My original "sand table" - a styfoam dishwasher packing base - cost $450 but came with a complimentary dishwashing machine, but if you scrounge around you could have one for free.
Originally, I was looking at making an arena for my gladiators. Initially, a pizza tray was mooted as a circular arena but then I got the solid base of the styfoam packing off the wife's new dishwasher. (I married a dishwasher and then I had to buy one as well...). I was going to glue a thin layer of sand to the base, but first I loose-laid the sand to see what it looked like. I used it for a 15mm wargame and although it was a tad small (2sq. feet), it showed potential. It was also cheap - totally free, unless you count having to buy the dishwasher first, or the dinner I will have to buy my wife when she discovers I used her best flour sifter to sift the sand I scraped off the local beach....
...Or you could buy a premade"Realm of Battle" gameboard from Games Workshop, also for $450. However it does not come with a complimentary dishwasher.
This got me thinking. What about a 'proper' sand table? They used to be popular in the 'olden days' and would provide an easy way to make hills and undulations in the terrain. It would make basing easy (simply splash a bit of PVA on the model's base and dip in sand). I could easily store the 'terrain pieces' - a bucket of sand - and the table could be leant on its side against the wall.
So off to the local hardware store. I bought:
Wood PVA glue $8
Two 2.4m pine strips $6
1.2m x 0.9m (4ft by 3ft) 6mm MDF sheet $8 (MDF is pressed particle board)
Total Cost = $22
I picked a smaller size precut mdf (4 x 3') as plywood was $40+ for decent sizes and I am dubious about the load-carrying ability of a wide sheet of mdf. The size will be fine for the skirmish games that I usually play. If it is a success I will try a bigger 6 x 4' table.
15 minutes of cutting and gluing later, and I had this:
The table is 4x3' - skirmish sized. I will try a larger table if this is a success.
The mdf doesn't look strong enough to hold screws or nails and I don't have a staple gun. Hopefully the glue will hold, as well as provide a sand-proof seal in the cracks between the boards. In hindsight I probably should have left a notch in the pine 'lip' to allow sand to be poured out accurately into the bucket. I plan to put about 1" of sand in the table - enough to entrench a 28mm figure.
-------------------2hr break playing ARMA2 with wife while glue dries-------------------
Here is the table when filled with sand. I will probably paint or varnish the wood to avoid warping as sand tend to hold moisture. Two people can carry this, loaded with sand, rather easily. The 6mm mdf is strong enough for carrying and on top of a fold-out table is quite stable.
Crusties advance from the edge of town towards a Felid-held monastry. The models are from GZG and Khurasan - they will be given sand-coated bases if the sand table is a success.
Sand, Sand Everywhere...
My experimental styfoam sand table showed that a sand table, whilst not something my wife would welcome in her living room, did not spread its gritty contents as far afield as I feared. Simply giving buildings and minis a quick wipe/shake before putting them away got rid of all but the most tenacious sand. The tiny microdice I use for marking reactions in Tomorrow's War did prove problematic as they tended to submerge themselves during play. Pouring it back into the bucket was a breeze but I am not sure how manageable a very large board would be. I used about two buckets of sand in the board. - one to cover it and another to provide 'hills.'
You can see the 'hills' created by the sand. Felid mercenaries wait behind the rise for the Crustie swarms...
We call it "brickies loam" and it is used for house construction. I am currently using sifted beach sand but will probably switch across to the loam as it can be moulded in shapes when damp and dries quite hard. This would necessitate painting the boards to prevent warping. It is a reason to consider more expensive plywood.
The palms I used were ebayed from a Chinese website for $10 for a pack of 30. Just search ebay for N, H0 or 00 scale trees to get a wide range of cheap selections. Thank goodness for model railroad nerds! I'll do an article on using model railroad terrain for 28mm and 15mm wargames another time.
These trees were dirt cheap (30c each approx) on ebay - I need to cut them to different lengths. A bonus of sand = no need for basing - trees can be removed and replaced freely.
To be continued.....