Home Forums Terrain and Scenery First Terrain Tile for 15mm Vietnam Project

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    Just Jack


    And here we are again, and I’m quite proud of myself, a lot of catching up the blog happening here. So here’s the deal: if you’re not aware, I’m a former US Marine. Now I proud myself on that fact, as well as my knowledge of Marine Corps history (and military history in general). But I was sitting on the couch not long ago watching The Military Channel (or whatever the hell they’re calling it), and a show called “Against the Odds” came on, which features various battles in which one side fought a numerically superior enemy and, if not win, they at least gave good account of themselves. So this episode was called “The Battle of Dai Do,” and I sat there and watched I was both fascinated and sickened. Fascinated because the story was fantastic, and this single, three-day battle saw two men win the Medal of Honor and several more win Navy Crosses (2nd highest award for valor).

    I was sickened, and I still am, because I’d never, ever heard of this battle before. We’re talking Vietnam, up on the ‘Z; we’ve heard of Da Nang, Rocket City, Monkey Mountain, Hue, Khe Sanh, The Hill Fights, Operation Buffalo, etc…, but I’d never heard of Dai Do (sometimes referred to as The First Battle of Dong Ha). Here’s the Readers Digest version: immediately in the wake of the failed (from a North Vietnamese standpoint; the Viet Cong were eliminated as a force in the South) Tet Offensive, the NVA pushed an entire division of infantry across the DMZ, looking to eliminate the major logistics hub of Dong Ha and cut I Corps off from the rest of the country. The NVA division successfully infiltrated unnoticed, but they blew it when one of their patrols fired on a Navy landing craft on the Cua Viet River (major artery running east-west in northern RVN). The Marine Corps decided to send a company up there to check it out, and that’s when all hell broke loose.

    Ultimately the entirety of 2nd Battalion, Fourth Marines (the “Glorious Bastards;” I actually floated with them once on the 31st MEU) was committed to this battle, even reinforced with another infantry company, Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines (I did a Tandem Thrust exercise in Australia with them), but they were committed piecemeal and with limited arty and air support. Ultimately, five Marine rifle companies ATTACKED an entire NVA division, throwing them out of four separate villages, one at a time (the largest being the village of Dai Do), before reaching for a fifth village and ultimately being kicked out of the fourth village and back into the third village. But at that point the Marines had so badly bloodied the NVA division that it fell back across the DMZ into North Vietnam to reconstitute.

    So I quickly went to Amazon and picked up the book, “The Joint Army-Marine Defense of Dong Ha,” which laid it all out for me. I took copious notes and (focusing only on the Marine part of the battle, for brevity’s sake) I compiled a book of ten separate company-sized scenarios that I want to play out on the tabletop, playing the Battle of Dai Do out (for the Marine units) in its entirety (the Army had a battalion assigned as reserve for the 3rd Marine Division, and it was called up to assault a village to secure the right – eastern- flank of the battles at and around Dai Do).

    To do this I decided I needed some terrain. Having seen several wargamers make good use of these foam mats, I decided to give it a shot, so I bought a bunch of 2′ x 2′ foam tiles and I’m making terrain to play out the ten scenarios. Each table will be four tiles, so 4′ x 4’, and I’ve figured out I need to make a total of eight tiles to play this out (with a little bit of fudging ground scale). I’ve been cutting, gluing, painting on latex, spray painting on texture, hand painting on dirt, drybrushing the dirt, spray painting water ways, and putting flock on like a champion, and I’ve just finished my very first terrain tile.

    I’m very happy with it, so I figured I’d show you guys.

    Here it is, ‘naked.’ I plan on adding buildings, trees, and foliage when playing, but you can see a tributary, road, space for the village, rice paddies, and several trenches and fighting holes.

    To see more pics, including some with troops and terrain added, please check the blog at:

    I’m very proud of how this turned out, only seven more to go… The only problem I’m having is with flock; I need to figure out a way to protect it, i.e., fix it in place, make it a bit more resilient to touch. Maybe a matte spray? I heard old fashioned aerosol hair spray might work? Tell me what you think or know, please, it’s already showing some scuff marks.

    More to come!



    Now there is an idea I had not seen before..double layers of foam mats. I love it and I also had not heard of Dia Do !!! Um how to fix the shrubs…maybe use tooth picks in the foam to anchor the shrubs ???? Or thin wood Or plastic sheet with the shrubs glued to it???? I love the look of it !!!!~


    Oh and Butterfly that you are, I guess you are going back to Vietnam !!!!!

    Rod Robertson


    How far you have come from the halcyon days of carpet scraps for hills. The terrain looks great! OK, adobe in Vietnam seems a bit odd, but the overall aesthetic is superb. Bravo, Marine, you should be proud! Now, focus on one of the three directions you have revealed to us recently before Sgt. Rock ends up fighting US modern marines in Vietnam! I look forward to seeing what you come up with.

    Cheers and good gaming.

    Rod Robertson.

    Just Jack

    Thanks guys!  Once again, I appreciate it.  You don’t think I’m suffering from overexposure, do you? 😉

    Yeah John, back to Vietnam, but this time in 15mm (I’d posted the Flashpoint Minis USMC awhile back).  And Rod, don’t worry, I’ve still got the carpet hills, and they’re still in use.  And you’re right, all these projects are getting a bit jumbled and confusing.  I’m doing my best to avoid friendly fire incidents.



    I like the idea of you going back to Vietnam Just Jack. Oh and Hoochies can sometimes be found in the Aquarium isle at Pet stores.

