Sunday, 24 July 2016

DIY battle mats and 6mm winter war

For a long time now I've looked for the best material to make boards for 6mm battles.  I've tried MDF which is ok but heavy.  I've tried polystyrene which is light but breaks easily and warps. I've tried just material like artificial grass or bedsheets painted in earthy colours.  But none have done the job.

I've looked at neoprene and even shop bought battle mats but here come in at £65 each usually and have featured like roads, rivers or trees on them which look daft when viewed from the side or which do not correspond with the terrain you want to lay out.  Not only that but if we want to run an operational game over 8-10 tables that would mean shelling out over £600 on mats alone.

Then a few weeks ago I was in B&Q and saw the perfect thing. It's called super underlay and costs £35 a roll but it's 8 metres X 2 metres (2 metres being 6 feet wide this means enough to make around six mats of 6 X 4 feet - so each may comes in at £6 or 10% of a shop bought one.

The material is very thin (see photos) and light. The only problem is the 'textured' side is wrapped in a foil like material which gas to be peeled off gently. This leaves little indentations in the mat - not a bad thing as these break up the uniform look but takes time before you can do anything.

The mat sprayed up with winter scenery trees and hills

The other advantage is they can be painted on both sides.  I advise paint rather than gluing talus or flock because the cost of doing so would outweigh the benefit of the cheaper mat and also the material would soon rub away unless stored and used carefully.

I've already made two winter mats.  Rather than just spraying it a uniform white I wanted a scheme that could apply for all potential theatres in WW2 winter (Eastern Front, Ardennes, Balkans etc) and different parts of the season (from first frosts in October to late thaws in early March).  So I went for a combination of dark grey, light grey and white in a mottled effect to denote iron-hard and frosted ground with a dusting of snow.

The spray paint requires about 1/2 can of dark grey, grey and white (from Wilkinsons) which works out around £8 per mat.  Its just a case of spraying then stepping back to check the effect then spraying again.  The second mat only took me about 10 minutes to spray up.

One thing I can see is that I need to make up a lot more winter trees.  A lot more.  For an operational game (8-10 tables) I will need around 100 trees per table.  The Chinese tree making companies will be getting another order soon but these are only around £4 per 100 so not too much to worry about (I probably need around 600 base fir trees to make up the required number).

In the meantime I'm now painting up a host of German WW2 winter uniform soldiers - all German vehicles have already been done in winter camouflage. I then need to repaint a couple of divisions of Russians in winter colours and we'll be ready... 

The underlay close up.  Texture on one side - flat on the other.  Rolls up easily as well.
6 x 4 mat wider view so you can see the mottled effect more clearly.

The gouges are where the foil peeled away and took some material with it.


  1. Looks good Phil. Cannot wait to see troops and vehicles on the terrain.

  2. Superb!

    With all the troops on table this will be great. just looking at the layout inspires me.

    It reminds me of the schloss adler from where Eagles Dare.....

  3. Germans coming along nicely - almost enough for a full divison of infantry and all vehicles are ready.

  4. Brrrr!time for some après ski!

  5. Good job Phil how about a game this thursday

    1. Painting German infantry furiously. How many stands do I need?

    2. Only what you want Phil, don't kill yourself. If you like I can knock up a scenario for you if you don't have time. I reckon for a Thursday night you could get away with a battalion each side plus some assets so 9-12 stands min for each side.

      Let me know how much you are likely to be able to do and I can come up with a fast play scenario?