Sunday, October 7, 2012

Flocktober! Improving Wargame Trees Tutorial

After figuring out how to improve my wargame trees last year, I didn't employ those techniques to bring the rest of my wargame trees up to par. To kick off Flocktober I decided to try using those same methods to improve some rather wimpy Woodland Scenics trees and document the process in case anyone else is interested. All my tips for building wargame trees after the jump.

Materials Needed for Building Wargame Trees

The most important thing you should keep in mind is that this project has a wide margin of error. I'm going to give you my tips but you have a lot of leeway in the actual materials you use if you are following along.

  • Tree Armature: In this tutorial I'm using Woodland Scenics tree armatures I had sitting around that were looking a little sparse, but I've used twigs and branches from the shrubs out back. All you need is a twisty trunk like structure.
  • Tree Base: The trees are based on metal washers, but you could use wooden craft disks, plaster,  MDF, plastic card, anything rigid that won't warp.
  • Filter Material: I don't really know what this stuff is. I picked it up at a pet store and I believe its used in fish tank filters. You can see the package I used above, but really any sort of lacy, foamy, light weight stuff would work, as long as you can "tease" it apart and paint it.
  • Spray Paint: I used a cheap camo green from the hardware store. 
  • Hot Glue Gun and Glue Sticks: Now this you should probably try and use. White glue and super glue didn't work too well when I tried using them, so pick up a cheapy hot glue gun from a craft store.
  • Clump Foilage: I used  Woodland Scenics Clump-Foliage  but I suspect there are other brands that would work just as well. I like the Light and Medium green shades.
  • Scenic Cement: This is an optional item, but it should make the trees a little more resiliant. If you pick up  Scenic Cement  you'll need a spray bottle too available from craft and garden centers.

Creating the Wargame Trees

You need your tree armature affixed to its base and painted if necessary. I'm using an existing Woodland Scenics tree that looks a little anemic, so I won't be going into detail about building the tree armature.
The patient, looking a little thin around the branches
If your filter material is an unnatural shade (mine was blue for example), your first step is pull off a few chunks and spray it an earth or leaf color. Once dry, pull and tease a chunk of filter material apart to make a lacy net.  You want this material to be as 3-dimensional as possible, but don't sweat it. Even after teasing mine was still pretty flat.

Filter material sprayed camo green
Teased apart into a lacy net.

The filter material will bulk up the foliage area of the tree. Place it between the branches of your armature.  I tried hot gluing it to the armature, but found the filter material naturally clung to the pokey bits of the tree and glue turned out to be unnecessary. If your tree lacks an armature, you may want to use large amounts of unteased filter material to bulk up the tree.
Filter material worked into branches. Existing clump foliage peeks through gaps.
Now you simply need to spread a little hot glue on a section of the filter material and press some clump foliage on.  Work a little bit at a time so the glue doesn't cool and dry before you have a chance to affix the clump foliage. When you pull the glue gun away it will trail a thin strand of glue. Keep that strand under control or your tree will end up looking like a family of giant spiders lives in it!

Now just stick some leaves on. Watch your fingers, that stuff is hot!
Once all of the filter material is covered, give the whole tree a gentle squeeze to make sure the clump foliage is packed in and then spray it down with some scenic cement.

Before and after
 For real, this whole process is very easy and pretty quick. You may lose a few bits of foam here and there once they hit the table top a few times, but that's easily remedied with a little glue and replacement foam.