Swamps and Alien Plants Oh My!

I’ve been experimenting with different ways to build forests for tabletop games and here are two different attempts that I’ve found meet a nice balance between aesthetic appeal and playability.

-For the non-gamers among you, the big problem with making scenery for tabletop gaming too realistic (especially forests!) is that not only is it usually quite difficult to move figures around in dense terrain, but overly realistic terrain also tends to be very fragile and all that hard work and beautiful detail ends up being chipped and trampled and broken by the passage of giant hands and tiny feet (or hooves, claws, tentacles, or whatever other appendage your dudes happen to move about on).


This set was built using branches cut (during the yearly pruning of course!) from a plum tree. I glued these upside-down to a shaped mdf base to look a kind of like mangrove trees, and then around them I glued some bits of bark or small stones for rocks, and barnacles for natural gas vents. I then textured the base with sand and spackle paste which  after drying was decorated with paint, flock, static grass, fibre reeds, grass tufts, and hand-made mushrooms. The standing water is just paint covered with a few layers of varnish.

Doing swamps in this way allows you to use natural branches for the trees which is really nice because they have great textures and fun shapes, but avoids the issue of their fragility.

Unfortunately this is a big problem when using small branches upright as trees (as I found out in an earlier attempt…). They look great, but the smaller branches break off really easily during games as players move their figures around in the forests, and it was getting to the point that my lovely forests were starting to look like bare trunks and stumps!

Alien Plants

This set similarly uses cuttings from my poor old plum tree, but instead of inverting them I’ve selected the sturdiest and thickest and most gnarly little bits that I could find, and glued them upright to be stumpy little trees. Using larger bits of bark or rocks and other interesting fauna fills out the base more, making the “forest” a bit less dense but still fun looking, playable and pretty sturdy.

The pink alien-looking pods are dried lotus pods, and the tall green bits with all the holes are dried cactus, both of which I found in the flower arrangement section at Michaels craft store. I find that painting any plant a bright colour makes it look alien!

The pieces were all glued to a shaped mdf base, textured with sand and spackle paste, which, again, after drying was decorated with paint, flock and static grass and grass tufts.

So that’s enough talk for now, I’ll post some more in depth tutorials of my own another day but for now you get the idea. Enjoy the slideshow of photos below! If you have any questions about methods of construction or anything else post in the comments section, or shoot me an email at nmelchin at gmail dot com.

Both of these sets are currently for sale, send me an email at nmelchin at gmail dot com if you are interested.

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2 thoughts on “Swamps and Alien Plants Oh My!

    • Thanks so much! I’m really happy to hear that you like them. I guess that means they arrived safely, very glad to hear it and sorry again about the postage delay. I don’t have anything going up on ebay again in the immediate future but I have plans for some hills and a few other things down the road when I get time… too busy with commission projects at the moment! If there is something in particular that you are interested in though let me know, I’m happy to take on custom projects when I have time. Take care and happy gaming!

      On a side note, if you feel like taking some action shots of your games in progress I’ll post a few of them up here!

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