Planning a jungle table

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When I spotted this modest jungle table at the Historicon 2022 gaming convention, it was a powerful inspiration. It was small but  incredibly well done. I knew I’d have to build a jungle table for myself.

How far can I push the envelope when it comes to building high-quality jungle terrain?

That’s the question I’m going to answer in 2023.

I’ve long wanted some really nice jungle terrain, and at last year’s Historicon gaming convention in Lancaster, Pa., I saw a table that really got my creative juices flowing.

It was a simple table, but it looked fantastic. And, as I examined it, I realized that it wasn’t as ambitious a project as I’d imagined. What’s more, it was light and very portable. It consisted of a teddy bear fur mat and some well-made tree and bush stands.

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I don’t know about you, but this scene looks like a jungle trail to me. I can just see my Kroot warriors marching down that trail.

As it happens, after building two dedicated urban tables for the Shorehammer convention in Ocean City, Md., I was thinking of something different for this year’s show. Perhaps something in the countryside? A rural setting?  Well, I decided to take the leap. I committed to building a jungle table for the December show, so now I have a powerful motivation to get this project going as soon as possible.

There’s another reason that I’m eager to give this terrain challenge a try: Below is a photo of an American Civil War game that was offered at a previous Historicon convention. The battle was fought in the swampy, jungle-like forests of Florida, and it featured a lot of amazing terrain details.

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This tree-lined marsh was a separate terrain stand that blended in very well with the teddy bear fur of the overall table. Note the very tall, moss-hanging trees. Amazing work. I wish I could give the creator proper credit, but this photo is a few years old, and I can’t remember the hobbyist’s name.

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What I like about the trees is their realism. The trees are taller than most hobby trees, and the lower limbs have fallen away–a feature of forest trees that often is ignored by hobbyists. Also, the use of varied ground cover helps hide scenery bases.

There are two important issues I need to resolve before I begin my project. First, I want to limit the visibility of terrain bases on my table. I certainly will use strategically placed ground cover—following the example of the ACW table—to blend the trees and bushes into the grass-colored fur.

Another way I may tackle this issue is to use pins on the bottom of some trees. Under the fur mat, I’ll place insulation board to create contours, and I’m hoping I can push the pins through the game mat and anchor the tree into the insulation. I’m pretty sure this will only work on the smaller trees, but I’ll experiment with it.

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No offense to this gamer’s table. It’s nice. But while I love the trees, I wish the tree bases blended in better with the grass mat. It’s going to be a challenge to find a really good solution to this issue.

My second issue involves the density of the terrain. I like to pack in the terrain, but if I put too much on the table, it’ll hamper players as they move models, block lines of fire, and generally limit tactical options during game play.

I’m going to have to play-test a bit to find a solution. Perhaps I can pack a really thick and gorgeous jungle into a corner of the table that’s not likely to be used during a game, while opening up the terrain in other areas where players need room to maneuver.

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This piece of art captures the allure of gaming in a jungle setting. But, as you can see with the tree canopy, recreating this scene exactly would create a horror for gamers trying to move models. I’m gong to have to balance the “look” with the “practicality.”

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I like these trees. They’re not cheap, but I don’t need 100 of them. My biggest concern is that they’re not all that large, looking to be 6″ to 8″ tall. In a rain forest, trees rise to a scale 25.” So, a few of these trees will work–but I can’t count on them for the majority of what I need.

I’m giving a lot of thought to the trees I’ll need. There are a number of excellent tutorials for building hand-made jungle trees, and some 3D print companies are offering some interesting trees with jungle vines hanging from them. I’ll probably do a mix of both options.

The photo to the right show some 3D-printed trees that  caught my eye. But I can’t rely on them entirely. The problem is their height. Many 3D-printed trees are seven inches tall, with a few plastic palm trees rising to 10 inches tall.

That  just don’t cut it for me. The average rain forest canopy is 25 meters tall—or about 25 inches at 28mm scale. Now, I think that height won’t work. It’s realistic, but gamers are used to seeing 5″ to 7″ trees on a table, so I think they would find really tall trees off-putting.

But I’ve found that trees of 12″ to 15″ look impressive—and still realistic—so I’m eyeing plastic branch stems that can be found at arts and  craft stores.

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The plastic branch on the left needs some work to hide some manufacturing flaws, but at 13″ tall, it could easily be turned into one of the African savannah trees shown on the right.

One more thing: No game table is complete without some kick-ass terrain features to draw the eye.

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A handful of plastic kits like this would be a fast way to break up the jungle with something more tangible to fight over.

A village of thatched or bamboo huts are a necessity, although if I cut back on the jungle theme a bit and push an African savannah look, I could use some of my Middle Eastern buildings to create an urban objective for models to capture.

Other ideas include some  40K ruins covered in vines and, almost certainly, I’ll need an abandoned temple that serves as the headquarters for a Chaos cult—or perhaps the resting place of hidden archeotech from the Age of Darkness.

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A vine-covered temple ruin is the perfect setting for a Kill Team game.

As March comes to an end, I’ll be drawing up a bunch of maps for the table. I may write an article about that design work. Perhaps I’ll draw up a variety of table set-ups, then analyze them for practicality of game play and whether the terrain creates tactical challenges for the players.

I mean, obviously I value great terrain. But while terrain can add a lot to a player’s enjoyment of a game, if the table doesn’t offer players a great gaming experience—tactical challenges to overcome—it’s just a diorama. And I want a jungle table that provides a “wow” factor on the gaming side as much as on the aesthetic side.

Let’s see how I do in the coming months.—TheGM

The Corvus Cluster is a Warhammer 40K blog documenting our gaming adventures in the fantastical sci-fi universe of Games Workshop.




Categories: Terrain

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