I'm continuing to document my build-up of figures and terrain for the new Congo game rules. Last week I described some of my Forest Tribesmen, but this week I'm going to talk about terrain.
I already have some large "jungle" terrain pieces, as can be seen in some of my previous games (for example, Tarzan and the Lost Expedition). These are all based on old CD-ROM disks and are made from the traditional plastic aquarium plants. On both counts, they're quite large pieces; also the regular shapes of the disks makes it difficult to set up interesting tables for games. So, I decided to build a number of smaller, "scatter" terrain models.
Model Railroad Plants
In the past, most gamers' "jungle" terrain has been made from plastic foliage that is designed for aquariums. That can work well, but such plants are usually greatly over sized and often need quite a lot of chopping and converting. After all, they're 1:1 scale and frequently designed to have long stalks so that they can wave about in a fish tank!
It turns out that similar plastic plants of a better size are also made for model railroads (and gamers) and these can be bought very cheaply online (usually from China, unsurprisingly). I bought 3 different packs, each containing 50 plants for less than £9 including postage. I simply don't understand how this is economically possible - even if the raw materials and labour cost next to nothing, shipping anything from the other side of the world must surely cost something? Yet here we are...
"2.5cm BUSH Shrubs"
The first set of plants I have is called "2.5cm BUSH Shrubs" [sic]. They look to me more like a type of grass or flax, though. Either way, they come with a spike on the bottom to enable them to be pushed into a (foam?) landscape. I cut these spikes off and simply glued the plants onto some prepared and painted bases.
It strikes me that these would work well for savannah as well; these "shrubs" look as if they'd be at home in an arid terrain as well as a very moist one.
"Green Grass Bushes"
Next, we come to the strangely-named "Green Grass Bushes". Note that I've mixed a few other plants in on some of these bases for variety; the bushes are the ones with the crinkly, oak-like leaves. I've prepared these in exactly the same way as the previous plants and stuck them to bases.
As with all these scatter pieces, I varnished after sticking the foliage to the base. That has toned down the dark green, plastic colour of the leaves quite nicely, though they do look a little "milky". Finishing polythene plants is always a problem; they're usually very bright and glossy if untreated, but it's hard to find any paint or wash which will stick to such models.
"5.5cm BUSH Heart Leaves"
Finally, we come to another set of "bushes". Again, I've mixed these with a few other plants, but it should be fairly obvious which ones have the heart-shaped leaves. These look as if they would be much more at home in a jungle than anywhere else; I cannot imagine such wide leaves surviving very well under a blistering sun in the open. Instead, they're perfect for shady undergrowth in a larger forest.
I'm looking forwards to using these smaller pieces in a game. When combined with my older, CD-ROM & palm tree bases, I should be able to have a much more interesting layout. It ought to be easier to mark out paths and clearings, for a start. Still, we'll only know for certain how well this works once I've tried it for real!
I haven't used all of the plants I bought, so I'll need to make up some more terrain bases sometime. Cutting out the MDF bases is the bit that takes the most time; actually painting them and then sticking down the plants is relatively quick. Of course, there are other forms of tropical-looking model railroad plants available too. At under £3 per packet, maybe I should get some of those as well?