Monday, May 22, 2023

The McPherson's Ridge Project (part 1: The Plan)

 Sing it! 

is the best CW,
All you other CWs are through!
Because the ACW
is the best CW
with armies of Grey and Blue!

is the best CW,
come on, you know it's true!
that the ACW
beats your CW,
the ECW, SCW, just to name a few!

is the BEST CW
All the rest to the back of the Queue!
Time for ACW
(the best CW)
ACW time with Stew. 

That's me. 

--that's an original composition and I am insanely proud of it.  Though I admit that it looses something without the accompanying musical score; mostly kazoos and cymbals.   

Time for some ACW

terrain.  Because I am SO tired of painting miniatures.  In the last year and a half or so I've probably painted over 200 miniatures.  GAH! it's soooo many.  It's exhausting. How can anybody paint so many  miniatures all the time..... 

HEY!  I can feel you smirking through the internet.  You, Jonathon.  Mark S.  Probably Keith.  Probably Iain.  Definitely Norm but he's too much of a gentleman.  Lawrence H, you too.  Matt C.  Carlo.  Dave S.  maybe Neil.   Point is... that's a lot of smirking.  

 200-ish is a lot for some of us mortals.  Especially because painting miniatures is a tedious business and If I had more money I'd be paying one of you to paint them for me.  
Maybe I should of done model trains as a hobby?
maybe I should get a box of those speed paints?  

maybe I should get over myself.

The Hills That I Always Wanted.

Besides, I have plent-tee of miniatures for the ACW (the best CW), so what I really want are some gorgeous battlefields.  Previously in my ACW (the best CW) games to make elevations / hills I placed materials underneath the mat.  It worked, but it was sometimes hard to represent features that I wanted, and my favorite gaming mats are the canvas, caulk, and flock creations that I did YEARS ago and they tend to to do large hills really well but smaller or rolling hills tend not to show through.  IN those cases I've used my fleece mats from Cigar Box miniatures which are really nice and the job gets done and the game get's played.  

Because of the under the mat technique I've never really made hills.  I'm so bored of painting miniatures that it seems like a good time to do something really exciting and expand my terrain collection and skill set and make some cool hills.  

I have lots of ACW (the best CW) scenario books and lots of the scenarios have specific elevations that represent key features on the battlefield.  One scenario that I've always wanted to have in my arsenal is the fighting outside Gettysburg on McPherson's Ridge.  One unique feature of this battlefield is that there is an unfinished railroad cut that literally goes right through several hills; which I always thought would be hard to feature with my previous methods.  The fighting on Day 1 of Gettysburg is so fascinating, and I love it all so much. that these are the hills that I always wanted, so a good place to start. 

And I love me the rules Regimental Fire and Fury (they're my favorite rules out of all my rules, just like YOU are my favorite blog reader out of all the others) aaaaaaannnnnddddd there just happens to be a RFF scenario book that just happens to have a McPherson Ridge scenario with a really great map and now you know where this is all headed.  To McPherson's Ridge! 

Actually it's a two-fer!  Because the same ground is fought over in the morning and in the afternoon; two scenarios for the price of one.  

Instead of making some generic hills, I'm gonna make the rollin hills of Gettysburg.  
Specifically I'll try to match the terrain as laid out in the RFF scenario book.   

Morning Scenario 

Afternoon scenario
Images of the scenarios from the 
Regimental Fire and Fury Scenarios Vol 2
are shown with permission from Mr. Hasenauer.
I emailed and asked, he said Yes.
He is a nice man.

The full scenario is a 5x7, which fits well in my standard 6x8 set up.  The map is really nice but doesn't provide exact measurements, and I'm gonna make some small changes just to make it a little easier. 
I can omit the dip in elevation around the stream and I don't trust my geometry skills enough to try some of those angles, especially of the angle unfinished railroad cut.  

I took pen to graph paper with each square representing 2 inches to simplify the map just a little bit, straighten some things out, and came up with this master blueprint:

I added some color pencils just to make it pretty for the internet.

I think overall it comes close enough to the actual scenario map while offering a more precise guide going forward.  I made the railroad cut parallel to the pike and slightly changed the orientation to make it easier to measure.  Why are roads during the ACW (the best CW) called Pikes?  Now your just fishing for trouble.  

Where to Begin?

Where it matters least of course.  As this is a new project without much experience for me I'm gonna start with hills the hills at the bottom left and top left from start to finish as a proof of concept.  These hills won't matter much for game play as it's just the CSA starting off point.  Least  that's what I think.

