While England were getting thrashed by Wales . . . .

. . . I was so browned off (embarrassed actually) I decided I might as well get on with my forestry project. I hadn't intended to start on 25/28mm 'trees' until I'd got my 15mm stuff out of the way, but I was excited (takes surprisingly little these days) by an impulse purchase I'd made and I wanted to see how it turned out.

Last Thursday I'd been on an expedition to the Trafford Centre with Young Henry to get him yet more books. There are only so many times you can read 'My Granny is a Pirate' and the bloody 'Gruffalo' and I was desperate. While we were there we nipped in to the Modelzone shop because little'un thinks it's some kind of wonderland – bringing him up right, see? While I was chasing him round the place I espied a selection of tree sets/bags by Gaugemaster: 25 trees for just under 20 quid, so I snapped up a bag – I let Little H pick which one to get.

So, cheap trees into cheap woods. The bases cost nothing as they're made from the free CD's I've accumulated over the years from the covers of various mags like The Word, Uncut and such. Cover the hole in the middle by glueing a small square of thin card (Cornflake box etc.) over it (I use PVA) then hot glue the trees to these in whatever number/configuration you like. Next comes a coat of thinned PVA, then a tsunami of sharp sand (cost very little: the sand is practically free at about thirty bob a bag. Once that's dry, paint it up and then apply the grass. The only lengthy part of the process is drying time and this will depend on the weather, room temperature or whatever. I knocked this lot out in a couple of hours and it would probably be a little less in summer. I think the main delay was caused by my tears at the England match adding to the general humidity.

Ten tree bases for, say twenty or twenty one quid isn't bad. The tree sizes range from 9cm to 15cm and there is a variety of bags to choose from. They're not the best trees in the world, but they're very far from the worst and certainly fine for wargaming. You can buy them on-line from either Modelzone (http://www.modelzone.co.uk/) or direct from Gaugemaster (http://www.gaugemaster.com/), prices are the same and it's easy to hit free postage.

This method of building tree bases has its limitations in that troop movement is pretty limited and it doesn't lend itself to distinct borders to woods for gaming purposes, but so what? I intend to use them for 25/28's and they look fine for my purposes. They look excellent for 15mm, but I've got oodles of those cheap Chinese trees off eBay for that, though they can be used together. By the way, the 15mm trees will be mounted in similar groups on hexagonal MDF bases (Tony Barr at East Riding Miniatures) which look a but twee, but will be spot on for Napoleonic (pedantic) and ACW (F&F) encounters. The only other limitation I can see is storage (same for any scenic stuff), but I've got round this by liberating some fruit boxes from Costco (the tough corrugated cardboard ones they pack fruit and veg in).

Having proven that I'm a cheapskate, I think I'll refer back to a theme on a couple of other blogs about what Old School wargaming is actually about. I’m not going to reboil all the cabbages from across the interweb, but my potted version is that it isn't about hoards of gloss painted, individually based figures marching across a radioactive green board, but rather a frame of mind.

Journey with me now back to 1967 when three schoolboys discovered a book called ‘Wargames’ by somebody called Donald Featherstone. The rules it contained were meticulously copied into exercise books nicked from whichever subject the teacher was easiest to con and there began my wargaming odyssey. Nothing came prepackaged and nothing was easily accessible. The model railway enthusiast became our saviour on many occasions and Airfix achieved almost divine status. When we discovered lead figures they became the only item on Christmas and birthday lists and Saturday jobs (when we were old enough) or paper rounds funded the hobby. 

You’ll have cottoned on by now that this was well before the advent of Games Workshop and even before the rise of Peter Gilder, but it was fun and required hours of research to source useful history books, let alone uniform information and rules. The first set of rules I bought which were anything like commercially produced (anyone remember a Gestetner or a Bandagraph?) were a set of AWI rules by Tony Bath available through Wargamer’s Newsletter. However, I’m not stuck in the past and I freely admit that we owe much of the advance of the hobby to fantasy gamers, but today it’s all available with minimal effort, just plenty of cash. In his 'Independent Wargames Group' (http://independentwargamesgroup.blogspot.co.uk) Rob asks “Who can afford painted buildings by The Grand Manner?' Well er . . . I can, but if you want something badly enough you'll afford it. However, from my point of view, I wouldn't buy one because I'd rather make my own. Haven't got any surviving examples to hand, but I could knock them out – I know how to do it because I had to learn the hard way and I've done it in the past. This is the main point, I think. I know stuff is readily available these days and much of it is useful to any type of wargamer, but I'd rather do things myself, even if it's to verify what's published. Same with wargaming hardware. I'd rather make my own scenery (unless there's an unbelievable bargain to be had) and paint my own leads. To me it's all part of the hobby and I shake my head when I read things like “I've just bought some "X” figures and want some information on their uniforms”. 

I suppose I'm unashamedly Old School and, to my surprise, I'm a member of quite a large species. Steve the Wargamer recently had a blog entry discussing Old School (http://steve-the-wargamer.blogspot.co.uk/search?updated-max=2013-02-28T08:35:00Z&max-results=5) and it's worth a read as it sets the mind ticking (read the comments too). I wasn't happy that there wasn't a ready description for an Old School wargamer, so I had a scout around for a pithy definition and found an interesting one in the 'Urban Dictionary' which goes some of the way to wards it:

"A positive appellation referring to when things weren't flashy but empty of substance, were done by hard work, didn't pander to the lowest common denominator, and required real skill. Labour-saving devices, shortcuts that reduce quality and quitting before the task is done are not characteristics of "old school."

Games Workshop, Warlord Games et al. take note.


  1. Great work on the trees Joe, they look very nice. I was getting my butt kicked in a game while the match was on. Quite glad I didn't sit through it!!!

  2. Those are rather good Joe but lets get back to the score!

  3. No mention of the Ireland result then, Fran?? :o))

    Tree's look good, but the mention of Wargames and the exercise books takes me right back.... that was me..... and home made cardboard houses, trees made from lichen, plasticene trenches... great fun... I remember copying out by hand the whole of Steve Curtis's Western Skirmish rules - couldn't afford them or to photocopy them!

  4. Superb job on the bases and thanks for the link for good value trees.

  5. Thanks for the comments gents. I've put the game behind me now, even though there won't be an Englishman in the Lions' squad this summer (!).

    Steve: We clubbed together to buy the Curtis gunfight rules and I won the toss to keep them! Unfortunately, they went west during a house move 26 years ago and I still haven't 'fessed up' to my mates!

    SW: I take that as a complement!



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