Starting with Squad Leader in 1982, I soon transitioned to Advanced Squad Leader. Over that time I acquired most of the official addon modules, including Deluxe ASL and the historical modules Red Barricades, Pegasus Bridge, Kampfgruppe Peiper, and others. Through the 1990s I played ASL often with friends and entering various tournaments in France, at which point I also started playing some Combat Mission (computer game). But I had a dream, inspired by the Deluxe ASL modules Streets of Fire and Hedgerow Hell … to make ASL closer to the real world. It took some time to finally get to it, but I decided to build it in 3D.
Update: Be sure to check out Hill 621: The Movie as well:
I chose the classic Squad Leader scenario Hill 621, which has been converted to ASL scenario E, as a proof of concept because it includes many different terrain types, as well as a variety of units, which when placed in play is quite impressive.
Be sure to check the bottom of the article for a full photo gallery!
Each 3D board is made from photocopies of the original board, blown up to twice the size and then glued to styrofoam sheets as a reference for building up terrain.
The various elevations are themselves cut and glued separately to separate styrofoam pieces, then later on glued on top of the main board(s) to build up the height. Edges of slopes are covered with strips of brown paper. To avoid any distortion of the hex shapes on a horizontal plane, I joined hexsides on the slopes to the ones on the main board with a black marker. Then white glue and flocking were applied on the surfaces, carefully trying skip the hex outlines and grid coordinates.
Wheat fields are made from static yellow grass. Walls are made in styrofoam and painted in various shades to represent interlocked stones. Hedges are built from pieces of flock stuck together side by side and trimmed to shape. Trees (woods) are made by flocking glued on brown painted cut-in-half toothpicks that are “planted” inside the hex to approximate the outline of the woods depiction. Each map, with the hills, takes an average of ten days to create (excluding all the trials by errors made beforehand to refine the process).
Buildings are constructed of cardboard (taken from shoe boxes). Each height equivalent is approximately 9mm (0.35″) and the footprint matches the outlines on the original ASL boards as closely as possible. The roof and wall artworks are prepared in Microsoft Powerpoint (and if needed shaded in Photoshop) from downloaded pictures, downsized and duplicated in full strips that are later cut to the size of the buildings to be glued on. The same process applies to the windows and doors. The transparent part of the roof (to see units inside) is made in thin plastic sheet. After assembly, weathering is applied all over to blend all the components together and give a field like rendering for realism.
Note that all buildings and trees can be reused on other (future) boards, so it is a one time job hopefully to create these features (save a few exceptions on some boards like the market place bldg that I will build whenever needed).
Depending on size, each building takes an average of 25 minutes to complete.
The scale used for my 3D boards is for 1:285/6mm Scale Micro Armour. All vehicles, guns, heavy infantry weapons and crews are made by GHQ. Other infantry units are made by Heroic & Ross. Each vehicle is painted with the same techniques used in modelling (base coating, camo sprayed by air brush, pin washing, tools, tyres etc painted with a fine brush, etc.).
It takes an average of 1.5 hour per vehicle to complete (I even pushed it as far as applying decals and drilling the 75 mm+ gun barrels!) and 20 minutes per infantry unit (assembling and painting like vehicles above). Significant time could be saved by simply using unpainted miniatures out of the box.
I made sure all the game features and symbols can be represented in 3D.
Generally speaking, when preparing the scenario to play, each unit type counter of the game can be taken out to check their characteristics for reference. Also the original boards can be assembled on the table as a “thumbnail” of the 3D layout for visual and LOS purposes.
It can also be beneficial to have VASL loaded on a laptop with the same maps loaded to quickly check the LOS and to additionally use available aids such as game info, dice rolling, messages on the dice roll results, hit and kill tables, etc.
Each multi-hex building is build using different level elements to place units and because rubble and other events can happen, in which case a rubble counter (or rubble mockup?) will replace the element involved. Also, as previously stated, all roofs and intermediate level tops have a transparent part to show which units are inside.
Infantry units are either a single man miniature (SMC/hero) or assembled by two (HS, crew) or by three (squad), similar to the silhouette system used on the ASL counters. A sticker can be used to represent its strength factor printed on in the color of its nationality. Similarly, infantry support weapons have their strength factor on a sticker and assigned to the infantry unit manning it.
Vehicles use ID letters on a sticker for tracking purposes.
To limit the number of objects to manipulate, I also use stickers instead of the stock counters whenever possible for: CE, CX, DM, dm, wounded SMC, red arrow (motion), Gun/BMG/CMG malfunction, etc.
This is a short summary of my long but finally completed work on one scenario … Hill 621. I now need to find an opponent to make a final playability check, rules adjustments if needed, and of course to have fun. Hope you will enjoy the result, and of course do not hesitate to make suggestions to help me improve and simplify the process and end result. Please leave comments below … and check out the photo gallery below for more detailed pictures.
The Photo Gallery
.END OF BRIEFING.
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Good golly this looks like it would be a lot of fun! Though I think it would slow the game down a little bit. i’m not sure if I could wrap my head around visualizing a 3d board like that after visualising the 2d versions for so long. Nice work!
It needs a bit of practice to get used to the “real” landscape. That is why I suggest, in a first step, to keep the original scenario boards assembled to have a quick thumbnail view of the whole terrain. Additionally VASL can be used to quickly check the LOS (which is also true when using the stock game). What eventually will slow down the game, but in a positive way , will be the time both players take to enjoy the 3d features and miniatures 😉
Bruno, how much do you estimate it cost you to make each board? have you considered 3d printing and then painting the buildings? You could print many buildings at once. Maybe even the hills? thanks.
Cost (time): If I take board 2 as an example, with multi-level hills as its most time consuming feature, I estimate a 35 man*hours effort.
3D: I am not sure it wld save so much for the buildings. You might save a bit of time to assemble them (so far 10 min max per element, incl. the transparent part) as most of the time is consumed in the preparation and application of the artwork. I wld consider 3D printing more to make the infantry miniatures as really there is a lot of room for improvement on the proportions and sharpness of the details in the commercialized items. This being said, I have never used 3D printing, and if you have more suggestions on this, I am completely open to consider them
This looks amazing! And very timely for me; I’ve been toying with the idea of using miniatures in ASL recently as well. I don’t play to build 3D boards, as I have neither the time nor the space for it, but I think with Micro Armour miniatures could still work on regular boards. I’ve been a bit stumped about how to deal with infantry, though-how to identify their strength factor in something small but readable, and also removable in case of ELR failure. I like your idea of using stickers. What kind of stickers did you use?
I’m also curious what you’re doing about concealment, as that is the other thing I haven’t yet been able to figure out with miniatures.
How do you place units in woods or building? Maybe a riser to set the units above?
Thanks for sharing- you did a great job, hope you have the time to enjoy it often! I’ve not the time for it but I work as a sculptor in the movie business and have considered the efforts quite a lot. I’m starting to focus on some play aid ideas.
Gorgeous work! I have done ASL in 20mm using 4″ hexes. It looks good but is not as true to the game as what you have done. Amazing work!
We just completed and interview with Hayes for episode 306. Perhaps next year we could re-visit the topic with you Bruno. Great job!