Our Salute Board: Part 1 - Materials

Wargames, Soldiers and Strategy is running a Caesarian Roman game at Salute 2014 in conjunction with Simon Miller (aka the BigRed Bat). The participation game is entitled ‘C-Day’ and represents Julius Caesar’s invasion of Britain in 55BC.

 Originally, Simon had planned to do the boards himself, but had to drop out due to other commitments. He is however providing the majority of the troops and the trees, so while the boards will be quite a challenge, a lot of the work has already been done for us.


The essential part of any build is planning. It’s all well and good to just go and order a load of stuff, but you need to have a good idea of exactly how much material you’ll need, so you don’t end up with too much, or worse too little.

I’ve been making terrain boards ever since my early days of demo gaming back at the turn of the millennium. The first ones I custom built were snow boards for my ‘Winter War’ game, which ran at Salute 2004. I made further boards for several demos I did at Salute and Partizan. Recently though, I’ve been very busy with the magazine, leaving me little time for board making.

In the past, I used ‘off the shelf’ polystyrene to make my boards, the sort you find in most DIY superstores. While relatively cheap, it is very brittle and damages easily. I also considered various forms of foam used in loft insulation, but that seemed a little too messy for me, as the foam tends to be powdery. Luckily, I recently came across a local company that makes polystyrene packing and is willing to cut high-density polystyrene to my specific requirements.

Size and Shape

Any board has to be transportable by car. I took a leaf out of (Newark Irregular and wargames author) Steve Jones’ playbook and made mine a maximum of 2 feet (60cm) by 3feet (91cm) in size. This allows them to be stacked in the boot of an average car without difficulty or risk of damage. You don’t want your boards turning up all dented!

Shaping the boards can be achieved with the use of a hot wire. I used to use a small hand cutter, but this limits the angles you can cut, so I invested in a 3-foot ‘bow cutter’ hot wire. This allows very realistic hills to be carved from the material, but requires a steady hand or two to use.

My first boards had an MDF backing, but, to my horror, the MDF had a tendency to bend when drying, which warped the boards as well. I’ve been told the secret to preventing this is to prepare both sides of the board with PVA before sticking. However, I generally just solve this problem now by using thicker boards, with some tape to protect the corners and underside.

For our Salute Boards, I’ve used Craftfoam. This is a form of Styrofoam which is much tougher than Polystyrene. It is very hard, very lightweight and can still be shaped by a foam cutter! Bonus!

Now that the boards have arrived, the hard work begins! Stay tuned for more updates.

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