Wargaming Trees

April 14th, 2021

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Am I the only around here under the impression that no matter how much terrain I build, I still never get to accomplish all the goals I’ve set for myself? It seems like the more of the stuff I try to get done, the more there is to build… Maybe that’s the meaning of life.

Anyway, a short one today since I’m kind of in between several stages of finishing multiple projects, so here’s a look at some wargaming trees I’ve had in the making for ages and some that I’m working on right now. There aren’t really any step-by-step pictures for these as some of them have been hanging around my house for damn near a decade now and I wasn’t really thinking I’d be writing these out back then…
But I’ll try and describe what went into making each of these to the best of my ability.

First up are some giant-ass ones I’ve been meaning to finish for a long while. Originally, these were branches on a common elder tree in my backyard that I had to take down. Because of how cool the bark looked, I couldn’t help but save a few of the thicker ones and glued them to some MDF bases in the hopes of putting together some fantasy/sci-fi trees.
My model for these were the Minecraft dark oak trees: giant, thick things (no, not like that) with a lush canopy.

Unfortunately, my skills at the time were rather limited, as was my patience, so after I’d fashioned some more branches for the branches (as you do) from wire, coated them in hot glue and then DAS air dry clay, I sculpted them a bit (read: college try), and did a quick job of painting them. I also painted the entire “tree” with - if memory serves - a very dark brown that is officially the only acrylic paint I ever finished since I really started crafting terrain, years back - seriously, invest in some acrylics, they’re worth their weight in miniatures.

I then set upon layering up the canopy: I used some craft shop lichen for the base and then sprayed that in Bison glue and doused it with household condiments.

Let me tell you, the smell was unbearable and to this day retains a slight tinge of plastic-and-camomile-and-death that brings back some really bad memories from when I first attempted the combo... I then tried to undo some of the mess of drying condiment always falling off by spraying the canopy with regular green paint from a can. All I managed was generally dirty up the damn branches and make the leaves feel crunchy.

Thankfully, some of the condiments got stuck on the flock layers in one of the finished bases, so I’m hoping whatever else keeps dropping out of the second one will also do the same once I’m done with the base. Also, I still have the one that’s basically just starting out so I’m hoping I can do it more justice than its brethren when its time comes.

Next up, wire trees!

These were easier said than done in terms of how finicky they ended up being (which is why I only did two), but consisted of wrapping wire together in a funnel shape with the ends let loose (longer at the top/branches), much like you can see in the WIP fantasy tree above. I wasn’t looking for anything fancy, and even though the wire is still fairly visible in zoomed-in pictures, they look fine and appropriately grisly when on the table.

I cut out wire double the length I wanted the tree to end up and bent the pieces in half, roughly. I then weaved the two halves together up to a point where I thought branches would start to jut out. I weaved couples of these bits together and left the bent ends on the bottom, to serve as roots. After I’d weaved a sufficient number of them and got a general tree shape, I cut the bend at the bottom with a wire cutter and spread the ends outwards and flattened them in order to make the root system. I glued this to the bases with hot glue.

Back up top, I let single wires stand on their own and fashioned them into a sort of canopy. What followed was coating it all in a healthy layer of hot glue, heavily teased and prodded as it was cooling off in order to give it a more bark-like texture - this is very important, otherwise you’ll end up with a sad, droopy tree. Which might work for sci-fi settings, actually.
I then doused it all in black paint, brown, and finally highlighted with a bit of grey.

Seen here next to some more backyard-sourced branches standing in for trees.
The bases were done with the same couple browns (dark and light) I've been using for most of my recent crafting exploits as I want it all to go well together.

Finally, my favourite of the bunch: dead-simple trees using branches you don't really need to even paint. They’re lightning fast to make, dirt cheap, and look great on the table:

You might’ve seen glimpsed some of them being used in my Frostgrave games.

These came from the birch tree in my front yard (where it’ll stay at least until it rips up some power lines during the next big storm). I broke the branches off in different spots (don’t use cutters unless you’re going for a logging camp look), used heavy washers to base them, different sizes depending on the size of the branch itself, and then coated them with a couple grit sizes of sand (coarse and fine). I considered doing these on irregular shaped bases, but am also considering some modular, larger terrain pieces with slots for round bases to go in, so am keeping these more “regularly based” for those purposes, even though I know they look kinda dorky just standing there with no terrain around them.

I affixed them to the washers with hot glue. Prior to that I stuck a piece of electric tape to their underside to seal the hole off. This allows the glue to pool in the sort of plate that forms there and allows the trees to sink into the basing material and look as if they drive into the ground, rather than just being stuck on.

In terms of use, these will count as "blasted trees" on my WW1 tables, so they might do with some black dry brushing to count for scorch marks, but I'm in no hurry to try that out as the way the bark works makes it seem like parts of them are already sort of scorched, anyway.
The larger ones were also given a treatment of watered down PVA to help keep the bark in one piece as it tends to peel off when drying up and also under heavy use.

These are all (aside from the one fantasy tree) nearing their final stages, but are pretty much table ready as all I'm left wanting to do is have them sealed better to stand up to more abuse down the line.
Like if my wife starts throwing them at my face after a particularly bad roll.

Thanks for reading, and have as nice a day as you deserve!

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Tags: Costin Becheanu, Grizzly Gripes, Miniatures, Wargaming