I have decided that due to ease of transport (read: I am tired of driving instead of flying) I am pursuing a different approach to terrain for gaming. Currently I am using 2x2 foot rubber mats that jigsaw puzzle together to form the base for modular terrain. The problem with that is it is pretty bulky to lug around and costs extra to get on the plane.
Looking around, I have decided to test out a terrain mat idea using acrylic caulk on a canvas drop-sheet. The canvas is pretty cheap and comes in varying widths so I bought a 4x16’ sheet at Canadian Tire for 15 bucks to do a 4 foot Stalingrad test piece with a couple 6 foot maps left over once I get the hang of creating. I stapled down the canvas to a piece of plywood to prevent shrinkage.
The paintable acrylic caulk is cheap (2-3 bucks a tube), water clean-up and is a bit tricky to work with but is extremely flexible when dry. Tube says 35 years…geez, I’ll be 77 years old when I have to redo my map! I chose an interior/exterior type that is earth brown in color. A four foot square mat used up 2 tubes to get 1/8 inch coverage.
In a paint roller tray, I squeezed out the content of the tubes and added in sand and tan acrylic house paint to get a bit of texture and a lighter color. I don’t think I will add in the paint next time as I think it may weaken the caulk. The resulting goo is quite sticky and spreading is best done with a roller or a gloved hand. One word regarding the caulk, VENTILATION! I worked with a fresh air supply and a face mask filter that is rated for organic particulate. I am not sure how bad this stuff is but it does stink!
Once smooth, I covered the whole map with sand. I hand-pressed the sand into the caulk and dumped off the excess. I should have smoothed out the caulk a bit better as I noticed paint roller ridges and such but it still looks ok when done. I scraped off a few roads with a spatula and then formed some shellholes by adding in more caulk, covering in fine sand and shaping as desired. That seems to work best for working in this medium, smooth out the basic shape, cover with fine sand or dry tile grout and then add final details.
I left for a few days to dry and then painted the entire map an earth tone with flat tan house paint. I added a brown wash and tan drybrush and then cut the edges square. The map is super durable and rolls up nice and easy. It can be put into a tube or folded into a suitcase without damage.
I plan on doing the next map with built-in roads first and then flock/static grass other areas to represent the steppe of Russia.