Display boards are essential for scoring higher in the painting competition portion, in addition to doubling as an easy way to transport your army back and forth to different tables in style. Creating a display board is a process that can be as simple or complicated as you wish; having the desire to create one for myself (my first one) I decided to start with something simple but with minor complicated parts. This would give me the best of both worlds, something cooler than a flat board with static grass, but nothing so overly complicated that it would scare me away and overwhelm me from this one weekend project. When it comes to creating the idea of what to do for a display board a few key decisions need to be made; display board size, features of the display board, cost of production, time until completion, etc. These factors will help to determine how your display board will begin to be developed.
Determining the answers to size, shape, features, and so forth are a must during the planning phase. For the display board I wanted to create, I knew it would be for my Bolt Action force, not my Flames of War armies, and so I needed to make sure its size would fit the 28mm scale. To do so it needed to be much larger than a lunch tray size but not an epic diorama sized board that would be as large as half of a game table. I needed to straddle the line of big enough that my units are not on top of each other and look natural, yet not so large that they were lost swimming in a sea of open terrain that I would have no hopes of filling. Time frame wise I knew I had a handful of days to complete this board to be ready for Historicon, and so I wanted to make sure anything I did would be able to be completed within a few hours of work at a time. Material costs was not very important but I wanted to utilize as much stuff that I already owned as possible from other projects to keep the price down so I can spend that cash at Historicon. I decided that it was best for me to add some features to help bring out more of a diorama effect than a board with grass, and so I wanted to add a hill in the back of the board with a road in the middle, leaving the foreground for more of the unique units in my army.
· Cork bulletin board
· White glue
· Drainage Sand (courser with some rocks)
· Hard pink foam insulation sheet
· Liquid Nails (solid bond for the foam)
· Wood Putty
· Magnetic Primer (total waste)
· Textured spray paint
· Static Grass
· Silfor Tufts
· Tools – Sander, Knife(s), Brushes, etc.
To begin I drew out what I had planned onto the cork board itself so that I would have a blueprint to follow as I began this construction. From there I decided on the shape of my hill and its elevation, using the hard pink foam insulation sheets I purchased a while ago for a different project, I drew out the general shape of the hill and cut out two duplicate pieces (3/4” each) so my hill could be as tall or slightly taller than any tanks on the road. I bonded these two pieces together over a 48 hour period using liquid nails as it is one heck of a bonding agent and won’t melt the foam like other glues. Once the two pieces of the hill fully dried and bonded, I used a larger serrated knife (my bread knife that I never use actually) to cut down a slope into a steady grade so that it didn't have any sharp edges that would look out of place. Once I cut the slope and gradient of the hill I wanted I began to sand down the edged to make them perfectly square and then began sanding roll of the hill to take it from an angle to a nice gentle roll all around the surface that would be the front of my display board.
Once the construction of the hill was completed, and I glued it down to the cork board itself using a mix of the liquid nails and white glue, I began the process of creating the true surface of the board. The stand out portion of the board, other than the hill of course, was the road for which my vehicles were to be set. Using the wood filler with a bit of water to help it spread a little easier, I paved out a dirt/mud road following the general path that was drawn out on the board for where the road was to go. When the road began to harden, I used a spare tank track from my still yet to be constructed T-28 to create a rough set of track markings in the road. This didn't turn out as distinctive as I had hoped, so I emphasized it by using a popsicle stick to make the depressions more noticeable. Following the road completely drying (a few days later) construction of the dirt was to take place, this was accomplished by watering down white glue and painting onto the cork board and hill in as thick of a coat as possible. Doing this in one side of the road at a time, the sand was then packed down onto the sections that were to be the standard dirt surface. Hard packing the sand allows it to absorb and hold to the glue and surface as best as possible, and then allowing it to dry for several days before knocking the extra off.
Upon allowing the sand to completely set and the extra removed, the board was ready for some paint. The idea that I had was to use a magnetic paint/primer to make it so I could transport all of my bolt action models who are on magnetic bases safely on the display board. Suffice to say using the magnetic spray primer was a complete waste. There was no hold whatsoever but at-least it acted as a standard primer to help seal everything down, a very very expensive primer at that too.
After the primer had dried, I elected to use a darker “fall colors” textured spray paint which did in fact turn out quite well. It was a darker brown base with flakes of lighter tan to help bring out different areas and add a nice color tone to the board. Now most of the board will eventually be covered by static grass, but having spots of dirt poking through does make it look nice, in addition to making the road look even more freshly turned earth. Again, after allowing the paint to dry, it is time to add some grass to the board. I matched the static grass used on my Soviets to the grass that would be used on the display board to have the better blended feel between models and board. To apply the static grass, I used a watered down white glue painted onto the sand and then sprinkled the grass liberally and spreading it across and somewhat rubbing it across the glue. This was done to both sides of the road and shortly after completing the application, the excess was shaken off the board to keep the grass lighter and allow some patches of dirt to exist.
Closing in on the completion of the board, only some fine details remain. Upon completely removing any extra static grass by using my vacuum a day or two after the initial applying of the grass, I used some buffalo grass from Silfor to add a bit of detail and varying colors to again match what was on the bases of my Soviets. This process was simple my applying a bit of superglue to the bottom of the tuft of grass and depressing it onto the position that is desired for the grass. After spreading out the tufts all across the grassy areas, I called the board complete and ready to use.
Display boards do make a difference when it comes to both the appearance of your army and the ability to quickly transport the force to and from different tables. This guide provided my experience with the creation of my first board that hopefully will be able to guide you in your own creation!