Saturday, November 14, 2015

Preparing the Ground: My Napoleonics Battlemat Takes Shape

A few months ago I posted some pics on a project to paint an old bed sheet to make a battle mat suitable for 6mm Napoleonics gaming.  The idea came to me on a train this summer, watching the German countryside go by.

I finished painting all the fields in a variety of shapes and brought it in doors.  It was quite stiff from the acrylic craft paints I used, even after putting it in the dryer a few times to soften it.   I spread it out on the gaming table and smoothed it out with my hands until it lay reasonably flat.

The idea was to suggest a variety of fields, with some just plugged or lying fallow, with various shades of brown, and then different types of crops in greens and yellows.   I’m not a farmer, though I have had parishes in the country, but I don’t claim any great degree of knowledge as to whether one would see these sorts of colours at any one time.  Madame Padre looked a bit sceptical, but granted me a degree of artistic license.

Since I had watered the paint quite a bit to apply it, there were many places where it had seeped through under the painter’s tape I had used to mark out the various fields.  I used various shades and types of artists’ pastel crayons to smooth and blend the field boundaries as much as I could.

Covering the darker colours with the lighter ones didn’t work out perfectly, but it did begin to look better.

The only downside was that I ended up with a lot of dust from the pastel crayons.   I had to wash my hands a few times, and then ran my shop vac over the mat to pick up as much dust as I could.

Now to prove the concept by laying out some terrain items.

I think the size of the fields looks alright with the 6mm scale figures.   Here two of my Austrian regiments (or brigades, depending on the scale) prepare to hold the bridge on the Punkenbruch.


My original intention was to show the roads by laying down play sand, but I confess I don’t like the effect.  I think it looks rather messy, as the sand wanders all over the place.  I’m not sure what to do.  I could splash out on some resin roads similar to the river sections, or I could draw them using light colour pastels and draw over them later to change the look from battle to battle.


I put down some sections of styrofoam under the mat to create contours.  The sheet doesn’t cling to them, but it lays down flat enough that you can see the elevations well enough.

Another elevation view.


And when all is done, it even rolls up, after a fashion.  

I won’t decide until I play a game with it, but I’m reasonably happy with my result.   Hopefully players won’t mind if they hands get a little discoloured, I hope.




  1. Not bad at all padre! The yellow looks a bit bright, but maybe it's the lighting you're shooting under.
    I think pastels for the roads would be spiffing.

  2. Looks good to me. Have you considered spraying a clear fixative or a coat of dullcote or clear matte spray over the entire mat? That treatment would likely reduce much of the dirty hands syndrome.

    As for the bright yellow, in my part of the world that is exactly the color of rapeseed in full bloom.

  3. A spray clear fixative will work I did something similar years ago and it's still being used......)

  4. Great work there.A excellent result produced. I look forward to seeing you play a game on it.

  5. What a splendid idea, certainly looks the part.

  6. Its looking pretty good actually. The pastels are an interesting idea, I would have dampbrushed with craft paint using lighter colours but the pastels did the ssme thing and your fingers look like they had fun. The overspray dounds like a good idea.

    For roads and streams I've been quite happy with laying down masking tape and taking 5 minutes to paint with cheap craft acrylics. I've even been able to move them several times before discsrding them. Over spraying the pastels would definitely be a good idea before trying it though.

    The cloth I use most was originally done in 1998 with a refresh in 2014. Not bad for a $5 remnant.

  7. I think the mat looks great for 6mm I really like the varied fields , what about roofing felt for roads? Reasonably flexible , cheap and easy to move I'm using left over vinyl flooring but that is for 28mm and it is a few mm thick
    all the best Iain

  8. Fix the pastels with cheap ol' hairspray. A couple coats should really help stop the chalking on hands and not make the mat all stiff like say a clearcoat varnish might.

    I like the mat colours, vibrant spring crops and yes, rapeseed is as yellow as you've painted, though I hope your may doesn't smell as bad as the real plant!

  9. Looks fine, Michael. I wouldn't worry overmuch about the colours - check this out:
    For roads, I suggest sheets of the grit paper you get for lining the bottom of bird cages. Cut into strips of appropriate width, they make fine roads.

  10. Rather nice. With the trees, roads, and buildings, it really comes to life.


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