Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Quiet Please! Sister of Silence

"No magic for you!" Sister Superior of the Silent Sisterhood, witch-hunting warriors of the 30k setting
 Another little 30k bit to post today.  This is a Sister Superior from the "Sisters of Silence", a kind of militant order of warrior women who fight in service of the Emperor in GW's 30k setting.  While they sport ornate armour, weapons and fancy swords, they are marked primarily for their abilities against psykers.  These warriors all share a genetic anomaly that makes them "psychic nulls" - they essentially shut down psyker powers.

With that kind of power, you can see how they would be a big asset to the Censure Fleet sent to bring the Thousand Sons to heel on the world of Prospero.  The warp-fueled powers of the XV Legion will falter with the Silent Sisters about on the battlefield, leaving them only conventional means to try and deal with the Space Wolves.

Capes look dramatic, but they make painting the figure a real pain in the ass

This is a multi-part plastic figure from GW's "Burning of Prospero" box set.  While the sculpt-work is lovely, even incredible, I must say I find the models to be frustrating overall.  It seems that GW likes to be increasingly bonkers with the organization of some of its plastic figure frames.  Where, say, the Space Marine model frames work nicely so you can mix-and-match parts, other frames, like these, are very specific and inflexible. This is really true with the cloaks. These figures basically need to be built with their cloaks attached, making the figure much more difficult to paint than it would be otherwise.

Scrolls and inspirational writings, anti-witch marks and other things seen on these figures hint at the overall setting changes that will be seen in the 40k setting
The other little quibble that gets me is the overall size of the figure.  While the Sisters are no doubt well-trained and equipped for battle, they are still "regular" humans, and should be sized and proportioned in that way in comparison to the hulking, genetically engineered Astrates.  While they are indeed a little more slender in some ways compared to the super-human Astrates figures, they still manage to take up the same amount of room as a Space Marine, and still need 32mm bases.  I hate scale creep...

While they look a little smaller than a Space Marine, the Sisterhood figures are still too large in my opinion...scale creep...

But, my blathering aside, you get the choice of arming the Sisters with swords, bolters or flamers.  And as I said, the sculpting really is remarkable. They should be fun to use in the "Prospero" game, and also be useful for different narratives in our general 30k gaming.

I have only painted the one Sister of Silence figure so far as it is required for the first scenario of the "Burning of Prospero" box game.  You get five of them all together in the box, and I will paint the balance of the squad after I finish painting all of the Thousand Sons models. Hope to have more of that later this week...

Monday, June 19, 2017

Contempt(or) for Prospero

Let's hug!  A Contemptor class Dreadnought for the VI Legion in 30k

More random painting production from my 30k interest/obsession.  This is a plastic Contemptor Dreadnought painted in the colours of the VI Legion, the Space Wolves. This is a plastic model from the "Betrayal at Calth" box game, but given the Legion colours, it will instead be participating in some "Burning of Prospero" games instead :)

The "Burning of Prospero" game box does not come with any Dreadnoughts, but I got the notion from a White Dwarf article published around the same time they released the "Prospero" game. The article included stats and a scenario to include one of these bad-boys on the side of the Space Wolves. I really enjoyed painting the Space Wolves squad for the game, so I figured it would be fun to toss in a dreadnought for them as well.
 
Kheres-pattern cannon adheres to a core rule of any sci-fi genre - that rotary cannons are always, always cool!
It is armed with a Kheres-pattern assault cannon, a power fist and a little bolter.  Powered by the remnants of a mostly-fallen marine of the Vlka Fenryka, this machine will provide a nice all-around balance of fire support and extra heft for close assaults - the power fist being particularly useful for punching irritating opponents/structures directly in the face.

Power fist, all set to reach out and adjust some attitudes...
The only downside is the posing of the model itself.  GW can do so many things very, very well with plastic, but this kit is not really one of them.  It is set in such a way that basic alterations to the otherwise wooden posing require some modelling work - kinda dumb, and I don't see why that was necessary.   But whatever - it gets the job done!

