Just a quickie

Occasionally, one gets inspired to just throw something together, and today was just such a day.

My godson Edward is six years old, son to a father who has been a medieval re-enactor for many years, and he already owns a rather lovely wooden castle that I bought him for Christmas when he was just four and a growing collection of Papo 90mm plastic medieval knights and footsoldiers.

Needless to say, I haven’t needed much prompting to start introducing him to the joys of wargaming, and over the last month or so, I have had a couple of games with him, played on the dining room table with rudimentary rules thrown together on the spot, assisted by the dice from the family’s backgammon set.

Well, young Edward has taken to these like a duck to water (though he does insist upon the solitary toy dragon being included, with obviously devastating results; I managed to persuade him that the addition of a rather large brontosaurus would be pushing things too far) and so the time has come to start bringing in some scenery that bears rather better resemblance to the European countryside than a check tablecloth.

To this end, and inspired by Rob dean and Ross MacFarlane’s article in Battlegames issue 6, I decided to create some rudimentary trees, hedges and bushes to match the figures. A quick rummage produced a piece of pale blue upholstery foam, about 50mm thick. For the trees, I cut three discs per tree, of descending diameters of about 6″, 4½” and 3″. As I cut them out with a long-bladed craft knife, I titled the blade so that the result was a series of truncated cones, so they would form something resembling a conifer tree. I also plucked and chopped the edges and sides to make them more irregular. For the trunks, I found some bits of 16mm dowelling, which I cut to lengths of between 12 and 14 inches. For the bases, a quick rummage turned up a section of half inch thick by three inch wide plank, which I cut into squares and then drilled a recess in each to fit and glue the dowelling.

Trees, hedges and bushes to accompany Papo 90mm toy medieval soldiersThe hedges were made from a length of the same foam, sliced in half to make it thinner, and then the top edges and ends were hacked about to make an irregular top. The bushes were simply some small offcuts of the foam, shaped with scissors.

Then came the really messy part! I have a cubby-hole in our attic that I use as a spray painting booth, with a face mask as extra protection and a large fan turned on to blow the fumes and residue out of the attic! I undercoated everything with GW Chaos Black first (it required two whole cans!), and then used up a can of Forest Green car spray paint that had been lying around for years to give everything a nice dark green colour. The hedges and bushes got a swish of Tundra car spray paint to break up the colour, and then some dabs and drybrushing of a slightly sagey green emulsion helped to give some relief to the whole lot. The tree trunks were sprayed with a chocolatey brown spray that I’d picked up from somewhere, and then the tree bases finished off with some of the green emulsion.

Once the paint was dry, I cut holes in the centre of the discs, applied Bostik (UHU is the same) to the trunk, and slid the discs into position, with a small gap between each. Job done.

Total cost? Well, just the couple of cans of Chaos Black, really, since everything else was just lying around, so let’s call it a tenner at the most. The look I expect to see on my godson’s face? Priceless. Total time taken? About four, very messy and smelly, hours. Fun factor? 10/10.


  1. Good idea, Graham. The problem I had was that the original colour of the foam was a rather unattractive pale blue, which proved pretty stubborn when it came to concealing it. If I’d been buying the foam new, I would have chosen either a dark grey or some shade of green to begin with, assuming they were available.

  2. Hi Henry
    Another and less messy way is to use the natural properties of the foam. Dip in paint and squeeze out. It saves on the hassle and problems of spray painting and is greener – not so many gasses.
    My father painted all of the trees and hedges for a Hornby trainset this way, when I was a kid. Although the original trainset is long gone I stll have a number of the trees to grace its replacement.

  3. Hi Henry
    That’s great, its that experience of fun that its all about. I tried to get my own kids interested in historical gaming but without very much success. They did develop a brief interest in Warhammer in their early teens, which led me to dabble in the dark side (although I only collected Bretonnians of course!). Strangely though my daughter, who is now 21, did insist on a skirmish game when she came home from uni last summer – trounced me with her Dark Elves of course but we had a great time!

  4. Good job Henry! I gave some 1/72 snap together tanks to the eight-year-old son of my wife’s friend at Xmas in the hopes that his interest in green army guys might one day blossom into something more. So far, so good! This is how I was introduced (a collection of airfix ACW figs from a neighbour). I hope to spread the joy to at least 10 kids (in the hope that two stick with it) before I’m called to the great convention in the sky!

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