Thursday, June 2, 2016

First Terrain Tile for 15mm Vietnam Project

All,

And here we are again, and I'm quite proud of myself, a lot of catching up the blog happening here.  So here's the deal: if you're not aware, I'm a former US Marine.  Now I proud myself on that fact, as well as my knowledge of Marine Corps history (and military history in general).  But I was sitting on the couch not long ago watching The Military Channel (or whatever the hell they're calling it), and a show called "Against the Odds" came on, which features various battles in which one side fought a numerically superior enemy and, if not win, they at least gave good account of themselves.  So this episode was called "The Battle of Dai Do," and I sat there and watched I was both fascinated and sickened.  Fascinated because the story was fantastic, and this single, three-day battle saw two men win the Medal of Honor and several more win Navy Crosses (2nd highest award for valor).

I was sickened, and I still am, because I'd never, ever heard of this battle before.  We're talking Vietnam, up on the 'Z; we've heard of Da Nang, Rocket City, Monkey Mountain, Hue, Khe Sanh, The Hill Fights, Operation Buffalo, etc..., but I'd never heard of Dai Do (sometimes referred to as The First Battle of Dong Ha).  Here's the Readers Digest version: immediately in the wake of the failed (from a North Vietnamese standpoint; the Viet Cong were eliminated as a force in the South) Tet Offensive, the NVA pushed an entire division of infantry across the DMZ, looking to eliminate the major logistics hub of Dong Ha and cut I Corps off from the rest of the country.  The NVA division successfully infiltrated unnoticed, but they blew it when one of their patrols fired on a Navy landing craft on the Cua Viet River (major artery running east-west in northern RVN).  The Marine Corps decided to send a company up there to check it out, and that's when all hell broke loose.

Ultimately the entirety of 2nd Battalion, Fourth Marines (the "Glorious Bastards;" I actually floated with them once on the 31st MEU) was committed to this battle, even reinforced with another infantry company, Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines (I did a Tandem Thrust exercise in Australia with them), but they were committed piecemeal and with limited arty and air support.  Ultimately, five Marine rifle companies ATTACKED an entire NVA division, throwing them out of four separate villages, one at a time (the largest being the village of Dai Do), before reaching for a fifth village and ultimately being kicked out of the fourth village and back into the third village.  But at that point the Marines had so badly bloodied the NVA division that it fell back across the DMZ into North Vietnam to reconstitute.

So I quickly went to Amazon and picked up the book, "The Joint Army-Marine Defense of Dong Ha," which laid it all out for me.  I took copious notes and (focusing only on the Marine part of the battle, for brevity's sake) I compiled a book of ten separate company-sized scenarios that I want to play out on the tabletop, playing the Battle of Dai Do out (for the Marine units) in its entirety (the Army had a battalion assigned as reserve for the 3rd Marine Division, and it was called up to assault a village to secure the right - eastern- flank of the battles at and around Dai Do).

To do this I decided I needed some terrain.  Having seen several wargamers make good use of these foam mats, I decided to give it a shot, so I bought a bunch of 2' x 2' foam tiles and I'm making terrain to play out the ten scenarios.  Each table will be four tiles, so 4' x 4', and I've figured out I need to make a total of eight tiles to play this out (with a little bit of fudging ground scale).  I've been cutting, gluing, painting on latex, spray painting on texture, hand painting on dirt, drybrushing the dirt, spray painting water ways, and putting flock on like a champion, and I've just finished my very first terrain tile.

I'm very happy with it, so I figured I'd show you guys.

Here's the first tile, with a tributary at left, rice paddies at bottom center and bottom right, and a spot for the village (this will actually be the Dai Do tile) at top center-right.  You can also see various trenches and fighting holes (keep in mind this is near the DMZ, constantly fought over, not virgin jungle).  This is the tile 'naked;' in use I will be placing villages, trees, and foliage on it.

Another look.

Again.

Once again.

And one more time.

And here it is dressed up with some bushes, trees, and some buildings (please forgive the Middle Eastern buildings, I don't have my Vietnam buildings yet).  Also note the five 15mm troops walking up the road for scale.

A look at the time as it makes its way towards the village, showing the rice paddies and dikes up close.  What I did was I used two tiles for each terrain tile; one on the bottom, then I cut one up and glued it on top so that I could have differences in elevation for rivers, paddies, trenches, and fighting holes.

The team enters the village.  Note the guys in the rice paddy, sheltering behind the dike, as well as the SAW gunner in the trench at center left (between guys in paddy and guys behind building).

