Welcome to Easy Street

Having spent so long concentrating on getting my pumpkin patch ‘just right’, as can be seen in my last post, this left me a little bit spent in regards to what to post next, as the majority of the other projects for the ongoing ‘Long Halloween’ required a bit more time than I had available.

Yes, I could have posted pictures of the half-painted Black Pharaoh and his Scarab Warriors or the Pumpkin King or the ‘sorcerer supreme’ of the Liberty Force universe, but they weren’t really in a fit state to be shown. So, in order to have something to post, I needed something quick and simple.

Now, in my first post regarding my pumpkin patch build, I mentioned that I wanted some 12″ modular gaming tiles and that I had plans for the remaining three self-adhesive vinyl floor tiles from the pack I bought from Poundland. I think you can see where I’m going with this…

So, this week I will be showing you how to create a good-looking 12″ modular gaming tile of a city street for less than £1.00. Yes, you read that correctly – the material components for this cost me less than a quid!

Let us begin…

So, in the picture above, you will see the materials I used for this ‘build’. We have a pack of self adhesive vinyl floor tiles from Poundland, 4 for £1.00 and as we will only be using one of these, the running total is 25p so far. To the right of the picture we have a pack of Poundland wet & dry assorted sandpaper, 16 sheets for £1.00. We only need one sheet of this, so we add another 6.25p, call it 7p, to our running total, which makes 32p. Our final component is a foam sheet in light grey from Hobbycraft at 55p each. We only need one of these as well, so the grand total for our components is 87p – see, less than a quid, like I said.

Now, the first thing I discovered during this project is that both packaging and labels lie.  The packaging for the sandpaper implies that the sheets are the same length as the tiles, i.e. 12″. Similarly, the label on the shelf at Hobbycraft states that the foam sheets are 30cm on their longest side. Both of these are incorrect, which meant I had to rethink my assembly.

The second thing I discovered was that cheap sandpaper does shed everywhere, so if you’re planning on using it for anything, make sure that your work area is covered and that you have a cloth on hand, as the sand gets on everything.

Having done some planning and sketches beforehand, I had established that for my first ‘test’ piece, I was going to make a straight road 6″ wide, with two 3″ pavements either side. So, I needed enough sandpaper to cover a 6″ by 12″ area for the road and enough foam to cover two 3″ by 12″ areas for the pavements. A bit of measuring and marking with pencil and we ended up with these bits:

The white square beneath the ‘bits’ is the reverse of the floor tile, with the backing paper still on.

Next, after removing the backing paper, revealing the glue, I carefully attached the two ‘road’ parts, ensuring they were centrally located. I then took each pair of ‘pavement’ parts and stuck these either side of the ‘road’. As the glue is already on the tile and is of uniform thickness, it was quick, simple and mess free. And this is what it looked like at that stage:

Actually, I was a little further on in the picture above and forgot to take an interim photo. The next stage, as you’ve probably gathered, was to use a standard HB pencil, not too sharp, to score lines into the foam to create the paving slabs. As my steel rule is exactly an inch wide, I decided to go for inch squares. As you can see in the picture above, once you’ve drawn your lines, you can’t actually see the join between the two separate pieces of foam which make up the top pavement.

However, the line between the two pieces of sandpaper is pretty obvious, due to the fact that the edges of the paper show. The other problem is that the sandpaper is still shedding crap everywhere. And the pavements are a bit too clean.  The next stage solves all of these problems in one fell swoop.

As the sandpaper was a little too black for blacktop and the pavements were a little too light, I mixed equal amounts of Docrafts Light Grey and Black and watered it down until I had a dark grey wash, which I liberally painted over the whole tile. This tones down the black sandpaper, covers any cut edges that can be seen and dirties up the foam.

However, a couple of issues with this. Until it dries, the wash will easily come off the foam, so try not to touch it until it dries. Secondly, cheap wet and dry sandpaper, when sodden, will start to lift in places and if pushed back down, will leave your fingertips covered in what looks like soot. The best thing to do is retain the backing paper and place this shiny side down on the sandpaper part only, then load it with heavy books of similar. This won’t leave an entirely ‘smooth’ surface, but what road is without some kind of imperfections? Once dry, the end result looks something like this:

As you can see, the wash has dried patchily, with some areas darker than other on both the road surface and pavement. The break between the two individual pieces of sand paper can still be seen, but is not so obvious and just looks like they’ve cut this part of the road and relaid the tarmac. And other than the drying time, the whole thing took less than an hour including painting. For 87p…

Now, the advantage of these materials is that they’re inexpensive, easily available and with a little bit of time and effort, give pretty good results. I’ve not put any road marking on yet, but a simple card stencil and a cheap sponge is all it would take to add whatever markings suit your roads. As the foam and the sandpaper are different thicknesses, you also get a definite ‘curb’ without it being too much, like the MDF pavements I’ve seen for sale. This can be seen in the picture below:

Yes, that is a scratch-built fire hydrant and yes, I will be showing you how I made it in a future post.

