LOTR: How to Make Elven Tree Platforms for the Galadhrim of Lothlorien – 13APR2013

I generally show you my games or tell you of my plans.  Today, I wrote a bit of a “how to” article since I think the Elven Tree Platforms are cheap & easy to make, plus are very cool.

Flets-eye view

I also have not seen any other DIY articles on making “flets”  beyond the Out of Print Battle Games in Middle Earth reference – if you know of another reference, please send it my way.  There is a great article on Mallorn Trees and elf tree houses here:  An Hour of Wolves and Shattered Shields.

Borders of the Golden Wood

I have been reading the LOTR again and the fellowship was in Lothlorien getting ready to leave when I got the Wood Elf Itch.  As you may recall from the book (and even the movie), they encounter the Galadhrim elves as soon as they enter Celeborn’s realm.  To avoid marauding Orcs (the Moria goblins), they spend the night in trees with the elves on platforms called Talans or Flets.  This motivated me to dig up my long neglected Elven forces and focus on whipping them into shape.  My stuff is old school (if 10 years ago is really “old”). GW originally made a set of metal Lorien Elves with bows and robes.  There was also a nice captain and banner, plus unarmored Haldir with a sword (and even one with a bow which I gave away).  With the release of the Two Towers movie, GW released metal armored Lorien elves and eventually plastic infantry and cavalry in armor.  My son has the very nice armored Galadhrim which unfortunately died under the slavering jaws of wargs:


Armoured Galadhrim

After repeated skirmishes with the Galadhrim versus Orcs and Uruks, we discovered that the trade-off in points makes the wood elves a thematically  difficult army to use.  Although they are mighty warriors, their point cost is very high unless they can utilize terrain to their advantage (shooting and movement).  For a straight up fight with the Uruks, they were consistently loosing. So I decided to give them some aid in the form of flets.


Galadriel inspects the new Flets and advises Haldir on improved fields of fire.

The OOP Battle Games in Middle Earth, issue #35, has an article about making Elven Tree Platforms.  They describe making trees from wire, then wrapping it in tape, and then slathering it with wall paste.  With the materials I had on had I made three  using a simpler and quicker technique that anyone can do.  Too easy:

You should be able to find the supplies at a craft store (something like $3 in supplies per large tree):

  • 12 feet of heavy-duty paper wrapped Floral Wire – this stuff is basically a thick wire which is wrapped with a rough textured green or brown paper.  It is also great to also use as vine. (It goes for $5 at a craft store for 50 feet – enough for 4 trees)
  • a ~3 to ~4 inch diameter disk made from card-stock or wood (I glued a double thickness of cereal box cardboard for these)
  • ~15 Coffee Stirrers to form the planks of the flet (or alternatively card-stock strips)
  • ~6″ diameter disc for the base (mine was $1 at the craft store and made of very thin plywood)
  • Woodland Scenic Light Green Clump Foliage
  • small Rocks (gravel about 1/2 to 3/4 inches is fine – I used decorative gravel from the craft store – $5 for enough for 20 trees)
  • Hot glue gun
  • Matte “Mod Podge” decoupage glue and sealant (or watered down white glue)
  • Ground cover:
    • Woodland Scenics Fine Brown Ballast
    • Woodland Scenic Coarse Brown Ballast
    • Woodland Scenic static grass
    • McCormick Italian Seasoning (or other old herbs that have lost their flavor) – this makes fantastic fallen woodland clutter
  • Paint:
    • Krylon Brown Spray Primer (red brown)
    • Delta CeramCoat Dark Brown (dark brown)
    • Delta CeramCoat Linen (parchment or ivory)
    • Delta CeramCoat Hippo Gray (dark gray)
    • Delta CeramCoat Quaker Gray (light gray)
    • Delta CeramCoat Ivy (medium green)
    • Delta CeramCoat Autumn Brown (medium brown)
  • Scissors, Craft Knife, and Wire cutter
Assembly steps:
  1. Cut the wire for the stems – I cut four 12″ and twelve 8″ long pieces of the Paper Wrapped Floral Wire.  Twist the the four 12″ pieces together. Leave the last 3″ loose for the roots and the last 4″ loose for the crown.  Now individually twist the twelve  8″ pieces around the trunk to make the trunk thicker (it should end up about 3/4″ thick) and end in limbs.  Note that you want to twist these around each other in a fashion that does not untwist the floral wire covering and all the stems are going around the trunk in the same direction.  You want the limbs to mostly sprout out about 4″ from the roots to form a crown (with maybe one or two higher or lower).  For the limbs twist 2 or three pieces together where they exit the trunk leaving the last inch or two loose.  At the root end, twist the various ends together to make three or four large roots with maybe one or two little roots.  Once all the Floral wire is twisted together bend the roots and limbs into aesthetically pleasing shapes.

