Monday, January 30, 2012

Terrain: Giving Tree Holiday Special

Despite a quick trip through the hospital, the articles must roll on. It may be a little late but at least it's early for next year. I present to you fair readers, The Giving Tree. Though it may give to all who approach it, it demands blood given in return. It's a simple build, but I'll show you what I did and why.

   With the snowy season upon most of us here in Canada, I feel it entirely appropriate for a series of snow related articles. There is also the added benefit of this themed terrain to fit in well amongst my Space Marine chapter. Though a little late, I see no reason that the Giving Tree themed center piece shouldn't still be used freely in games during the frozen season. I'll add its special power at the end of the article, so if you wish to skip to the fun part first you may do so.

   The tree itself I procured from Michael's art store. It wasn't a cheap piece coming in at around $30, so I strongly recommend hunting down a Michael's flier and getting a 50% off coupon. It makes the price a little more bearable. The cool thing about this piece and also why it's so expensive is that it has a series of tiny LEDs wired into the branches that blink when activated. However, I find that the speed at which they blink uncomfortable to look at in anything other than bright rooms so eventually I'll find the time to rewire the circuit board in the battery pack.

   The intent of this piece is to go into the absolute center of the board. It needed to be easily and equally accessible to either player. I wanted it to be high enough to block line of sight to infantry models but small enough to only give cover to monstrous creatures. I started with a half inch thick piece of pink foam and cut a rough circular shape with my hot wire cutter so that it covered a roughly one square foot area. This will be the foundation of the piece.

   Using a one inch thick piece of pink foam, I traced a slightly smaller circle following the foundation as a guide. This would form the slope of the hill. Before attaching the hill to the base, I using a knife to cut out a compartment for the battery pack. Afterwards I did some rough cuts with the hot wire cutter to start forming the shape of the hill.
   I glued the hill to the foundation and let it set. A piece needed to cover the battery pack and form the pedestal for the Giving Tree, so a final small hill cut from half inch foam was cut. I cut a thin notch into the side of this piece for the wire to fit into and be held in place. I glued a small strip of pink form under the small hill so that it would stay in place over the compartment. I then went back to the main hill and tidied up the shaping of it after the glue had reasonably dried.

   Now it was time to add some texture. Taking some spray paint, I sprayed light bursts over certain areas of the foam hill. The chemical reaction between spray paint and pink foam causes the foam to melt. Using only a small amount of spray provides a very neat texture, similar to snow. Spraying too much would easily melt right through. I then glued on some sand to give some raised texture.
   While the spray was drying, I decided that the tree needed a little more ornamentation. Taking some miniature bells and the wire I use with my foam cutter, I created small hanging ornaments which I later glued onto the branches of the tree. This was the most difficult part, making small hooks for the bells to hang onto. Once they were all wired, I sometimes had to break the snow powder on the branches on order to fit the ornament on. I plan to add further decorations when I can find some suitably small enough, so check back next year for updates!

   Now that the spray paint was dry, I painted on some ultramarine blue to act as the shadow colour. I painted over top of that with opaque white to give it the appearance of snow I wanted. Although the opaque white didn't cover as solidly as I hoped it would, I discovered that GW Skull White spray didn't actually melt the foam, so I patched up the blue splotches that still showed through with some carefully placed blasts of spray paint.

   After all that work, here is the final result. Not too shabby for a blood thirsty tree of giving. Now you may be wondering what makes it so blood thirsty. I had Warhammer 40 000 in mind when I designed this piece, so the rules are 40K based, but the spirit of it should be easily adaptable for any game system. It's meant only for a friendly game where both players are looking for an intense battle over a central objective that gives benefit to anyone around it. So keeping that in mind, here are the rules for it:
The Giving Tree is as terrifying as it is generous. It appears in the snowiest regions every winter, seeking the blood of mortals. In return for the blood it craves, it offers incredible boons to those willing to make the sacrifice. Often simple soldiers become mighty heroes and whole battles turned before those who stood before it become its feast. 
Once per player turn, the controlling player may select one unit he controls that is on top of the Giving Tree's hill and reroll all rolls of one type. For example, all Shooting or Assault Hits, Armour or Invulnerable Saves, Leadership checks or Psychic checks. This includes successful results as well, all dice must be rerolled! This ability can only affect the controlling player's own units. If both players have units on the hill, both players benefit on their own turn, the Giving Tree does not care from whence the blood flows.

   I do realize that it is a powerful ability, but I wanted it to be suitably powerful to make it desirable enough for whole armies to attempt to claim it. It has its drawbacks as well so I feel overall it balances out. It's just meant to be fun and cause some crazy events during a game. Feel free to adapt it to whatever you wish! That's it for today, don't hesitate to leave your comments, concerns, questions, flames or feedback in the comment section below.

Signing off,


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