Veteran Sergeant leads the way - "punch this thing next!"

I am enjoying the look of the grey and bronze on the Space Wolf stuff the more I see it...I had no notions of doing a VI Legion force of any size beyond the squad and character from the "Burning of Prospero" game, but who knows? Maybe I will return from the lake in the fall with a wide selection of loyalists in the grey armour of the VI Legion...

In the meantime, watch for more "Burning of Propsero" bits to appear shortly among some other ongoing 30k efforts...

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

30k Battle Report - Travel Woes for Horus' Herald

The elite of the XIX Legion await the followers of Horus...

We played a small game of 30k last week at Dallas' place.  The scenario imagined the Herald of the Warmaster was out making the rounds in some Imperial system, trying to put the facts straight about just what really happened in the Isstvan system - "Ignore the liberal bias in the mainstream news and astro-telepath channels! What can you expect from a publicly-funded and taxpayer-subsidized broadcaster like the Astronomican? They should just call it the Astronomiscam!" He had just completed a public appearance and was en route to his next stop when his party was waylaid by a hodge-podge assortment of loyalist bandits and Horus Denialists. Battle ensued!!

The table at turn one - the Rebel forces are deployed along the bottom of the photo, and would enter via that table edge.  Their objective was to drop of the Herald of the Warmaster at the shuttle landing pad on the top left of the photo. Easy peasy, right? WRONG!
A Slurm machine waits at the base of the landing pad to refresh thirsty shuttle crews
The Sons of Horus had to punch through the loyalist battle line in order to get the Herald of the Warmaster to his shuttle on time so he could make his next public appearance! The escort certainly had the tools to do the job - a Land raider, two dreadnoughts, three Rhino APCs and an assortment of fun infantry (breacher marines, tactical support marines and a seeker squad). What could possibly go wrong?
Deadly Mor Deythan strike team prepares to take their shots
Blood Drinkers with Volkite Calivers prepare a warm welcome

Dallas did such a great job on this Land Raider - always great to see it on the table. Have to say, however, it is much more fun when I manage to kill it
The loyalist cordon was thin, in my estimation.  It had small elements from three different Legions, representing, to our minds, small detachments of survivors and detached-duty forces coming together to try and strike where they can to slow the Warmaster's gains.  Whatever rivalries or jealousies which may have existed between these Legions no longer matter to these guys - what matters is finding a way to fight back! So tragic they could not channel this misplaced energy toward some constructive hope and change along with the Warmaster...

There were two small Mor Deythan squads from the Raven Guard, a tactical support squad, heavy support squad, a dreadnought, Land Raider, a laser destroyer on a tracked chassis from the Blood Drinkers company of the Ninth Legion, and a veteran squad of Space Wolves.  An odd assortment of desperate and delusional warriors clinging to the existence of their so-called "Emperor".

Seeker Squad moving out.  In the end all they would "seek" out was how to be ground into powder...

Seeker squad on the move, covered by the twin Kheres cannons of a Contemptor Mortis dreadnought...man those things are deadly...
It was a pretty small cordon - I doubted they were going to stop the Warmaster's Herald.  But in the grim darkness of the far future, it can be a b*tch to connect with your next flight...

Loyalists move a Land Raider forward, and the cowardly pro-"Emperor" fools of course lurk in its shadow...
Legionnaire "Davey Crockett" and a dreadnought ready to blast away at the Sons of Horus...this little cannon would take out my Land Raider - F@##!!!!
Dallas and Indo took command of the loyalist side, while Mike F and I went with the devout and correct followers of the Warmaster.  I was pretty confident.  I mean, what could happen? Lose our Land Raider on the first turn to an amazing shot from the laser destroyer? How likely is that?

*cough*

Sooo, anyway, it was not a smooth execution on the Rebels' part.  No matter the efforts of our Kheres-pattern autocannons, plasma cannons, or Mike's hard-fighting breacher marines, our task force ended up as junk!