There are many ways to make hills, but the most common way is to carve them from foam and flock them.  Since I'm initially thinking of placing these on top of the mat that's what I'll do.

Starting with 2 squares of the pink home insulation foam from Home Depot
that come in 2 foot by 2 foot by 1 inch thick.

Using my Master Plan; draw out the shape.
The carpet in my hobby room really is kinda ugly.

Cut out the shape and then carve out the slope using a variety of sharp cutting things.
I can do this without cutting myself because I am grown up
and in Boy Scouts I learned to cut away from myself.
(you know who you are)

I tried to get 3" of slope for the 1" of elevation.  

Once the slopes were rough carved I used my palm sander to smooth it all out.
This is already more exciting than painting miniatures because I got to use power tools.
But then again I had to go outside...

There's no point in having a slope if miniatures can't stand on it.
otherwise might as well do terrace hills.

Not bad.  The regiment on the right is supposed to be at that angle.
How many pics have had my socks poking into them?
that's embarrassing.

And that is where the project stands for now.  If anyone has any advice on such matters as Hills and foam please do share. 

This was a Long Winded Post Just to Say You Started Two Hills

Yeah it was! That's very 'on brand' for me. But it was also something of a mission statement.  

More to come. Just gotta go buy a gallon of glue.
EDIT: Part two can be seen HERE

Thanks for Reading
Double Thanks for writing a comment.
Till Next Time.


  1. Painting figures is almost never boring Stew….but making hills can definately be fun. Check out the ACW game at Partizan as that was MacPherson ridge using teddy bear fur. My advice is definitely use shapes as you have produced but then a generic cloth to cover the lot. Much more flexible than producing bespoke hills. I did try whistling your tune but it didn’t really work out ?

    1. Thanks Matt. I did see the pics. The problem I have with the cloth is that don’t have one big enough that will deal over the hills well. Still, I might try it out with my cigar box mats first just to see. But I do like hills on top of a mat as well.
      I’ll check out the pics. I saw some nice ACW on Norms blog already. 😀

  2. 200 figures isn't bad, you just have to keep at it for the next 200......
    BTW I gave up's harmful for your health.....☺
    Hills are hard to do; there's always a compromise between practicality and aesthetics....
    I've made ones that are rounded and those that are flat topped and even some good old step ones. All have their pros and cons. Some argue any kind of slope results in figures sliding down, but then I've seen units reach the point just over the cliff edge of a pair of stepped hills which makes for an untidy heap. I have even tackled mountains, which was interesting. I decided to have them as more like backdrops....
    Yours look fine; I'd suggest that you decide on what sort of covering texture wise that you want, and when you cover them try to break up where the slope meets the flat part. The odd rock or better still foam off-cuts just to blur the hard edge. You could also design a curved centre crest (removable) which can turn it into a round top hill. The crest part is also useful as a gentle undulation.

    1. Thanks Neil. I don’t really think you smirk at all. 😀
      When I used the palm sande I hit the edge of the top of the slope pretty hard and I think there’s a nice bevel there. Doesn’t really show in the pictures.

  3. I don’t smirk when I read your posts Stew. I pretty much laugh out loud. The first blog I’ve ever read with an opening originally composed ditty…now that was very cool!

    1. Thanks Carlo. Glad it’s a fun read for you. 😀

  4. Having walked this very ground last week, I look forward to seeing your terrain project take hold. Oh, if I caught you using my Santoku knife for foam carving, you would be in BIG trouble!

    1. Thanks JF. It’s still in the infancy stages but I’m hoping for a good result. 😀
      What’s a Santoku knife? I did realize that I should probably invest in a carving knife just for this project.

    2. Santoku is the cleaver-like knife in your photo. Great for chopping veg and meat. Maybe not so great for carving foam.

    3. Ah. These were our old kitchen knives. i did have the good sense not to use our good ones.

    4. Yeah, if my wife caught me hacking away at foam with one of our Cutco knives I think I'd be summarily both divorced and castrated. I ended up buying a specialised foam carver/hot knife for future projects so I can keep my manhood and marriage intact.

    5. Well lucky for me I ONLY get hobby time late at night when everyone else in bed and I’m unsupervised. 😀

  5. Okay, wow, that's dedication. Classic hills are hard to find these days.

    I will point out, incidentally, that if you don't want to paint huge armies there's always Paperboys. 10mm ACW now available. I'm only holding out on them because I got hold of a Black Powder Epic starter box and because I'm waiting for the 10mm Seven Years War.

