. [See picture 1 for basic panel and my cutting jig]

To make the boards modular, anywhere hills go from board to board either on the center of an edge or on a corner need to be standard. To achieve this I have a few cardboard templates that I use to scribe the edge profiles on the sides of other pieces when building up hills. I have a "center side" template, a corner template, and a river cutout template (also to be centered on a panel). [Templates are shown in picture 2, and the use of one shown in picture 1]
#2 - Cutting templates and planning tiles

Panels can be anything you desire, simple or fancy, as long as they have standard joins on the sides to make them compatible with other boards. Strictly speaking, this isn't even true, as some of the boards in the collection can be non-modular but therefore only usable in certain ways. Standard size building blocks can also be combined into larger pieces (for example, 22.5" by 45", or 22.5" by 67.5"), although as you make larger pieces you create the storage issue I was trying to minimize. In addition to the standard pieces I have made thus far I am working on a "2 block" high hill and a "3 block" river section, using layers of poured Envirotex as the water. Picture #3 shows a basic panel as bought and a finished panel with a simple hill using a center edge join.
#3 - 2' by 2' pink board and finished product

To date I have completed ten pieces, which can be seen in picture #4 stacked in the rack I built (with their end profiles showing to see how they join). Picture 2 also shows some little template pictures I made so that I can play around with table configurations in small scale rather than pulling out all the life sized pieces and moving them around. Each piece is numbered to its matching card. Once I decide on what I want my table to look like for a game, all I have to do is see which tiles I used and pull only what I need out of the rack.
#4 - Edge profiles, and numbered

I will take a picture soon using some of the tiles I have made.

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