Ain't no mountain high enough

So I was thinking (yes, always a dangerous activity) the other day about the challenge between something that is immersive and cool versus practicable and playable.  The prime example of this is, of course, hills.

Kings of War is an abstract game.  Not as abstract as chess, but still - medieval armies (and this is based off medieval warfare) may have lined up in blocks, but they did not stay that way once they got into combat.  The idea of an overhead view of the entire battlefield, or even of a limited battlefield with borders which you could not cross, did not exist.  (Yes, there used to be some strict rules of engagement (up through the civil war) such that civilians were generally off limits in a battle (now pillaging was something different)).

In 2nd edition Kings of War, height as been abstracted to a simple number - the bigger the number the higher the object (be it troop, hero, monster, hill, forest, building, etc).  Height 3 is ALWAYS higher than height 2 regardless of the actual models involved.  This is a HUGE improvement for those of us who played in 1st edition that used "true line of sight" - where you were supposed to bend down from the models point of view to see if you could see something.  It is bad enough in a skirmish game, but was a (is abomination too strong of a work here) bad idea - made worse by people modelling units for advantage.

Since 2nd edition came out things are much simpler and cleaner, if a little less 'realistic'.  Since the actual models didn't matter - they could be assigned the proper height.   Mantic's Clash of Kings tournaments (one in the UK, now down to one in the US, (and maybe one in France?) ) have always been the defining tournaments for Kings of War - to the point that the tournament "recommendations" every year are not published under the title "Clash of Kings" (the first one in 2017 was simply a brilliant piece of literature - I highly recommend it).  The recommendations included a suggested height for hills.  Originally this was height 2, but then it was felt this was too powerful, so changed to height 1, but with the latest version is now back to height 2.

So where am I going with this?  Well modelling hills can be a bit of a challenge - the most realistic hills would have gentle slopes and actually be much bigger than the battlefield itself.  Hills that are flat are a bit easier to put units on, though there is the edge problem when the unit doesn't balance on the top of the hill.  Some have very steep edges to have less sloped area, others try to slope the entire hill.  Some people advocate for 2D hills - where they are simple printed and laid on the battlefield.

Finally, how big should hills be?  Some say 1" for height 1 hills - however a 28mm human figure (which, by definition is 28mm from the ground to it's eyes and actually see over a 1" - or 25.4 mm high hill.  As such I prefer my hills a little taller - and I've been making them 1 1/2" high.

And with the War Kings GT coming up, I've found that I need 14 more hills (I'd like 50, so I can have 10 tables with 2 hills, and 10 tables with 3).  That means I've been in the hill making business.

Now making hills isn't hard with the right tools.  Solid insulation foam is great to make long lasting hills with minimal cost - a single 8' x 4' sheet makes a huge amount of hills.  I had some 1 1/4" foam, and a bunch more 3/4" foam.
This is actually leftover - I last bought a sheet about 10 years ago!
I made some slightly smaller hills from the 1 1/4" foam, and glued two pieces of the 3/4" together to make my more "standard" height hill.  Gluing the sheets together is simply a matter of using PVA or wood glue on one sheet, then clamping it to another to dry.   Be aware this takes a bit longer to set, since there is no air (hopefully) between the sheets

Pour on some undiluted PVA glue, then spread with an old brush.
A couple of tool boxes make great weights
Once your sheets are dry, then comes time to cut out the hills.  Check to see if your foam has a thin clear plastic protective cover on it - you want to peel this off before doing anything else.  Then simply take your tool and cut out a somewhat irregular shape.

You can buy foam knives, but I recommend a hot wire foam cutter (but more on those in a later post!).

Cutting your hills our is simply a matter of cutting up your sheet into appropriate rough shapes.  Most of mine tend to be defined by the depth of a cut I can make with my hot wire foam cutter - though if you have a foam knife you aren't limited by this.

One of the two pieces I glued together ended up making six hills.
The cuts for three of the hills

cutting half way in one direction
the finishing the cut in the other direction
In addition, I had a couple of other smaller pieces that made some small hills, so I had eight to work on.