    1. Thanks Jennifer. We'll see how it turns out.
      I don't particularly enjoy painting miniatures, it's true. But I do love having large painted armies. It's a trap that I've set for myself. To compromise I still paint the miniatures but complain about it endlessly. 😀

  6. Fully understand the painting thing Stew, for some of us it is just that ‘step’ that gets in the way of getting things to the table.

    Hight ground in boardgames is dead easy, just an accurate outline goes down onto the paper map - done, but it has always been a quandary for the figures gamer. The Kallistra hexed terrain can build up accurate hill shapes (is it called tessellate) and there were two examples of that at Partizan, where the hex part is just the high ground, set on an unmarked cloth. I am not so keen on that as the ‘part use’ of hexes draws the eye to their grid, though I know some gamers throw a mat over that and then get a pretty good representation of the ground contour.

    The other way as Matt says is the cloth over ‘shapes’ - books, socks and tea towels! And while it does give function, for me, because I blog, I find that to the eye, the contours are visible, but that with photography, i cannot get enough shadow over the table and the high ground is often ‘blown out’, especially if using flash, so the viewer can’t really see them.

    So I tend to go for hills on top of cloths as edges are better defined and the form is immediately visible to gamer and viewer. I also like that additional textured surfaces get added to the table, so of the available choices, I like the route that you have taken (once one gets past the storage issue).

    I like the McPherson ridge situation and you do have some good ACW forces, so I am looking forward to whatever falls out of this.

    1. Thanks Norm. having done the 'shapes' under the cloth for a long time now for my ACW (the best CW) gaming I'm leaning toward hills on top of the mat. It does photograph better and I think can provide better game play (is the unit on the hill or not on the hill? well is it sitting on foam?). It does have the extra complication that I want the flock blend on the hills to kinda match the flock blend on the mats that were made years ago...😀

  7. Actually the tune works really well with a kazoo. Threw in some ‘tings’ on a triangle too, cos I like freestylin’’. I suspect a new career beckons for you as the Lennon & McCartney of wargaming. Unfortunately I WAS smirking at your issues with painting, primarily cos I feel the same about it. Maybe it’s natures way of pointing you towards smaller scales? I’m busy knocking out AWI troops in 10mm at the mo - doing about 5 for every 1 I’d have managed in 28mm. Hills. Mmm. I’ve just gone back to my kalistra hex tiles having given up on shaped foam under a mat for now. Why can’t everyone just settle on fighting where everything’s bloody flat. Sigh.

    1. Thanks Mark. My ACW (the best CW) miniatures are in 15/18mm which is as small as I've gone, but enjoyed games with 10mm. Actually if I had the resources / time I would have 15/18mm for Regimental games and 10mm for Brigade level games.
      Pretty sure it was the ancients period where everyone fought on a flat plain. 😀

  8. No smirking here, just smiling at the poetry of partisan prose and the play at expanded foam. Wonder continues at the devotion to find the F&F map, then the journey to "make it fit. " Bully! Then your tour de force as pencil artist , in color no less. Are you truly human, or a demi-god sir?

    Nay, no smirking here, only wargaming awe. Careful with the cutlery, never let a palm sander go off on its own. Hopefully more to come!

    1. Thanks Pan. That's a lot of flattery, and flattery will get you everything.
      The scenario map wasn't hard to find as I've had the book for years and years. More will certainly come. 😀

  9. I hold my hand up, I smirked. I did some hills like yours just out of the cheap white packing poly, messy but you don't need power tools, I did have to cover it with tile adhesive to give it a strong outer layer, you probably don't need that with your denser foam and could just coat them with pva and sharp sand followed by household emulsion, interesting WIP anyway!
    Best Iain

    1. Thanks Iain. It's a set up or course, because the writing is smirk inducing. 😀

  10. You always induce smirks Stew, whether in general or due to your witty posts.

    Hills are an interesting aspect in wargaming. A lot of the time, the scale just seems so far off to be at all realistic unless one is playing at such a small scale for them to look "right" on a table. Even the smallest of hills would take up the entire 6x4 and more of a game table in real life, so I stopped making them altogether.
    At 15/18mm though? Might look more believable? I look forward to seeing how you get on with these.

    Interestingly enough (For me at least), I've been playing with the idea of making some sort of rocky hills or elevations for my Winter table to try to represent the Very north of Greece circa 1940 to match up with my WW2 Greeks. But as I work so slowly as it is on just painting miniatures in the first place I doubt that will ever come to fruition!


