Impulsive Imaginings – Frostgrave: Ghost Archipelago Islands Step-by-Step!
I will admit, I dig the Frostgrave. Sure, it's random as heck, there can be a campaign imbalance that develops...but the rules are simple, make sense, and it's fun because crazy stuff happens.
Most of all, however, I love the setting. There's some about it's generic simplicity that pulls on the familiarity complex of my subconscious. I wander it's universe inside my own mind. It inspires me to create. And that's why I'm really in this hobby.
Picking up the release of it's sister game, "Frostgrave Ghost Archipelago" was a no-brainer for me!
A jungle version of Frostgrave? Sign me up! This immediately recalled the fond memories of Conan traversing through mysterious jungle ruins, or riding on the open seas.
Before I read the rules (note: they're a bit different than standard Frostgrave...so this isn't exactly a simple jungle translation.) I had board ideas running through my head.
I decided that, first, I wanted an island board. I'm a big fan of using 3d structures with bridges for Frostgrave, but for a jungle scenario that could be difficult without creating some kind of canyon system, or Ewok tree huts....hmmm...more ideas are a-brewin'!
A variety of modular "island" pieces on an open water mat seemed like a great direction to go! So, I got to work with some fairly quick and simple build methods.
Step 1: break out the utility razor and cut up some pink insulation foam. A 2" sheet of 4'x8' dimensions runs about $23 at a hardware store. A 1" is about $12. You'll get a TON of terrain out of that. I tried to make my cuts smooth and random, occasionally pulling out foam bits here and there for more variability. I sanded the edges for smoother transitions.
Step 2: basing. Probably the more "This Old House" step. I use 1/16" hardboard/masonite, also sold at hardware stores. I traced out some basic shapes around the island foam, and cut these with a power jigsaw. Careful on this step. Man Vs Power Tool = Power Tool wins every time. 😉 After I cut these out, I beveled the edges with a palm sander. With 1/16", you probably don't need to, but I wanted a smoother appearance.
I then, glued the foam on to the base board, and glued some extra chunks on top for rocks and such. It adds some natural dimensionality.
Step 3: Smooth out the edges where the basing/islands meet for a more gradual transition. For this I used some wall spackling. This stuff is great for adding texture and filling in larger gaps. You have time before it dries to sculpt more interesting texture as well, like mudslides, or tracks. It really solidifies the piece.
Step 4: Sealing and texturing. You could seal the whole piece with PVA glue (white glue/modpodge), however I had some extra latex housepaint sitting in the garage. When it comes to terrain building, the budget minded hobbyist knows that "free" things are always better. 😉
I coated the whole piece in the latex primer.
Then sprinkled on some sand...
Then I used a separate brush (don't cross contaminate your paint ;)) and dabbed the sand and paint to unify them/control the texture. This adds a lot when drybrushing later.
Step 5: Priming and basecoats. If your terrain piece is sealed up (from acrylic/latex paint or pva), you could get away with spraying it with rattlecan spraypaint (which normally melts foam). Personally, I'm a big fan of airbrushing and acrylic airbrush primers (Badger Stynylrez), so that's what I used. I primed the pieces with a black undercoat, and a few successive layers of brown/lighter brown for highlighting and adding variability in color that looks more natural.
Step 6: The fun part! Drybrushing! For larger terrain, make sure to use cheapy craft paints. Don't waste your expensive minis paint on pieces where the details don't benefit much from being perfect. You'll be doing a whole lotta drybrushing and the end result will look great even with cheap paints.
Here I drybrushed more yellowed browns as further highlights to the earth, and gray-blue-white mixtures successively lighter for the rocks.
Step 7: Flocking and foliage. This can either be a really fun step, where you see your creation coming to life...or a nuisance because the flocking doesn't come off as natural. The goal here is to spread some pva glue around on your piece, and drop some flock/static grass on top where you think plants should thrive. Where would plants get enough water? Too much sun? Too little sun? To practice, it's ok to drop flock on the piece without pva glue, take a step back and see if it looks natural to you. If it does, shake it off on to a newspaper/paper towel, then you should have an idea where to lay down the glue.
Step 8: Final foliage detailing. This isn't completely necessary for a pure gaming piece, but really adds to the final look. I used hot glue and pressed on some clump foliage, lichen, and static grass tufts...in a not entirely random pattern. Again, your eyes can develop a sense of what seems natural. Where would bushes grow? Would a well traversed path be overgrown?
And there we go...some quick modular islands/hills for your wargaming needs!
To give it a more tropical look, I adorned them with various bits from petstore aquarium plants and structures. I have the iconic Ghost Archipelago head, and something based off of a Buddhist monument which looked suitable for the setting. I connected the islands simply by laying down handmade wooden bridge pieces (and another fishtank terrain rope bridge). The docks are foam pieces from Ziterdes (not painted yet).
Hopefully this may be of some use to people out there, it's a pretty fast process (sans drying time) and they'll get creative, post pictures on hobbying sites that I browse, inspire me more, and the cycle continues!