Sunday 30 September 2012

Making Cards for Games


As my faithful readers will know, I've made my own cards to help with various games.  I have decks for Doctor Who Miniatures Game (DWMG), The Rules With No Name (TRWNN) and All Things Zombie (ATZ) [earlier articles on the subject: ATZ Event Cards, ATZ Event Cards - Updated Style, ATZ Event Cards, Part 3, ATZ Event Cards: Finally, Various Game Cards].  For some time now I've been promising to write an article on how I make such cards, so here it is.

Below, I intend to describe how I should have created my ATZ random event deck.  I'll call this the "Prepare-Create-Publish" process.   Note that the steps listed below are the ideal sequence; they're not in the same order that I actually did them.  In reality, I had to do quite a lot of backtracking and revision, mainly because I didn't know what I'm telling you now!

For the record, the DWMG cards are home-printed straight from the game (i.e. I didn't design them myself) and are therefore not very interesting for this discussion.  However, the TRWNN deck was an early experiment that ended up following much the same process as my ATZ event deck.  See - it's taken me 2 goes and I still haven't got the process completely right!

A. Prepare

  1. Choose the publisher

    It may seem counter-intuitive to make this the first step, but it's important to know up front how you intend to print your cards.  This decision may impact the number of cards you can have in a deck and the aspect ratio, colour depth and printable material.
    For example, if using a commercial service such as then a standard deck will be 54 cards (52 playing cards plus 2 jokers) printed on 280gsm paper, requiring a resolution/aspect ration of 750x1050 or higher.
    On the other hand, if you use a home printer then the deck can consist of any number of cards, any aspect ration and any resolution - but the material on which you print may be limited in thickness.   Also, you'll need to cut out and trim the cards yourself - this isn't as easy as you might think, especially trying to get the card backs to line up correctly with the fronts!

  2. Gather data

    Once you know what limits there may be, decide how many cards you will create and what information needs to go on them.  This is probably best done as a paper list as you'll revise it a lot when developing your ideas!
    In my TRWNN deck, it became obvious early on that there were 2 distinct categories of cards: "character cards" give the character's name, photo, class and faction, while "action cards" have the action name and a textual description of the action.  These use quite separate designs.

  3. Decide on the Design

    Original/first design
    For each category of card that has been identified in the previous step, decide on the layout.  It is possible to simply write plain text and add images, but this will give a very uninspiring appearance.  Instead, consider whether you should include borders, backgrounds and/or "fluff" design elements.

    Final "MtG" design
    You might find it useful (I did!) to look at other cards and take inspiration from them.  For example, the designers of Magic the Gathering, Pokemon and ATZ's Risks and Rewards deck have all been through this process already.  Examine what they did and copy the elements that work for you.
    For the TRWNN cards, I added a scrollwork pattern near the bottom of each card.  This serves no game purpose, but helps to fill space and to identify the different categories as belonging to the same deck.
    Also note that in my ATZ event deck, each card was given a quote or caption.  Again, this doesn't make any difference to the rules and isn't strictly necessary, but it helps to set the atmosphere.

B. Create

  1. Make a Template

    Since you're going to be producing a large number of similar cards, it's really worth taking the time to create a decent template (if your design has more than one category of card then you will need a separate template for each category).  Add the elements which are common to all cards, such as the background and any borders, to the template.  Then all you have to do to add a new card is to copy the template and fill in the bits that are specific to that card.  Easy!
    I used Powerpoint to create the ATZ Event Deck.  Firstly, I set the page size to that required for Artscow (i.e. 750x1050).  Then I created a single master slide (i.e. template) with all the borders and backgrounds I wanted.  The master slide has 4 "click here" placeholders on it, so that whenever I create a new slide I just have to fill in those 4 items.

  2. Create the cards!

    Now you are ready to make all the cards you want.  Take the template created above and copy it as many times as needed.  Then go through the paper list of cards that you gathered and fill in each template with the data for a separate card.  If you need to add photographs then these will have to be collected; I find that this is actually much more time-consuming than the rest of the process.
    Don't forget to produce a card back as well!
    Tip: it's probably a good idea to use an image editor to resize any photos so they have the same aspect ratio as the placeholder on the template.  That way you won't get any unexpected clipping or stretching effects on the card!

