I am currently playtesting a Ganesha bug-hunt game called “Swatters”. Unlike the majority of Ganeshas games Swatters is squad rather than skirmish based. Squads and various terrain and objective elements in Swatters are defined by a “Cohesion Distance”, conveniently represented by an old compact disc.
As can be seen by the ugliness of the shiny CDs used in the first days playtesting I needed to make a number of old CDs look a little less shiny and ugly and to try to match them to my Zuzzy mat gaming surface.
In excruciating detail, interspersed with reasons why I did the things that I did, this is how I did it.
Firstly I sanded the shiny side of thirty CDs with coarse sandpaper, to give the paint/glue something to grip to. I dodnt bother taking photos of that stage.
I then mixed up a batch of black paint (I used black gesso as I had some around and gesso is designed to give additional tooth to paint anyway), ready mixed filler and PVA/white glue. This mix was then painted all over the sanded side of the discs. I then sprinkled two different kinds of flock and some granulated cork onto the wet paint/glue mix in patches. I then left the lot to dry overnight.
Keen eyed observers will have already noticed that I didnt cover up the holes in the CDs. I didnt bother for a number of reasons:
- Its an awkward and time consuming job.
- I did something similar using tape many years ago and the tape started to lift halfway through, which was an epic pain in the ass that I did not want to repeat.
- It can be hard to cover the holes without leaving a trace of the method used behind that inevitably shows up in an irritating fashion when painting later.
- The hole in the middle makes the discs much easier to hold while being worked on.
- The hole will always be easily covered up by a miniature during play.
- I plan to use the hole to store the CDs when finished.
The following evening I thinned the paint/glue/filler mix that I had already made with water and applied it liberally to the flocked areas. This was in order to both colour the flock and to seal it so that it doesnt fall off when used.
At this time I also sprinkled another grade of flock kindly donated by COM onto the balder parts of the CDs. This flock was fine enough to absorb the paint/glue/filler mix as I applied it, so it didnt need to be sealed again afterwards.
Even though I usually base my figures with sand from a local beach, I wanted to use flock on these bases. The primary use for the bases is to work as movement trays for miniatures and as such miniatures are likely to fall over on them from time to time. I wanted to ensure that the textured bases were relatively soft and less likely to chip the miniatures than sand.
I used to have a gaming table covered in sand at one point and it regularly caused miniatures to chip. It also caused bleeding knuckles from picking up dice. Although the idea of a room full of nerds playing so hard that our fingers bled is kind of funny (and reminiscent of Bryan Adams lyrics), it was mainly a pain in the ass. So flock this time then.
I let the flocked and sealed CDs sitting on the table to dry overnight again.
The first step the following evening was to break out the foam paint roller (visible top left above) and to roll the base paint colour that I use for my terrain bases and for my wasteland Zuzzy mat onto the CDs. It was important not to have too much paint on the roller at this point as it was an overbrush effect that leaves dark paint in the recesses that I was going for.
I considered adding some other colours in patches beneath (like how I approached painting the Zuzzy mat last year) before I got the roller out, but decided that at best it would be effort that wouldnt be seen (as the discs would be covered in miniatures during games) and that at worst it might actually make the neutrally coloured bases a bit gaudy and therefore potentially detract from miniatures put on them. So I didnt do that
If gluing junk and fluff to CDs and painting them has a fun bit, then this stage is it. I was pleased to see how the broken ground effect that I was going for was working out and unifying the colour makes that sort of thing visible.
I then mixed some white into the colour and rolled that onto the discs, but using a lighter touch than the previous layer so that it would work as a highlight. Lastly I mixed a mid grey with black and white and added some of the base brown to it and brushed some of the rougher areas in that colour to make it look like scree or similar.
The finished CDs can be seen in the first picture in this post.
Many people use CDs as bases for terrain. CDs are pretty much impossible to warp and they are very cheap/free. Regardless, I was put off using CDs as bases until now because of their uniform, perfect circle footprints, which I find visually jarring.
Despite my reservations I couldnt help but plonk down some various small terrain pieces on a few of my finished CD Swatters bases to see if they helped to delineate a minefield or campsite or whatever, which of course they did. So the CDs will likely have more uses than just as movement trays in games of Swatters.
Large terrain pieces that are lovingly modeled onto their bases/CDs are nice to look at but difficult to store and often hard to actually game with. Therefore I tend to make small terrain pieces that I clump together to represent a woods or a ruin or whatever.
This approach works adequately, although it is handier if the area represented by giant mushrooms/unexploded bombs/an interdimensional vortex is represented physically in some way. So thats another use for these thirty CDs.
The sand that I have used to base miniatures for a few years now is chosen to be neutral, so that it looks passable primarily on my urban and wastelands terrain sets. As you can see above the sand isnt a perfect match for the CDs or the mat, but its not very jarring either. Its an acceptable compromise, although its a bit extreme on large areas like the zombie spawn points above.
A final issue that I have with terrain pieces regards storage. I am lucky enough to have quite a bit of space assigned to my hobby stuff, but I still need to make sure that the things that I make can be stored reasonably well. One of the reasons that I didnt cover up the holes in the CDs is so that they could be returned to the spindle that they were supplied on.
Very tidy. Unlike this meandering, huge blog post.