Once the rough shape is cut out, go back and trim off the edges at an appropriate angle.  My oldest hills just have the single angle - my newer ones I go back and make a smaller angle above it, to give them less slope.
eight hills, with the trimming of the sides.
Once your hills are trimmed into shape, the next step is to texture them.  This does two thing for us - it makes them look more natural and it protects the foam.  I texture with sand - just like I do bases (say for trees).  One very important piece here is IF you are going to use spray paint on these, make sure every little bit of surface is covered with PVA and sand.  Even the tiniest of gaps will have the propellants in spray eat the foam underneath - This happened on a batch of hills I made up a few years ago.
'sanding' the hill

letting the hills dry
If you want to make desert themed terrain, then you don't want to paint the sand.  For a desert hill, after the initial sand dried, I did a second layer of sand, then added "dead grass" static grass to it to give it more variety.  Then since I didn't have paint to hold the sand down, I sprayed the whole think with thinned down PVA to protect it and lock everything on.

desert hill, getting second coating of static grass
On thing about terrain - it is MUCH bigger then models, so takes a LOT more paint.  If you use your standard model paint you will very quickly run out, and it gets very expensive.  So for most terrain I use craft paint, but I go one step beyond this for hills (and my game table itself).  I took down a sample of the charred brown I used, and matched it to Tudor Brown (Glidden flat interior base) which I got in a quart can.  I'm about half way through the can and I've had it for years (I actually have a second can as well - I'm not sure when I bought it :-) )

Tudor Brown
Doing a quick google search, apparently Home Depot actually as a premixed half quart of Tudor Brown paint (although is is semi-gloss instead of flat).

A key here it to make sure you don't miss anything - as it will really show afterward.  So I have often had to go back later and hit a few tiny spots that I missed.

Then you add flocking to it.  Randomly paint on watered down PVA glue, then sprinkle on your favorite basing material.  I use Woodland Scenics Blended Turf (Green Blend T1349) because I can get it in the big quart shaker cans.  Much like paint - when making terrain you use a lot of this, so get it in larger sizes as cheap as you can (which is also why I use this instead of the more expensive static grass (and also I can't seem to get decent static grass shaded in the big containers (though I think I may refill one of them with from Mossy Grass from Huge Miniatures - for $7 you can get about twice the amount that you get in the GF9 little tub for $5).

My plan was just to leave these as it, but looking at my older hills, I had done a bit of highlighting to break up the dark brown a bit.  I took this opportunity also do touch ups on older hills (and retire a couple from my tournament kit - they were the very first ones I did and have two flat sides - really awkward in the middle of the table).  So first a heavy drybrush of a lighter brown.  My go to here is Valejo Beasty Brown - but I haven't yet found a craft match for this - and I am almost out of my squeeze bottle of it (and was surprised I didn't have another on hand, as I use this all the time).  Anyway, I mixed up a lighter brown by mixing a little white into the Tudor Brown.  I then painted this on the exposed 'dirt'.  (normally you should do this before you flock).

I then did a light drybrush of plague brown.  I used to then do a final highlight of bone white, but it seems to me that is a little much for terrain, so I've stopped here.  I actually did the drybrush again on all my hills (well not the volcanic, desert or snow ones :-) ) to eliminate some of the 'glaring' bright spots that were there - making the all a bit more consistent.

And thus more hills are done.  Here is a group shot of all my hills - 44 so far.  That leave me six more to make to hit my ideal goal (one of which needs to be a larger size snowy hill) (The idea is 20 tables, 10 with 2 hills, 10 with 3 for a total of 50).
the empty space in the lower right corner is for the last six hills
So with six weeks to go for before War Kings 2018 I have six hills left, and about a dozen buildings / blocking terrain pieces (of which I have another 4Ground building to put together, and 8 mausoleums (from the GW Sigmarite Mausoleum kit - which when you look at the price of individual buildings (let alone the fences) is actually a very good deal) (and I only felt a little dirty buying it)).

Because it is all fun and games . . .