Starts to look ugly in the middle - note the crater at the top of the photo, where the Sons of Horus Land Raider once stood...without it the Rhinos were kind of screwed...
A clash of Contemptor Dreadnoughts! Who would walk away the victor? Note the fallen breacher marine officer to the bottom left of the photo...
The Loyalists systematically took us apart, and without our Land Raider, it was rather tough going.  Sure, we pounded on a few units here and there, but overall we basically walked into a meat grinder - with the Space Wolves in particular extracting a rough toll, even if they lost quite a few squad members in the process.  Mike's breachers and dreadnought made the most progress (getting bashed to pieces for their trouble). The Herald didn't make the shuttle.  He didn't even make it out of his Rhino!

Not ones to wait around, the Space Wolf veterans charge straight at the Rhinos...a series of Krak grenades would sort the vehicles out before long...
Oh man - Horus is going to the pretty pissed that his Herald has been kidnapped by loyalist Legiones Astrates pro-"Emperor" terrorists.  I think the mission to recover him could make for an excellent scenario next time we play 30k. In a fit of pique, I can see Horus calling in some Alpha Legion troops to carry out the rescue, while he vents extreme displeasure at the flunkies in his own XVI Legion.

Alpha Legion on a rescue job. What could go wrong? I'm already looking forward to that!

Big thank you to Dallas for hosting, and to Mike and Indo for coming out to play.  Thanks also to Dallas for providing most of these photos. Somehow I seem to take fewer photos when the Sons of Horus are getting creamed...

Monday, June 12, 2017

Some Proponents of Prospero

For Propsero! Some troops from the XV Legion, the Thousand Sons

Summer is almost formally here, what with the Stanley Cup being handed out just last night (to the Pittsburgh Penguins again *vomit*).  As the weather improves I'm continuing with my slow, steady and somewhat random painting production.  The theme continues to be 30k.  In my previous posting I featured, of all things, a squad of Space Wolves, inspired by the story of "Prospero Burns".  Moving along with that theme, and the "Burning of Prospero" box set, I have some opponents for the Space Wolves.  This is a veteran squad and lone Terminator Sergeant from the XV Legion, the Thousand Sons, defenders of Propsero.

The writers at Forge World have tried their best to give each of the 18 Space Marine Legions involved in the Horus Heresy story their own unique "character", differences that go beyond different numerals or colours and symbols on the power armour. This is a tall order, given some limitations in the context that the main story puts in place, and doesn't always work, but in the case of the Thousand Sons, I think the writers, amplified by gifted story tellers like Dan Abnett, have done a great job.

Veteran Sergeant with plasma pistol and thunder hammer.  You know what they say...when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail...
Of the 18 Legions, the Thousand Sons stand out as the exception to the otherwise universal belief among the Imperial decision-making apparatus that arcane powers are not called for when you can just drive a Fellblade over something. Recall that in 30k the warp and its dangers were somewhat known, but avoided more on a basis that secularism was a central underpinning to the new Imperium, and a further perception that goofy superstition was not called for.  The depth of possible corruption and power the old gods of the ruinous path could bring to bear were not fully understood.  Needless to say, the Horus Heresy would put an end to that...

Support weapons - a heavy bolter on the right and plasma gun on the left
But where the magical powers of, say, the Word Bearers, are mostly about chasing favours from daemons, the magical aura of the Thousand Sons has a more scholarly and interesting vibe to it. They pursue knowledge for the sake of knowledge, and seek to safeguard it forever.  In the context of the story of the Dark Age of Technology and the Unification Wars, it's really neat.  They thought the power of the warp, used properly, could be bent to the will of the Imperium, and made use of these skills in their prosecution of the Emperor's Great Crusade, at least until they were called out at the Council of Nikea.

Some of the regular grunts with bolt guns
The Thousand Sons are a Legion of archivists with big guns!  Where the other Legions (or Chapters of 40k) have some psyker ability in their Librarians, those are isolated and singular characters. Almost the entire Thousand Sons Legions have those abilities! Space Marines as sort of warrior-scholars are an interesting concept, and certainly stand apart from, say, the brutishness of the World Eaters, the brittle insecurities of the Emperor's Children or the laughably cartoonish evil of the Night Lords.  The Thousand Sons remind me of D&D players who were using the complicated rules for dual class characters, trying to combine the abilities of a mage with those of a warrior, without having to settle for the compromises of a paladin or a cleric.

