A Grave Affair!

Since finishing my Franco-Prussian War cavalry I’ve slumped as far as painting’s concerned!  Part of this is due to the relief of getting my FPW armies virtually finished, but I seem to have had my share of aches and pains recently and that’s meant I haven’t been sitting at my desk painting (yeah, yeah, I’m getting old, I know)!

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However, one item I did start back in June, intending to run it in parallel with getting figures painted, was a churchyard/cemetery.  Churches and cemeteries have featured in many battles in the 19th and 20th centuries, no doubt because they tend to be substantially built with perimeter walls that can be defended.  This also tied in nicely with the Summer Scenery Challenge running through July and August, so I thought I’d give it a go.  It’s been done in very small steps, which is why it’s now late August before it’s got finished!

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So, where to start?  Ideally I wanted a church and cemetery that would look OK in a French 19th and 20th century setting.  I did have a church, an HO model railway kit that I built in 2016 for the 150th anniversary of the battle of Königgratz (shown above) but the bell tower looked completely out of place for France (the model is actually of a Swiss church, but it looks fine in a Bohemian setting).

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The first step proved easier than I thought!  Since the bell tower upper portion is removable to aid storage, I just knocked up a quick alternative from cardboard and gave it a brown wash and roughly painted some slates on it (shown above).  Works for me!

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Next step was planning the base for the cemetery.  I work on a ground plan size of an A4 sheet of paper to ease storage, so that set the size of it.  I decided that I also wanted the style of the walls to match those I’d built for some of my other French buildings to keep a relatively uniform look (see above).  A covered entryway/porch and trees might have looked good, but I wanted to keep the height down for storage.

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Next step was to plan out the arrangement of the ground,  I had a couple of goes at this, eventually going for two areas of graves with a path between them.  I used some laser-cut MDF gravestones in 20mm scale that I got online from Blotz to mark out the graves.

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These two areas were removable to allow units on movement trays to be placed in the cemetery without standing half an inch above the ground surface!

Well, after the steps above, I failed to take any work-in-progress shots unfortunately!  The outer ground edges and the paths were covered in Vallejo white pumice, along with some rough areas I wanted in the graveyard itself.  I also used Vallejo smooth rock filler to fill in the gaps around the headstones and smooth out all of the edges a bit.  The church itself is an off-white grey-green shade (this was the colour of the plastic itself) which I couldn’t really match for the walls, so I painted them in Vallejo sky grey and stippled white over that.  The walls then got a dirty brown shading/muckying wash, as did the headstones (which had already had some indistinct writing and symbols added to them), and the basic ground was painted in Humbrol dark earth.  The whole lot was then dry-brushed with a sandy shade.  The removable grassed areas with the headstones were painted in Humbrol grass green to ensure it still looked green after putting on the static grass.

I added some grass tufts and Woodland Scenics clump foliage before adding the static grass.  I thought I might not have enough static grass left to do the grave areas (I was, fortunately, wrong) so, after a few false starts, I managed to get a big tub of spring grass from Warlord Games (could not get the old grass mix I’d used and found that photos of grass mixes in on-line stores do not usually look like what you get – Warlord are a happy exception).  I used my old grass mix round the base edges and the new Warlord grass on the grave areas.  They are a reasonable colour match, but I added some extra patches of the old grass over the Warlord grass to tone it in a bit.

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And that’s it!

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I painted the areas under the removable bits green and stippled some lighter colours on, so that it doesn’t look to dull when units on movement trays are in place.

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A quick change of bell tower and surrounding buildings and it’s fine for Austria/Bohemia (see below).

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I might even see if I can make a tiled roof for the church out of corrugated card, along with a new bell tower, that would let me use it in Italy and South America!  Really pleased at getting this done, since I’ve realised for a long time it’s a piece of scenery I really should have had!

46 comments

  1. Excellent scenery piece John, didn’t know you were going to participate in the scenery challenge, as I would have had you in the list, but will definitely make sure you are in the round up mate.
    As for the tiled roof plasticard do an excellent one which I’ve used before, and is not too expensive for an A4 sheet, if you have an Antics model shop near you they normally stock it, or can order it in for you

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Dave! 🙂 The reason you didn’t know I was going to participate in the scenery challenge is because I didn’t know I was going to participate in the scenery challenge! I had the churchyard going on in the background while I was painting figures and wasn’t sure I’d get it finished, since I bogged down a bit in the middle! Would be great to see it included in your round-up though!

      I’ll have a look for plasticard to do a tiled roof. The main church roof is removable anyway, so relatively easy to replace. The smaller roof at the end, and the small section near the bottom of the tower, are stuck on, so I need to make a more carefully fitting piece(s) to cover them. I could make separate Italian and South American bell towers and that then lets me use the one basic building across all conflicts I game (except Russia) which saves on storage space!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Really enjoyed that John, I love the setup before the building took place, I want make a scenery for my Napoleon’s coach and this gives me ideas to plan it out , where did you get the trees from? I saw on Facebook the other day one chap had painted a load of Zouaves to go with his FP war soldiers, I have about 25 painted to go with ACW stuff I have, thank you..

