Saturday, December 11, 2010

Can't See The Forest For The Trees

Hello and welcome to a craft issue of the Dispatch!

After looking at some of the older posts that I'd started and never completed, I found this one about... wait for it... trees! Yes, that's right. The most basic of all terrain pieces, the forest. You find them everywhere but making a good one can be a real pain in the butt. I found an extremely cheap, effective, and not too shabby looking alternative so without further ado, let's head for the trees!

From The Workbench
Looking for the Forest with the Trees

One of the most common pieces of terrain that you see in the real world is also one of the most troublesome to recreate in a game. When you build a forest terrain piece, one of the hardest things is making sure that you can still maneuver miniatures around the trees which not always the easiest thing to do. In fact, I think that one of the more common ways to represent forests is to just use some felt on the table. A quick and easy solution to the problem but visually it is kind of lackluster. Having played several games on some pretty barren tables back when we were getting Warmachine started at Battlezone Comics back in the beginning of 2009, I decided to tackle the forest problem to see if I could find a quick and inexpensive solution to the problem. The first thing I did was hit the craft store.

All of the Michael's store have a section of the store dedicated to fake plants and flowers, and this was where I went to see what I could find. The big problem with this is of course the scale. The plants at Michael's are life size while 28mm mini games are not (thank God 'cause that would make painting them a real pain!). After digging around the greenery, I managed to find these small plants in one of the aisles.

The leaves are out of scale with the minis but small enough that it looked like it would work. The stem was also kind of thin compared to what you would expect to see in the "real world" but since I wanted to make sure that there was room to maneuver, it seemed like this might work out nicely. Now I had a tree, so now it was time to find a base.

I had thought about cutting some MDF into templates but I actually had a quicker and cheaper solution laying around; CDs. Back in the day, companies like AOL used to send out CDs on a what seemed like a monthly if not weekly basis. While this doesn't happen nowadays, it is still easy to get a hold of these for a dirt cheap price making them a quick and easy solution. The problem with them can be getting things to stick to that shiny, smooth plastic surface. The solution that I decided to use was sandpaper to rough things up a bit. Once this was done, it is time to get the "tree" ready to be "planted".

Using a pair of wire cutters, I cut up the length of the stem of the plant so that you split it in half. Rotate the plant and then cut the stem in half again. This will split the base of the so that there are four separate pieces that you can fold out as you can see below.

Once this is done, it is time to break out the hot glue gun so that you can attach the plant to the CD. Once it is nice and hot, apply a liberal amount of glue around the opening on the CD and stick the plant into this glue. Be careful of any glue that comes through the hole; you don't want to burn yourself or accidentally glue your forest to the dining room table! Give this a minute or so to set and then apply some more glue over the any part of the split stem that is still exposed. This will make the bond that much stronger and also gives the appearance of roots.

Once the glue has cooled, it is time to glue some sand to the base. Cover the top of the CD with white glue and cover it with a liberal layer of sand. Gently shake off any excess and then set it aside to dry overnight.

Once the sand is dry, it's time to get to the painting. Give it a coat of brown and then hit it with a dry brush with a lighter shade of brown. Let this dry and then finish it off with some static grass or flock, whichever suits your fancy. I also like to put some felt on the underside of the CD so that it doesn't slide around too easy during the game. Nothing worse than having your forests start to float away when you're trying to hide in them.

And there you have it! Nowadays there are a lot of other options for forests out there (including the very nice looking Citadel Wood produced by Games Workshop) but I think that it's hard to beat this one for the price. The CD can be any old CD or DVD that you have lying around (and don't plan on using again obviously) while the hot glue gun, paint, sand, and flock I already had around the house. The only thing that I actually needed to go out and buy were the plants themselves which cost me less then $2 a piece. Now that's what I call gaming on the cheap!

The Parting Shot...

That's it for now. Thanks for checking out the blog and as always, if you have any questions or comments feel free to either leave them right here on the blog or you can email me at Plus you can now follow the Dispatch on Facebook by clicking on the like button to the right. Until next time...

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