C. Publish

  1. Export your designs

    If you are using a commercial printer then you'll need to save your cards in a format that the printing company can accept.  This is probably going to be .png or a similar bitmap format, with each card saved as a separate file. 
    Tip: In Powerpoint, you can use the "save as" option and choose to export the entire presentation as .png .  If you then select "export all slides", it will write each slide out as a separate image file, which is just what you want!
    If you are printing the cards yourself then this step is probably not necessary.  Just print the cards on your home printer.

  2. Print the deck!

    Upload the exported image files to your chosen commercial printing company ( has a "batch upload" which makes this very easy).  Use these images to create a custom deck of playing cards, then order it, sit back and wait for the postman!
    Tip: if you're using artscow then remember to switch off the "poker text" on each card.  Otherwise your cards will automatically have regular playing card symbols as well as your chosen design, such as 2 of hearts.  I speak from experience with one of my early attempts :- ( .  I've no knowledge of other commercial printers.


That's how I did it.  I'm sure there are plenty of other ways to design and print cards; I'd be delighted to hear from anyone who wishes to discuss this topic further.

Thursday 27 September 2012

ATZ-FFO Campaign, Game 6: Evacuation!


At Golden Hills, the residents had finished clearing up the mess from the first zombie attack (see here).  They were gathered in the park to hold a short memorial for Captain Salty, when there was a roar of engines as a convoy of vehicles approached.  The survivors watched a couple of soldiers approach them, wondering what would happen next.

The Scenario

The National Guard have orders to evacuate all civilians and take them to a safe holding camp.  Of course, the survivors may decide that they don't want to be evacuated.  And there will also be zombies...


  • John: REP 6 survivalist, pistol, camera.  Followed around by Laddie, REP 2 Shetland collie.
  • Bomber: REP 6 survivalist, police-issue shotgun, baseball bat.  In charge of Clancy, REP 6 Irish wolfhound.
  • Darcy and Lizzie: REP 5 married survivalists, each with a pistol.
  • Gertrude and Albert: REP 2 elderly citizens.  Gertrude has a chainsaw.
  • Abe: REP 3 elderly citizen.  He drives a mobility scooter and has a hunting rifle.
  • Edna, the crazy cat lady: REP 2 elderly citizen.  Always surrounded by cats.

National Guard

  • Lieutenant Costner: REP 5 military, BA pistol.
  • Corporal Van Damme: REP 4 military, assault rifle
  • Connery: REP 4 military, assault rifle (drives the GPV)
  • Dalton: REP 3 military (drives the first truck)
  • Eastwood: REP 3 military (drives the second truck)
I decided that the survivors would place all their figures first, not knowing what was about to happen.  The convoy would then arrive and a "meet and greet" would be carried out between the 2 sides.  Once that was concluded then the game proper would start with the arrival of an appropriate number of zombies along random table edges.

The area was judged to be suburban and the encounter level was 3.  These are both a bit higher/more dangerous than in the previous game over the same terrain ; the zombie plague is definitely spreading.  No PEFs will be used for this game (there are enough humans on the board already!)

Meet and Greet

"We've come to evacuate you" called Lieutenant Costner to John and the other survivors.  "Please make your way to the trucks and we'll take you somewhere safe".
"Um, where is this safe place?" asked John.
"I can't tell you" confessed the officer.  "We'll receive instructions when we've loaded everyone up".
"And suppose we don't want to go" asked John, smiling but tense.  "What happens then?"
"Ah, err.  I...  Just give me a moment while I contact my commander" Costner fluffed (Lieutenant Costner lost the meet-and-greet roll badly!).  However, he never got a chance to ask for clarification; just at that moment Corporal Van Damme shouted out "STAND TO!" as hordes of zombies approached from all sides.

(A total of 39 zombies were placed initially; I think this must be a record for any of my games!  They came from every side of the table.)


Straight away, John and Bomber opened fire on the nearest group of zombies...

...with considerable success!  However, considering the numbers facing them, this was just a drop in the ocean.

