Waterproof Garden Games Terrain?


Tipped off by some blogposts about the delights of the “Home Aquarium” section of pet stores and garden centres, I recently popped into a Pets at Home branch and spotted a 3 for 2 offer (buy 3 get cheapest free).

I didn’t tell the checkout lady the truth when she asked about my non-existent fish and tank, that these weren’t destined for underwater fish usage but for the gaming table or out in the garden / yarden for gaming.

This offer and their reasonable asking price (6 pieces of terrain for around £30) made affordable what I think are sometimes overpriced pieces of potential games terrain. I understand  that it is not cheap to produce these if it has to be a certain type of safe resin and safe paint to protect the fish from chemical harm.

The underwater Ewok village tree houses become a mysterious Asian jungle village and temple with the addition of some 20mm or OO/HO Airfix Gurkhas.
Even bigger jungle tree house using 15mm Japanese Samurai figure (unknown maker,  from a job lot).

Some features like the old fishing boat seems Chinese or Japanese.

35mm Heroscape Samurai figure in the Old Fishing Boat.


What I like about many of these generic buildings or features  are their versatile uses. They could equally grace a garden game and stay out in the rain  or appear on a games table.

Rope bridge with Heroscape Samurai 35mm figures and hex tiles.

With some imagination, the rope bridge could be a vital but damaged rail bridge with a narrow piece of rail track across it. It could be in Southeast Asian Jungle or the Amazon, Darkest Africa or the Wild West. It could be built in many time zones. It works across different scales or sizes of figures.

Front and back of the tree houses and front view of the four faced jungle temple.

Similarly the tree houses could be on Fantasy or alien planets, or in Darkest Africa or Asia in a Colonial campaign.

Exploring the abandoned temple village:  “I don’t like it, Sergeant. It’s quiet. Too quiet …” Peter Laing 15mm Colonial British infantry.

All good Indiana Jones stuff.

A little bit of cutting and glueing work to put some balsa wood floors into the buildings should make them even more versatile. The cluttered temple floor might need some clearing or building up to be able put more figures inside.

Airfix OO/HO Roman Archer (painted by me in the early 1980s) and the back wall of the Temple.

Once again 15mm Peter Laing figures seems to suit these buildings quite well, as well as Airfix OO/HO.

More precious and now fragile Airfix OO/HO Romans which I painted with paper shields to replace those lost, as these were sometimes scarce figures in the 1980s.
A surprise awaits these Airfix Germans pausing at this ruined Temple outcrop, somewhere in the Med, North Africa or Italy. Good rocky desert camouflage for these Airfix vehicles and the lovely original 1960s German and British 8th Army figures (version 1)

I was quite intrigued setting up future game scenarios how helpfully  camouflaged or painted the temple is for example when used with WW2 figures.  I haven’t done matt grunge khaki camo painting for over twenty years but I found a few things in  my surviving box of battered  Airfix vehicles.

These were painted up in the early 1980s for Donald Featherstone WW2 rules  (War Games 1962) and go quite well with these North Africa / Med / Middle East / Italy temple ruins. About time these had an airing on the games table with whatever I have left. WW2 Vehicle and camouflage scheme purists look away now!



Camouflaged Sherman Tank (one of the useful sturdy Polythene premade type) and Airfix German and British Eighth Army infantry figures (1960s first  version). 
Image colour faded to match the desert scenery and camouflage tones.  Battered German Airfix Tiger tank and Hanomag half track amongst the Temple ruins.

With my small  WW2 15mm Peter Laing force I can stage a few skirmishes. I have  A few spare German WW1 steel helmet infantry to  be painted up in Afrika Korps / desert camouflage to take on my WW2 British infantry.

Peter Laing 15mm German WW1 steel helmet infantry in Desert camouflage.

These six aquarium buildings cost (after 3 for 2 discount) only around  £30 in total but they offer lots of interesting possibilities for scenarios in many time periods and scales.

Great fun for last weekend’s garden game.


