Hello once again from Hobby Machine! It’s been quite a while between drinks and now thanks to the self-isolation that we’re all going through (or as I like to call it, The Bane of the Backlog), I can clear out some of the unfinished projects on my crowded painting desk.
A lot has happened since my last post, many tournaments attended, many games lost, but I wanted to do something different for 2020. I wanted to set myself the challenge of only using lists from one faction or Legion, taking that army to as many tournaments as possible so that I can really get a feel for how the list plays at different point levels. This would help me make the most out of a modelling project and would hopefully get me a few wins along the way. The list I chose for this year would be Ugluk’s Scouts.
Ever since reading the list and all its special rules in War in Rohan, I was instantly hooked. I loved the idea of having a mix of Uruk-Hai Scouts and Mordor Orcs, whilst also having rules that would make the list feel exactly like how I imagined them when reading the books. The Uruks overtaking the orcs as they fled to the safety of Fangorn‘s treeline? The animosity between the two forces being represented in them fighting harder when around each other? A certain sneaky Orc Captain trying to grab a snack being represented as not following orders? Such sweet, sweet flavour.
To present this force on game day, I wanted to build a display board that would represent one of the two pivotal scenes that they appear in the Two Towers. My options were, “You’re late.” where the two forces meet for the first time in that gorge, with lots of grass and interesting rock formations, or “They Are Not For Eating.” when they come to blows over the lack of exotic cuisine on this particular excursion. Eventually, I decided that I wasn’t confident enough to try hand-carving rock faces just yet, so I instead went for the campsite and treeline.
Planning the Board
First step was to get the base board ready. For most of my display boards, I go with an A3 photo frame as they have nice borders and make for decent presentations. I then removed the glass and the placeholder photo and glued a polystyrene sheet cut to size onto the backing. I used PVA for this step and weighed it down with a figure case to get an even distribution of weight.
As the glue was drying, I used the opportunity to place the army on the board to get a rough idea of the placement for the figures, and trees that I was going to use. After all, this argument happens after Ugluk orders a fire and the orcs start chopping down branches with their axes. To represent this on the board, all orc warriors with two-handed weapons will be in the treeline amongst the fallen logs.
Once I figured out the placement and the glue was dry, I ran a sharp blade around the frame to trim the polystyrene down to the frame height. The plan was to have the ground cover sort of bleed onto the frame – a plan I abandoned pretty early on. Once the trimmings were removed, I smoothed over the cuts with filler. Before it dried, I smooshed in the old Games Workshop trees and twigs from my backyard to seal them to the board and sculpt the ground around the roots. Doing this now instead of when the filler dried allowed the logs to look like they were heavy and displaced some dirt when they fell.
With the filler dry, I applied a textured paint over all the board taking care to avoid the trees. This particular paint is used on outdoor ceramics like large flowerpots to provide a nice texture, it also works wonders at making a decent ground cover in minutes, without having to wait for glue to dry or to dust off excess grit. I applied two coats, to help hide any brushstrokes and uneven filler areas.
Next step is to undercoat all the trees and logs. I used Mechanicus Standard Grey from Games Workshop. Then once the undercoat was dry, I began painting the undergrowth of the forest floor. One of my favourite parts of making display boards is that you can use whatever materials you have, you don’t have to go with the expensive stuff to get great results. For all my boards, I use acrylic paints from the $2 shop. Umbers, greens and greys are all easy to find, and for the forest floor, I stippled a random assortment of dark browns, greens and warm browns. There was no particular method behind the colour mixing or the placement of the colours, you just keep adding different colours to the one you just put down and stipple it in a way to prevent it from looking too manufactured.
For the grass area, you can see in the film that the location for the camp has very pale, almost dead grass. Lots of yellows and pale greens, with long tufts (especially when Pippin crawls over to Merry) and no real rich green in the surrounding area (when the Three Hunters discover the burned carcasses). I kept that in mind while painting the ground outside the forest, using very pale browns and splashes of light green. These areas will be drybrushed before putting grass down but it will help distinguish between the dark, damp soil of Fangorn and the dry, grassy plains of Rohan.
With the ground tones sorted, I went and painted the logs and tree in dark browns with grey highlights. In the film, the chopped wood was very pale so I went with a light brown drybrushed with bone.
Once the trees were painted, I then drybrushed all over the ground cover, using a pale brown for the forest floor and bone for the grass area, overlapping both colours at the treeline to blur the strict divide between the two soil types.
The next step is to start applying the grass. I used some dark brown static grass for random patches and much longer dead grass for the larger tufts. I also threw in some spots of flock here and there to bring the deep greens of the forest out a little. I also added some leaves to the forest floor by crushing up some dried leaves I found in the backyard. If I had a spice blender or a spare regular blender that the wife wouldn’t mind me using, I would have blended the leaves up in there and sifted the pieces until I had a size I liked, but I don’t so I didn’t. Instead I crushed them by hand until I was happy with the size of the leaves. These were then applied using PVA glue.
For the larger areas of grass, I used Games Workshop’s now-out-of-production Dead Grass. I painted PVA in random patterns around the larger tufts and sprinkled the grass over the top. To make your life easier, I recommend using a static grass applicator. I however, do not make life easier for myself so I will have to content myself with flat grass.
To add a bit of variety to the grass (I noticed that this was looking a little too flat tonally) I mixed some of the Dead Grass with some of my older mid-tone green static grass. The colours blended well together and I was able to add some green to the grass cover without compromising the feel I wanted to go with for the grasslands. I also made some larger stalks with some old $2 paintbrushes, the kind you remember painting with in primary school. I applied glue to the end of the bristles – while still attached to the brush – and once that dried, I cut the bristles off at the metal collar, then pulled apart the bristles into appropriately sized clumps.
The final step was to seal the entire board with heavily watered-down PVA through a spray bottle. I plan on doing two coats of this sealant so that all that static grass doesn’t fall off in transport.
Once I’ve finished painting my 750 list (just got Snaga and his warband of orcs to go), I’ll make another post with the completed project. Until then stay safe, thin your paints and happy hobbying!