Review: Citadel Forest

This week sees the re-release of Games Workshop’s Citadel Forest. And with this upcoming re-release I thought it would be a good idea to post my experience and idea’s on this scenery piece. After all, as I’ve argued before, scenery is in my opinion one of the more important parts that make table top gaming fun and immersive. Scenery sets the stage for a proper war game, gives you strategic points of interest to think about and, when used correctly, can decide the outcome of battle.

The Citadel Forest is a captivating piece of scenery. But the look of the trees might not be everyone's taste.
The Citadel Forest is a captivating piece of scenery. But the look of the trees might not be everyone’s taste.

A look you have to get used to
I have to admit that I was a large fan of the old Games Workshop trees. To me, these ‘flocked toilet brushes’ captured the essence of a tree. That is, a tree trunk with a large and rich crown of leaves. In that sense, the old GW trees had distilled the idea of a tree to a basic shape that was both iconic and practical. And I say practical because the GW trees were really tough and could easily withstand the rigours of table top gaming. Something I cannot say of some of my railroad trees that I’ve used as a cheap alternative for the more expensive trees GW sold.

As a large ‘fan’ of the old GW trees I was kind of disappointed when GW released the ‘Citadel Forest’ a few years ago. In fact I was not a fan of their new product because we got new plastic trees that looked grim, gnarled and in a sense too over the top. All in all it was quite a shift from the almost Eden like trees we used to have. But over the years I got used to the new aesthetic and came to appreciate the new and darker look of the Citadel forest. However, even though I came to respect the Citadel forest, it took a few years before I bought these trees as they did not ‘fit’ the look and feel of the Warhammer armies I had. But when my wife started a Beastmen army, and we started preparing the display base, I took the step and bought two sets of these trees as a ‘decorative’ background for these forest dwelling creatures.

What do you get?
Model trees come in roughly two variants: trees that are immediately ready for usage and trees that require some modelling. The first type is what Games Workshop used to sell, a tree stump with a flocked ‘brush’ on top of it. And even though these trees are very useful and quick to use, they tend to have a ‘generic’ look to them. The second variant is most often a version that comes with a tree trunk with branches and you have to glue some modelling shrubs or flock to them. These trees are more customisable and allow to you create all kinds of different trees: oak, ash, fruit (apple etc).

The Citadel forest however, is unlike most competing products on the market. Instead of a plastic tree trunk and branches with some flock, you get a complete plastic kit with a large ‘display base’ to place your trees on. This display base also serves as a marker for ‘area terrain’, something I think is extremely useful for war gaming. On the sprues inside the box you’ll find three tree trunks that are made from two pieces. In addition there are quite a few branches you can glue in special ‘sockets’ on the tree trunks and a large assortment of leaves you have to glue on small pins on the branches and trunks. Finally there are a few ‘decorative’ bits, mostly skulls as could be expected from a GW product. All in all this is a product that has a rather iconic, dark and gnarled look and feel. A look that is both unique and taste sensitive.

The base has loads of cool details and when you add some shrubs and static grass really evokes the idea of a forest floor. Also note the fact that the trees can be removed for gaming purposes.
The base has loads of cool details and when you add some shrubs and static grass really evokes the idea of a forest floor. Also note the fact that the trees can be removed for gaming purposes.

Quality of the product
As can be expected from a GW product, the quality of the product is rather high. There is lots of detail on all the bits inside the box. The ‘leaves’ all have individually sculpted leaves that are a pleasure to wash and drybrush for quick and good looking results. The trees are also finely detailed with a proper texture to the tree trunk and branches. The best bit is the base of the forest though. This piece features loads of small details, from fallen branches and tree stumps to a few (yes, only a few) skulls and rocks. All this detail has a relatively low profile, so placing a movement tray on this forest base will not cause your miniatures to tumble over. It may be a minor point but it is very practical indeed.

All this goodness is produced in a good quality and sturdy hard plastic. Assembly is relatively easy due to the fact that the different parts do not have too harsh mould lines. They also fit together quite snugly so there is little need for trimming pieces to get a good fit. In general GW has released a good product and a product that, at 18 Pound Sterling is not priced unreasonably.

Assembly and potential caveats
The idea of different parts has both merits and problems. The good part is that it allows for quite a bit of customization. You can leave the tree leaves off for example. This way you can create a forest of grizzly, gnarled and dark dead trees to fit your Undead army. Or you could glue modelling snow onto the base and the tree branches to create a winter theme for your forest.