And here with a guy in one of the fighting holes and another in a trench near a building.  I'm very proud of how this turned out, only seven more to go...  The only problem I'm having is with flock; I need to figure out a way to protect it, i.e., fix it in place, make it a bit more resilient to touch.  Maybe a matte spray?  I heard old fashioned aerosol hair spray might work?  Tell me what you think or know, please, it's already showing some scuff marks.

More to come!

V/R,
Jack

11 comments:

  1. Firstly, I cannot help you with the flock problem. I have no solution that has worked well for when I flocked a board for 2'x2' gaming - i don't move the boards very much! While glue over the top seems to be a winner, but my flock seems to be vegetable/wood based and so it just swells up and the flock colour runs.

    Secondly, I am very very jealous. I have wanted to make terrain board for about 10 years but just could not motivate myself and was worried I would spent a lot of effort for a crap job :-( Yours look great! you deserve to be proud - motivation on wanting to do the boards, actually doing them, and also by doing wargaming proud by starting another project based on something you happened to see or read in passing!

    I have seen your other posts on another another another project and the thing that surprises me most is noone actually has picked up on not that you have done something more on the Napoleonic project, you actually played a game as well! I guess people were overcome with Sgt Rock envy they failed to note you slipping in the Napoleonic references at the end of the blog post. And here was me thinking that that would be a project that easily had 10 more years before it hit the table :-)

    I am still around. No figure gaming except Warhammer Quest with the children and also busy will other fun stuff in life. But I do get closer to 20mm WW2 skirmish every day...

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  2. Shaun,

    Great to hear from you buddy, glad you're doing well. But now that I'm back, you need to get in gear and hit some gaming too ;)

    Yeah, the flock is very sensitive and is already showing about a 5" long scrape mark; I need something to protect it, if such a thing exists. I think I'm going to test out some hairspray.

    I was a little scared about the terrain board project too, for the same reasons, and I'm still worried as I'm only finished with 1 of 7. Like you said: it's easy to sink a bunch of time and money into this and never finish...

    I don't actually know what drove me to do the Sgt Rock stuff, and I'm actually a little aggravated with it as it's a project that's awful close to some other projects (particularly All Americans, where I've already done Sicily and part of Italy, then plan on doing Normandy, so they're almost the same damn campaign).

    With the Napoleonics, I'm playing with figures I've had for awhile. The other 10mm figures I've bought (where each battalion will have four bases of twenty men, each cavalry regiment will have three or four bases of five troops) will probably never get done... But I did get a game in with the old Nappies, and the table is already set for another.

    Take care man.

    V/R,
    Jack

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  3. Replies
    1. Thanks Jim, glad you like it.

      V/R,
      Jack

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  4. Hi Jack,

    They look great and should be really stackable for storage too - always an issue for me at least.

    What glue id you use for the flock. I've always used white PVA glue, which, once it dries, is pretty tough stuff - you'd have to scrape it with a knife to dislodge it. I also don't use the sawdust style flock much - the colours run into the glue and bright sunlight destroys the dye, leaving sawdust showing - I have loads of 6mm Soviets desperately in need of rebasing because of it. I found the static grass Kallistra sell here in the U.K. to be really resilient. They use it for their hex terrain boards and a big bag which lasts me 18 months is only a few pounds. I use a plastic puffer bottle to sprinkle it on wet PVA and as it dries the static grass springs up into a nice turf-looking finish - no need for a varnish coat afterwards. The grass is some kind of nylon fibre and seems to be pretty indestructible.

    Good luck with the rest of the boards, they are looking really good.

    Cheers, Andy

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Andy, and thanks for the advice!

      V/R,
      Jack

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  5. Jack,

    That's a cracking board. Good luck with the rest. As for the flock, if you're using Woodland Scenics foam type flock, there should be a solution. You need 'wet water' which is apparently water with a little washing up liquid in it. Spray it on previously applied flock, then use an eye dropper to put neat pva on. It should set like rock. Haven't tried it myself yet, but seen You tube tutorials.

    Best,

    Si

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Si, and I think I'll test that out.

      V/R,
      Jack

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  6. Jack, this is an awesome solution ! what a great idea !

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Jimmi. I'm on my way to Dai Do, still a lot work to do. But the tiles will look even better with your Marines running around on them!

      V/R,
      Jack

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  7. Hello Thanks for sharing information.keep updating the blog.Foam Mats

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