Using terrain at sea in Blood & Plunder seems a bit counter intuitive. However, every time I read the setup for a naval game the rule book mentions the possibility of adding terrain. What kind of terrain is there in naval games? The most common danger of the era were shoals. Shoals are areas where the water goes shallow due to hidden underground land formations. These are dangerous to ships and can result in you running aground. There aren’t currently any options to buy shoal terrain direct from Firelock Games, so I’m finally making some homemade shoal terrain to spice up my sea games.
Setting up and Building the Shoal Terrain
For this project I went to my local craft store and picked up a couple feet of transparent vinyl and some cheap paint in varying shades of blue.
I also used a disposable plate for a palette, some scissors and a medium sized brush.
First I cut out a natural looking shape for a moderately sized shoal. Apparently most shoals are long and skinny but this first one was more or less oval.
Painting the Shoal Terrain
Next I prepared a bit of several different colors of paint on my “palette.” The colors you use can vary but I used some sand color for my lightest color and 4 shades of blue ranging from dark to light. Next, I added a little water to the palette to help blend the colors as I work.
I turned the vinyl over so I’m painting the “underside” of the plastic.
I started with the sand color. The vinyl has no texture for the paint to grip or soak into so it will take several coats.
Before the sand color started to dry I moved to my lightest blue color and blended the tones together all around the edges. You’ll likely want to use some extra water to blend effectively.
- Then I moved quickly to the darker blue and repeated the blending process so I end up with a pretty even blended look going from the dark blue deep water to the sand color in the middle of the shoal.
Don’t t thin your paints too much or it will take forever to dry! After the first coat the whole thing mooked pretty streaky so I went back with a fairly dry brush and filled in the gaps. Once there was some dry paint on the vinyl, that gave it some texture and it was easier to get the paint to spread smoothly on the second coat.
Flip it over and you’re done!
Building and Painting a Round Shoal Terrain
I made a second rounder shoal using a couple coats of dryer paint.
Working with dryer paint got me less streaks with just two coats but I had to work really fast to blend the colors before they dried out.
Even if there are some streaks, it will look OK once you put it on your ocean mat and the blue mat underneath will help blend the look.
I bought a set of more tropical sea paints first but once finished, the “tropical shoal” looked jarring on my ocean mat.
Just make sure to get a set of paints that approximately matches the tone of your play surface.
I think I made the sandy center of these too large so I’ll make the next ones with less sand and a lot more light blue.
Apparently most shoals are long and thin so I plan to make one that’s a good 24″ long.
It’s a cheap and easy project! The paints cost me $1.50 each and 24″x30″ of the vinyl cost me $4. I think it took me all of 15 minutes to paint up these two.
Alternative Ideas for Shoals
I recommend Fat Mat’s island and shoal set as well, but if you find yourself wanting make some cheap and easy terrain, this is a very accessible project!
Be sure to check out our other articles about Wargaming Terrain for Blood & Plunder.