    1. think how often my wife must smirk at me. 😀

      Your right that hills make more sense with a smaller scale and, I think, a big table. But yes the ground to miniature scale of our games is always out of whack. Still I like some hills on the table just to add some visual aspects. But also in a case like this; to represent a well know land feature. 😀

  11. The eternal conundrum of aesthetics over game play. Personally I go for a half way house of foam hills with gentle slopes, flocked as per the rest of my terrain. It then makes it very easy to determine if a unit is on the hill, behind a crest, etc.

    I use a Surform to shape the edges, which still creates 'dust' (or granular bits really) but creates no noise but you still have to use it outside, as that 'dust' is not good at all. I then paint the foam a dark brown before flocking, sometimes mixing in the paint with the pva glue too.

    I certainly look forward to the next instalment:).

    1. thanks Steve, I do think that some nice looking hills in top of the game table still provide immersion and also help the game play determinations as you say.
      I had to look up what a Surform was. that's an idea. That way I could do it in the late evenings as I do most of my hobby times. 😀

  12. They look like the perfect shape for hills Stew. and the figures look happy on the edges which is an accomplishment in itself. I used to be a hill under the cloth guy, but now am very much an on top of the cloth person, unless using a teddy bear fur mat as Matt suggests. A couple of hundred figures this year is a good effort. I enjoy painting as an end in itself, unless I have gone too large with a project and then it becomes a bit of slog.

    1. Thanks Lawrence. I've used both methods but for this I'll try 'on top of" at first as I thik the railroad cut is gonna need some special treatment.

      This teddy bear fur thing seems to be taking off. I'll have to look into it. 😀

  13. The hills are alive to the sound of music - or at least ditties about civil wars!
    I can just imagine a Julie Andrews look alike dancing down your hills singing your civil war song being chased by two handsome officers, one in blue and one in grey. I am sure Netflix would be interested 😊
    A great start with the hills and the plan for the battlefield looks fantastic.

    1. Hi Stew, above is Ben Cato, sorry I have got a new computer and forgot to sign in.

      Also, has some photos of the ACW (Best CW) in his report on Partizan.

    2. Lol thanks Ben. Yes several blogs have had some great pics of Partizan. Those guys have all the fun. 😀

  14. Any excuse to avoid the real work of PAINTING FIGURES, eh Stew? I am not smirking, there is nothing funny about it! Cant offer any advice on hills - all our groups are huge lumps of polystyrene shaped by whoever (Mark S probably) in a similar manner to how yours look and generally placed under some old carpet underlay that is then covered by the home-produced gaming cloth. For my mini 2 x 2 solo table, I have just stuck the odd book or two under my cloth, if I wanted a small hill - it seems to work ok

    1. Lol Kieth, you know me too well. I would work really hard to avoid doing any real work. 😀

  15. Off to a great start Stewart, and you look to be doing well with working with the foam, a useful tip before flocking is to do a sealing layer of watered down PVA (about 60 % PVA to water) as this will fill any small imperfections and also give the flock and PVA somewhere to key to properly. Happy to answer any questions on working with foam. As for the 200 models painted, that is a damn good number for a year.

    1. Thanks Dave. I appreciate the tip. I’ve already covered the surface with glue and sandy stuff. I was thinking of painting all of that and then adding the flock. 😀

    2. That will work as well, as the paint will help seal the sand in as well

  16. That's a catchy tune Stew...I played it on the spoons and coconut shells - it helps to drown out my appalling singing. Nice hills too.

  17. I'd rather paint 200 minis than work on terrain or just about anyway! The hills look great so far. I would recommend slapping another layer of shaped foam on top in random shapes to make it look even more realistic (and like there is variations in the height but it would take more work and more checking to make sure minis can stand up on it. I mounted all my hills on MDF as well but that will be tough with the size and shapes you're going for here. Other than that, I think you're already on the right track and well on your way. If you enjoy this, maybe I'll commission you to make terrain for me ;)

    1. Thanks Jeff. I think stuff like adding in a bunch of variations is great for hills set for 28mm skirmishes. But these are for 15mm mass battles and really just need to designate aspects of a large battlefield so can be somewhat plain.
      We’ll talk commission after the project is done. 😀

  18. Hills are always acceptable to see on a hobby blog! Good luck with the ACW (which is indeed, the best CW).

    1. Thanks SD. Yes they are and yes it is. 😀