A view of the back, showing the great detail the GW folks have achieved with these plastic Mk III power armour kits - they are a treat to paint

While they ultimately end up as parody Egyptian tomb drawings with guns (I'll concede that Terminator officer is pretty funky, though) in the 30k setting the XV seem like fun and offer many narrative gaming possibilities beyond the doomed defence of their home world.  Where other Legions will be relying on the brute power of their tanks and artillery (which, hey, is super cool too), a force of Thousand Sons, applying their arcane powers, will focus more on infantry and some interesting characters.  For example, if you can just open up warp gates, you probably won't need as many Rhino APCs...

Sergeant in Tartaros Terminator armour

Another lovely plastic kit from GW
As with the VI Legion fellows I posted a couple of weeks ago, I really, really enjoy painting the Mark III power armour, and the plastic Mark III sprues are just great. The Tartaros Terminators look really, really cool as well.   GW is killing it with these kits.

Ready for some gaming!
The composition of this initial force in this posting is based on the first scenario in the "Burning of Propsero" board game. It has this one veteran squad and the lone Terminator sergeant. The Space Wolves for that scenario have been painted, so I'm almost ready to give the little board game a try sometime this summer. In the interim, I'm going to keep dabbling away at some Propsero-themed 30k stuff.

Hope everyone has a great week!   

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Why Has The Spring Been Cold? Well...

A squad of Space Wolves led by Geigor Fell-Hand...better check the temperature in Hell...
 *Cough* So, a rather unexpected little 30k project to share today - this is a veteran tactical squad from the Sixth Legion, the Vlka Fenryka, known more generally as the "Space Wolves".  If you are a random visitor to the Fawcett Avenue Blog (welcome if you are!) you will wonder why this might be a big deal.  Well, as fans of a genre, there are things we really, really like, and things we really, really hate, and for just about 15 years or more I have hated the Space Wolves.  In that context, this would be an unexpected addition to my 30k collection, and I await the fully-justified howls of derision and mockery from my gaming friends.

Why the hate at the Wolves? In the Rogue Trader era, they were actually pretty cool (although painting that neat wolf-style crest was just beyond my skills).  But GW has shown at different times that it is not able to keep certain themes within reason (see: Chaos), and the Space Wolves became a prime example of this over time.  It got annoying, but by the time of the Third Edition I found my crayons snapping at the proliferation of special little units and parody Nordic culture under the Space Wolf umbrella.  The theme kept getting more and more overdone...pelts everywhere, nobody wearing their helmets on their power armour, all sporting five-foot-long beards and "absjurd" names.  Certain fans of this specific genre made it worse, and every time you thought GW couldn't make it any dumber, the descent into self-parody continued...just see things like this or like this. Sigh.

And hey, if you love it, more power to you! We should all have different preferences, it helps keep the hobby interesting. But suffice to say it was not my thing at all :)

Mk III power armoured Marines, with one plasma gun visible at the front

As the Horus Heresy products and story really got going, I noted that the Space Wolves and Thousand Sons confronted each other on the XV Legion home world of Prospero, and even though I love the Horus Heresy story I immediately tuned out that part of it.  While I didn't have the same strong feelings regarding the Thousand Sons as I did regarding the Space Wolves, their reputation as great psykers and warlocks didn't really intrigue me - magic is just cheating, in the end. And while concepts of magic/sorcery are so important to so much fantasy and sci-fi writing, those stories are difficult to write well, as the magicians seem to be at once so powerful and, at key times, so useless suddenly that the suspension of disbelief can collapse the book/story/setting is no longer enjoyable for me.

