Making Tropical Scatter Terrain

A long term goal of mine is to build a tropical island game board for my 28mm games of Star War Legion (Scarif) and Legends of the High Seas. The most obvious part of the landscape of any tropical paradise is palm trees and other lush ferns and bushes. So I set about creating some tropical scatter terrain.

As you will see by googling images of Scarif, the vegetation appears in dense clumps with a variety of plants. With this in mind I got onto eBay, AliExpress, and other such shopping portals to purchase some cheap, plastic plants that would fit my setting. It didn’t take long to find what I was after and I bought a range of different plastic plants.

Making Tropical Scatter Terrain 1      Making Tropical Scatter Terrain 2

While I waited for everything to arrive, I got on with producing the bases. Initially, I cut out some shapes from 3mm MDF, with my Dremel’s cutting kit. MDF is a great basing material but it normally requires power tools to cut, especially into organic shapes. Later on, I made a few more bases from PVC foam sheets which is easy to work with a hobby knife. The edges of the bases were then bevelled with a wood file and sand paper.

The next step was to build the bases up into small mounds to give the impression that sand has built up around the bushes. To achieve this, I stacked two progressively smaller layers of 5mm foam core onto the bases. Once they were glued in place, I roughly bevelled the edges with a hobby knife and then applied joint compound to round out the bases.

The most obvious method of texturing these bases was to glue down a layer of fine grain sand, but recently I discovered Agnew’s Water Putty. I found that mixing this putty thicker than suggested (still sloppy, but not runny), and applying it in a very thin layer results in a gritty texture, a bit like sand! Another option, which I haven’t tried yet, would be to coat the bases in a spray-on tacky glue and sprinkle tile grout over the top. If you try this, you may need to spray on a varnish over the grout to prevent any paint you apply later on from activating the grout.

Making Tropical Scatter Terrain 3The next step was to paint the bases before adding all the foliage. I base coated them with a rich, almost golden, yellow. I followed up with an overbrush of a more pale, sandy yellow. Finally, I applied a drybrush of cream.



Making Tropical Scatter Terrain 4At this point, I begun placing trees and bushes on the bases. Unfortunately, this made adding static grass later on very difficult. Firstly, it was difficult to apply glue under all the plants for the static grass. Secondly it was almost impossible to get a static grass applicator close enough to the base with all the plastic in the way. So for my second batch of bases, I added the static grass before adding the plants. In this case I sometimes had to rip out small sections of static grass with a pair of tweezers in order to have the plants and grass tufts sit flat on the base, but this was much easier than dealing with the aforementioned problems. If you a using flock, instead of static grass, these problems probably won’t be as big a deal.

Making Tropical Scatter Terrain 5All of the  plastic plants I had bought had a thin shaft at the bottom which allowed them to be pinned into the bases, so attaching the plants was as simple as poking a hole into the base and inserting the plants with some glue. It is best to avoid using super glue here, because it has a habit of melting foam. I used an all purpose gel glue, but PVA or even hot glue would work just as well. My intention for these pieces was that they would be blocking terrain, so I added plenty of plants to make them quite dense. After applying the plastic plants, I added some grass tufts to fill out the edges.

Once complete, I realised that they were all a bit bland green. Tropical plants are usually just varying shades of green, as beach flora doesn’t normally have flowers, but some of the plants I used did have flowers. Even though it may not be totally realistic, I painting these flowers to add a splash of colour. I also added some brighter greens and pale yellows to the edges of some plants, as well as applying brown wash to the palm tree trunks. These plants are made from a flexible plastic that doesn’t take paint very well so I had to play around with different colours and ways of applying paint to get a reasonable effect.

Making Tropical Scatter Terrain 6


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Crudboy's initiation into war gaming was with Battletech way back in high school, where he spent more time creating 'mechs with his friends, and not nearly enough time actually playing the game. Since then, Crudboy has dabbled in so many different tabletop games that he no longer remembers which rule goes with which game. His latest loves include, but aren't confined to, Frostgrave, Gloomhaven, and Gaslands.

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The Monday Knights are a gaming group based in Melbourne Australia.  We are happy to play just about any game at any time.

We meet every Monday night at the Auburn Bowls club in Hawthorn East, Victoria, from 6pm onwards.

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