In this ongoing blog post, I am going to show you how to use real maps, like Google Earth, to transfer real sceneries into a wargaming table of any scale. In this case I am going to use 6mm, or 1/275 scale, but the guide is applicable in any scale, as long as you convert the distances appropriately.This project is going to be split into 2 or more parts as it is an ongoing project. I will add the progress, lessons learned and instructions as I go along.
For this project your are going to need to have access to image editing software, ideally one that uses vector instead of bitmap. I used Adobe Illustrator which I definetely recommend.
Ever since I starter building terrain for wargaming I wanted to capture a piece of scenery that exists in the real world. However, I have only been into 28mm wargaming which means that a standard 6’x4′ table gives you a very limited scope for transfering anything larger than a football field on the table. The size ratio of 28mm miniatures is roughly 1/60 to 1/70 depending on the manufacturer. This means that the standard table is only going to depict an area of about 108 meters length by 72 meters. This means that entire cities are out of the question, allowing perhaps a single city block or an interesting plaza to be modelled onto the table.
Enter the 6mm scale! In this scale, everything is shrinked down to about 1/285 of its original size. That means that 1 centimetre is equivalent to about 3 metres of real world distance. In other words, 4 feet of distance – the common side of a wargaming table – represents about 350 metres in the real world. This is still not huge and, while it isnt enough to allow an entire city to fit, it certainly allows a lot more to work with. For this project I am going to initially stick to a 4’x4′ table. If it turns out well and I have room and time to spare I will consider building extensions.
Naturally the first thing to do is visit Google Earth. Knowing that we are going to cover an area roughly 350 metres by 350 metres, all we have to do is mark that area in Google Earth to see what we have to work with. I had already decided to work on a part of my hometown of Corfu and, since this is going to be a table for gaming purposes and not just a display, the modelled area will have to have a combination of open ground and heavy LoS blocking terrain.
The downloadable edition of Google Earth includes a ruler tool that allows you to measure any distance. From what I could tell, the online version does not have this tool – although I could have just missed it. In any case, using this tool we can get a good gauge of the area we are after.
I spent the better half of an hour trying to find the optimal place that would fit into the 350m x 350m area. I looked for the best opportunities for gaming, modelling and showcasing. In the end I decided to model one of the most iconic and beautiful parts of Corfu Town, namely Liston Square along with the Spianada park. This allows for a fairly balanced gaming table for 6mm wargaming as it has a densely populated urban area as well as a clear terrain for tanks and giant monsters to fight in.
Now that we have our map finalised, it is time to figure out how to go about building the thing. A good place to start is laying down where the roads are going to be. Thankfully we have our map to help us with this, so it is just a matter of drawing the lines along the roads. Since we are going to have a lot of buildings on this table, making sure that there is plenty of room for infantry and tanks to move along the roads is of paramount importance. We wouldn’t want ot spend days building a beautiful table and then have it sit idly in the corner because it is annoying to game on!
To outline the roads I used the Pen Tool and then went on to adjust the stroke width. I made sure to make all roads at least 20mm wide to allow all infantry to move in them. Some of the roads were made even larger to allow for even bigger models to move around. When physically modelling the table we will make sure to leave some more empty space around the buildings to account for sidewalks and whatnot.
Before commiting to the design and going ahead actually building it, we should make sure that we have the scale right. For this purpose I scaled an Armadillo, a Warbringer Maximus and some generic 20mm x 20mm infantry bases and placed them on the map. As expected, the Armadillos and the Infantry bases are correctly scaled with the roads and the infantry can fit even in the tight streets inside Corfu Town. When we actually model the buildings there will be more empty space around them so that will make the streets a bit more spacious. The Warbringer is obviously too large to fit inside the Town which will allow weaker units to hide away from its wrath and let them fight against their peers.
Now that we are happy with our design, it is time to start moving the whole thing to the physical world. I contemplated how to make the transfer and ended up with the solution of making printouts of the entire map on a total of 24 A4 pages. This is how I did it.
This is where I am going to end this first part. In the next part we are going to delve into actually modelling the thing! As I am fortunate enough to have a CnC foam cutter in our workshop, the buildings are going to be cut with that. However, while it is a huge help, that by no means invalidates this guide if you dont have access to such a tool. To give you a sneak peak of what’s coming, I made a mockup of one of the iconic buildings of Liston Square. I cant wait to model the entire town!
Part 2 is now published.