Sunday, September 27, 2015

It's Dangerous to Go (well you know...)

Dawn adjusted the pack on her back, dusting off the guide book she had just found in the ruined hunting store.  "A Guide to Edible Plants of North America may be handy."  She thought as she tucked the book into a cargo pocket.  Dawn checked her SMG, slinging it under her right shoulder before moving back down the roadway east.

As she moved off, Dawn considered how she got to this point...

At the end of the last campaign mission, Dawn's entire group decided to leave.  They were headed to a survivor enclave while the Phoenix Company returned to their HQ with Trish (a gang member who had been given the "cure").  I had planned to have Dawn interact with some of the enclave, hopefully finding some new companions and then either helping go after the company to get Trish or the cure.
Dawn and group arrive at the survivor enclave
I played  a couple of shorter scenarios, but I wasn't really happy with how anything was going.  From a story standpoint it just felt flat and I wasn't entertained.  Instead of some negotiations with the survivors and an attack on Phoenix Company, I felt it would be better to go back to the 'survivor' style gaming.
Dawn meets the enclave leaders
I have decided instead to jump ahead a bit, and do a 'reset' for Dawn in the campaign.  Part of the reset is her loosing the Hummer to the enclave (when the rest of her team leave) and limiting her to what she could carry.  I decided to up her Rep to 5 (she has had quite a few successful missions without any increase) partially to give her a better chance to survive.

Dawn's new inventory and stat lines are:
Rep 5 (Pep 4/ Sav 4), Attr: Logical (+1 Savvy for mechanical or science check), Hard as Nails (Ignore first human caused obviously dead result, treat as knocked down).  Weapons:  SMG, Machete, BAP Equipment: Body Armor (counts as protected), Backpack. [6/10 encumbrance]  Backpack has: Shotgun, Baseball Bat, Food (3), Luxury (2) [8/10 capacity]

It doesn't seem that far...
Dawn is still trying to get back to north eastern Wisconsin, hoping to regroup with Ella and Gene at Ella's family farm.  If she chooses to walk, she will use a unit of food (like fuel for a vehicle) but she will not cover as much distance as a vehicle.  If she can find a vehicle, She only needs to cover 5 areas, if Dawn walks, it will be 10 areas.  Each area will have at least one scenario, and may have up to 3 (I will roll for a chance of an involuntary encounters).  This will be very similar to the trip the group made west, although Dawn will probably not revisit any of the same spots.

To represent fewer resources (most places have been looted) I am following a few more rules:

First, I will follow Really Tight Ammo (pg 24 of ATZ:FFO) but when rolling for reloading, a 0d pass will mean out of ammo until more can be located.

Second, looting results from the risk and rewards deck will be changed.  To find something, I will draw two cards, if the results match, I find it.  Otherwise it is nothing.  Two unmatched weapons will give me a unit of ammo for the first weapon card, and drawing the survivor card matches anything.  Yep, it's going to be tough to find anything now.

Also, Dawn will be able to forage for food (hunt) which will be a scenario to play.  Anytime she manages to 'secure' a location (that is eliminate all zombies and PEFs from a table) and stay for at least a day, Dawn can search with normal chances (not needing matched cards) once per room in any structure.  It allows Dawn to trade time for supplies if she needs them.

Dawn considered if she should have stayed with Larry and Blake at the compound.  They still had electricity and running water.  The hot shower was almost enough to convince her to stay...  Something just didn't feel right though, and staying with strangers, even friendly ones, didn't sit well.  "I hope Ella is still safe."  Dawn mumbled as she picked her way through a rubble filled lot.

Dawn had been making her way east, and was nearing the edge of town.  She paused, crouching at a brick wall, looking ahead at the ruins ahead.  After surveying the area, Dawn checked her weapons and prepared to move out.  "I hope I can find a ride out of here."
Dawn starts off on her own...

Monday, September 7, 2015

Scenery: Street Tiles and Roads

I have had a few requests for an description of what I use for my streets.  Luckily I had planned to make (or remake) my roads for my ATZ campaign, so it gave me a good opportunity to document the layout.

For ATZ, at least in my campaigns, it seems 90% of the action is in an urban setting.  I like to have different setups, so I didn't want to make a dedicated board of the same street and buildings.  I looked at several options for how to handle streets.

First I used just plain cardboard cut outs, or various forms of paper to denote roads.  I decided I wanted some specialized game boards, but I wanted flexibility.   I didn't want to invest in a full 3'x3' or 4'x4' tabletop that would only have one real layout.  Looking around, I considered some of the various options that were available.

Printing is a great option.  There are some great street products available, World Works Games makes a great set for their Mayhem City.  They are not very expensive, and look very good.  They do require printing, and need to be backed by something else to give them a good 3-d feel.  The amount of ink I would need to use for printing the various streets does make it a bit expensive.  That and my inkjet printer is not the highest quality.

I decided to test a theory, I wanted to make some tiles that I could reuse to make various layouts.  This way, I figured, I could have nearly any layout I wanted.  I did a quick layout of various shapes, and made them out of some cheaper foamcore boards I had.

Plain roads
My first tiles were just two tones of gray.  Not very interesting, but they worked.  I added some markings to help make them look a bit more like roads...
Same roads, with markings
One of the nice things is that the tiles are reversible, with one side being blank.  This allows me to fill in the city block areas, all the same height.  I use black poster board cut outs for parking lost and some driveways.  Overall, I was quite happy with these, but they did warp a bit too easily.  I considered just printing off streets and gluing them onto the foam core.  Instead, I thought I would try something else...

