“Ruined Land – Scourged Forest” Zuzzy Gaming Mat

The view from my house: not science fiction enough.

As a companion piece to the step by step that I posted about my Wounded City Zuzzy mat, I figured that I would put up a few shots of the process that I went through with for my Scourged Forest mat.

For many years I have usually had some way to represent green areas in games to hand, but I have had an aversion to using them for a couple of reasons.  As I tend to play sci-fi games almost exclusively I dont really want to play games in settings that look like the view from a window of my house: its just not exotic enough.

Green grassy hills somehow feels a bit too cheap, too much like a low budget episode of Doctor Who.  It is somehow inappropriate when my brightly coloured space ranger is seen wandering around shooting his blasters at giant lizard-bugs over grassy dales and hills.  Maybe if I lived in Nevada or somewhere then grassy hills would seem exotic to me, but I dont so it doesnt.  So I have tended to avoid the eighteenth hole look for my gaming tables.

Having dealt with my urban table needs with the Wounded City mat, the other mat that I required was one suitable for alien landscapes and post apocalyptic deserts: something that would fit in well with my ongoing Standard Falls and Planet Heck scenery projects.

Zuzzy dont yet have a desert mat available (although I have heard that there is one in production).  They do have a Sulfur Fields mat available which represents cooled lava flows and the like but something about that mat just doesnt grab me.  I am not sure if it is the paint job in the site photos or the paint jobs that I have seen gamers give it online, but for whatever reason it doesnt conjur up the sort of wasteland image that I want.

So I didnt buy that one and I bought the Scourged Forest instead.

I doesnt really look like much here.

Firstly I took the sample mats that I had and sprayed them with white, black and red oxide primer spray cans.  I hoped that the variation in visual texture that these give would show through the layers and washes above them once finished.

As all of these areas would be covered in layers of paint later there wasnt really any point in being too subtle, so adding lighter (white) and darker (black) tones was an obvious choice.  The red is a less obvious choice, but as some of the other terrain features that I have use the red oxide colour I figured that it wouldnt be any harm to potentially tie them to the mat in any case.

Next I used a paint roller to apply white wall emulsion paint to the test pieces.  I did this because I knew that the Raw Sienna paint that I use for my desert terrain bases isnt terribly opaque, so it would need the white to give it some lift.  Also several thin layers of colour help to make bits like this a bit more believable, so the white layer would help with adding a gradient to the Raw Sienna application.

I made sure that the roller wasnt clogged with paint, the opposite in fact.  I was going for an overbrush/drybrush sort of effect so I removed a lot of the paint from the roller before application.

Once the white had dried I rolled the sample pieces with Raw Sienna.  At this stage I was pleased that the various colours sprayed on earlier were still showing through.  As the samples (and the mat itself) were going to be getting a dark wash as one of the final stages it was impossible to know if the areas originally spray painted would still be visible in the end.

My impatience to get started on the main mat got the better of me after seeing the samples at this stage, so I brought the main mat outside onto a blanket and sprayed it with the colours used earlier.  I focused the red spray on some specific areas sculpted onto the mat and I sprayed the white and black anywhere that I felt like spraying them.

While I waited for the spray paint to dry a bit I plonked a couple of my scenery pieces on the sample mat, just for a look.

I have used cork tiles to make and to base a number of my scenery pieces for a few reasons (cheap, easy to work, interestingly textured etc).  The rocky piece on the left in the photo above is bits of cork tile glued together in layers and then roughly painted with grey, black and a bit of Raw Sienna.

The base of the shack on the right is also made from cork but in this case it was sprayed black as I painted the shack.  In retrospect I should have brushed the edges of the shacks base with white before I applied the Raw Sienna, as it doesnt match the other pieces very well.  So I added a little bit of scenery base blending to the to-do list.

Once the spray paint was dry I rolled the main mat with white emulsion, just like I did with the sample earlier.

While I was waiting for the white on the main mat to dry I started to experiment on the detail on the samples, to see what colours I wanted to use for those.

