Desert wadis - practical wargame terrain

In general terms there are two considerations for wargaming terrain. The first is the aesthetic quality, the second is practicality. Sometimes the aesthetic can be practical, especially when it comes to 'moveable' / free standing terrain. Fantastic looking buildings can be made and ways found to make them practical - by giving them gardens for occupying troops to go in, etc. Trees and other vegetation can also be both because they can be moved around to make space for any troops passing through them. Things become a little more tricky when it comes to larger features, especially hills, rivers and other major topographical features.

If I were to wish for something to add to my wargaming set up, it would be a collection of nicely sculpted modular terrain tiles. No it's not! Scrub that wish because I could probably have them if I wanted - my modelling skills and knowledge are probably good enough - what I need is a spare £500,000 to buy a spare house big enough to store it all in; because lets face it, I'd want an awful lot of modules to re-fight this and that battle. Therein lies the truth about practical wargames terrain - storage.

At Fiasco, Leeds Wargames Show later this year, I intend doing a WW2 Western Desert demo game. For it, I need a lot of wadis and escarpment. I have two options. I can spend a heap of money and do it with purpose built terrain modules - which I will have to take down to the dump immediately afterwards because I'll have nowhere to store it - or I can do what I usually do and go the way of versatile, easy to store, applique terrain pieces.

This week I started planning and making my applique wadi sections. Aesthetically they leave a little, possibly a lot, to be desired, but with a little imagination you can see what they represent. They are certainly better than the pieces of beige paper I've been using up to now.

They are also extremely easy, and fairly cheap, to produce - I marked and cut the 2mm MDF and glued the banks on sixteen feet this afternoon. I also did a test run on a couple of feet. Here is the result of that test and a "How I....".

A 12" wadi section. The wadi is 9cm wide overall with 2cm 'banks'. The base is 2mm MDF well primed and undercoated. The banks are foam core. 
I wanted to be sure of the width of the gap / wadi bed, so I cut the banks down the centre. This also saves on wastage and means section ends match up. I also marked each pair A, B, C, etc. just in case they got mixed up.
 Next I trimmed off the outer bank of the wadi with various craft knives. It does not have to be accurate, but fairly even is best.
 Here is a pic of the wadi in section.
 After trimming the banks, I undercoated them. This is a water based household, exterior undercoat.
 PA good coat of PVA and sprinkled sand and grit gives texture. I will need to go out and get another 4 litre container of this - I've almost used 4 litres in a year!
 There is too much of this to do with an ink wash, so I'm doing these with a cheap acrylic.
 Dry brushed with the paint I used for the table (Dulux emulsion) will blend it in.
 More dry brushing with a lighter colour at the base of the wadi so it stands out a little.
And that's it. I will be doing turns as simple arcs of 30 (x9) and 45 (x4) degrees. They are river beds, after all, and can meander a bit.

As flexible as the paper sections (almost), more durable and better looking than the paper, but not as good as sculpted modular terrain - though sixteen feet of modular wadi terrain tile is a lot of module. These will do until.....

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