Thursday, August 2, 2018

Fife & Drum Miniatures Video and Terrain Tutorial

Aerial view of the battlefield, with British in the lower right corner
and Americans on the ridge in the center.

I have decided that it is time to enter the world of videos on my blog, and because the videos are usually too large for Blogger's limit of file size, I will be posting this and future videos directly onto You Tube and then provide a link on this blog going back to the You Tube URL

You Tube Video - Hobkirk's Hill

Several days ago I set up the terrain for a new AWI game on my table. It is loosely based on the Battle of Hobkirk's Hill, or "Second Camden" as I like to call it. I think that it might well be one of the best looking game tables that I have ever set, so I wanted to mark it by doing a video.

Buildings, Roads, Trees and Fences
Since Camden is located in the back country of South Carolina, I decided that only log cabins would be appropriate buildings to use. All of the buildings shown in the pictures are from the company called "Grand Manner", located in the UK. Herb Gundt painted and based all of the buildings. When at all possible, I like to locate little farms or towns in the corners of the table, where they are out of the way of the action in the middle of the table. Here I can place civilians or make little vignettes or dioramas that add some charm and interest to the table top.

All of the snake rail fences and a few stone walls were made by Herb Gundt.

The trees are a mixture of ones made by Herb, using driftwood trunks and Woodlands Scenics large foliage pieces. He also made some trees using the rubberized horse hair method. I also have a goodly number of K&M trees, from the UK, and while these look very different from Herb's trees, I really like the way the two styles of trees work together and create a look of variety.

The roads are all made by Novus and are made of a rubber-like material that folds and bends nicely with elevation changes. Note to self: buy more Novus roads.

Farmer Gill and Family

The little hamlet of Log Town.
Americans deploy on Hobkirk's Hill
Scenic Background - a Herbaceus Border Perhaps?
I have about three or four bags of model railroad lichen, most of which is a rather garish and bright green color, as well as some dark green, and a light tan-ish color that I can't even describe. However, put them all together and they look pretty good because of the variety of greens working together.

Bright green lichen actually looks good when mixed in with other vegitation colors.

I placed some of my largest trees around the perimeter of the game table so that I can take some ground level photographs and not have a background of bookshelves, wall pictures, painting table, etc. Then I fill in the gaps between the trees with the railroad lichen which really gives the area a pop of color. I also like to put some large trees at the back end of the table because it plays some tricks to the eyes with perspective.  

My game mat doesn't quite fill up the whole surface of my game table, so I leave the plastic rollup tub attached to the end of the mat and use it as support for the wall of lichen that I build up to obstruct the view. I refer to the area behind the tube as my backstage area. I can place rules sheets, pencils, rulers etc here out of sight.

"Backstage" area is hidden by the wall of trees and lichen.
I also make sure to leave a "triangle" of open table in each of the four corners - I place my dice rolling trays in each corner, out of sight.

Corner dice trays are hidden out of sight by the rocks and trees.
More rocks put to good use on the table surface. Note the smaller rocks on the left that I have
randomly scattered across the table in order to break up the golf course look of the bare mat.

Natural Materials - straight from the back yard
Your back yard is a veritable treasure trove of terrain material to use on your table top. I gather up pebbles to scatter across my table mat as these help to break up the golf course effect of an undecorated mat. Larger rocks are placed around the perimeter and in the wooded areas that create mini Devil's Den rock formations. Dead leaves are one of my favorite finds. I crush the leaves or finely chop them into little bits and scatter them across the forest floor of the woods. A few broken twigs are also scattered around the woodsy areas to simulate fallen trees that are now dead.

Devil's Den is made from rocks that I found while walking the dog. T
he figures provide some perspective on the size of the miniatures relative to the rocks.
You can also see some of the chopped up dead leaves on the forest floor behind the rocks. 

In conclusion, the key to a realistic looking tabletop is lots of variety in materials. All that one needs is a bit of an artist's eye to put the whole picture together. You don't need to commission scratch-built buildings because there are plenty of sources for good looking buildings made of cast resin or laser cut MDF wood.

I will be fighting the Battle of Hobkirk's Hill in the next week or two and will post pictures of the battle on this blog. So stay tuned.

Your comments are always welcomed. Just click on the word Comments at the end of this article and fire away.


  1. Great read, and I"m looking forward to the video.

  2. A museum piece with the added benefit that one can actually touch and play with the components that make it up. A stunning testament to the hobby.

    Best Regards,


  3. A superb looking table and really interesting to read how you went about setting it up. I love the idea of the free standing stones to make rocky out crops etc. This and some of your other ideas I will give a go with my 10mm forces:)

  4. Wonderful looking table and I enjoyed the video

  5. Great looking table, and the video is a wonderful way to show off the scale and size that you sometimes can't see from photographs.

  6. Jim, many thanks for this great presentation, and I enjoyed the video as well.

    Having not met you, it is nice to put a voice to the face in your blog pictures and the provider of so many excellent figures. The video provides lots of excellent angles and views to expand from those in the pictures alone.

    You have also given some great scenic tips, too. The mix of rocks, trees, lichen and leaf scatter is excellent. I also admire the variation achieved in the forests by using different makes of tree model, and the scatter on the forest floor adds to the realism and I guess helps delineate the actual forest boundary for gaming purposes.

    Could you please advise me about the cream coloured ooze that appears on the wood cabins walls - is that a form of lagging or sealing used by the colonists? I will have to try to emulate this on the laser cut buildings I have when I put them together. Many thanks again for this great post.

    Cheers, Rohan.

    1. Thank you for your kind comments Rohan. I think that they used a mix of mud, straw and other ingredients to close up the chinks between the logs. Houses close to the ocean would make a cement of lime, sand and sea shells.


  7. A really interesting post Jim. I like your backstage idea and the 'hidden' corner for dice. Two great ideas I'll take away. Best regards, Simon

  8. Jim,

    Another great table! I enjoyed the video.

    The technique used to close up the gaps in the logs of a house is called, surpringly, chinking. And as you surmised it is a mix of clay, straw, and whatever else was available. During the summer it would be removed to provide more ventilation. All of this learned from watching "Barnwood Builders" on the DIY channel.


    1. I never knew that the chinking would be removed - interesting.

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