Society member John describes how he made a Zona Alfa battle mat. This was written up after the mat had been made, so there aren’t many WIP shots.
I wanted a battle mat for Zona Alfa so decided to make my own following the Sea mat I made for Galleys and Galleons using the same techniques. Here’s what I used:-
As much weed control fabric for as many mats as I’m ever likely to use for £3.99 from Poundstretcher. 4 x decorators caulk from Wickes £4.00. The Wickes caulk appears to be the best. I’ve found lumps of dried caulk within the tube in other brands
The fabric appears to be polythene with paper fibre bonded to it in a small waffle pattern. If possible I wanted this to show through in on the finished mat so decided to start on the reverse of the mat with a thin layer over all of it, using a caulking gun without nozzle fitted to the caulk tube.
Firstly, I taped the material down to hardboard with masking tape, smoothing out any creases, before applying the first coat. I applied a thin layer of the caulk and smoothed with a trowel. Here I hit upon a snag. Some of the mastic seeped through the fabric and bonded to the hardboard I was using, I ended with a number of tears which were easily patched with packing tape – they would be covered with caulk later. I’ve tried using greaseproof paper under the fabric when applying the first layer and this seems to prevent the problem.
When the first layer was dried, I flipped the mat over and applied a thin coat on the second side. When this had dried, I decided which surface was going to be the playing area and applied a second coat to the reverse side. After this dried, I checked any areas with packing tape patching showing and gave these another coat of mastic, I dabbed the surface with a sponge to provide some texture.
When fully dry, I cut the mat to shape (3 foot square) with a Stanley knife and straight edge and painted the playing area with grey match pots, blending the colours in. Now it was time to get creative with washes to get some variation in the colours. I used burnt umber and black acrylic tube paint. I started by applying blobs of paint on the mat and taking a jar of water, diluted the paint outwards. You can see that here.
I always use fairy liquid in the water when using acrylic paints to break surface tension. This created bubbles on the mat. See detail near base of photo.
I then placed cans under the mat to let the washes flow across the mat. You can see this near the top corner of this photo. Accidently, I spilt drips of wash on the mat and decided to leave them, see below.
When the mat was fully dried, I then dry brushed any raised detail with pale grey and then white acrylic, before applying some light green wash to indicate moss or alga growth.
Storage and Transport.
For the two mats I’ve made, I store them in the garage on top of other items, I haven’t tried storing them rolled up and I wouldn’t stack mats on top of each other (I had a problem with two pieces of marsh terrain I made which permanently bonded together when stacked). Any creases disappear if the mat is rolled and unrolled. From the above photo you can see it unrolls flat.
I’m thinking of making some 2 x 2ft mats for Perilous tales – a desert area, a swamp, desolate moorland as the techniques are quite versatile.