The brown on the wood was a mistake, it made them look like small cat turds.

The grey on the rocks was ok, but possibly it stands out from the supposedly dusty ground a little too much.

I tested a reddish brown paint on the dried up pond looking elements but I didnt like the result.  There are many of these areas on the map (but very few on the samples unfortunately) so I decided to to underplay them rather than have them stand out too much.

The scrub areas look a little like exposed chipboard, but I hoped that a drybrush of off white will make them look ok, once the washing stages are done.

I enjoy using washes in my miniature painting and terrain making, but it can be a bit nerve wracking, particularly on a large, expensive, irreparable piece like this.  Its impossible to be sure that it will all work out until late in the process.

Now that the white on the mat had dried the next step was to roll on some Raw Sienna.  As I didnt want to apply the paint in very thick layers I did this in a number of stages, the first one being shown above.

Also of note is that while rolling the paint on I then wiped the Raw Sienna off each of the logs and bits of dead tree on the map, exposing some of the white underneath.  I hope that this would with give a look reminiscent of the sort of dead tree stumps and logs that tend to be seen with vultures and steer skulls in Westerns.

This is what the mat looked like after a second thin rolling of Raw Sienna.

At this point the batteries in the camera ran out, so the record gets a bit patchy. So you will have to take my word for it regarding what happened next.

I gave the mat a third, very light rolling of Raw Sienna to cover up any areas where a little too much of the original mat colour was visible.  As the mat was going to be covered in a wash of thinned Raw Sienna/black mix which would seep into the recesses, it was important not to get too carried away trying to get full coverage on the mat.

The individual rocks were painted in a mix of grey and Raw Sienna.  I added the base colour used for the mat to the mix too ensure that while the stones stood out, that they still looked like bits of the landscape rather than bits of gravel perched on top of it.

I lightly drybrushed the scrub areas with an off white colour.  I hoped that after the wash those areas would look vaguely like dried grass.

The broken tree trunks were also given a light drybrush of a light brownish white, sort of a bone colour, so that they would also look like dead plants once the wash had dried.

Finally I mixed Raw Sienna and black with water into a milky consistency and brushed it over the entire board.  I tried to get it into the recesses of the mat without letting it pool too heavily.  Then I left the mat to dry and went to bed.

The following morning the wash had dried.  It had given definition and shadow to all of the more three dimensional elements (around the rocks, in between the cracks in the dried mud areas, into the grain of the dead wood) while also softening the contrasts between the various colour layers.  I am very happy with how it turned out.  After quickly adding some of the colour mixes used to the edges of my existing terrain I was finished.

Like the urban mat, I am very happy with the Scourged Forest mat.   I played a game on it last night and it really is a great surface for gaming on.  At the time of writing I cant recommend these mats highly enough.

Comments and criticisms all welcome.


“Wounded City – Broken Blacktop” Zuzzy Gaming Mat

During my gaming “career” I have used a number of different gaming surfaces.

I once had a table that I had glued sand to and painted, but the downsides of a table essentially made of sandpaper became apparent pretty fast, both on miniatures and on my dice-picking-up-knuckles.

I also once had a table that was made to look like it had panels and various other man-made bits and pieces on it that I used for Necromunda games.  It worked ok but but never really gave me the look that I wanted.  The uneven surface was a bit of a pain for placing terrain on too.

The most commonly used boards that I have had were covered in textured wallpaper and a coat or two of paint.  This gave a soft surface that was good for handling miniatures on and it broke up the flatness of plain old painted boards.

I rushed when painting the my most recent wallpaper board and was unhappy with the results.  Therefore having recently reorganised my mancave I decided to take the plunge and prep my gaming surfaces for what I hope will be the last time, so I bought a pair of Zuzzy mats and had them shipped from the US to Ireland.

Of the various different options available for gaming surfaces these seemed to me to be the best choice.  Being able to roll them up for storage is a big deal plus they also provide a surface with some give for when miniatures fall or are lain on their sides.

