[Battlefield] In Gryphon Wood

I’ve always wanted to do that “welcome to Sylvania!” thing, where people come round yours for a game of the Warhams (or whatever) and you show them a battlefield that actually looks and feels like where your signature army is from.

I tried to do this with my swamp terrain from waaay back when this blog first started (more photos lost to my ragequit, tears in rain etc.) but never quite made it beyond the “trees, hills, removable section reveals river to scale dominating board” level – fine for generic engagements but not really evoking a specific territory.

Of course, these times are not those times. I am now more or less exclusively a Warhammer Fantasy Battle wargamer, I have two armies that are actually painted and an area of the TWW-“canonical” world in which they are compatible: the Gryphon Wood in the eastern Empire, on the border with Sylvania, in which Drycha is put into direct conflict with Mannfred von Carstein and friends. Not to mention the Kislevites and Ostermark…ians… that a couple of the London lads play. Mordheim, where it all began, is the first location one occupies in this campaign. It’s basically perfect.

I had to start a new Drycha campaign to take this shot and, er, ninety minutes later remembered I was doing a blog.

We have established that I generally do my own thing with regards to places and backstories, existing so deep in the cracks of the “canonical” world that I may as well be somewhere else, but it’s nice to be able to point at something that satisfies the amygdala-dwelling nerd instinct in oneself and others. That said, whatever terrain I concoct must also depict

I also have those GameIn5D cube boards that I’ve been meaning to do something with this side of forever – and those could each house one large terrain feature of up to maybe ten inches by ten, as long as it was seated on the right face of the cube and could be handled with care. That’s two large features per army. Some scatter bits between them and I might actually be able to conjure an evocative battlefield. It might even store reasonably well; I’d only need to find four cubic feet or so of space.

And this is where things get really mad, because I also have a Night Lords army, on similar snowy bases but with something different underneath – cracked black ice rather than the mixture of leafmould and grit that adorns my fantasy forces. And in the backstory I came up with for that army they’re literally intruding on the reality of whatever planet they invade, overwriting its substance with one of their own design. (I actually wrote this for my Necrons way way way back in the before time, but whatever, it’s a good trope.) Which means, maybe, that one 40K building – perhaps a Chaos portal of some sort with appropriate blending of ground styles underneath and around it – could actually represent the warp intruding on some forest terrain on a backwater feudal world…

The mind is now racing and the project spec running wild, so it’s time to rein in that initial enthusiasm and talk practicalities. I have a fair amount of hoarded resources – plaster bricks (and maybe some barrels and other bits, although I might have given those away at some point), a load of foamboard and card from work that could make good Mordheim-style buildings if I wanted to do a Sylvanian village, some foam polystyrene and a surface sealant Hark got me for Christmas a few years ago, and an absolute button of oldschool flock and model railway dust and black ballast that I’ve used for basing over the years. I’m pretty sure I have most of what I’d need to make four large set piece buildings to define battlefields. Maybe three, with the last cube kept open for storage of scatter pieces and creating space on a battlefield where it’s called for. That space could get me out of Sylvania when called upon, such as when occupying the fields of High Tiernmas of old.

There’s a side issue though: bases, and the standardisation thereof. The Night Lords have an excuse that the Sylvanians lack – over the long years of developing the Grand Army of Sylvania I have had to adopt different basing styles and the army isn’t coherent with itself, never mind anything else. Rebasing over a hundred rather brittle plastic undead doesn’t entirely spark joy but I think it should be done – the army would look the better for it. I’d like to standardise all the fantasy figures onto brown leafmould/static grass/snow… maybe I could cheat and daub snow scatter over the gravelly bits of the undead bases, so they were just snow with grass peeking through? I worry that would end up making the bases the brightest part of the figures, though. But there’s no saving my Sylvanian paint jobs anyway. I’m sure I’ll live with it.

I want to avoid hills. I have real issues with scale hills in wargames terrain; no matter how much you tell me that the hill is a proxy for something a lot taller I look at it and it’s lower than all the other bits that are in scale – look, a wargames hill should be humungous, it should be a slope that extends over an entire battlefield, the farty little hummocks we adorn our tables with are mere earthworks by comparison to the sweeping craggen moors of my homeland and I am not letting this go.

Rivers also throw me because I can’t get them to look right without building up the battlefield (with, say, sheets of foam poly) and then cutting back down to get the sides suitably steep and “below” the surface. Rivers that lay down on top of the playing surface just look wrong. I’d like to do a marshy area though, partly because I want to be able to cast Mistress of the Marsh on my own goddamn home table if nowhere else and partly because the old Perilous Quest campaign book had one in the finale. Plus I think I can fudge the visuals better if it’s just a different colour and texture of material around the flock, with no need for physical depth to represent what’s being represented.

I’m not necessarily saying I Will Do This. I need to move a lot of furniture and books around to make the space in which this stuff can be stored, and this isn’t a project to be embarked on without storage space in mind. When I talk about a project on the Internet it’s not an announcement as such – over the years I’ve learned that I use spaces like this blog to think aloud, to get a big exciting idea out of my head and into a theory post so that I’m not fizzing about the possibilities any more, and can devote my brain cell to the practicalities. The project needs to be out there, and described, so that it’s external to my mind and I can whittle it down somewhat.

Wouldn’t it be awfully exciting, though?