Operation: Jungle Ruins

Last year, I had a dream. . .

I would have a gaming table full of jungle goodness, with nice thick trees and some interesting ruins to fight over.  It would be done quickly and (relatively) cheaply.  This year,  I finally got round to doing it.

I have, for a long while now, frequented fish shops (where they sell tanks, and weeds and stuff, not a fishmongers – you know, an aquarium-place) in the search for wargaming scenery.  Most of it is useless, being the wrong scale or just plain inappropriate (though a sunken pirate galley, in pretty much 28mm scale, is quite funky).

However, there are always little gems that, when compared to ready-made material sold for wargaming, are really quite cheap.  Most are along the lines of dead trees or interesting rock formations, but recently I picked up these two pieces.

Both are fairly typical of the kind of thing you find in fish shops.  The first is a BIG piece, nearly a foot high and cost something like £35.  However, that is pretty much the top end and, for a centrepiece on the table, not bad value at all.  The second is more typical, and I think was around £15.

These two pieces inspired me to do a whole table as a jungle, with these ruins in the centre to fight over.  Perfect for battles set in Lustria, on 40k Death Planets, or for romps of AvP!

However, this meant I would have to actually do some work and put together clumps of trees and shrubs and stuff, to get the right jungle-feeling across.  Fortunately, fish shops have this soprt of thing in abundance.  Added to that, certain items were going two-for-one, so I duly loaded up and walked out with bags of the stuff – the sales assistants must have thought I had the biggest fish tank in the world (either that, or they sell to wargamers all the time. . .). You can see the kind of thing below.

As well as these larger pieces, you can get ‘sprues’ with smaller bushes on – now, Games Workshop supply something very similar, but don’t bother.  Fish shops will do them cheaper, in larger bundles and with more variety.

I wanted stiff bases for the jungle terrain that would last for years, so cardboard was out (been down that road before).  I immediatly plumped for plywood, but had forgotten how expensive it was these days (been a few years since I last scratch-built an R/C plane). In the end, I chose MDF and, lacking anything like a decent workshop, put upon the Old Man to cut me out some interesting shapes (12 ‘small’ and 6 ‘medium’ size).  He even chamfered the edges!

The next step could not be easier – simply super glue an arrangement of trees and shrubs onto the base, leaving enough room to place miniatures.  For the smallest shrubs on sprues, I left part of the sprue on the bottom of shrub, to aid in stability and sticking.  It will all be drowned with PVA soon anyway.

Like so.

Now, at this point, I was going to treat them in the same way as I do all the bases on my miniatures – sand the whole base, douse in Scorched Brown, drybrush in Bubonic Brown, and then add patches of static grass.  However, halfway through the first piece I twigged something felt wrong.  Checking the Catachans Codex confirmed my suspicions.  A brown base would just look odd when doing a jungle piece.  It needed to be green!

This was, frankly, something of a relief, as it immediatly meant my time spent on the project had just shrunk considerably – after all, I just needed to cover the base in Goblin Green, PVA it, and add static grass. Simples.

It was about this time that I realised that the task I had set before myself was a little more sizeable than I had first thought.  Also, eighteen terrain pieces was probably too many for your average wargaming board.  Also, MDF eats paint like a sponge, so I was using far more Goblin Green than I had planned. Within six pieces, I had run out.  I managed to find half a pot more lying around the office, but a mail order to GW was going to be needed.

The next trial was that Goblin Green on MDF leaves a very smooth surface that PVA glue has some issues with.  After the first lot of static grass had been allowed to dry, I saw there were some small bare patches here and there – just enough to look a bit shabby.  I touched those up with more glue and static grass and, on subsequent boards, allowed the glue to dry for a few seconds before dragging the brush at right angles to the original stroke.  This provided enough granularity for the static grass to dry firmly.

Incidentally, whenever using static grass, whether wholesale like this or in clumps on a miniature’s base, don’t just sprinkle on top of the glue like you would with ordinary flock.  Put a whole bunch of static grass on the glue and press down with your thumb.  It sticks much better this way and, when you are doing clumps on miniatures bases, will dry within 2-3 minutes.

The terrain ended up looking like this.

And with a larger tree.

Not bad at all for what is a very simple project, eh?

My board at the moment looks like this – I have some more jungle terrain pieces to add but, as you can see, it is a very fightable piece of real estate already.

You can see another couple of jungle ruins I picked up, and the withered trunk near the middle (the grey thing) is another stand-alone piece supplied by the fish shop.

Overall, I spent about £150 on this, including paint, shrubs and glue.  Time-wise. . . what you see above probably consumed 2-3 hours, not including drying time.  With a bit of planning and forethought, you could easily whittle the cost down to less than £100 and, if you made your own shrubs, even less.

Either way, it is a very easy, low-effort way of putting together a new gaming table and it will at least feel different from fighting yet another battle on the green fields of Kent!

I’ll leave you with a couple of Orkses, who are very much enjoying the ambush possibilities of their new home.


2 Responses to “Operation: Jungle Ruins”

  1. James Says:

    Nice little article. Instead of using your nice GW paints, go to the local hobby store and buy craft paints. 🙂

    Also, I usually use a spray on “floral” paint (non-melter of foam type) as a base coat. It comes in many colors that work with plants. Then you can dry brush/flock/airbrush over it.

  2. Johannes Hatem Says:

    Thank you for the fish shop idea! It´s going to save me money!

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