Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Using masking tape for roads and now streams for 6mm Fire & Fury

In games of Fire & Fury, roads are often the most important terrain feature on the table. Other terrain features give you a +1 to this or -2 to that, but roads triple your movement rate and this is after all, a game about outmaneuvering your opponent. Fire and Fury games are also played on a large area, often with the entire historical battlefield as a playground. This means there will be a lot of roads, meters upon meters of them. This means making the required road system out of scenic road tiles can become quite expensive if you buy them an laborious if you make them yourself. I've found that using your ordinary humble masking tape for the roads is a very good solution to the problem. The tape can be bought to the correct width, and you can easily put down the required road system in minutes. The road stays put during the game without any unsightly sections breaking away, and you can discard the whole thing after use. When used on a static grass mat, masking tape doesn't leave any residual glue stains on the mat, and only pulls out a few strands away. The only downside is that the color isn't quite right for a dirt road.

Here's a couple of pictures of the road systems I've built for my ACW games:

Bull Run. We used a brown artist's pen to make the tape a little more brownish. It worked better in nature than on the photos.
Gettysburg Day 1. You'd need a lot of road sections to cover all those.
A bit of Chickamauga action. Wait, is that a road intersection with a bridge in the middle?
ACW battlefields have another common linear feature, streams. These are also a pain in the buttocks to do properly. I tried making my own river for bull run, but it turned out ugly. For the rest of my games, I've been using the same masking tape I use for roads, only now I use a blue chalk to color it. As you can see in the Chickamauga pic above this text, the effect leaves something to be desired. Which brings me to my discovery yesterday.

Yesterday I was walking in the local supermarket and I found, wonder of wonders, blue masking tape! I don't know if this is something you non-finnish people have had for decades, but I saw this for the first time yesterday and I definitely have been looking for good tape solutions for my road and stream needs. I immediately bought a roll and tried it out.

The tape is made by Scotch and the glue on it is a little bit more sticky than your average masking tape. I became worried that the glue would be too strong and tear away too much of the static grass mat if removed. My fine discovery would be ruined in that case! I put down some regular masking tape and the newfangled blue one on my grassmat and left it for the night.

I also got the opportunity to play with my toy soldiers and make a diorama.
As you can see, the result is a clear blue line everyone recognizes for what it is. A cartoony color, for sure, but historical battles weren't fought over neatly trimmed bright green golf greens either. Quite good for games played with modular terrain which you build once and disassemble after the game.

So, moment of truth. I pulled the tape off the mat this morning to see the damage. The risks I take for the good of the community!

The bits on the right I pressed down hard, the rest is just gently pressed down on the mat. Most of the area the tape covers will not be hard-pressed down, especially if you can train your co-players not to lean on the table. Both tapes take away a bit more hair in the places where much pressure is applied and a little bit where it has been lightly applied. The blue tape takes a bit more than the regular one, I noted, but still nothing to be worried about. As anyone who has used these static grass mats knows, they shed more hair than an alley cat. You'll have to subject the mats to a lot more play than what the average wargamer has time for before these mats show any sign of getting bald on account of these tapes. 

So, I recommend using these tapes for roads and streams in your games if you have a static grass mat to put underneath. I have no idea what the residual damage will be for flocked surfaces or felt mats. I leave experimenting on those for someone else. It seems Scotch makes these tapes also in orange and green. I wonder if the orange tape would look more dirtroad-y than the regular old masking tape?

P.S. I ordered a modular river system from Total Battle Miniatures just a week ago. Good thing I did that before finding this tape, otherwise I might not have splurged on it.


  1. I thought you were, initially, talking about this blue tape: it's painters tape with limited stickiness.


  2. That's the brand. Somehow it seems stickier than the 3M regular masking tape I have..

  3. I’m not familiar with the game, but I find this brilliant. How about using some brown tape? Not the duct tape, but those premium scotch tape that comes in colors. Although, I won’t suggest that you stick them hard, as that might ruin the mat. I hope you’ve found the right option. Have a great day!

    Lauren Woods @ Adhesive Tapes

    1. Hi!
      The tape has to be the sort that doesn't stick too hard or leave a glue residue. Painter's tape and similar work fine for this. I've been on the lookout for suitable colors and found some textured, band-aid colored tape which is much better than your normal painter's tape for roads. There's some pictures of the tape in action here: http://mazikainen.blogspot.fi/2014/07/ropecon-2014-black-powder-acw-bolt.html