They are Legion veterans, so everyone gets a chainsword (or just about everyone)
In the case of the Thousand Sons, their Primarch, Magnus, is a great and powerful psyker, and has great gifts of foresight, among other things. A significant contingent of his Legion rank and file have these powers as well.  Yet they are taken by complete surprise when the Space Wolves attack them as punishment for their continued use of powers which had been explicitly banned by the Emperor. We are meant to understand this was because Magnus went into a kind of self-pitying funk - he "saw" the Sixth Legion fleet coming to attack, he just didn't warn his troops.  But was pyschic foresight really needed to know this might happen? I mean, the Master of Mankind has a BIG meeting to debate the issue of psyker powers, the outcome of which was a clear ban on their use.  The Thousand Sons flout the ban anyway.  Having seen first-hand how the Emperor handled dissent against his will throughout the many wars of the Great Crusade, did you really need magical foresight to know a smackdown was in the mix, when elementary deductive reasoning would get you there? Seriously the Thousand Sons, meant to be tragic victims, kinda seem like dopes.  Not as stupid as the Ultramarines, but still, come on.

Squad sergeant with plasma pistol and tickle gloves, and heavy bolter

Geigor Fell-Hand, wearing a helmet as he f***ing should
Anyway, all this to say the story where the Legion I couldn't stand got entangled with a Legion that probably had it coming to them didn't intrigue me one bit.  When GW announced a box game for Prospero, I was indifferent until I learned that plastic Mark III power armour would be part of it, at which point I made the purchase as I just love that particular armour variant. I still didn't think I would be interested in the actual battle or game.

My good friend Curt, who has enjoyed/endured many rants at the expense of the Space Wolves over the long years we have known each other, pointed out to me recently that Dan Abnett, my favourite GW author, had written the novel "Prospero Burns".  I was dismissive, skeptical that even Abnett's great talents could make that work, but Curt encouraged me to give it a try...

Another view of the unit Sergeant - love those whacky combs on the Horus Heresy era Marines
And wow, he was right! One of Abnett's best, it is just a fantastic story.  If you are a dope like me and think you already "know" the story, go get this book and read it right away.  Including the post-script! I don't want to give it away here, but Abnett shares some things I can totally relate to as a fan of the genre and how the Space Wolves fit in...anyway, the bottom line is that I was inspired to paint the figures from the Prospero box for their intended purpose - to actually play the game! 

The models seen here are multi-part plastic figures in Mark III power armour from GW's "Burning of Prospero" box game.


Another view of Geigor and his ornate getup
The models themselves are excellent.  There are a few frustrating things - for example, I just cannot see why it was necessary to make the back packs out of two different pieces, and you only have one heavy weapon option, the heavy bolter - but overall if you are a fan of Mark III power armour you will love these sets for your 30k collection.

The collection of stuff on top of the back pack is a bit silly - how does this guy wear this fighting in an urban area? But "silly" is part of what makes 30k fun...
The Space Wolves also get a special character in the game - "Geigor Fell-Hand".  While I enjoyed painting the Mark III Space Wolves, painting this guy was a chore.  On the one hand, the sculpt of the figure conveys an awesome, predatory sense of movement that suits the Vlka Fenryka very well. On the other hand, its numerous small details end up a bit soft in places, an example of a plastic figure which would have been so much better in metal.  But on the plus side, plastic is SO much easier to convert, so I was able to put a proper helmet on the figure, as I still generally can't stand Marines that are not wearing helmets, particularly ones clearly charging into battle.  Space is dangerous! War is dangerous! The Emperor made you armour that is expensive! Wear your damn helmet!

Power claws AND sword drawn, while the bolter hangs at his side...his priorities are clear...
"The Burning of Prospero" comes with 47 models in all.  That's 11 out of the way, and I'm now starting on the Thousand Sons (although I may do a Contemptor Dreadnought for the Wolves) and will do the fancy elite Custodians and Sisters of Silence last.  And hopefully we can get these models involved in some general 30k gaming later in the summer and into the fall!

I await your mockery...    

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

A Gift of Garro from AlexS!

Nathaniel Garro says "bring it on"...

