First off, thanks, everyone, for the compliments. *happy tears*
I finished the tiles about a year ago, took a break, and spent last fall building all the houses, which I finished about two months ago.
HOW I DID IT:
The tiles: simple 1'x1' tiles made out of Insulation Foam. Here in the US, you can buy a sheet about 8x4 feet for, like, $12 US. Chop it into 1" squares, through in some filler squares (to give height... you basically don't have to texture/paint the filler squares, except for the sides). And bam! You're done. Really easy to store, too. Use the same material to cut some bridges and thinner ramps too. Or, slice them thin to make brick walls.
The texture: I'm quite pleased with this: I used Lego Blocks to make a stamp. If you take a flat piece a few inches wide, and put on the bottom little brick pieces (alternating brick, no brick, brick, no brick), you make a really easy texture stamp. Push it into the unpainted foam, and repeat across the entire 1x1 square. Start with simple, single-directional brick work, but experiment with wide circle brickwork, over-lapping 'roads', and such as you go.
The Buildings: I went with box-y Adobe style houses (more Spanish than italian in my mind, but close enough.) I didn't want to worry about broken buildings (this wasn't a ruin), so Instead made buildings with lots of balconies and easy to cross roof tops. Also, I made all of the balconies detachable and interchangeable, for easier storage and set up. They're made with foamcore, plaster (for the walls), bass wood trimming, and popsicle stick planking.
HOW DOES IT PLAY
It's a blast, in my opinion.
The Water: The best thing with the tiles is that the board can be completely different every game. Push them all together for a normal game, or put them in a U-shaped dock when a ship's the focus of the scenario. Most often, we'll put a large mass in the middle, and each tile branches out from the middle (kind of like a five pointed star.) Once, we actually put the tiles on top of a green blanket, and rather than having water separating the tiles, it was dirt. The result was a very accurate looking fight in the streets, as the warriors stepped up the curb and into the 'avenues'.
As an interesting house rule, we'll often set up 10" 'docks' for each of the players, connected onto the city board at various places. Each player is confined to deploying inside their individual dock (Hunched models and Infiltrators excluded, of course.) This may seem restrictive, but it makes for a much more balanced multiplayer game, as it prevents a character from claiming a huge section of the board, while the other 5 players are squished together. It is always fun flavor, as the warband 'leaves the boat' and enters the city as a group.
Buildings: You definitely have to make sure that you keep plenty of barrels, boxes and walls around, or it quickly becomes a sniper's dream. But with lots of ladders, interconnecting balconies, and soft landings (a hay cart and a rug stand), there's also plenty of opportunities for non-sniper models to get off the ground level and swashbuckle their way across the board.
Venice: Oh, if you start a Venice campaign, let me know, Sven. I've been thinking of ideas for the setting for a while. (Try the 'Warring Houses' Scenario from Sartosa scenarioes... not been playtested yet, sadly, I never seem to roll it.)