Ok, we are going to start to make these things look more like terrain this time. There are lots of ways to add texture to your game boards, but the way that I have found to be the best and quickest (quick is big with me), is to glue a grass mat to the board. There are lots of different styles and you could use any one you choose, but you want one with a cloth or felt backing rather than a paper one, for reasons that will become obvious as we go through this article.
You need to cut the mat into sections slightly larger than your boards. For the river sections, the cuts don't have to be perfect along the banks. Just make sure they come near the edge of the foam. We're going to trim to perfection later...
Ok, guys. This is an iron. Get your wife or girlfriend to show you how to use this, but be careful that you don't display too much proficiency this this thing or you might find yourself with new chores. If you are really smooth, you can get her to iron the mats for you... like I did. You can see above that the mat has lots of creases from it's packaging. If you manage to find a grass mat that comes rolled on a tube (lucky you) you can skip this step. Just choose a low setting and only iron the felt side. We're not going to get all of the creases out this way, but the main thing is to make them less noticeable.
Back to the boards. In the last post, I mentioned sanding the foam to get rid of the sharp edges. I used a fine sandpaper block to smooth out the slopes. It's hard to see from this photo, but it shows up better farther along (I'll point this out when we get there). This type of foam sands very easily and it is only the work of a few minutes to turn the sharp ridge into a gentle slope. This is an important step as the grass mat will fit better on smooth curves.
Ok, the reason for the glue is obvious. White glue will work just as well, but I used the carpenter's glue because that's what I had on hand. A bucket with a little water, an old brush, and a spray bottle filled with water are the only other things we need to continue.
You're going to want to do this next step outside or in your garage. I suppose you could use your tub, but a new grass mat flakes quite a bit and you're going to end up with a mess! What I'm doing here is spraying the back of the mat (the felt side - same one we ironed) with water. We just want the material damp, not dripping. There are several reasons for this. In the first place, it will add weight to the material and help keep it tight against the board/foam. This is important since you can't set books or things on top of your terrain if you have hills or river beds. The water also makes the material stretch a little and it forms well to the previously mentioned hills, etc. Finally, it helps reduce the wrinkles we couldn't get out with the iron!
After wetting the mat, turn to your board. The mat won't dry out too quickly so you have time as long as you only work on one board at a time. I start on the outside and place a thin bead of glue along the wood frame. It is important that the mat forms a solid bond around the edges. Then I basically lay out more glue in a spiral pattern and take a wet brush and smooth the glue as evenly as possible on the board.
I don't try to put the glue all the way down the banks to the wood, because I'm going to trim the grass back as I mentioned before. Just leave an inch or two of foam glueless (hmm... is that even a word?). Hey, this is the photo I mentioned earlier where you can see how smooth the slope if the river is!
Place the mat onto the sticky foam and press it down. With the felt damp, you should be able to smooth out any remaining wrinkles. Then set the board aside to let it dry and start on another one!
Fast forward... this is important... I let the board dry for three or four hours before moving to this next step. With a sharp blade (I used a new blade for each board) trim away the extra mat. This is easier than it looks if you use the edge of the wood to guide your knife. Make sure to take you time to get neat edges and avoid losing a finger!
If there are any edges where the mat seems to be loose, it is an easy task to add a little extra glue along the edge. Next time I'm going to show you how to add roads and riverbanks...