Zuzzy mats are made from latex and require painting.  They need to be painted mainly with washes and drybrushing as thick layers of paint will crack off the mat when it is rolled for storage.  Below is a step by step of how I went about painting my urban “Wounded City” mat.

I ordered a number of 6×3″ sample pieces from Zuzzy when ordering the mats, purely to try a couple of painting techniques on.  In addition Zuzzy provided me with a 11×14″ mat for free as an apology for their lengthy shipping times, so I painted that too.

The approach that I took was to drybrush, detail and wash in that order.  The basic colour of the mat is grey so I decide to use that as the base for the asphalt look that I wanted to achieve.  Instead of drybrushing I used a paint roller with limited paint on it, but the principle is the same.

Above is an untouched sample on the left, the second and third pieces have been rolled with a light grey emulsion house paint and the third piece has also had a wash of thinned black emulsion house paint (which is more of a very, very dark grey than pure black really).  I decided that this wash was not strong enough so I added more paint to the wash mix before I tackled the full 6×4″ mat.

Above is the unpainted 6×4 mat.  The wobbles visible in the shot above tend to flatten out once it has been unrolled for a while, but I took this photo just after unrolling it.

The shot above shows how the mat looked after a quick highlight coat of light grey via roller.  Naturally while I desperately tried to avoid leaving a pattern from the roller I managed to drop a few blobs of paint in a couple of areas.  After a fair bit of swearing and a couple of aborted attempts to remove the blobs I decided to come back to them later in the process.

Despite this it was quite fun rolling this coat on.  This mat has a lot of surface detail that is easily picked up with drybrush/roller techniques.  The detail on the mat is quite crisp, much more than I expected it to be really, so it was pleasant to paint when I wasnt clumsily splashing paint everywhere.

Next up was the exposed brickwork under the cracked bits of road.

I know next to nothing about the construction of roads but as far as I know there are not many bricks used under asphalt in this part of the world.  If there are then they are definitely not terracotta coloured.  I decided to paint them as red bricks simply because I thought that it would provide some visual interest to the board.

I used a mix of some craft colours that I had in a wash to tint the brick areas, rather than paint them.  This was so that I didnt build up too much paint on the mat.

The most enjoyable part of the process so far was this stage.  The asphalt represented on the board is of the “wounded” variety, so in addition to exposed subterranean brickwork there are also cracked tarmac areas.  Also visible is the patchwork of tar bits and pieces that are seen on roads covering up various damage and other works done.

I stippled the tar areas with black emulsion straight from the pot. I didnt want to strictly delineate the cracked areas with paint as I thought that it would look too harsh so I painted black emulsion thinned with water into the cracked areas in a semi-random pattern.

I also stippled paint onto some of the blobs from the first stage at this point.  They tended to blend in with the other supposedly damaged and repaired areas pretty well which was a relief.

I also drybrushed a lighter tone of the colour used for the terracotta brickwork wash onto the bricks.

The last stage of this rather quick process was to wash the whole mat with thinned down black emulsion paint.  Apparently it is possible for the mats to warp and distort if they are drowned in water so as a precaution I dabbed up a lot of the excess wash with paper towels as I was applying it.

The wash served two purposes: it helped to define the recesses of the mat in comparison with the highlight areas while also reigning in and slightly unifying the tones used on the whole thing.

After that was done I put a dehumidifier in the room (to speed up the drying process, just in case leaving the mat exposed to watery paint for too long would cause distortion), shut the door and left the mat until the following day.

Above is a shot of the finished mat including some now twenty year old terrain.  After literally working from the ground up the next on the urban terrain list is some new buildings…

Despite the ropey old terrain and dodgy lighting in the shot the surface texture is visible.  Its a great surface for gaming on and I am very happy with how it turned out.  It was very fast to do as well it only took easily under two hours to paint, discounting drying time.  Its not that big a project or time investment and it gives a playing surface that really is pretty hard to beat.

I did my wastelands terrain mat next.  I did the urban mat first as I figured that it would be a easier to do and the experience gained from that could  help with the more complex wasteland mat.

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