However, when you intent to assemble your forest with the leaves attached I recommend leaving the leaves of until you’ve painted everything. This is because the way the product needs to be assembled, makes the trees extremely fragile. The leaves are attached with only a very small pin, and because of this small pin joint the tree leaves tends to break off rather easily. In fact, only looking at these trees might cause the leaves to fall from of the tree. Using a large brush to basecoat, wash and drybrush your tree will likely have enough force to break at least some of the leaves from their branches. So, the top tip for assembly is to assemble the trees first but leave the leaves of. Only attach the leaves after painting.

Base of Citadel forest Work in Progress
The soil on the base is not of a really ‘sharp’ texture which can create smudges when drybrushing. Be careful when painting this part of the kit.

Painting
Again, it is important to note that these trees come as a grey plastic kit. This means that you can theme your forest in any way you want. From the dark greens of summer to the rich and warm shades of autumn, the Citadel forest makes it possible to create a look you want. However, this also is a large con against the Citadel forest. After all for the same amount of money you can buy quite a few model railway trees that are ready for use the moment you unpack them – although I have to admit I’ve seen model railway trees as expensive as €40 for a single tree also. – So if your purpose is to get a forest for gaming and are not too interested in modelling, assembling and painting scenery, this product is not for you (unless you commission someone to paint the set for you of course).

Having mentioned the elephant in the room, I can now safely say that this set is a pleasure to paint. Because of the fine detail of the trees, leaves and the display base, the Citadel forest allows you to use basic techniques such as drybrushing and washes to create a really good looking scenery piece. My two forests took me around three (short) evenings of painting to get to the point where I thought: this is a great looking piece on the gaming table. But with that, I’ve not taken the assembly time into account, or the need to ‘fix’ the fallen leaves (some of which I had to glue multiple times in place).

Even though painting this model is a pleasure, and drybrushing revealed even more texture on the rocks of the base, there is one big problem I’ve encountered. Something that also occurred to me when I unboxed the ‘Destroyed Rhino’ scenery piece from a couple of years ago. This problem is the lack of ‘sharp’ texture of the ground soil. Maybe it is due to production needs, but the ground has little ‘sharp’ texture that makes the paint stick when drybrushing. This means that there is a fair chance you’ll get smudgy area’s instead of a properly drybrushed ground. In the end, it turned out ok, after I had applied some more layers of paint and some ‘foresty’ flockmix. It may be a minor point, but it is something to keep in mind.

Closeup of the Citadel Forest by Games Workshop

Conclusion
All in all I have come to appreciate the look and feel of the Citadel forest and have come to recognize it as a quality product. The grim dark fantasy look of the Citadel forest may not be to everyone’s taste however. Looking beyond the look of the forest, you’ll encounter a product that is richly detailed, a pleasure to paint and potentially a good and thematic scenery piece on your gaming table. Watch out for rough handling this product though, the leaves come of the trees far too easy for a product that is intended for gaming use. Basic railroad trees and the old GW trees are in that sense a lot more though and sturdy.

In terms of game play this is also a well thought out product. The trees are removable from the forest base, you placing miniatures ‘inside’ the forest is really easy. In addition, the detail and texture on the display base is done in such a way that you can place a movement tray inside the forest without worrying about tumbling miniatures. Finally does this display base offer you a great way to see where the forest ‘starts’ and where it ‘ends’, thus offering a good ‘area’ piece of scenery.

There are some notes that I must make however. First off, this product is also not recommended to people who just want ‘easy out of the box’ scenery. The Citadel forest demands quite a bit of time and effort to get gaming ready. And if gaming is your main priority, you just want some trees that are ready out of the box. Also, and I’ve mentioned this a couple of times, the product is very fragile. Keep this in mind when assembling, painting and especially during gaming. Finally keep watchful when drybrushing the soil on the base of the forest. This is the only part that lacks a bit of texture to make the paint stick properly. Therefore it can cause some very ugly and smudgy pieces that distract from an otherwise good quality product.

The Citadel Forest is a good looking and well thought out product that offers some cool gaming opportunities. It looks great once painted – and once you get used to the grim, dark gnarled aesthetic – although it might not be for everyone’s taste. The value for money is generally good, but for real gaming rigours it is too fragile.

The good
+ Removable trees make for easy gaming
+ Atmospheric (dark) theme with gnarled trees
+ Great detail on the forest base
+ Compared to other products, this set is really customisable

The Bad
– Not ‘out of the box’ ready for gaming
– Takes a lot of time and effort to get gaming ready compared to competing products
– The trees (especially the leaves) are extremely fragile
– The look of the trees is not for ‘everyone’

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