Assorted Geekery

Building a wargames table

Ok, so we have been playing the last few games of WW1 and WH40K on some less than ideal playing surfaces.  The first set of battle boards i had made were warped and were suffering from moving house badly.  Tom had jumped to the rescue with a games workshop grass mat, but we were looking to expand our games beyond the 6×4 surface that provided, and besides, the shade of green was simply too bright for my liking.


So.  Lessons learnt from the last set of boards .. firstly hardboard warps and is simply too thin to be of any use.  Instead of using 2×4 sheets of 3mm hardboard, this next set of boards would be made of 2×4 sheets of 6mm MDF .. priced around £5 a sheet this is still affordable, but is way more sturdy.  Secondy .. Wallpaper paste was really the worst choice for adhesive ever.  The water content added to the warping issues of the boards, and it simply has no sticking power whatsoever.  Lastly, given the choice between Vinal coated with flock, or paper coated with static grass, choose the later.  For this project i will be using Javis scenics range of static grass matts instead of the guagemaster mats as used previously.  Hopefully these three changes will make for a much more durable set of boards

Above: 6x sheets for 2×4 MDF. Which gives us the ability to do a 6×4 .. 8×4 .. 10×4 .. 12×4 or 8×6 table.  The 8×6 arrangement is especially handy with historic systems, and should remove the need to downscale inches to finches (666 thou or 2/3rds of an inch)

Other materials – PVA glue .. brushes, and a glass of hot water for dilutiunng the PVA mix. 

For this project i Chose Javis scenics Summer Mix JMAT2 grass mat

You will probably want to note that this in NO WAY matches jais scenics Summer Grass flock .. which is darker in tone  .. the Best match i could find was Javis scenics Scatter number 19 – rough pasture. 

I mean seriously .. you think they would have standardised this shit?

Firstly.  seal the surface of the boards with a PVA water mix of about 1/3rd to 1/2 PVA to water.  This first layer of PVA seals the MDF, which will aid the 2nd coat in sticking to the boards .. it will also stop the baords from warping when you apply the 2nd thicker coat which actually sticks the grass down.

Once the sealing layer is dry, paint on a layer of PVA glue .. maybe water it down a tiny bit, but this should be a much thicker coat.  Roll on the grass slowly, being sure to press it down.  We rolled the grass around a rolling pin to roll it onto the board, which seemed to work ok.  Also, if you get excessive wrinkling, try peeling the grass mat off and re-rolling it .. the theory behind this being if the grass mat has expanded with moisture, re-laying it at its new length should reduce wrinkling .. it works for us but be aware, leave it too long before peeling and the whole thing disintegrates into a mush.

No matter what you do you WILL get some air bubbles and warping taking place .. This is unavoidable even if you spend 20 minutes rolling the boards with a rolling pin .. as this is the cardboard backing of the grass mat expanding as it absorbs the PVA solution.  We measured about 4-5mm of expansion over a 1200mm roll of mat once it was wet (Which was good because the 2×4 rolls of Grass were actually shorter than advertised by a few mm).  So this expansion is enough to leave creases.  Best thing to do is to stack the boards up as pictured, and dump a lot of heavy boxes on top.  Those shoe-boxes full of Magic the Gathering commons do the trick nicely. 

Leave for a few hours to dry.

Carfully cut of any excess mat with a scapel.

The finished result, the full table in its 12×4 configuration.

Added some 28mm fantasy figures for scale .. probably going to need to get working on some more scenery now…