wargaming terrain trees tutorial done

Lazy Landscaping : from peaceful plants to creepy trees

With the retreating winter and the prospect of spring/summer, I was recently cutting back some of the plants and herbs. While cutting of a dead branch from a lavender-bush, I absentmindedly thought it would look like a small tree and tossed it into the bucket. A heartbeat later, I emptied the entire content of the bucket on a table and found myself scavenging for useful cutoffs from lavender, rosebushes, thyme and so on.
In my mind, I imagined gnarly decayed trees looming menacingly over the brave heroes on my wargaming table.

Materials and tools used

wargaming terrain tools
The usual tools
  • a heavy duty cutter
  • an exacto knife
  • a small wood saw (if possible with a guiding tool)
  • a file brush :
    – to add texture ; always brush in the same direction
    – to roughen up some surfaces
  • sanding paper : to soften corners or clean cutting edges
  • glue : I generally use PVA glue.
  • a sharp pencil or pen to emphasize texture
  • your usual selection of (cheap) craft paints
  • leftover cardboard and styrofoam bits
  • basing material and some rocks… you get’em for free outdoors. go out and get some fresh air
  • a selection of treelike cutoffs and branches

The base

A. The base

Design issues

As usual, I kept playability in mind. Miniatures come with flat bases and are notoriously unstable on sloped or steep surfaces (duh).
I wanted to be able to move my miniatures over this or that part of terrain. Consequently I had to plan some areas, where they would not tumble off. The classic “step”-system was the obvious solution. Due to the relative size of bases with trees on the wargaming table, I needed to be careful not to over emphasize the steps in the terrain.

In the end, I tried to alternate between mostly flat surfaces, “steps” made by stones and gentle slopes.


I cut several crude shapes from thick plasticard. I used a filebrush to roughen up the surface a little, giving the PVA-glue something to stick on. In order to add some height levels, I glued leftover styrofoam bits on the footprint. Stones and pebbles give it some extra terrain look.

Initially I didn‘t cover the base with texture, except for a mix of black mod podge and sand.

Looming and creepy trees

I cut some branches to size and laid out their positioning. They are intentionally tall, hoping this will add to the looming and oppressing effect ot the trees on the wargaming table. (I was mistaken -_- )

In order to stabilize them, I carefully drilled some hole into the trunks and used bits of paperclips as struts.

A strut from a paperclip
wargaming trees craft tutorial
in hindsight they might be a tad tall… oh well

B. Paintjob

The paintjob of the base is rather straightforward. I used the same technique I rely on when I quickly want to make bases (see my lazy basing tutorial).
I made some effort to emphasize minor details like stones, the small holes and niches and so on. Next to the trees, they’d catch (hopefully) the eye of the wargamer.

warganing tutorial base and trees

But the bases felt to clean. I stole yet another lesson from Erics playbook and added dried tea leaves as old foliage. The tea leaves hide imperfections in the base (and there are many) and will make the base more interesting to look at. As an added bonus: my wargaming table with the trees will smell really nice 🙂

I diluted some PVA glue and dabbed it on the bases. After adding the tea leafs, I realised that they would soak up the watered down PVA nicely an ddry rather quickly. A detail to remember in future crafting projects.

Final touches and thoughts

To add some colour, I added some happy mushrooms made from hot glue and toothpicks. I placed them in some corners and beneath branches. Just for fun.

wargaming terrain trees tutorial done
the final product

Although I am rather satisfied with the end product, I might change a few things in future forest terrain projects.

  • I might use Erics swamp/jungle terrain method, hoping the bases will have a a more natural look.
  • Some trees are too tall. Next time I will measure them properly beforehand.
  • Less Iceland moss. It’s a crafting material I am not very fond of. But I needed something to represent hedges. I’d replace it with dried thyme in the future.
  • As usual, I wonder if I should have applied a wash.
wargaming terrain trees tutorial glamour shot
as Ruby wanders through the woods, something old watches her from the trees

As the title indicates, it is a lazy approach to trees. I sadly lack both the skills and the time to craft trees from scratch using wires, papier maché and whatnot. There are a lot of excellent tutorials in the intertubes that show you how to do this. (here is an example by dice chatter )
For me, repurposing plant cutoffs, especially from the lavender bush, constitutes a quick and viable alternative. They come for free, are easily accessible and have the right treelike look (especially for fantasy games).

happy gardening