Terrain for “The Foraging Party”

chinampas-the-floating-gardens-of-mexico

In my last post I said I’d been working on a scenario for the Aztec project. So I cobbled together an encounter between the Spanish and their allies when they were most vulnerable: gathering food.

The Spanish will have a relatively small contingent, plus some Tlaxcalan allies, and they will be shepherding a party of foraging porters.  Remember, there are no horses and wagons in Mexico ca. 1520, just guys on foot ordered to schlep what’s needed on their backs.

The scenario will all be points-based.  How much food is gathered versus how many figures, Spanish figures are in the party.  The job of the Aztecs is, of course, to get in the way of all this gathering.

As a result I’ve had to come up with some terrain bits that represent food gathering places. One of the things I’ve done is purchased some of the pieces offered by Acheson Creations. I have tons of Acheson pieces, and never painted one of them.  They are cast in shiny gray resin, and I think I’ve often been intimidated by them.  No more.  I soaked them in soap and water overnight. Brush-primed them in the cold weather with Liquitex gesso, and away we went. Nice pieces, truly.  I ordered them online, and Acheson, even during the holidays, was very fast.  No fuss, no muss.

I kept the painting pretty simple.  Thatching took most of the Cote d’Arms Buff I had left, washed with Vallejo Brown Wash. The terra cotta tubs and hard structures were painted with Ceramcoat Burnt Sienna. The stone work was brushed with Ceramcoat Light Gray, dry-brushed with white and then washed with Vallejo Black Wash. Pretty easy.

These four pieces will be spread out on the board to spread out the forager and the Spanish who have to protect them.  The scenario rules require that foragers spend some turns at these places to gather their food. However, I decided that having four places to gather isn’t enough, so I planned for some chinampas.. These were gardens planted on the extensive lake beds in the Valley of Mexico.  They were created by building structures in the shallows, anchoring them with small trees, and dumping soil from the shallows to create farmable gardens.  When they Spanish first saw them, they were amazed and suggested they were “floating gardens.” Nothing floating about them.

Putting together the chinampas was a bit of a process. I originally planned to use some 1/8″ bass wood cut into 4″ X 3″ pieces  edged with dowling to represent the retaining wooden structure for the soil.  It was a mess and not worth the effort. I also added some ground texture using my go-to basing material, Liquitex Modeling Paste.  Together with the glue, the thin material warped. Bleah.

This required me to make some changes to my approach. Dowling, gone. I applied a thinner coat of modeling paste, which still warped the basswood a bit, but relaxed after drying.  I also bought some thicker, 1/4″ pieces of basswood.  It allowed the beds to look a bit more built-up, and I used my Dremel tool to sand the edges a bit more, including digging a channel through the half way point.

After applying modeling paste and allowing it the requisite hour to dry, I was free to do whatever I wanted.  I had some leftover small Woodland Scenics trees to stick on the corners.  I build corn fields, vegetable rows, whatever my heart desired to get a varied look.  Unfortunately, I did run out of small trees fairly early in the game, but that’s okay.

I’m building eighteen of these for our game on February 4th.  They go pretty fast.  I paint over the wood and modeling paste with Ceramcoat Burnt Umber.  Then dry-brush with Ceramcoat Trail Tan.  And then it’s just up to me, or you. They were handy and pretty inexpensive. About eight bucks for the basswood, and the Woodland Scenics pieces I had and were just sitting around begging to be thrown out in a fit of compulsive neatifying.

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