To keep the basic tile the same size, I tried using floor tiles.  Cheap ones can be found for around 50 cents or less each.  I liked the idea of using the tiles, they come all the same size, very nearly 12"x12".  This saved me the hassle of cutting the basic shape squares.  I drew up some basic templates for what I think will give a good mix of tiles.
Red is the base tile, White is the sidewalk
The floor tiles are pretty easy to work with, but they weigh a ton compared to foam core or even MDF.  They do hold detail pretty well, and worked out as I had hoped.  Once I started playing with the tiles, I found I wanted more than I had made.  Before I made a bunch more, I decided to change to MDF for a couple of reasons.
Tile streets with a foam core piece in bottom left

The tiles tend to slowly warp, and that led to a few cracking.  This added to the weight made me like the tiles a bit less than when I started.  Also the fact that the tile will potentially shatter when dropped (which did cost me one straight road section) made me believe something a bit more forgiving would be better.

I really wanted to fins some cork tiles cheap, they make 12"x12" tiles from a dense cork that I think would work well, but I couldn't locate any for a reasonable price (they were all $4+ each that I could find.)  Instead I used MDF at 1/8" thickness, with a smooth finish on each side.
MDF cut into parts

These are pretty easy to make, I'll walk through it as I made one of the straight sections.

The tools I used for this are a steel straightedge, a wire brush and a hand scribe.  The scribe I picked up at Home Depot (DIY big box store) for about $5.  The wire brush came from some hardware/DIY store (not sure where, I have a few of them) and cost me maybe $1.  If you don't have a steel straightedge, you can use another straightedge, but those things are cheap and strong - go get one.  I am also doing this on a cutting mat with 1" grid squares.  It makes lining up much easier.
The tools - scribe, brush, straightedge
First, cut your MDF to size.  I cut the board up into my 12"x12" bases sections first, then cut some of the squares into the smaller parts.  It's better if you are more uniform on tile size, but it's not as vital as you may think.  Just stay within an 1/8" and everything will still look good.

Second, I pencil in the lines for the sidewalk design and any other basic lines I want.  Later I may freehand some cracks, but they can wait (and don't need to be drawn out) as you are just trying to get the uniformity of the sidewalks and roads at this point.  You also need to flip over the road and add some lines to what is going to be the 'blank' side.  These can be in any pattern, but they will make the blank areas look better on the table.  They are made the same way as the road/sidewalk side.
Lines drawn in - a bit sloppy but okay
Once you have the basic lines down, you use the straightedge and the scribe to trace them, cutting into the board slightly.  You don't need to press very hard, the MDF will give way to the scribe easily, and I found you only need a couple of passes for the lines to be a decent depth.
Lines cut by the scribe, not cleaned up
Action picture!  Okay, just showing how the scribe works...
Once you have the lines cut in, brush off the lines and the rest of the piece with the wire brush.  This will remove the bits of dust and fiber that the scribe has kicked up.  It will also give a little texture to the road and walkways.  I have used sandpaper in place of the brush, but I find it is a little too aggressive, and you get much more 'sanding' lines in the end.  It's worth trying out and seeing which effect you prefer if you try this yourself.

Next is painting.  I do a general watered black base coat for the roads and sidewalks.  The idea is get the black to run into the cut lines, giving an impression of deeper cuts than they actually are.  You need to be careful not to use too much water, MDF warps pretty easily if you get it too wet.
Road side primed
Blank side primed, shows the lines very well
It's your choice if you want to paint the road and blank side with or without the sidewalks attached.  I have done both methods, and there are pluses and minuses to both.  It's easier to keep the street colors off the sidewalks if they are not attached, but having them attached gives a good idea of how the colors are looking as you paint.  Again, it's just personal taste.  

This time, I attached the sidewalks with Liquid Nails (a strong permanent adhesive) and clamped them for a few hours while it set.  Then I painted the various areas.  I use a lighter grey for the sidewalks and blank side, to help define the roadways better and, at least around here, the streets are a bit darker compared to the sidewalks.
Basic grey colors for the street section
After the base coat, I go over it a few times with washes of gray/black and do a 'pat' dry with a towel.  I also do random spots of black, white and various grays, just to give some interest.  Think of it as dry brushing with lighter and darker shades (which is all it really is...) 
Tire paths and some textures

For basic details, I paint the curb sides a shade lighter than the sidewalks, just to make them stand out.  I also add a series of straight 'tire' tracks for each lane of the road.  These get washed over, but they will still stand out somewhat.  Finally I have a template for the lane markings.  For most of my roads I use a Vallejo lemon yellow mixed with a lantern yellow for my road markings.
Center line added
After the details are on, and I'm happy with the results, I give it a light coat of sealant and add it to the mix!
Needs to be a bit darker...
As you can see above, the latest isn't quite as dark as my others.  I think I just need another black wash on the road, but in person it doesn't look nearly as different as the picture suggests.

It's pretty easy and quick to make the road sections, once you have the MDF cut to size.  If there was a cheap way to get the boards already in 12"x12" tiles, that would make it even better.  Still, if you are looking for reasonably priced and detailed streets, something like this is a pretty good choice.

Questions and comments welcome!  Thanks for looking!