Compact Discs. A modern technological miracle and a huge advance into the “paper fee” age. No longer is my office burried under piles of mulched up trees, as many of the articles and images that I get sent are on CD. So, my desk is normally awash with them instead.
In an effort to make some space I decided to look for an alternative use for these, and recalled seeing an article in one of the wargming magazines about using them for terrain. Quite where the article was I could not recall, and after several hours searching I decided that making it up as I went along was probably a better use of time anyway.
The intensive playtesting for Charlie Don’t Surf had persuaded me that our usual attempts to make a jungle by dumping half a ton of lichen on the table and then dotting around our very northern hemisphere deciduous trees was not overly convincing. I had purchased a large number of palm trees some years ago from a cake decorating company in the US of A (a gross of them, 144 trees, to be precise) and even the addition of these was leaving us with a pretty shoddy looking table.
Over the years I had bought/claimed/stolen bits and pieces that I thought would be appropriate for jungle. Several plastic Christmas trees that I have walked past are now missing the odd clump of foliage. More than one astroturf doormat has been purchased in the interest of the project, but the plan, as Hannibal once never said, had not quite come together.
The light at the end of the tunnel was a trip to our local branch of Wilkinsons. Since the demise of Woolworths in the UK, Wilkos is the store where the Care in the Community crowd now hang out. My wife drags me in there now and again as she buys bird food there at half the price it is in the Supermarket where she normally shops. Fortunately the bird food is next to the fish tank bit, and there I discovered REAL cheap platic aquatic plants. I say *real* because I had long heard stories of these wonders, but whenever I went to pet shops or garden centres that sold such beauties they were extremely expensive. Alright if you want to chuck a few square inches of greenery in for Gordon the goldfish, but bloody useless if you wanted to cover a 6′ by 4′ table without seeing a mortgage advisor.
So, after splashing out a princely seven quid, I found myslef armed Wilkos entire stock of plastic plants and half a hundredweight of CDs. I was ready to rock.
What do you Need?
Before starting off on this project I suggest that you get together all the ingredients, so here they are:
1. Lots of old CDs.
2. A hot glue gun.
3. Suitable Trees. Two per CD, maybe the odd extra
4. Fish tank foliage
5. Astroturf door matting
6. Basing material. I use Basetex as it is the right colour and that saves me painting it later
7. PVA glue
How it works
First things first, you need to prepare your foliage. The Sugarcraft trees that I bought come with two trunks and two lots of foliage, so in fact my 144 trees was actually 288 trees. You can put them on like that, but I cut mine in two so that they were individual, thereby getting twice the coverage. The fishtank foliage needs to be cut down and put in two piles, one called tall foliage, the other called short foliage. This is easy, even my chum Panda could do that, and he’s an idiot. The undergrowth is hugely important here, so the astroturf door matting was cut into vague crescent shaped bits about two to three inches long so that the curve conformed to the round edge of the CD (very roughly), and some other round based spiky plastic grass that I acquired from a garden centre was cut into semi- circular halves. Once that was all done I fired up the hot glue gun and moved on to the next phase. So far I had spend about ten minutes getting enough stuff ready for a dozen CDs.
And it is. Hot glue is roughly the temperature of molten lava, so mind your fingers! For legal reasons I should warn you that if you are a child or a halfwit or have an allergy to anything then the following process could cause a terrible DEATH! However if you are capable of walking down the street without falling under a bus then you should be pretty safe.
Use the hot glue gun to put four blobs of glue about half an inch in from the hole in the middle of the CD at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock (as in position, not the time of day). Into two of these stick your trees – I do mine at 12 and 6 o’clock. Into the other two blobs stick a piece of tall foliage. This is the stuff that gives your jungle height. You may need to prop that in place for a minute while the hot glue cools and goes hard. Clever people will make a lego structure to support this while drying, whereas I used anything I could find. My mobile phone, the dog clippers and a banana to be precise.
I now do all of the CDs up to this point, that allows them all time for the glue to go hard before we go on to the next phase. I suppose that doing a dozen of these might have taken me twenty minutes, much of which as buggering about trying to get the trees to stand up, whereas the smart-arse with the lego wouldn’t have had to do this.
Next is the short foliage and undergrowth. Take your CD and put some big dollops of hot glue on them. Now add two largish bits of astroturf in their crescent shape. Then in the bits in between you can stick a few bits of short foliage to fill in the gaps. A top tip here is to remember that if you don’t cram the CD chock full of foliage you will be able to get figures in there and it makes flocking and basing much easier in the next phase.
As you can see from the photo this is an imprecise science, and to be honest I think it looks all the better when finished for that somewhat random approach. Honest guv! Now we are almost finished, at least we are completely finished with the hot glue gun, so now is the time to visit the serious burns unit at your local hospital before we move on to basing.
Basing is dead easy. Just slap on whatever you use for basing your figures. I use Basetex, particularly the one that should be called “dog turd brown”. You may need two coats of this, and ideally you’ll score the CD with a sharp knife or pointy thing before starting so that there is a better surface for this stuff to cling to. Once again kiddies, get a sensible grown up to do this bit if you value your fingers. Personally I didn’t do it at all as I am not allowed near sharp knives.
After that has gone hard you can dry brush it to tart it up a bit, then slap on some watered down PVA glue and dunk it in flock. Eh voila!
One of the great benefits of this that we have discovered after just one outing on the tabletop is that when Charlie is deploying his forces he can allocate them to a specific CD in my “jungle CD network”, ditto for the Free World forces attempting to spot or calling in fire support. Maybe when using old music CDs you could even try keeping the labels facing down so you can see exactly which musical act is firing at you. The very thought of calling in a Cobra strike to deal with Jedward fills me with nothing but joy…
This year has been a busy year on Lard Island, not least because of the mileage we did taking Chain of Command on its tour of the UK. The four capitals tour took us to London, Edinburgh, Belfast and Cardiff and then we hit all points of the compass with club visits and wargames shows