Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Forest Dilemma

The other day, I came to the realization that I am really far behind in my preparations for my first battle in my fictional, modern ImagiNations campaign. I made this realization when I compared the map that I made for the first battle with what I already have in terrain, I lacked roads and rivers, some agricultural pieces (orchards and cultivated fields), and a lot of forests. I needed to get going so that I can get in at least one game before I retire!

For a long time, I have gone back and forth on terrain tiles. There are a lot of pros and cons to them, but I have ruled out using them for the entire battlefield. First, I would worry about them staying in place. Second, even if I used smaller hexagonal ones, I feel that my battlefield would conform to the tiles and not the other way around. What I have now settled on is a sort of limited terrain tile system. They would be limited to rivers and possibly roads, and act as boundaries for larger forests.

Most of my potential forests consist of individual trees that I have lovingly made. Because of the love, they took forever to make. In the time it takes to make one tree, I can crank out an entire village of my little acorn cap roofed huts.

Forest Tiles
Probably about 6+ years ago, I began experimenting with making hex tiles out of CD disks as I have a bazillion of them.  My idea was to make the hexes and then cover them with green felt. I would then set my little, lovingly-made trees on them; the number of trees per hex would indicate the density of the forest. I figured that I could also run some sort of road along the tiles. I could have just used them as is and make forests that had circular boundaries, but no, that would be too easy. I had to make hexes out of them. What a major b*t*h it was to make them! It was difficult to accurately draw the sides to be cut off. Have you ever tried cutting a CD? Not fun! It does not score very nicely. Plus all that silvery stuff comes off of it!  Van der Waals forces were certainly in action as it was impossible to clean up those silver flakes. Then, gluing the felt on was another chore. I managed to make six of them. All that being said, they have three advantages: they are very strong, they don't warp,  and they very thin.

What are my material alternatives? Well, everyone out there seems to use the mysterious 1 mm MDF board. Its mysterious to me, because I can't find it that thin where I live. Also, I lack a power saw to cut them into hexes. Next is highly compressed, PVC foam mounting boards that come in very thin sheets, down to 1 mm thckness. This stuff is not the same as foamcore. They are often used to make signs with. Sintra is a brand name of this stuff. I got some free scraps from a local sign making shop, though all they had were 3 mm thick stuff. It is very strong and I expect that it does not warp easily. Again, I don't have a saw to cut them with, though I might be able to score it. It is somewhat expensive relative to foamcore board. That leaves me with foamcore. The thinnest that I can find is 1/8" which corresponds to slightly greater than 3 mm. The issue I have with it its still a little thicker than what I want it to be, and IMHO, its a pain to cut out. Even with a metal straight edge, I don't always get a straight cut. Maybe I just stink at cutting stuff out. Here is shot of a foamcore hex vs. an evil CD hex:

Foamcore on left, CD w/felt covering on right.
The foamcore hex is larger because I used as a template, one of those disposable styrene containers that holds powder chemicals in order to measure the chemical's weight (sorry, mass). It was hex shaped.

Now that I have put you to sleep about the hexes, I will go on to the whole forest thing. There are several blogs that have tutorials on how to make massive forests. They involve making a canopy out of material such as foamcore that has been heavily flocked. To the bottom of the canopy is mounted sticks, rods, tubes, or whatever to represent the trunks of trees. The bottoms of the trunks can either stand on their own, or be mounted on some sort of base. Some tutorials make them so that there are no trunks in the middle of the canopy so to hide units in them.  I have decided to use foamcore for the canopy. Finally, a decision has been made on something! Next question what to use for the trunks. At first I thought toothpicks:

Toothpicks: in case you don't know what they look like.
However,  I would have to cut them in half, which increases increases the chance that some would be uneven. My solution was sitting on a shelf in my garage:

Big box-o-nails
Nails. Specifically, this huge box of 1" roofing nails that I had to buy in order to use all of eight of them. They are cheap (but so are toothpicks), but have the advantage of being consistent in size, much stronger than toothpicks, and have nice flat bases that can be glued. The plan is to cut out irregular shapes of foamcore for the canopy, press the nails into them, then flock them, then glue the nails to the hexes. I bought some black foamcore to hide and gaps in the flock. I am going to use this for very dense forests. For light forests I will continue to use my lovingly-made individual trees.

Postscript: This morning, I ordered some sheets of Sintra in 1, 2 and 3 mm thickness. The sheets themselves are not overly expensive, but the company ships express mail, which is what really jacks up the price on this stuff. I will see how well it does when I get the order.

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