Sunday, July 14, 2013

Terrain for the Battle of Bloody Run

Spent my Sunday finishing up the terrain in preparation for our Muskets and Tomahawk game at HISTORICON. This year we are recreating the Battle of Bloody run since it is almost exactly 250 years since that fateful early morning on July 31, 1763 when Captain Dalyell sallied from the besieged Fort Detroit to punish the insolence of the Native Americans. Here are some shots of my home made terrain. Happy to answer questions about how I made it. Not really hard at all. First we need about 20 feet of field dividers/hedges or fencing. I was a little short so made about 40 of these 5" beauties to be able to make enough to recreate the battlefield.
The before shot. Used large popsicle sticks, fishtank stones and good ol' Elmers glue. Cut the round ends off the sticks using some large wire cutters. Mixed up a paste of stones and glue in a cup. Do not try and do more than 5 or 6 at a time. The glue drys and the mess gets way to sticky. Better to work in small batches. The paste must not be watery. use only a little glue so that the paste is....well....pasty. If the mixture is watery the stones will simply slide off the stick. Very messy. Take your stick and mound up the stone-glue paste onto the stick and shape with two spare sticks by squeezing the mound between the two to shape so that your stack of stones is thinner on top than on bottom. Set aside to dry over night.
The during shot. Here you see the walls after they dry over night. I added some larger stone in here. On some of the others I glued nails to the stick before I stacked the paste. The nails will become small trees later. You will see.
The after shots. This is only a portion of what I made. Needed about 40 of them for the game. After they dry, I sprayed them with black primer. Let them dry about 20 minutes then hit them with a spray of grey primer. hit them lightly from different angles to sort of highlight the stone on top of the black primer. I had to go back over some of them with a dry brush of Fortress Grey. I then painted the wooden bases brown to match my terrain boards and added Tree foliage to the nails and added foliage to other areas where it seemed natural to have a bush or two. Now onto the Detroit River. I have never had to create such a large terrain feature before. The battle took place along the banks of the Detroit River and the run or stream that the British raiding party had to cross over was a tributary and flowed into the larger River. So below is my version of the banks of the Detroit River.
I made these by spreading an old sheet tightly over my work table and then clamped it down. I drew out the outline of the river using a marker that bled through the sheet. I then used Cedar Tan colored caulking, brand name DAP, that I got at Home Depot. Make sure you buy the type that holds paint. I then squeezed it onto the sheet using my caulking gun and spread it using a paint scraper so that it was about 1/8 of an inch and covering the outline I drew onto the sheet. I made sure the banks of the river were slightly higher than the area I was going to paint blue for the water. I let it dry a few hours and then while it is still sticky and not completely dry I sprinkled some sand onto the area that would be the banks of the river and gently pushed it into the drying caulk so the sand could set with the caulk. Next you let it dry completely and then unclamp the sheet and cut out your terrain piece following the outline that bled through to the back side of the sheet. Then paint the water dark blue, the banks of the river a brown that matches your terrain choice and then highlight both the water and ground. The close up shows the final highlighted version on the left and the partially complete version on the right.
Roads and bridges. I used the same caulking technique and the same color caulk to make my roads. Using an old sheet, spread it tightly over a table and clamp it down. Sketch the outline of the roads. Spread the caulk to about 1/8 of an inch thickness. You may even want to go less on the roads. Let the caulk dry about 6-8 hours. You don't want it to be sticky but soft enough to hold an impression when you push on it. I then took an old cannon wheel from a 28mm model and put a short wooden dowel through the axel of the wheel and ran the wheel up and down the road to make ruts in the road. I also used the dowel to poke "hoof prints" into the road. Don't overdo it but just enough to give the impression this is a road and not a brown stream. Let dry and then cut out with scissors. Painting is even easier. I simply watered down some Umber paint and washed it over the cut out road and let dry. Also In the above picture you can see the bridge. I made this using hobby wood purchased at a craft store. This is an important feature of the battle as the British were crossing the "Bloody" Run using this bridge when Pontic and his allies sprung the ambush. I finished painting the British last night but need to do the bases and then dull coat them. I should have pictures up in a day or two. If you are going to HISTORICON please come by and say hi. The game is Saturday evening. Cheers.


  1. Nice stuff, Tom. Looking forward to the game! Earl

  2. Thanks Earl. No doubt in my mind it will be a lot of fun.

  3. I intend to stop by and take some pictures. This game is going to look great on the table!

  4. I'm looking at building a small fort with my son for his summer holiday project.
    I'd like to build the fort which was at Canso in the 18th century.

  5. Irish,
    That looks like a very interesting build. In fact I checked into that fort and the whole Drummings War. Fascinating history. The web site provides a good outline. I would decide on a scale and measure out a wood base. I would use MDF styrofoam to form the hill top

  6. Let me know how it goes. If you have any questions please ask.