Saturday, 19 November 2011

A bridge not too far .. and not too expensive either

Scenery of the Day

Today lets have a look at putting together a bridge so our troops can march over rivers in style. Lets see if we can put something together that fits the style of the scenery, whilst keeping it under the magic $2 mark.

Rivers are very common obstacles on the battlefields of Mittel Europa, as they offer a way to partition the battlefield, restrict enemy movements, and provide a solid anchor for one's flanks.

It is also very common to find bridges and fords that offer a means of crossing these rivers.

Whilst there are a number of commercially available bridges on the market in different fashions and prices, they often run towards the expensive side ... and the style of the bridges available may or may not be in keeping with the style of your own battlefields.

So today, I am going to talk about knocking together a simple but robust and effective bridge for crossing the rivers on my own fields.

Like all of my other terrain pieces, I have a perverse requirement of doing it all using the DIY approach, and limiting the budget to under $2.

Materials used :
  • Canvas board, 5" x 7"
  • Cheap air dried clay
  • Cheap craft paint
  • Modge Podge gloss coat for water effects.
  • A pinch of sand, rocks and flocking material.

For starters here,. I have used another of the ubiquitous canvas boards - this time a 5" x 7" board for the basis of the bridge. All my rivers are 2-3" across, so I have started by laying out the river banks on the board.

Next step is to build the sides of the bridge using a slab of clay, rolled out to about 3-4mm thick, and then cut into the desired shape. Roughly mark in a brick pattern around the arches, and tops.  Next step is to build up the internal supports of the bridge, which are basically rough lumps of clay jammed in between the walls.

The all important walkway of the bridge comes next - roll out another slab of clay around 1-2" wide, and texture this using the end of a pen to create a fake cobblestone effect. Jam the walkway onto the model and then finally press it all together.  Any gaps can be filled in with PVA, which adheres well to the clay and adds extra strength.
After the clay has dried (give it an hour or 2), paint the whole model in a dark undercoat. Lay it on fairly thick, as the clay tends to absorb a fair bit of paint.

For this model I have also added some pompous looking finials at the ends of the bridge, as well as some decorative headstones on the arches - possibly engraved with a monument to the local Freiherr who funded the construction of the bridge.
After the base coat has dried, give the whole model a heavy dry brush in lighter tones - I have gone for grey here, as it is a stone / concrete bridge.

You can start to see the the lines in the stonework now, as the dark undercoat shows through where the dry brushing of the lighter shade does not reach. Easy !

Dirty up the river banks, and mix in a little brown and sandy yellow colours at the water's edge.

Spread on some green hues now - note that the cheap paint is applied very thick here, to provide some automatic texture to the grassy areas around the base of the bridge.
River colours go on next, a lighter blue with a slight green tinge added to the paint. Note also how the river banks tend to graduate from darker earth brown colours towards lighter yellow colours as they approach the water.
Throw some little details into the water now - a few dashes of darker blue add a suggestion of movement into the water. Quick and simple is best when detailing water effects, try not to go overboard with the special effects, just add a few hints instead.
Finally, adding a few whitecaps in the water to compliment the darker streaks. Because the water from the river is channelled into a pair of arches, this would add some turbulence to the water as it speeds up to enter and exit the arches. Again - a few minimalist hints of motion tend to work best.
Finished and deployed. Simply added some extra flock and rocks to the grassy areas, and then given the water a thick coating using the excellent Modge Podge gloss coat. Not the best article of scenery I have put together ;)  but not bad for a lunchbreak effort.

Again, the cost was minimal, so cant complain about that. Most importantly however, it fits in style wise with the rest of my terrain, being slightly whimsical, and certainly DIY.

It looks suitably Napoleonic to my eyes, and will work very well with my 18th Century troops when they march onto the table as well.
A view across the bridge, showing how it it integrates with the road, and the other DIY pieces on the board.

Also - I have made sure that the width of this bridge allows any bases of troops to be able to fit in between the walls, and be depicted marching across the bridge. If you are making your own, don't forget that little detail, and give yourself a few extra mm of play in the width as well.
Just up-river from the main bridge, I have another crossing  - this is a small 3" x 4" flat MDF coaster, painted to represent a section of the river that is fordable.

In game terms, any unit can spend a move either entering the crossing (1 or more battalions of a regiment/brigade placed on the coaster), or spend a move exiting the crossing.

For more cheap and easy scenery, check out my other $2 DIY scenery tips for more ideas ...

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