Over the winter I participated in Curt's Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge.  This "virtual" event pits figure painters and gaming types from all over against their own piles of unpainted lead, plastic and metal.  To add extra flavour, the participants will often pursue side duels, a race-within-a-race to see who can complete the most work related to a given scale, period, setting or theme - you name it.  These side-duels add to the fun and give extra motivation.  Since I'm so keen on the 30k setting, I've had a 30k side duel for two years running - whoever paints the most 30k stuff wins, with the winner receiving a painted figure from the other(s).  Last year I lost to JaimeM, and so sent him a staff officer from the Sons of Horus to keep an eye on the Word Bearers he had completed during that edition of the Challenge.

This year I was more prepared, and was lucky to come out on top of the 30k duel, which also drew a larger crowd.  Not only was JamieM back, but we were joined by Iannick and AlexS.  I spent the whole fall of 2016 prepping figures to paint during the Challenge, so I was pretty motivated, but Alex is a prodigious painter, so I kind of thought he might just come along one week having painted a whole company of Marines...

Big sword, big gun, big armour...Garro is ready for anything
Lucky for me Alex's attention was drawn elsewhere to other periods.  He finished in sixth ranking (out of 97 painters) with over 2,500 points worth of stuff painted (you can find the rules for points etc if you are curious over at Curt's blog for the Challenge, but suffice to say 2,500 is a LOT of painting). But the 30k bug never quite grabbed him.  He did use the Challenge to paint up his prize figure, however - Nathaniel Garro, former Captain of the Death Guard who remained loyal to the Emperor even as his Primarch and Legion joined with Horus. He seized the frigate Eisenstien an raised the alarm about Horus' betrayal freak training accident at Isstvan III.

No more XIV Legion markings...Garro instead sports the marks of the Knights Errant

Garro would go on to join the shadowy "Knights Errant", a group of elite Space Marine Legionnaires and assorted high-level operatives reporting to the Emperor's own eminence gris, Malcador the Sigilite.  While Rogal Dorn led the high-level military response to the Horus Heresy, Garro and the other Knights Errant seemed to be tasked with "doing what needed to be done", using Malcador's unparalled access to old records, rare technology, otherwise forbidden lore and knowledge, the Knights Errant carried out a "shadow war" or sorts against Horus and those who followed him.

The posing on the figure is very dramatic, and Alex has done a wonderful job with the painting
This model is form Forge World, and portrays Garro as a hero of the Knights Errant, standing on top of the corpse of a defeated Word Bearer daemon-marine.  Steadfast, stubborn, equipped with fancy armour and good at killing things, Garro is a powerful hero for the loyalist side, as he wages a one-man war to avenge the betrayal by his own Legion and Primarch.  Alex has done a wonderful job on the painting, with lots of metallic colours underscoring Garro's steel will to fight to the end for the Emperor. He also did some wonderful subtle shading on Garro's head and face...steely, but warm, so there is still a human (or, heavily upgraded human) inside the fancy armour.

Thanks very much Alex for this wonderful figure! He looks great on the shelf, an inspiring presence for the loyalist forces, and I look forward to figuring out some narrative-style games to use him in with our group here in Winnipeg!   

Friday, May 19, 2017

How to make proper Wargame Trees - Quest for a Shrubbery Part 2

Last year I posted all about my quest for proper wargame trees in my post about "The quest for shrubbery".   I got lots of positive feedback from our local group about them, and several questions about how to do them online through here and facebook messages.  So, since I needed to make more anyway, I decided to create a how to article on how I did it.

A few words of warning though, while none of this is hard to do, it is time consuming.  Especially the first few times you do it.  I think the first tree I made took me almost 5 hours to figure everything out, that's a lot of time for 1 tree.  Now that I know what I am doing and have a system its probably around an hour or two per tree (for 5-6" tall ones), but that's still not insignificant.  There is a reason that trees like this commonly sell to model railroaders for between $60 and $200 US each (for 5" through 12" tall), there is a lot of time investment to make them look good.  Also the materials to make them are not cheap so the base manufacturing price can stack up quickly too, my current estimate is between $15 and $20 Canadian per tree.


