Big Bamboo: Terrain for the Philippines

Bamboo 4

The Philippines calls for some interesting terrain pieces.  Much of the the islands are covered with jungle, so I’ve tried to acquire some bits I can make jungle-like terrain from.  I’ve gotten materials I can use to make rice paddies from.  I’ve also picked up some of the Pegasus banana trees.  I haven’t done anything with those yet. But, yesterday, my first since returning from J-Camp, I did sit down to work with materials to build a bamboo forest.

There are some great bamboo trees.  They are available from Amazon.  They are by WINOMO and come 100 trees for $14.95.  They are nice, but I don’t really think I got 100 of them.  100 sounds like a lot, but bamboo forests are very dense.  Think of your average hunk of bamboo.  Thin trunks with some leaves.  They can pack ’em in really tight.  So, you use a lot.

They need to be drilled into a suitable base.  I was poking through my piles o’ stuff and found some very small hills we used for micro armor back in the day.  They are made of resin, and I hauled out the ol’ Dremel tool and drilled lots of holes to an appropriate size and super-glued the bamboo in.  I got through one and half of these hills and ran out of models.  I’ve ordered two more packs for the remaining bits I have.  The resin is nice because they are heavy enough to provide ballast for the all the bamboo.

Bamboo 3

This is my partly completed forest The resin base is drilled out waiting for more bamboo. These may look familiar, and are products of the middle eighties. They are about 7 1/2 inches long and at the widest point about 2 1/2 inches. Something I can use them for rather than sitting in my unused DBA terrain chest. Note the holes are really drilled close together so they can be planted densely.

I use an unusual ground cover for the base.  Spices.  That’s right spices.  The jungle forest floor tends to be covered with leaves, so I wanted something largely representative. I use oregano and basil combined together in a little bowl.  I put down my PVA glue and water and just cover the base with the mixture and let it sit for an hour until good and dry..  Spray with Dullcote and I think it looks pretty good. Even if it doesn’t, it smells like spaghetti. Note, I just use the cheap dried stuff. I also use it on my miniature bases for the Philippines.

I dunno if it looks good but it sure smells great.

And this is the finished product.

Bamboo 5

I’ll have several of these.  There is often lots of bamboo forest in these jungle campaigns.  Very rough going.  American soldiers in Vietnam talk about making about 100 yards per hour cutting through these forests.  I’ll probably make as many as six of these in various sizes and put them on irregular shaped moss sheets available at Jo Ann’s Fabrics for not a ridiculous amount of money.

Moss Sheet

Yes, I know the glare makes this largely unhandy.

The first of several terrain types I’ll be making and I’m pleased to at least get started on them.

4Ground buildings


Last year, about this time, I was contemplating a big Indian/Loyalist game on the frontier during the American Revolution.  I haven’t done the game yet, and honestly don’t know if I will anytime soon.  The scope in my mind is a lot bigger than my grasp.

In any case, as I was preparing, I realized that I didn’t have many frontier habitations.  How can Butlers Rangers burn down the frontier if there aren’t any buildings to burn? A friend of mine had shared some of his experiences with laser cut wagons at 4Ground miniatures.  I perused their catalog, checked out their buildings from the American frontier and thought I would give them a try. I ordered from my local hobby shop, and they immediately went into the big pile of “all things Smyth,” as in I forgot I even owned them. But as I was deciding what to work on this summer, I set these aside to finish.

The two buildings I purchased were the Pioneer’s Log Cabin and the Settler’s Log Log Timber Cabin.  Each came in a sealed plastic bag with four slabs of laser cut plywood pieces.  The top was carefully sealed and the full color instruction guide was included with the parts. Together the two kits cost about $60, which is pretty fair for quality buildings–if you’ve priced a structure from Miniature Building Authority lately. . Because the structures are raw wood, the different colored wood examples work pretty well.

I would love to say the buildings went together quickly and without a hitch in a matter of moments, but they didn’t.  It could be that any building project for me is just going to take longer because I”M BAD AT BUILDING STUFF! But honestly, because we’re assembling structures with PVA glue (Elmers or something similar) sometimes things just need to dry. I assembled both buildings over three evenings including two Mariners games and the Republican presidential debate, which was easily as long as a Mariners game.

I can say with truth, that I was quite pleased with the way things went together.  The instructions took me step by step through the pieces I would need at each phase of construction and give a rough picture of how they went together. The pieces were of high quality and did go together well.  The construction was mostly pretty darned easy–good fit.  The finished interior and exterior had nice attention to detail, though there were some gaps I’ll share more about.  I could easily recommend these to another user.

However, I am not without some constructive suggestions. First, there is the matter of the directions.  Though they give an order to things, the lack of even simple written directions at times left me trying to figure stuff out and tearing things apart to reassemble. I felt like Tonto, with half the vocabulary, giving directions on sewing a shirt to The Lone Ranger. “No Kimasabee, it go here.”  The lack of clarity led me to mis-assemble the chimney on one of the buildings, though it is obscured by a chunk of the roof.  Pity, because the detail is so great. Another issue with the directions is although the piece numbers are printed on the color directions, they blend right in and are difficult to read.  For those of us in the geriatric set, this is a problem. Bigger, darker, clearer would be better.

In the case of the Frontier Log Cabin, some of the pieces really needed double assembly so the detail would show on both sides.  For the most part, 4Ground is really good at doing this, But for this model, some of the finishing pieces could be better.

Overall, for price, quality of detail and ease of assembly, I can at least give these models a solid B, maybe even a B+.

Jammed full

When I made my last post, I thought it would be smooth sailing to Friday, but such things were not to be.  One of my problems is that even though my games are pretty easy to schlep and transport, I’m providing goodies for my friends to use.  A couple of game mats, and tidy tubs of air racers and hydroplanes, my Fleet Air Arm planes and throw in some rules and dice and ta-ta, I’m good.  However I’ve agreed to support Mark Waddington’s Crysler’s Farm game with figures and terrain, and Scott Murphy’s Martian game with figures.  This means transporting three times more stuff than I am dragging along for my own games.

I also needed to do some extra work for Crysler’s.  First, I made myself a little deal about mountings for my War of 1812 stuff.  I remounted all my artillery on 50mm square bases, from their much larger bases.  In some ways this is ground-breaking stuff.  Doug Hamm always feared having masses of artillery on the board.  Now there is.  I have five sections of militia artillery, four sections of regular artillery and two sections of naval artillery.  Need it all for Bladensburg.  Though Doug may fear bumping into this in a game, it all runs away defending Washington, except the naval guns.  I also remounted all my officers (six) on smaller (40mm square) bases, including one on a round base that could serve as a C in C.

I also agreed to bring trees.  There was a problem with this, of course.  I no longer own any singly mounted trees.  I followed Mark’s lead to create some vignette-like wooded bases.  Unfortunately, I only had four of these, and some were quite small.  I also had three that were incomplete, and much larger.  I decided to take these on over the weekend and finished them Sunday.  The key to completing these pieces is to try not to rush them.  Make them each look a little different. Not sure they are that great, but, I also think it’s foolish to make them too busy (just in case you have to put move figures through them.) I’ll need two tubs to get it all to Enfilade.

So lots of stuff going south.  This is complicated by my desire to part with my Geo-Hex.  I bought this in the early 80’s, and for a good fifteen years gave it quite a workout.  Unfortunately it’s passed it’s prime and I’ve tried to find other solutions to creating varying elevations. I have a willing victim who is willing to take it all, and there is a lot of it.  And that’s part of my problem.  Somehow I have to get it all down there. I did do a trial jamfest last night and everything seemed to fit.