Back at the convoy, the troops were in trouble.  Zombies besieged both trucks and managed to smash the door and window of Eastwood's vehicle.

Connery manned the M240 MMG on the roof of his patrol vehicle and began gunning down the mob that was approaching from the west.  However, it didn't seem to matter how many he destroyed; there just seemed to be more and more of them!  (By the end of the game, this player had acquired such a reputation for attracting zombies with his several characters that all the other players demanded I prevent him from shooting!)

Lieutenant Costner ran back to help his men, but didn't make it all the way before he came face-to-face with one of the approaching undead.

Meanwhile, the rest of the survivors and Corporal Van Damme ran about in a panic in the middle of the village, not knowing where to turn as the northern horde came closer!


Just as the situation looked truly grim, a small miracle occurred.  For several turns in a row, the zombies failed to activate and just stood around moaning or shuffling forward very slowly.  John organised a firing line along with Bomber and Van Damme; together they did considerable damage to the largest horde of zombies in the north:

Once this area had been quietened down a bit, Van Damme led Albert and Gertrude into the nearest house and started to barricade the door.  Bomber stayed outside, mopping up the closest straggler zombies.

Eastwood used the pause firstly to kick out the zombie that had already entered the cab of his truck.  He then grabbed his automatic rifle and fired on it and the group that were following.  All were knocked down, but none killed before Eastwood ran out of ammunition.

The resourceful soldier threw his useless gun onto the floor of the truck,started the engine and began to drive.  The heavy vehicle wasn't going fast, but its all-terrain suspension took it straight over the 3 zombies, crushing them instantly.

In the lead truck, Dalton wasn't so lucky.  Although the zombies hadn't yet managed to break into his cab, he had tried (and failed) repeatedly to start his vehicle.  The flooded engine backfired noisily, as more and more zombies appeared in the middle distance.

Finally, Darcy reached the GPV just as Connery was about to drive it away.  The lieutenant also reached the GPV, having dispatched the zombie that he had encountered, but decided to stand directly in front of the vehicle (so that he couldn't be attacked from behind?).  The infuriated Connery couldn't move forward without running down his officer and couldn't reverse because of the truck right behind him.

On the bright side, Darcy proved to be a natural with the MMG and started to thin out the zombie hordes that were attracted by all the noise.  Lizzie stood just outside the vehicle, taking down lone zombies with careful, single shots.


Eastwood continued to drive his truck steadily along the road, crushing zombie after zombie with the big tyres (in FFO, vehicles keep moving even when the driver doesn't activate.  The zombies were lined up nicely and didn't really stand much of a chance when hit by the 5 ton truck).

John ran north, to try to finish off the last couple of zombies that were blocking the way there.  He flattened one in hand-to-hand combat, but had to leave Abe and Edna in order to do this.

Abe had spent much of the game on the path in the middle of the housing , taking potshots at distant zombies and cursing manfully when he invariably missed.  However, a straggler broke through the thin ring of defenders and was nearly on him.

John saw the danger too late; he tried to run back to protect Abe but couldn't make it in time.  Instead, it was Edna who plucked up courage enough to attack the shambling creature.  For a horrible moment, the 2 of them were tied in combat...

...but then the old lady brought her walking stick crashing down on its skull and dropped the zombie like a pro (she won the melee by 1 point, then predictably rolled the necessary '1' to kill it!).

It now looked as if the southwest would be the best escape route.  With John's assistance and encouragement, Abe and Edna made it to the vehicles, just as the convoy set off.  Corporal Van Damme saw them going and leaped out of the window of the cottage where he had been hiding with Gertrude and Albert.  "Wait for me!" he called, as he ran after the departing trucks.
Large numbers of zombies were now approaching from the southeast; the survivors barely managed to escape; even this was only possible because Lizzie and Darcy continued to pick off the closest threats.

Bomber and Clancy had no trouble in shooting their way through the pack of zombies to the northeast; they made their escape on foot in that direction.


Amazingly, nobody died!  I ran out of kill markers for the zombies, hence the variety of such tokens in some of the later photos.  Even so, there were still plenty of zeds roaming the table at the end of the game.