Finally, I thought I’d show you what it looks like with a bit of scenery and a couple of figures on it. As I’ve not only failed to finish the shop-fitting of my Cupid Burgers restaurant (see here for details), but also been repeatedly using the phrase ‘Long Halloween’ without permission, it was inevitable that Batman would turn up. However, as the Batmobile was having its MOT, he had to get a cab. With violence in his eyes, he paid the cabbie and stalked towards me shouting “Someone’s about to be Bat-tered!”

Sometimes, Batman is a bit of a Dick.

Luckily for me, Spider-man showed up, so whilst they were trading quips and scowls, I bid a hasty retreat.

That’s all for this week. Next week, we’ll be back on track with more spooky shenanigans, as the Long Halloween continues.

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12 thoughts on “Welcome to Easy Street

    • Thanks Andy. This was just the first ‘basic’ tile – I have plans for a few more – T-junctions, crossroads, maybe a park and with a bit more detail, like manhole covers and drains. Obviously keeping in mind cost=effectiveness, so no expensive components. Watch this space.

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    • Thanks Steve. It follows my gaming philosophy – why pay big bucks for something that’s almost right, when with a little bit of ingenuity you can make something that’s ‘just right’ for a fraction of the cost?

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      • hmmmmm, you know what. This will probably really shock the 3D fans now with this, but the more I play games with flat 2D game tiles, the more I find them perfectly acceptable, even desirable in many cases, as opposed to using grand terrain and high rise architectural scenics. Yes, I have lots of 3D terrain, perhaps even an enviable collection to many. But when it actually comes to the crunch, I find myself (more often than not) turning to my beloved (usually beautifully rendered) flat tiles. I`m talking about skirmish and rpg obviously: for my Wargames I use the real macoy… trees, houses, walls fences and so on.

        Of course I love the official D&D tile terrain packs (mostly made for 4th and 5th edition) as they are marvellous visual feasts, and don’t cost an arm or a leg, not when you consider just how much you get in each pack (between £10 and £15 a set), and there are over a dozen sets to collect, if you want to go that far. But I don`t mind making my own hand drawn renderings either. I`d like to point you to Esper the Bard… I`ve picked just a couple of links at random, but he`s done loads and loads.

        This guy is my inspiration, my gaming GOD. He is directly responsible for a lot of my game thinking and gaming `spiritual ethos` lately, and I think you may get a lot out of watching his You Tube videos. I know I did, and do. As for Tarot, well she is practically his main disciple at this stage haha.

        But yeah, back to my original thought. It sometimes simply takes too much effort to set up a full 3D terrain table and (I actually suspect) many who adhere to 3D terrain mostly fall in love with the idea of buying it, but hardly ever use it that much (if ever)… not enough to justify the high price they paid for it, at any rate. Always they say: “I`ll use it once all my minis are painted.” But how many do? Yet 2D flat terrain is soooooo simple, easy to use at the drop of a hat, and looks delightfully attractive on the table for your game sessions. AND what’s more, will always get used, unlike the 3D terrain set ups gamers think they will use, but rarely ever seem to get round to.

        Our gaming group, and our home games, and my personal solo games mostly use this flat stuff nowadays, as I honestly don’t have a problem with using it instead of feeling the need for the expensive (often unwieldy) `grand stuff.` Just look at the Heroclix maps, they look great, are functional, well worked out (by experts), and are easy to set up, put away again, and carrying them about is a synch.

        But back to the point, your cool home crafted city section really got me thinking about just how much I love this simple to make and simple to use stuff.

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        • As the majority of my gaming is small-scale skirmish, LOS is usually quite important, so I do tend to use 3D scenery, as it does prevent arguments about whether or not you can see something. A thick black line on a tile may very well represent a wall, but an actual wall does it better.
          Obviously for storage and transport, preprinted tiles and mats have the advantage, but I like the tangibility of ‘stuff’, so tend to use 3D scenics. However, because of my gaming ethos, I either make it myself or use proxies. I once fought a battle between my ratmen and my opponent’s dwarves in a village built from things from his kitchen cupboard.
          Another ‘genius’ idea I’ve had for these tiles is transportation. What else is 12″ across, thin and made of vinyl? Records of course! So a bag or case designed for transporting or storing records would be ideal for these gaming tiles.

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      • Well yeah, sure thing…. it IS lovely to use. I use both, but I am surprised how much of the time, given the actual option, I find myself going for the simpler option lol.

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  1. Yet another inspired post showing that good looking terrain can be made very cheaply. What intrigued me the most about this post was your home-made fire hydrant. I very much want to see how you made it.

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    • Thanks Bryan. All of the terrain bits shown – the hydrant, mailbox and dumpster are scratch-built. I’ve also got a British postbox, some oil drums and a street light and they were all built from ‘bits’ that most of us probably have lying around.
      Whilst I have got a few more planned posts for my ‘Long Halloween’, after that I think I’ll be moving into the city, with some more street tiles and a series of posts on ‘street furniture’. Unless I get distracted by dystopian lawmen, of course…

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