Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Hougoumont at 1:3 scale: How I made the Terrain, Part One

Thanks to everyone who commented on the previous post describing making the terrain for  La Haye Sainte at 1:3 scale as part of last year's Waterloo wargaming celebrations. While I'm on a roll I thought it would make sense to do something similar for our refight of the action round Hougoumont, which we played over 3 days in mid September 2015 at my house in the English Cotswolds, and which I will relate in due course.
But for now the terrain making.

To start off, here is a view of the finished terrain before it got spoiled by having 3000 little tin men trampling all over it. As you can see there are similarities to my LHS terrain, for obvious reasons, but this proved much more of a challenge and I'll be describing, among other things, ponds, vegetable plots and formal lawns and shrubbery!

Just a reminder that these magnificent resin buildings by Hovels were painted by Kevin East of Bristol in 2013 and so enthralled Paul D and myself that we told Kevin he had to organise a game with it in 2015 when the necessary armies had been assembled. I took on making all the surrounding landscape. The buildings are 1:1 for 25mm figures, but we are using 28mm, and when mounting figures on bases they tend to take up more space than if the figures were real and jossling shoulder to shoulder, so I figured we could do it at 1 figure = 3 men. Using this ratio with scale unit frontages seemed to work at approximately 1 inch = 3 metres ground scale.  Turning to the maps in ''the bible" - Mark Adkin's Waterloo Companion, we tried various combinations to fit our notional 96 square feet of terrain. For reasons I'll go into when I describe the game we settled on this one.
 The whole context was necessary to allow for the big ranges of
"off-field" artillery and the squares are each 2 feet giving our
12 feet x 8 feet playing area.
This is a close up of the table area which I used to design the model, supplemented by
studying other maps, contemporary illustrations, and the work of earlier model makers.
The heavier squares are the "extra bit" of terrain used as a side table for player access.
The dark fuzzy bit is the Farm and Chateau but see below for my reality check!
This is a photoshopped composite from 6 aerial photos and thus is not quite square and symmetrical in every respect. But you can see that despite my confidence over scale reduction I had to fudge the farm placement a lot.  We wanted to make sure the Great Orchard was wide enough for two battalions in column-of-attack formation. To do that the buildings had to be shunted more westwards with knock-on effect for that end of the table. Also, once I assembled the component buildings and walls it was apparent they were much bigger than I had allowed in the map interpretation, taking up about 8 square feet.
So I had to start by destroying the La Haye Sainte installation art by salvaging whatever I could and dumping the rest, then building up again
Back to the original Waterloo 1 and 2 landscaped surface and putting polystyrene
pieces just to fill up the biggest troughs as I'd need a fairly flat surface.
Now adding all the cardboard, magazines etc, to get the levels according to the
contours on the map. Higher ground was needed at the nearest (West) edge and the main
area sloped gently down to the South-east.
Once that was done it was time for the large pieces of paper and PVA glue to make a papier mache covering that would dry fairly hard.

At that point I needed to place Kevin's model buildings in situ and experiment with the exact placement of all those wall pieces he had painted.

When the correct positions were decided I was able to mark the surrounding features
 in felt pen according to the map so work could begin on the landscaping surfaces.
Above and below: You will recognise much of this from parts of the LHS set-up. I was interested in preserving work already done on texture and colour where possible, but with the expectation of renovating and improving and blending in wherever appropriate.
At this point things were about to get messy so I removed the resin models and marked their positions. Where they had been I pasted the shapes with a thick "gunge" of acrylic paint, PVA and sand/fine sawdust. Over the entire remaining area of the enclosed farm/chateau and the walled formal garden I painted with a few mms deep layer of the same cream coloured silicone exterior wall coating that I used for the LHS farm base. It has 2mm grit suspended in it so dries with a texture resembling course gravel on a model of this scale.
Some of the road strips reclaimed from LHS are being used and will be blended in later
My photo record shows that I made a start on the pond by the North gate about now but I will show creation of that later so as not to interrupt the flow.........on with the fields.

I've obviously changed my mind about some of the bits of carpet at the far end, but by now I have cut, reshaped and recoloured enough to cover the entire surface with something. In the foreground I'm creating the big kitchen garden held at the start by the British Guards. It is going to be grassy areas containing vegetable plots, some which will be ripe being June (yeah, I know the troops would have stripped them clean for the cooking pot!). Similar strips are down the line of the South garden wall. Where I didn't have enough pre-loved road pieces I have painted with thick, sandy coloured gunge.
Quite a transformation. Lots of green and brown acrylic paint/PVA/sawdust mix applied to get the fields the colours I wanted. Notably, a lot of wash, followed by dry brushing, has stained the "gravel" and blended in with the darker areas where the buildings will go.
 Above and below: Close up photos of the area near the South gatehouse. A hay field was necessary here and I've used paint and PVA over one of my old LHS course trampled crop fields then sprinkled with sawdust through an old plastic sieve (don't use a clean one from the kitchen or it will lead to domestic strife!).  Ribbed carpet offcuts have been drybrushed with highlights for the vegetable plots

Putting back the resin models brought it to life. Here I have practically finished the fields and stained the new gunge roads to match the old ones. There is still a long way to go and I will cover very shortly the ponds, crops and formal garden.
The photo on the table is from the Hovels website showing the stimulating photo that started us off in 2013
I'll leave you for now with a photo of my busy work top showing a wide selection of materials I used for this project.


  1. Fantastic as always Chris - you truly know how to make done thing so complex and detailed appear easy and achievable.

  2. Just wonderful stuff. Chris, your approach to things is very different to mine, but there are times when I get a nagging feeling that you might have the right of it.

  3. Thanks chaps. You are all very faithful supporters of my blog and it's much appreciated. Conrad, thank fully there is room for all sorts in this hobby - the landscape aspect is very important to me but you have the advantage in that you get through far more games :-)

  4. A very serious venture. Beautifully executed in miniature.

    Well done Chris.