    Tree made by twisting together wires

  2. Cut a 3″ to 4″ diameter circle from the card stock.  I traced mine around a Morton salt container.  The finished platform can accommodate six minis on 25mm circular bases.   Cut out a center hole that is the diameter of the 4 floral wires that form the center stem for the crown.  Slide the circle down the stem for a test fit and bend the supporting limbs to a sturdy nest.
  3. Glue the coffee stirrers to the platform, trim the stirrers to match the card disc, and use a craft knife to cut out the center.
  4. Test fit it again.  If all is well, then glue the platform from underneath to the main stem and to the supporting limbs with more hot glue.
  5. Hot glue the roots to the base – make sure your base is large and sturdy.  I like very gnarly, exposed roots and bent some into arcs and others flat.  Between the roots and under some of the roots, I glued rocks.  Squirt hot glue under the roots to fill in the gaps and on top of the tips of the roots to make it look like the roots are headed into the earth.  You can use the hot glue to make extra roots or form some more boulders.
  6. To improve the durability, brush “Mod Podge” over the entirety  (tree, rocks, platform, and base) and and allow it to dry.  The “Mod Podge” will adhere the paper from each stem together and provide any easy surface for painting.
  7. Now prime it, paint the tree and flet with the dark brown base coat, and paint the rocks a dark gray base coat.  Once dry, dry-brush the rocks with light gray and the tree / platform  with linen (ivory color).  Then dry-brush a little green here and there for algae growing on the rocks, tree, and platform.
  8. Next use hot glue to adhere clump foliage to the limbs.  After I glue the foliage, I usually reposition some of the limbs to maximize the ability to put lots of minis on the flets.  I use a little bit of craft glue or hot glue to help hold the clumps together during assembly.
  9. Once you are done, paint all the clumps with “Mod Podge” (I slightly dilute it with water so it soaks in easier maybe a 3:1 ratio) – once this dries, the clumps will be much more durable.
  10. To finish the tree, base it per your usual method.  In my case, I paint the base with Delta Ceramcoat Autumn Brown, sprinkle some Woodland Scenics course Brown ballast here and there and then cover it with Woodland Scenics fine Brown ballast.  I then dot some Autumn Brown is a few places and sprinkle it Italian seasoning (you can buy a big jar at the grocery store  – it is a combo of Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme) followed by a few more spots of Autumn Brown with some static grass.
  11. Last step is to paint the base edge Autumn Brown and then spray the entirety with Krylon Clear Matte sealant.

The basing technique is the same I use on almost all my LOTR minis.  It ties everything together and the colors are muted enough to work with a grassy field, a leafy forest floor, or even a stone floor.  I use the same technique for my dark age minis (including putting them on GW bases) which allows me to mix and match Norse, Saxons, and Normans with my LOTR minis at need.

How to use these?  Judiciously, is my recommendation.  For orcs these are inaccessible forts – too many will tip the balance to far.  I would recommend the following rules:

  1. Shooters have 360 degree visibility to ground targets.  Ignore the foliage clumps – Elf Archers would lean through the limbs to fire.  If a tree is in the way, treat it as such, but assume folks on the flet can see and shoot into the rear ranks of unengaged troops.  You may also want to ignore effects for things like low rocks and bushes if you can draw a clear LOS to the target.
  2. Anyone on the platform is assumed to receive cover from the combination of the platform and the concealing foliage – do a single in the way check  to shoot at targets from the ground.  Shooters under the platform cannot shoot through it.
  3. Measure the range from the shooter to the target (the hypotenuse) rather than the horizontal distance.
  4. Wood elves can climb up or down the tree to the flet without aid in 1 turn (roll for climbing to avoid a fail); with aid (a rope or ladder) the climb is automatic.
  5. Non-elves can only climb up with aid.  Per the LOTR SBG FOTR source-book, if a non-human is under someone on the flet a rope ladder can be used to automatically aid the climber.  Again the climb takes the entire movement of the non-human.
  6. Space the flets about 24″ apart.  For a 4′ board edge, place one in the center and it has a field of fire that encompasses the entirety of the board edge.  For a 6′ board edge place one in the center and one to ether side 24″ away.  This way, three can cover the entire 6′ board edge.
  7. Tie a gray string between flets.  Elves can run across the string per usual movement rules.  Under combat stress, require that they roll a D6 and avoid a 1 to safely cross.  If they roll a 1, the elf falls and take normal falling damage.  Under non-combat conditions they can cross it with no danger.  Non-elves cannot do this trick (although a rope bridge could be rigged with a little time (on of my favorite things as a Boy Scout!).

Next blog concerns my efforts at painting the Galadhrim.

If you make some let me know how they turned out and any tips will be appreciated.  You can also use these flets for jungle boards , prehistoric boards, or sci-fi settings.  Ewoks, anyone?

Happy Gaming!

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2 Responses to LOTR: How to Make Elven Tree Platforms for the Galadhrim of Lothlorien – 13APR2013

  1. Scott Bowman says:

    Very nice, I may have a go at making some of these….

  2. lostpictold says:

    Thanks. They are easy and fun to do. I ended up making a some with and without flets for normal woodland rumbles.

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