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks Justin! 🙂 I actually painted the new tower twice or, more correctly, roughly painted the slates twice, since I got them the wrong size! I was surprised I got it to look reasonably close in colour ans style!

      I think you can also get Blotz stuff from Sergeants’ Mess Miniatures, which is where mine came from! Sounds like I’ve maybe managed to be a bad influence again! 😉

      Liked by 2 people

      • Well, what you turned out looks great, not only that thought, the graveyard works in a practical way too – winner, winner, chicken… sorry, carried away there!

        I was looking to start scratch building some scenery, but though better of it as it takes me long enough just to paint a few miniatures let alone build anything, and so I’m on the search for good, but affordable scenery.

        I have to admit, I can often be found under the influence… and once again it’s likely to cost me money – thanks for the pointers.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Super great! 🙂 I do like the planning process you’ve showed. The laser cut stones work very nicely and the touches like the flowers too – perfect. How about a freshly dug plot with a mound of earth, or is that too macabre?

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks Marvin! 🙂 There is meant to be a freshly-filled grave with no headstone close to the church in the middle row of the larger section, but it’s maybe difficult to tell that’s what it’s meant to be! I had thought about a partly dug grave along the lines you mention, but I’m a bit superstitious and thought it was maybe a bit too much like tempting fate to include a newly dug but as yet unoccupied grave!

      Liked by 3 people

        • It’s maybe not that clear in the pictures, but I did build up that grave above the general height of the ground. I hadn’t thought about it before, but it almost symbolically represents me finishing the bulk of my Franco-Prussian War troops and laying that project to rest!

          Liked by 3 people

  4. Very, very good John. A nice neat bit of work which really looks the part. Can’t recall you doing anything much like this before but definitely something you have a flare for. Will we be seeing more scenery in the future I wonder? I do hope so. 😊

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks Dave! 🙂 I do feature scenery bits from time to time, but a lot of it was done ages ago so rarely features in its own post! I have both plenty of scenic items planned and a backlog of things to get done, so I’ll be hoping to have more scenic posts in the future!

      Liked by 3 people

  5. That is a mighty fine piece of terrain! I love the thought you put into it to keep it playable as well. I’m not the best at thinking that way and it really is the key to making top-notch terrain. The final results are excellent and I enjoyed reading and seeing your progress on it too. It was almost a tutorial in the sense that it gave me a lot of ideas and inspiration 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Oh John its so good, at first glance I thought wow that’s a perfect base for a dio, you really have a flare for these things. And here is I thinking you had peaked with the Asian bridge building, and you are so right about it being the perfect spot for a battle, being a Nappy guy like Marvin I instantly saw a Prussian French skirmish going on. I just love the Church and you use of the tombstones and static grass is bloody superb .

    Liked by 3 people

  7. John, just when I think you can’t surprise me you come up with another gem. Superb, just superb. Love the way you planned for your games with a removable cemetery. Or not with WWI and WWII. You’re a man after my own heart, and you should retire as soon as possible to give us more beauties like this to admire!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. The addition of the gravel on the grass where lazy folk cut the corner is spot on John. It looks great. Have you put any particular names on the graves? Like StuG?!? He mentioned you’ve not been feeling too great to be fair. Hope you’re fixed soon and not too uncomfortable in the mean time 😦
    I didn’t realise that you’d done the tower so it was interchangeable – that was a great plan.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Amy! 🙂 I was so pleased to see your comment about people cutting off the corner of the path, ’cause that is exactly what I wanted to represent! Headstones are a bit too small for me to manage to paint real letters on!
      I think it’s fair to say I’m feeling more aches and pains than usual, so we’ll have to see how it goes, but thank you for your kind words! 🙂

      Like

  9. Don’t me, I’m just working my way through your blogposts here.
    That scenery is so very nice. Great change on the tower, fits Alsace-Lorraine pretty well I think, as it very close to Baden-Würtemberg and Rheinland culturally and the churches looking not that different. Awesome how well it is a module and how well everything fits together. I think I like the walls best though, they look so extremely realistic with the weathering, where the dirt is slowly darkening the white.
    On another note, do you know the Vierzehnheiligen church-model from Conquerermodels? This thing is supposed to be massive in model size (I know the original firsthand), this would probably also fit well, if you ever wanted to do another one or even Napoleonics. 😀
    Still you got me there, very macabre of you to put the French unit, where the graves would be, almost like…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Anthony! 🙂 I’m glad you like it and that you think the church tower/spire does not look out of place! I wasn’t familiar with the Vierzehnheiligen church, but it would definitely not fit to an A4 floor plan for storage for a model – it’s an impressive looking building!
      Never thought anything about putting a French unit in the graveyard to show how the graves can be removed – it just seemed more appropriate with the French being on the defensive an awful lot during the war!

      Liked by 1 person

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