Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Building a Better City From the Ground Up - Part 1

In my personal brief introduction I talked about aesthetics. The spectacle of the game is one of the most important things to me. As such, city fighting has fantastic opportunities for stunning visuals. One of the principle visual hang ups I have with most city boards is that they don't take into account city blocks and roads. Instead, the board is a haphazard collection of buildings randomly spaced about creating a maze of totally irregular fire lanes. These boards are very suitable for game play but they just don't convey the same feel I get from walking the streets of Chicago.

When I am out and about I think about terrain a lot. I look at the architecture around me and I pick out details that can be translated into the game board. After much analysis I decided that my randomly sized city buildings, however nice, were no longer suitable as they were. I needed to create city blocks. The solution I came up with was movement trays for my buildings. Though I'm actually a lot further along in the process of making these city blocks, I have only really spent the last couple of days detailing out the city block movement trays themselves so I took some step by step photos.
The above picture shows a piece of 1/8" masonite or hardboard cut to 24"x12". My city blocks currently are in 24"x12" and 12"x12" sections to start. To frame in the movement try I have applied strips of 1" wide foam core. You will also notice the 1"x1" gap in this photo. That space was left so that I can later create 1"x1" bases for sign posts, street lamps, statues, and the like.
The next picture is a close up of the sidewalk tiling. I cut 1"x1" squares out of card stock and glued them down. Sidewalks are rarely perfect so every so often I cut the 1" square into 2-3 pieces and glued them down to create cracks in the sidewalk.
This corner is heavily damaged. I actually am running low on foam core so I used some scraps that were not perfect. In beat up older neighborhoods like mine, cement this busted up happens occasionally. In the grim darkness of the 41st millennium where there is only war, I'm sure its the norm. You might notice I threw in some sprue offcuts under the sand.
Another broken section of sidewalk - again with sprue offcuts. Notice how I didn't let the sand extend onto the bare masonite in the center as that would prevent the buildings from sitting flat.
Its the little details that bring a piece of scenery to life. This random piece of plastic I beam that was laying on the table was promptly glued down onto the sidewalk when I saw it sitting there. After it sat for a moment I went back, added a bit more watered down white glue and sprinkled some sand around it.
In one of my terrain boxes I have an old Soy Yogurt cut labeled "dome things". This random plastic "dome" was glued down to represent some sort of waste water access. Again, just a sparse sprinkle of sand was added around it.
Here is a photo of the movement try with it filled with buildings. The fit was a little snug so the two large Chicago style "3 flats" a leaning out. I need to trim the ruined building at the end like 1/16" to take that pressure off. You will notice a couple of rings. Those are man holes. I have another Soy Yogurt cup labeled "ring things" and these metal rings were glued down and then card stock circles were glued into the center of each as covers. Here's the same block shot from the left. The large ruin was a building made before I standardized the bases for the movement trays so I literally glued the hardboard base onto a properly sized pink foam base and added sidewalk tiling to make it seem like the it was actually deliberate.
I don't want to get into the manufacture of the specific buildings in this first part of the article but I wanted to show how each of the building sections is on a semi-standardized base that is then dropped onto the movement tray, allowing for different looking city blocks to be set up each time.In my Chicago neighborhood there are vacant lots interspersed between buildings on most blocks. Some of them are makeshift parks or community gardens and others are just overgrown detritus collectors. Sometimes they are fenced in, sometimes there are walls, and other times they are wide open. This represents what was likely once one of the nicer vacant lots on the block - probably a community garden or tiny park.When placed together you can see how the movement tray creates a more genuine looking city block.
Part 2 will focus on the buildings themselves. I will be using pictures taken on my phone from around the neighborhood and talking about how to keep your buildings varied as well as how to get the most out of your Cities of Death building sets.
Thanks for reading. xNickBaranx


FoxPhoenix135 said...

Great stuff! I can't wait to see a finished board of this great-looking terrain.

RonSaikowski said...

I love the sides of the buildings, definitely gives it a city feel with the fronts the way they are and the sides having the block pattern.
And making them interchangeable is the only way to go. That way you can change it up to fit whatever you're looking for.

Pedro Kantor said...

As always nick, great work and post!
Let set aside a night to start dry brushing those buildings!

Itkovian said...

Great stuff! Avidly waiting for the next installment!

xNickBaranx said...

Thanks guys!

I have more than 3 movement trays worth of buildings in progress but they are all in various stages of completion. Several have been base coated with black paint already and are ready for drybrushing but I want to do a step by step of the assembly process as well as the painting. Expect another article soon - but finished product is still a slight bit away.

Chad said...

Awesome stuff Nick-- both the article and the terrain. Can't wait to play a game on them.

Anonymous said...

Fabulous Nick. Thanks for sharing this, it's pretty cool that you post this by steps so we can make this at home while I look for Generic Viagra