The party did get well and truly split up.  All the soldiers made their escape in the convoy, as did 2 of the pensioners, Darcy, Lizzie, John and his dog.  Bomber escaped in the opposite direction, but the remaining 2 pensioners were forgotten and left behind.

"Lie down and keep quiet" hissed Gertrude.  The elderly couple huddled together behind the settee, whilst from outside came noises: shuffling, moaning, shuffling, moaning...

Game 7 tells what happened next to Bomber and Clancy.
Game 8 gives the further adventures of John, Darcy, Lizzie and the convoy of guardsmen.

Sunday 23 September 2012

More 28mm Zombies

This week, I have mostly been painting zombies...

What I should have been doing is finishing, or at least progressing, some of my older hobby projects.  In particular, my Saga Scots warband is primed and ready to paint, but lack of completion is holding up even a trial game.  My 6mm Napoleonic armies are not quite ready for me to put on a game of Black Powder.  And for weeks now I've been intending to make some forest path scenery for a Robin Hood game...

Instead, I've been completing yet more zombies.  These are easy to paint because they're familiar (I'm always faced with a bit of inertia when starting a brand new project).  However, I don't really need them; I've already got enough zombies for anything other than the most ambitious game.  Sometimes you need to do things just because they're fun!

Blue Moon Zombies

I bought this set at Claymore 2012; getting round to painting them in less than 2 months is relatively quick for me!  Obviously I haven't finished all of the models in the set, but here are 3 female zombies.

The Blue Moon figures are somewhat "old school" in sculpting terms (for example, the inside of the hands is pretty much devoid of any detail).  I don't mind this at all though; firstly it's always good to have more variety and secondly these chunky models should stand up to rougher handling than some of my new plastic zombies (see below).  However, the moulds are clearly showing their age, with occasional large chunks of flash that needed to be carved or filed away.

Here are 3 male zombies; like the females they are all clutching or grasping at something.  For the most part, their clothing is very ragged and tattered and they have multiple wounds.  I don't think these are the freshest of zombies!

The guy in the boiler suit has even lost the top of his skull!

Wargames Factory Zombie Vixens

I showed some of my zombie vixens before, here.  Since then I've made some progress and can display quite a few more.  As well as the lifeguard and the maid (seen previously), this picture shows the evening dress and the nurse.

I think that the evening dress is my least favourite pose amongst these models.  It's the model that looks closest to Barbie in proportion; the legs are far too long in proportion to the torso.  The nurse is just fine though; I could also have painted her as a waitress, I think.

Here are some more of the vixens, including a couple of crawlers.  The first crawler is trying to pick up her handbag with the remaining stump of her arm and cannot figure out why it isn't working, poor dear!
There's not really much left of the second crawler at all!  I've modeled some extra guts and stuff spilling out of the torso, though I confess that I found doing this to be rather unsettling.

I think that the "little red dress" model could be used as a human if desired, rather than as a zombie.  It wouldn't be too difficult to find a head and some arms that didn't have injuries, or to fill in minor wounds with modelling putty.  She could be a survivor if given a weapon, or maybe just a terrified citizen.  She is barefoot, though - that might reduce the ways in which she could be re-purposed.
I've put a rat on the base of the right-hand crawler, just to add a bit of volume to a model that is otherwise fairly insubstantial.  This rodent comes from Black Cat Bases and was in a random accessories pack that I bought some time ago.
Finally, a tip: I tend to use Google Images a lot for inspiration when painting.  Don't search for "women's football strip" if you want to depict a team player; it won't return the results you expect.  Note also that using "uniform" instead of "strip" isn't much better!  The internet is a wonderful thing, but sometimes it can be a dark place as well...

Wednesday 19 September 2012

TRWNN: When the Sheriff's Away...

The Setting

Recently, the authorities in the small town of Yellowhammer Creek captured a notorious bandit leader (Emilio).  The sheriff and most of his men are out looking for the rest of the bandito gang, leaving Deputy Eddie in change of the lockup and the prisoner.  However Tuco, the bandit chieftain, has given the posse the slip and is coming to town to free his lieutenant!

Most of the townsfolk have gone to ground, but Blondie (a passing bounty hunter) and Black Bart (his paroled prisoner) have offered to help the hapless Deputy Eddie to protect the jail from the marauders.

