How to Build Trenches for War Gaming

Written by james holloway Google
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How to Build Trenches for War Gaming
Trenches, like this one from the Crimean War, were a feature of many nineteenth-century battlefields. (Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Trenches were a feature of battlefields in many eras, most famously during the First World War. Soldiers sheltered from enemy fire in trenches, which could develop into elaborate systems incorporating underground bunkers and passageways. They are therefore a good addition to any wargamer's terrain collection. A basic model trench system is easy to make using simple materials such as balsa wood, cardboard and insulation foam, but you can customise and add detail to make it really stand out.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Drawing materials
  • Insulation foam
  • Ruler
  • Large craft knife
  • PVA glue
  • Sand
  • Large paintbrush
  • Balsa wood, cardboard, craft sticks or tongue depressors
  • Modelling clay or epoxy putty
  • Paint
  • Small paintbrushes

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Draw a plan of your trench system. Historically, many trench systems consisted of more than one line of trenches, connected by angled trenches running back and forth between them. Alternate narrow trenches with larger open areas.

  2. 2

    Decide whether you want your trench system to be sunken into the surface of a custom board or for it to be a modular piece you can add to a normal board. Select a sheet of insulation foam, preferably two inches thick, of the appropriate size.

  3. 3

    Draw the outlines of your trench system on the insulation foam. Make sure the trenches are wide enough for you to place the models you intend to place in them.

  4. 4

    Cut the trench system into the insulation foam using a large craft knife. Make sure that the trench is deep enough to protect the models inside it, but shallow enough that they can see over the lip of the wall. You may wish to add a firestep, a raised platform for figures to see over the wall. Use a ruler to make sure that the depth of the trench and width of the firestep are consistent. Carve depressions into the terrain around the trench as well to give it a varied surface.

  5. 5

    Mix PVA glue with sand to create a textured coating. Using a large paintbrush, apply the mixture to the surface of the foam and leave it to dry.

  6. 6

    Using a craft knife, cut up cardboard, balsa wood, craft sticks or tongue depressors. These should be cut into lengths equal to the width of the trench. Add a layer of PVA glue to the floor of the trench and glue these boards into place. Also, you may wish to glue balsa or cardboard panels to the inner wall of the trench as revetments.

  7. 7

    Make sandbags from modelling clay or epoxy putty and place them here and there throughout the trench at points which might need extra reinforcement.

  8. 8

    Coat your trench system with a layer of dark earth colour and run your brush lightly over the surface with a lighter colour to bring out the raised texture.

  9. 9

    Paint the duckboards, sandbags and revetments in whatever colour you want, usually a lighter brown or grey. Dry brush them with a lighter shade to create a weathered effect.

Tips and warnings

  • Add details such as craters, barbed wire, signs and wreckage to give your trench system a realistic appearance.
  • Always use caution when handling craft knives. Make all cuts away from your hands.

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