Easy Sand Dunes
#1
The topic of sand dunes came up in a WIP thread, and I realized that while I had mentioned these previously, I don't think I ever posted a complete step-by-step article on them. So, without further ado, I give you: Easy Sand Dunes:

The key principle behind sand dunes is wind - it is how the dune is formed and how it moves over time. Importantly, most dunes have a "windward" side and a "lee" side. As the wind blows along the surface of the dune, sand is transported up the gently sloping windward side until it blows over the top/ falling down the steeper lee side. In this image of crescent-shaped dunes in the Namibian desert, the wind would be blowing left-to right, and the difference in slope between the two sides of the dune are readily apparent: 

[Image: sand-dune-4.jpg]

Right, so how do we translate this into our tabletop terrain feature? Why, with foam, of course!

To start with, I took 1" pink insulation foam, which I roughly cut out in shapes about a foot long and about 5" wide. On the bottom of this piece, I inscribed and undulating line. This would serve as my crest line. I then made dashed lines at 1" (on one side) and 2" (on the other side) distances - these would serve as my guidelines. I then grabbed a handy hot-wire foam cutter.

For the steeper, lee side of the dune, I held the wire at roughly 45 degrees, meaning that for my 1" high foam, the guideline 1" away from my center was where my wire should be coming out on the bottom. For the shallower windward side, I tipped the cutter at a 1:2 slope, using my 2" dashed guideline. Tapering the ends gave me a nice shape that was more steeply sloped on one side than the other and gently fell on either end:

[Image: 2015-01-16%2B15.14.27.jpg]
This is the foam after having been cut. Minis can stand on the windward side, but not on the leeward side (which we count as difficult terrain). Because the ratio of distance at the base from crest to edge is 2:1 (windward) -to- 1:1(leeward), a 1" high dune is 3" wide at the base. Similarly, a 2" high dune is roughly 6" wide at the base, etc.

For a 2" high dune, I used the exact same approach, I just glued 2 pieces of 1" foam together before cutting out the dune shape. Just make sure you use plenty of PVA to affix them and give it plenty of time (I'd suggest overnight) to dry.

[Image: 0Od0EmW3OnbQvZmBveRfegRF3nA_WzrGym_n3r5s...00-no?.jpg]

Once the basic shape is cut out, I painted it with a nice tan-colored craft paint (I'm pretty sure that this is Americana Desert Tan, fittingly enough), shown here with a 40K Necron Immortal for scale.

Next comes the basing and turfing. Because foam terrain (especially foam with thin, sharp edges) can easily get banged up (usually exposing the unsightly pink beneath!), I wanted to give the terrain pieces some protection by mounting them to a base. For the smaller 1" tall dunes, I used sheet styrene, and for the larger 2" tall dunes I used 1/8" HDF (Masonite) hardboard. In both cases, I simple set the dune in place on the base, traced around it leaving some room, and cut out the resulting shape. Because I'm crazy, I used a Dremel to bevel the edges of the bases. The bases were then given a coat of a slightly darker craft paint.

Because dunes are formed of fine sane, I wanted to use light, fine sand to cover them. For $5 I picked up a huge bag of playground sand, and while it was generally quite fine (and almost white in color), there were a fair number of larger bits in there that were too big to look proper. But a quick pass through and impromptu sieve made of ordinary screen solved that problem (and also gave me some larger, ballast-looking stones I can use for a different project later!). Using watered-down PVA, I applied the fine sand to the dune itself.

On the base, I used ordinary cement sand, which has a much greater variety in grain size and color, and generally looks much darker. This serves to set off the fine, drifting dune sane from the darker, rockier hard-pack that often forms the desert floor.

On top of all this, a heavy final coat of matte sealer was applied to minimize sand flaking off during use.

The final result:
[Image: 2015-01-16%2B15.16.35.jpg]
Pictured here are both a 1-inch high dune roughly a foot long and a 2-inch high dune almost two feet long, both fully based and turfed. The 2" high dune makes for a really nice line-of-sight blocker. Both pieces are nicely playable, with most minis able to stand on the gentler 2:1 slope of the windward side of the dune.

Overall, these pieces ended up being very easy to make and very inexpensive in terms of materials: 1" foam, play sand, cheap craft paint, and sheet styrene or hardboard for bases. I now have 2x large 2" high dunes and 6x smaller 1" high dunes, all for very little financial outlay.

[Image: LMO3YhQFXOQH0JLF_EQY7hXxo48N6GJZx9TGndqc...00-no?.jpg]

They serve to break up a table nicely, seen here as British 8th Army Desert Rats (ably proxied by 40K Tallarn Desert Raiders) prepare to turn their 2-lb AT gun on an approaching German Panzer somewhere in the Libyan desert in 1940.
[Image: RWbFnfnBZH77IiZxV9LWVUnNaSI2IgcsbAnJw9N8...00-no?.jpg]
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[+] 4 users Like Munin's post
#2
Nice!

Good tip about basing the dunes.  I myself am notorious for NOT basing these types of pieces and I regret it afterward every time an edge gets broken off.

I also appreciate your use of the word "leeward" and would like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that it is pronouced LOO-ard.  I am a wind nut, clearly.

And I can't remember what you play; those minis don't look like FoW.

Nice sword collection in the corner of the room. Cool
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#3
I play Chain of Command. But the particular game photographed above was relatively early on in my WW2 historical wargaming career, and saw my Warhammer 40K Tallarn Imperial Guardsmen standing in for British 8th Army.  Wink  I have some 28mm Perry Desert Rats, but have not yet assembled them. I just finished an American GI platoon and am working on a German Afrika Korps platoon presently.

And yeah, I have a bunch of swords, though only a couple of them are sharpened for cutting practice. The rest are for form practice (a bunch of them are wooden or rattan, for smacking together or smacking your training partner).
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#4
(11-07-2017, 06:49 PM)Munin Wrote: my Warhammer 40K Tallarn Imperial Guardsmen standing in for British 8th Army. 

Close enough!


(11-07-2017, 06:49 PM)Munin Wrote: a bunch of them are wooden or rattan, for smacking together or smacking your training partner.

I do love the sound of a bokuto connecting with a cranium.
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#5
It is a deliciously satisfying "thunk!"
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#6
Tell the truth, I was never sure why people used bases like that for their pieces. It probably would have occurred to me if I'd ever played with them before, but you pointing out about chipping off part of it makes me understand what the deal is now. XD Anyway, looks cool. The shapes are nice.
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#7
Basing is just a good way to go about most of your stuff as it gives you a hard edge so they don't damage as easily. Once pieces snap off on something not based fixing it becomes impossible.

In the words of Boris the bulletdodger "weight is sign of reliability"

The only time I don't base things is when I need them to blend into a base board perfectly.
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#8
(01-03-2018, 05:42 PM)omgitsduane Wrote: Basing is just a good way to go about most of your stuff as it gives you a hard edge so they don't damage as easily. Once pieces snap off on something not based fixing it becomes impossible.

In the words of Boris the bulletdodger "weight is sign of reliability"

The only time I don't base things is when I need them to blend into a base board perfectly.

Yeah, and I find that even if I do need it to blend, a nice bevel usually does the trick.
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