I’m in a lull as far as my hobby progress goes. This one, like many before it, happened because of a culmination of responsibilities and a decrease in free time. I find myself spending more time with family (especially watching the kids), and just don’t have the ability to commit as much time to hobby. That winds up having a bit of a spiraling effect, as what little free time I do have, I tend to talk myself out of spending constructively, and instead squander away with things that take up less time per action.
The dangerous part of this is that one thing that takes an absurdly little amount of time is to browse through ebay, or other online retailers. To add to the problem, it’s the Christmas season so there are sales galore, and the Tyranid codex is just around the corner.
Putting these all together creates a perfect storm for my wallet, and I find myself drawn to all sorts of seedy corners of the internet for ideas.
Today’s curiosity: play mats.
My current gaming board has served me well for longer than I can remember. I know the grass mat and board were purchased by a friend of mine, Joe, who got into the game sometime around 1996. I also know that he’s played exactly two games in his lifetime (interesting fact, I was the opponent both times). So, I can’t imagine he kept the board all that long. So, I’m sure that I’ve had it in my garage for about 15 years.
It was created well, but it’s showing signs of wear. The only real issue is that it’s thinning out on the corners and it’s had a couple of spills/stains on it. Still, it’s good enough for me and I’m happy to keep using it for another 15 years; however, that doesn’t mean it’s not fun to go looking…
If I have to justify it, I can say that it would be nice to have a more appropriate surface for the city-based games that I play (while a field of green is nice, it just doesn’t evoke a city-scape), and I could also use it for those few Apoc games that I host, where I add a second board (which is generally a piece of plywood with a blue sheet on top of it). Justifications are silly though: I know I’m just board and want to spend money.
I don’t remember how I rightfully came to this as my next fascination—likely some blogger: perhaps Dwez and his insanely pretty terrain? Oh, wait, I remember, it was the MegaMat kickstater (ending soon!)
Megamats look pretty fantastic (especially the grassy plains and the city map). The plains though, aren’t significantly different than what I already have, and I can hardly justify spending $100 on a mat that I essentially already have. The craters don’t have a bad look, but once you add models to the table, it seems to instantly lose that depth, so I found myself checking out the city map. I have to admit that it looks pretty amazing, and I wouldn’t mind dropping $100 on that, if it would work for my tables.
The thing is, I don’t think it will.
The roads look great, but that static configuration leads me to believe the center strip will be about 12” wide. If that covers my table, there are very few buildings that I have that would fit into that gap (as most are more than 12” wide—and the few that aren’t would be doomed to be in the same facing every game). If that strip was 8-12” wide, I could see myself purchasing it, but as it stands, I’m going to have to wait.
So that lead to me digging around through the rest of the internet for alternatives. So, in my hunt, I stumbled across playmats from Zuzzy miniatures.
Price wise, they’re a bit cheaper at around $52 per mat (but with $20 shipping on top of that, it’s not all that much of a savings), and the photos on the website aren’t very high quality so it’s hard to get a real feel for what you’re buying.
Luckily, there are quite a few people online who have reviewed the products already, and have been goodly enough to take photos. The overall reviews of the product are overwhelmingly positive. Everyone seems to love the actual mat, but the reviews of the communication, shipping times, and other things to do with the company are quite the opposite.
Based upon that data, I was essentially ready to buy, but I was still unsure what mat was most appropriate to my needs (which is somewhat humorous as I’ve already defined that this isn’t a “need” sort of investment).
Of the maps, I think the following might work:
Well, not knowing where to go from there, I noticed that they have small samples for $1.50 each that they’ll ship for free, so I went ahead and purchased one of each.
I’m happy to say that my experiences thus far have been drastically different than those posted elsewhere on the net. I ordered my samples on the 12th, received notification that they’d shipped on the 13th, and received them on the 16th. I don’t see how anyone could complain about the communication or timeliness of such a product.
What complaint I did have was that the samples are rather small, and don’t necessarily give you a good idea of what the total picture will be like. They also didn’t make any attempt to label them, so I found myself guessing as to which was which. With the website up and some flipping through the pictures, I think I’ve figured that part out though.
Enough complaints though, and on to the positives. Granted, anything I say should be taken with a grain of salt since I’ve only seen 18 square inches of the material. One thing I noticed immediately was how thin it is. It can’t be much thicker than a couple of sheets of paper put together. I tried to take a photo to illustrate this, but I’m not sure how it will turn out). Another thing I noticed was that the smell was a comment many people complained about online, but it wasn’t a big deal to me. This might be because it was such a small piece, or it had been treated differently than the finished product sheets, but it wasn’t any thing to worry about. The level of detail was also pretty great. Sure, I could tell that they’d used some MDF to count as some of the texture, but once it’s painted, I’m not so sure that’ll be easy to distinguish. The last thing to note is that it seems rather strong. My wife was worried that it looked fragile, but I was able to grab it in either hand and tug it rather vigorously without causing any damage.
My initial thoughts were between the wounded city (goes along with my original train of thought for this post), and the ruined land (most matches my current basing scheme). However, after seeing a creative use of the sulfur fields map where the artist painted the sulfur as snow, it’s starting to look mighty appealing…
What do you think?