Yes that rope bridge is upside down – our quick weekend game in the garde using the aquarium buildings and Heroscape hex tiles and figures.

They certainly proved quick and fun terrain pieces in my recent weekend family game https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2017/06/21/heroscape-duelling-in-the-garden/

The Drowned World

Ever since gazing into those childhood fish tanks, I have long had  a bit of a fascination with the kitsch nature of aquarium ornaments. There is something suitably Gothic, melancholy, Romantic  (and Bronteish), out of reach or  abandoned about these drowned ruins and wrecks. In many cases it’s the plain surreal weirdness and lack of taste in some of the designs, they truly  are the garden gnomes of the aquarium world in their “love them or hate them” colourful and kitsch nature.

My long lasting aquarium castle on the contested rockery battleground in a garden game last year 2016.

I have had one aquarium piece for years, a ruined castle frontage which was free or unwanted from a bundle of aquarium stuff that someone brought into work. It has  moved from house to house or garden to garden with me over many years.

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN 24 June 2017.





10 thoughts on “Waterproof Garden Games Terrain?”

  1. If you have a local market near you, it’s worth a look around. They sometimes have a pet supplies stall and the aquarium bits and pieces they sell are usually a fraction of the cost of the big stores.
    It’s also worth looking at some of the Chinese sellers of model trees, etc. on e-Bay. They often sell things like this cheaply and post free. I have bought trees and the like from one seller several times and found them very reliable


  2. Ian
    Thanks for the tip off. I have found the sales / discounts of the chain pet stores make them cheaper than individual garden centre aquarist stores and now will keep an eye on my local markets for even cheaper prices.

    I think some of the cheaper aquarium ornaments compare well in price with resin Wargames scenery, although not always to scale or requiring some work to clear places for figure bases. The ruins can be too ruined sometimes.

    Thanks for the tree tips. I recently got some some 60s merit fir trees online and I saw some great cherry blossom trees for samurai games (with all five of my Heroscape samurai! ) bought from China via eBay on another blog. Very tempting!
    Mark, Man of TIN


    1. I was just trawling through e-Bay whilst sat on a train and spotted a number of very cheap aquarium accessories including what looks remarkably like your bridge!
      They are listed under the seller ‘salamoers2015’ if that helps


  3. I have looked in the local pet stores for aquarium landscape. The price has always put me off. After seeing posting, I might have to look at this again. I would like to find some ancient temples or castles for my Peter Laings.


    1. Good to hear from you John and hope you are enjoying your new Travel Battle.
      There looks to be lots of aquarium ornaments available online but not always cheap and you can’t roughly gauge size and playability. But then take off the time and materials to make your own and the price seems better.
      Pets at Home in the UK is I think the same or similar to Petsmart in North America.
      Happy temple hunting!
      Mark, Man of TIN

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m another one who always goes into shops and sees the wargaming potential of merchandise rather than their REAL use. I was taken with the vintage Airfix models though. There was something about them that years later I can now appreciate. I wish someone produced a nostalgia version but I just know they would charge as much as an aquarium pagoda!


  5. Stephen
    I really like the older Airfix version 1 figures – many people don’t. They are quite small and slender like the metal Peter Laing 15mm figures which are also no longer available. Some like the Foreign legion version 1 are very brittle now. I’m not sure if the version 1 moulds exist anymore, I recall reading somewhere that they don’t exist in the Airfix Archives? There are a fair few of these around on online auction sites though.

    The polythene Airfix tanks like the Shermans are pretty scarce but I believe quite a few of their tank and armoured car kits are still in (sporadic Airfix) production.

    I tend to hoard certain types of Airfix figures when I see them as they go in and out of production and availability, especially the historical ones.

    Here’s to more looking at things to see what you can turn them into!

    Mark, Man of TIN


    1. Doug
      These few dozen 1970s Airfix OO/HO Romans in the family collection were pretty scarce (as were all the interesting Airfix figure sets in the 80s and 90s) so patching up the few we had and replacing lost shields was important. Make Do and Mend!
      mark, Man of TIN


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