So let's start with a materials list:
  • Sagebrush tree armatures (real sagebrush clippings from http://modeltreestore.com/)
  • Super Leaf flock (realistic leaves from http://www.sceneryexpress.com/)
  • Static Grass tufts (pre-made tufts from  http://www.tajima1.co.uk/)
  • Static Grass
  • Green Poly fiber
  • 50mm - 80mm wood bases
  • Washers for weight
  • Brass rod
  • Liquitex Resin or Natural Sand medium
  • Zap (super glue) and White glue
  • Spray Adhesive (3m 777 spray glue or Elmer's Spray Adhesive)
Step 1 - Prepping Sagebrush Armatures

Sagebrush makes the perfect armatures for model trees as it grows like a full size tree, but in miniature.  The structure of the bark and limbs mimics full size trees almost exactly.  You can create trees using any twigs you want, but look closely at the pictures of sagebrush then at the twigs you generally find, if your going to spend your time making something, do it right and start with something that will look real.

Sagebrush is extremely common across the USA, however does not grow near me in Canada so I had to get a hold of some. I came across a website that supplies Sagebrush for model railroaders called Modeltreestore.com.   The operator Mike is extremely easy to deal with and will even find branches that look similar to specific real life trees if you send photos!  I have dealt with him several times already and he is awesome to deal with.  This however is the biggest part of the expense, due in most part to shipping and exchange.  It ends up costing about $65 CND to get 10 armatures here, so almost $7 a tree.

Anyway, onto prep.  The armatures come from Mike in a large bag in a box as shown above, and should be baked to sterilize them before use.  Just through them on a cookie sheet and onto the BBQ on low for a few hours and you should be good to go. You could use the stove but Sagebrush has a strong aroma and most of our wives wouldn't appreciate baking trees in the oven (or at least mine wouldn't, so I didn't even try).

Once baked and dried, you start to work the armatures to clean them up.  Just pull all the leaves off and slide your fingers down each branch and pull off all the tiny branches that are loose.  You want them all off now, rather than later after everything is together and then starts to fall apart when bumped!

Step 2 - Basing

Now that the branches are prepped it's time to base them.  Cut the branch to have a flat surface at the angle and location you want (if not happy with how it came cut) and then drill a small hole in the bottom.  Super glue a short length of brass rod into the tree leaving about 2.5 - 3mm sticking out (longer if you are going to use thicker bases or if you are inserting into a foam table).

Next drill a hole in a wooden base (I used 60mm round 3mm thick MDF bases) wherever works best for the tree placement on the base. At this point for any tree over about 4" tall I also glue a heavy and thick washer around the hole on the base (but one that the tree will still fit through the inner diameter of so that it sits flat on the base) to provide weight so it doesn't tip easily when done.

Super glue the tree to the base and let it dry. Then use liquitex to build up the base around the tree and washer and to blend everything together while adding texture all at once.

Step 3 - Poly Fiber

Once everything is dried you can move onto stretching poly fiber over the trees.  This is the most time consuming part and needs to be done right to look correct in the end. It will take you a few hours a tree at the start but get significantly faster once you get the hang of it. Take small pieces of poly fiber (I mean really small, like the size of a marble) and start pulling it apart and stretching it. Take a few threads from this clump and twist them around a branch several times.  Most of the time if you do this with tension the bark with grab the fiber and hold it tight, if not apply a drop of super glue to secure it.  Take another few threads and to it again on another area of the same branch.  Once done stretch and pull the poly fiber around that branch until you can barely see it.  It should look like a spider web and like it is way to thinned out.  Don't worry it will fill in once you flock it, it will amaze you.

I played with the contrast on the pictures so that you can see the poly easily, but its really not that dense.  A marble sized clump gets expanded to about 2" cubed.

Continue this process on each little branch or tight cluster of branch ends.  You may be tempted to use one big piece and stretch it all over the whole tree at once.... DON'T!  It will not look right, it will look like exactly that, one big clump.  Doing it one branch at a time takes longer, but looks significantly better.  If your in this to do it, do it right.