    Just Jack


    I was always going to go back, I just wanted to do USMC with some M-14s.  I wanted to go 10mm, but couldn’t get the M-14s, so I was forced to go with 15mm, but I’m happy I did as Jimmi’s figures from Flashpoint Miniatures are awesome!  I’ve got some ARVN, terrain, and hootches on the way from as we speak.



    Very very cool, I’m looking forward to your AAR’s !!!

    Guy Farrish

    That’s really cool Jack.

    I admit it threw me for a second when your page came up with the adobe style buildings in situ!

    Makes sense now I’ve read it.

    Looking forward to seeing the whole thing.

    Re the flock, I’ve used matt varnish spray in the past and that works pretty well to set it. It still rubs off under heavy use though.

    Would the hairspray affect the rubber in any way?

    I’ve seen railway modellers use dilute pva glue to fix ballast,  dribbled on with a dropper, but they have crazy patience. Some of them use it on grass flock away from the tracks sprayed on with a garden mister and they reckon it sets it rock hard. Worth a try on a test piece to see how it looks. Don’t know how it would affect the look of the rest of the terrain that isn’t flocked though – they only use it on big grass areas where the glue sinks in.

    Really looking forward to reading about/seeing this in use!

    Angel Barracks

    I’ve seen railway modellers use dilute pva glue to fix ballast, dribbled on with a dropper, but they have crazy patience.

    That is what I do but mix in some washing up liquid.
    Works a treat.


    Darryl Smith

    Excellent terrain board, and again, come share your Vietnam project on the Fields of Fire gaming forum as it is Vietnam centric and the chaps there would love to see it!


    Buckeye Six Actual


    Looks good, can’t wait for the battles. And thanks for the info on the actual battle and book.

    You might be able to sort of rout out shallow depressions in the tiles with a Dremmel and a 3/8″ milling bit, might need a router attachment to help control depth on cut.  Not sure, but guessing it will work on the tiles.  if works on polystyrene foam real nice.


    Regarding the flock, I would suggest using Liquitex artist’s acrylic matte medium as the “glue”.  I’ve been using it for decades, both for my gaming terrain and all of the courtroom models that I’ve done over the years.  Don’t thin it.  Brush it on, sprinkle the flock, lightly pat the flock down after sprinkling it on.  If you can still see shiny wet medium after the flock sprinkling, you need to apply it heavier.  After it dries, shake/brush off the excess flock and reuse the excess.  When the medium dries, it will be clear and flat finish.

    Depending on the ambient humidity, the medium can dry pretty fast (when you don’t want it to, prior to adding the flock), you will need to develop a sense of touch or technique in applying and flocking.  For application on a 2’x2′ terrain tile, I would brush on matte medium from one edge about 6 inches deep onto the  tile, apply flock to the first 4 inches of medium, brush on another 6 inches, apply flock to about 6 inches of the medium.  Always leave a “stripe” of exposed wet medium to add more to, before flocking the next “stripe”.  This will avoid building little clumped ridges of flock at the edges of the medium application.  Eventually, as you become familiar with working with it, you will be able to do larger areas each time.  I apply the medium with a 2-2.5 inch paint brush.

    Depending on the application and the base paint color underneath, you may want to apply two layers of flock.  If you are going to fast and thin with the matte medium, it will dry and you will end up with bare spots.  If this is happening, patch the bare areas, and go with two layers of flock.

    Paint under the flock should not be too bright, should be natural colors or matched to the flock.  Otherwise the paint shows up through the flock, particularly single layer applications with a glowing cartoony affect.  You can paint natural (yellow, brown, earthy) or green base coats under green flock and it will look okay either way.

    Drying time can vary greatly, again depending on ambient humidity.  In a dry environment 1-4 hours should get it.  In wet air, 12-24 hours.  In air conditioned air, after 30 minutes (maybe a little less) you can tilt the tile or piece on edge and tap the back to remove most of the excess flock.  Let it  finish drying, then tilt and brush off the remaining excess.  If applying two layers, turn over the piece and tap and brush all excess flock off before applying the second layer of medium.  Otherwise you will build up clumps of “flock-paste”.

    The matte medium stays rubbery when dry, so isn’t prone to chipping as white glue mixtures sometimes do.   I have more than a hundred terrain tiles on foam that I’ve used since 1987-1989, without need for repair.  It lasts.  If needed/preferred, you can spray a matte finish clear coat on it afterwards.  I know people that use the hair spray, but it decays over time.  I’ve over-sprayed Krylon crystal clear flat and Testors dullcoat with no ill effects.

    Just Jack

    Wow, thanks everyone, particularly for the advice.

    Let me lay out what I’ve done:
    -Cut the top tile up (to show elevation) then wood-glued it to the bottom tile.
    -Hand painted with two coats of latex paint to protect the tiles.
    -Spray painted with matte brown.
    -Spray painted with a brown ‘textured’ paint (it has little rocks or something in it to give texture.
    -Spray painted the rivers/paddies with a satin green.
    -Hand painted with acrylic brown all the dirt, then dry-brushed it with a yellow acrylic and then a white acrylic.
    -Hand painted the grass with acrylic brown, dropped the flock on, pressed it, then shook the excess off.

    So, sounds kinda close to Irish’s method.  But I’m still getting scrapes in the flock…


    Stan Martens

    The tile looks great…I’ve walked by these type of tiles many times and thought that they would make a great gaming base…up until now, I had only thought of in terms of base colour and maybe some overlying flock.  Great initiative and idea on carving into them.

    I can’t wait to see your remaining tiles.  Good luck with the project.  Brilliant idea.


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