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Terrain Modelling by Richard Windrow

by Gary James

Terrain Modelling by Richard WindrowBooks on terrain modelling for wargamers are few and far between, and we often find ourselves borrowing techniques from allied enthusiasts. Richard Windrow's book is aimed at modellers creating dioramas for military models and figures, but there is much here that will be of interest to those of us creating terrain for wargames.

The book is in Osprey's Masterclass series, and is aimed at competent modellers rather than beginners.

This is a beautifully produced hard backed book, 128 pages in A4 format (297mm x 210mm, 11.8in x 8.4in) on glossy paper and with full colour photography throughout.

It is published by Osprey Publishing Limited, ISBN 1 84176 062 5.

Please visit the Osprey Book web site entry for this book here: Terrain Modelling (Modelling Masterclass)


Chapter 1: Preparation, materials and techniques

Basic tools and materials of the trade and ground preparation. The introduction to the building of bases for dioramas may not be of interest to pure wargamers, but the discussion of various scenic materials was useful. Windrow stresses throughout the need for proper reference material (photographs of real trees, bushes, different type of ground etc.) and some reference shots are peppered through the book. This alone is very good advice for anyone modelling real world settings.

Chapter 2: Rocks, cliffs and a mountain torrent

Terrain Modelling by Richard WindrowWater effects are discussed several times in this book and in my opinion (perhaps second only to snow and ice, below) will be one of the most useful discussions for the wargamer - I get many emails asking about modelling water.

This chapter focuses on the creation of a mountain gorge with a waterfall and pool. Because the aim is to produce a diorama setting, the author does not worry about finishing the edges of the pool in a realistic fashion, and this is one example of the way in which a wargamer would have to adapt the techniques.

The result is very realistic, and anyone making a set piece for the table involving a waterfall will find it very valuable.

Chapter 3: Grass & fields, hedges & bushes

Terrain Modelling by Richard WindrowRichard Windrow uses a wide variety of materials to produce natural-looking hedgerow and field effects.

Some materials are collected as seeds or herbs and spices, which I found interesting and intend to try out. This chapter discussed the production of a ploughed field, hedged meadow, a slit trench and a tank diorama with a focus on creating realistic vegetation effects. The final results may be too time consuming for large scale application but will be of great use for set pieces and model bases.

Chapter 4: Modelling trees

This chapter is written in association with Barry Bowen, and discusses in depth the wire armature method for tree production (a bit like pipecleaner trees, but much more realistic!). Whilst most of the chapter is about deciduous and pine trees, palm trees also get a brief introduction. I suspect armature trees of the standard discussed here are going to be too time consuming and fragile for everyday wargames use, but the technique is interesting and worthwhile for a specimen piece. The discussion of foliage effects is useful. The techniques are developed further and applied in chapter 5 which covers the modelling of an autumn wood.

Chapter 6: Scorched earth

Burned earth effects, charred trees, camp fires including detail of a 1/62nd scale Bronze Age village made as a museum display piece.

Chapter 7: Jungle

Terrain Modelling by Richard WindrowThis wonderful jungle scene is produced using photo-etched brass plants from Scale Link Ltd.

In this chapter a Vietnam swamp diorama is produced and in the process tree production is further discussed (well, tree trunks) and water techniques are visited again, this time in the context of a swamp.

Chapter 8: More water effects

A further discussion of modelling water in the production of two dioramas - a pond with trees and rushes (using a gel) and a brick-sided canal (using plaster for water, since it is covered in weeds). The pond in particular is a very nice model and any wargamer would be happy to have something similar in their collection. The production of wind-stirred water with waves and fast flowing streams are also discussed with reference to 1/62nd scale Bronze Age dioramas (note that 1/62nd scale isn't much different to the 1/72nd that is most popular in wargaming). These involve the use of plaster and gloss medium, showing that you don't always have to use resins to get realistic water effects.

Chapter 9: Sand & Gravel

Two dioramas are used to discuss the production of beach and desert sand settings. The first is a beach scene with wave/foam effects, including a sea section with small waves modelled in plaster. Also slipped in here is an interesting palm tree technique. The second diorama is a North African scene which give the opportunity to discuss more rocky, arid settings.

Chapter 10: Tracks & Roads and Chapter 11: Modern surfaces

These two chapters work in tandem to discuss tracks, roads and lanes of various types. A muddy lane, Roman street and Napoleonic road are produced in impressive detail. Interspersed with the ground effects are discussions of modelling tree stumps and a hollow tree. The modern surfaces chapter deals briefly with asphalt and tar macadam before moving on to a detailed discussion of the modelling of a shell crater including a broken water main.

Chapter 12: Snow and ice

Terrain Modelling by Richard WindrowI especially enjoyed this chapter, since modelling snow and ice is something I have never tried in earnest. I learned a great deal and, whilst the techniques could probably not really be used over the whole of a gaming board, set pieces such as this frozen pond could certainly be used to great effect.

The technique for making the ice and adding the blotchy effect of trapped air in the pond, left, is especially ingenious.

Some tips on modelling slush are also given, as well as the production of realistic vehicle tracks in snow. The author finishes by showing a further 1/62nd scale model, this time a snow covered Paleolithic hunting camp.


The book finishes with a one page appendix listing further books and some USA and UK suppliers. This is not extensive but did include some suppliers that I hadn't come across.


I enjoyed reading this book and learned a lot from it. It isn't for the beginner (which, presumably, is why it's in the Masterclass series) but has much to offer the more experienced terrain modeller who can adjust Richard Windrows techniques for the wargaming setting.

Some modellers may be concerned about scale, since the dioramas are 1/35th scale models. I don't think this is a particular issue since most of the techniques will work in smaller scales. Even the tree techniques can be used for smaller scales if you wish since, as the author points out, trees are hardly ever modelled in accurate scale anyway because they would be too large for practical purposes.

Probably the only drawback from a wargamer's point of view is that many of the techniques are too detailed, and perhaps too fragile, for everyday use in our terrain. However, the majority are usable for smaller set pieces and many of the techniques such as water effects, snow and ice, foliage and grasses are extremely useful in any sized production.

This isn't a straight reference text. Although the book chapters are dedicated to a particular technique most of them diverge from the main topic in places because the author discusses the production of whole dioramas. This means that, for example, although water effects and trees have dedicated chapters some tips and techniques about them also appear in other sections. This makes it less effective as a reference text and you need to read through the whole book once to discover everything the author has to say abut a particular topic. An index would have helped, and it is a shame that the book does not include one.

I'd recommend this book for anyone who wants to take their terrain to a higher level of realism. If you put it on your Christmas list I think I can guarantee you a few happy afternoons of browsing, and the high production values make it a handsome gift.

Richard Windrow's Terrain Modelling is available from the usual online book sellers. Please visit Osprey's web site to read more about the book here: Terrain Modelling (Modelling Masterclass).

Publisher's details:

Osprey Direct,
PO Box 140,
NN8 2FA,
UK (01933) 443 863


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