I also chose to paint the base a basic brown at this point.

Step 4 - Super Leaf 

The Super Leaf product is the other big part of what makes these trees look real.  Rather than the typical clump foliage or powdery flock this stuff looks like leaf bits.  No one around here carries it though so again I had to order.  To do it right I got a large container of medium green and a small container of light and dark green.  That is enough to do about 20 trees.

Setup an area to spray the trees with the spray adhesive (not watered down glue and a sprayer, this is aerosol based glue and can be found at any fabric shop, Canadian tire, Walmart, etc). and an area to flock the trees (using several sheets of paper to collect the excess flock to return to the container.  Start by spraying from the underside of the tree trying to only hit the poly fiber then rotate the tree to get the sides and top of the poly fiber. The poly will turn white once enough glue is on it.

Next flock the poly fiber with the medium green Super Leaf to build the basic bulk of leaf structure for the tree.  Simple use the Super Leaf shaker to sprinkle it onto the poly fiber and the glue will hold most of it there.  Shake the tree and tap the base to knock off the loose particles and then collect the excess from the paper and put it back in the shaker. If the tree does not look full enough you can play repeat this process a second time.


Time to do that again but this time only spray the poly (and medium green foliage) from the underside of the tree and only lightly.  Use the dark green Super Leaf to flock the underside of the branches to provide a shaded look.  Again shake the tree and knock of excess and collect it to use again.

One more time, this time only spray the top of the tree lightly and then apply the light green Super Leaf to provide a look of sunlight hitting the tops of the trees.

I chose to do these trees as a normal green shade, but you can just as easily do them in autumn colours or add some light sprinkles of a flower type colour to represent fruit trees in bloom.  There are lots of options.

Step 5 - Finishing work

You are almost done now.  It is time to paint the base (if you didn't earlier) and then dry brush it so that all the texture from the liquitex shows.

Once that is done I put white glue onto the base in various areas and flock it with normal static grass.  If this is good enough for you, you can skip the next paragraph.

Once the static grass has dried I go back and add some more interest to the base with various clumps of flowers and grass from http://www.tajima1.co.uk/, which makes some amazing tufts that add a lot of realism to any project.  I added a few bits of heather to each tree base and a few clumps of various sizes and colours of grass as well.  Something like 8 - 12 clumps per tree looks about right to me, but you can do more or less as you choose.

Last step here is to clear coat the trees with a satin or flat clear coat spray. Apply a few thin layers allowing each to dry before applying the next.  This adds some additional bonding to help keep the foliage on the tree.  You can use a few thin layers of the spay adhesive before clear coating them to further strengthen it, but you need to be extremely careful as if put on to thick it will produce a haze effect on the leaves, so while I have tried it, its hard to pull off, so I just use a few thin coats of clear coat.

FINISHED!!!

See, I did warn you that it would take a while.  Now you are done though, and have some of the best looking trees for wargaming out there (at least in my not so humble opinion)!  While they look better than almost everything else out there, they are NOT super durable.  You will need to be careful with them and pack them gently and upright.  They are not meant to be used for wargames at all but more for permanent railroad setups. After seeing them done this way though and having looked so long for realistic looking trees, I was willing to deal with that for my own personal use.

As a disclaimer, I can not take credit for coming up with this methodology.  This is all based on the work of model railroaders and pulled together from various forums and posts around the internet.  I just organized bits and pieces into my own workflow, there are many other smart people that came up with the method that deserve all the credit (I just never kept track of the forums I visited last year doing research so can't provide names, sorry).


The above image shows the scale of these trees, which is what really led me to doing them this way.  I got tired of all the store bought model trees which end up being about 3-4 times the height of a model and not really looking like trees in a forest which are huge compared to a normal person.  These I think give the right feel for a forest.  What is shown are 5 of the smallest trees I did, there are some almost 2x that height and I now have almost 20 complete.

All the trees I have done now are shown here filling a 3'x3' space far denser than you are likely to game with.  A lot of work, but I am really happy with the results.