Special Rules

  • The bandit players (4 of them!) each start with 1 character, who is placed in a separate corner of the board.  Each turn that the Bystander card is drawn, another bandit enters from a random corner.  Note that most of the banditos are Gunman class, so they're fairly average.  I have 10 bandito models, so once they're all used then no more will arrive.
  • Tuco is the bandit's big man; if he is killed or captured then the game ends immediately with a joint win for the surviving townsfolk.  Tuco is a very powerful character; this rule is intended to handicap the banditos by making them use him very cautiously.
  • Otherwise, the bandits win by entering the jail and releasing their comrade.  Only the player whose figure releases Emilio counts as winning; the others tie for second place!
  • If neither of the above victory conditions is met when the time limit for the evening's play is up then the sheriff and his posse return; the townsfolk score a joint minor win.
  • Black Bart wins a major victory if he escapes from the town, but only if the bandits then lose (he did promise to defend the town, after all).  If the bandits lose but he doesn't escape then he scores a minor victory.
  • Blondie wins a major victory he survives, the bandits lose and Black Bart remains in the town (i.e. is recaptured).
  • Deputy Eddie wins a major victory if he survives and Emilio is still in the jail.

The Action

Blondie and Black Bart decided to stay near the jail, whilst Deputy Eddie ran to the far end of the street to hide behind the bank.

As the defenders took up their positions, Juan ran along the road from the south east, past the barn.  Almost immediately, a Bystander card was drawn and Rico arrived from the same corner.  He then activated and...well, Rico is a drunkard.  The tequila was strong with him this day, so he staggered up the road and fired at the nearest figure, believing it to be an enemy.  Despite being drunk as a skunk, he still managed to hit his target!  Although the wound wasn't disabling, Juan was only a citizen and he promptly failed his nerve test and fled.  First shot of the game and the banditos were already down a man!

Further down the street, Deputy Eddie poked his head round the corner of the bank and traded shots with Paco.  At extreme range for a pistol, Eddie blazed away, running out of ammunition several times and having to duck back to reload.  In contrast, Paco took a carefully-aimed rifle shot back and was unlucky only to hit the woodwork instead of the lawman.

While this was happening, 3 other banditos arrived (including Tuco himself).  They crept carefully around the back of the bank, no doubt intending to catch Deputy Eddie by surprise.

Back at the Jail

As Eddie held off 4 banditos all on his own, Santiago approached the jail from the opposite direction.  He was met by Blondie, who shot him down.  When Santiago tried to stand up again, Blondie shot him some more until he stopped moving.

Rico had another drunken moment and stumbled up the street again, firing at Black Bart from behind.  However, the notorious outlaw didn't take kindly to this; he spun round and gunned the sozzled bandit down.

Another rifleman (Cesar) approached the back of the jail from the northeast.  Black Bart strode past Blondie, firing as he went.  Although he took a minor wound from Cesar's hasty shot, he gave as good as he got and the bandit ran for cover, bleeding from the left arm.

Deputy Eddie finally gave up trying to hold the banditos at the bank and fled back up the main street.  As he passed the jail, Blondie and Black Bart returned.

By this time, Rafael and Tuco had made it up to the corner of the saloon.  Rafael stuck his head round the corner to take a potshot at the defenders...

...but a lucky shot hit him, just as Esteban arrived.  Time was running short now, so Tuco decided to have a go himself.

His luck was no better, though!  Blondie blazed away with his pistol; even though he was at extreme range he managed to hit Tuco twice in the head, killing him instantly.  Game over!


At this point, we had pretty much run out of playing time anyway.  The sheriff and the posse returned, scaring off the remaining banditos (Esteban, Cesar, Santos and Paco).
  • Black Bart was disarmed and returned to custody, though maybe the judge would look kindly on his actions in defending the town.  He was injured, but still gains a minor victory.
  • Blondie took a minor wound, but still gained a major victory (and lots of reputation as a hard man!)
  • Deputy Eddie achieved all his objectives and therefore also gains a major victory.  He didn't kill anyone, but he was unhurt himself and is the surprise hero of the day!