Some notes on painting the models #1: Spraying (A response to Tool Tips 09 – Paints)

I just read the latest post from my mate Faust over on his Double Down Dice blog – Tool Tips 09 – Paints. I saw that Lionoversuskingkong had posted something about Army Painter paints, and replied, and then was going to go on and reply in some detail to DDD and his post – and then had the thought – I’d talked about a lot of this in the past – in the comments section of Luke’s Start Your Meeples board game review blog. So then I decided to just copypasta the stuff I wrote in Luke’s blog, “Remix” my thoughts, and turn it into a “response video”-type post to DDD’s post, as an entry on my own blog.

Now everything I write here is completely 100% correct and true. I’ve been painting for a long time now, and I know what I’m doing, while still being open to learning new techniques and continuing to improve. I’m not going to win any Golden Brush or Crystal Demon awards anytime soon, because I don’t paint in the “competition” style. Maybe I could? I’m sure I could go down that path, but I’m not actually interested in competition painting. I’m interested in good quality models for my own table, use and blog. I see some amazing work from pro painters and people who strive to make each model better than their last – and that’s awesome for those who choose to go down that path, but many painters of that type often finish a dozen or fewer models per year. Which for me is not going to get me a game of The Warhams with two fully-painted sides clashing.

So like I said. Everything I state here is true. But it’s true for me, in my own experience. In one particular Tabletop Minions video, Adam asks a bunch of Pro Painters for tips on improving. Which is an interesting 10 minutes, but if you watch it, you’ll see that a lot of these Pro Painters offer contradictory advice. Some only use cheap, disposable brushes, others swear by the Pure Sable, Windsor & Newton Series 7. What they state in that video is also 100% true, and factual. For them. It’s a kind of different thing to opinions, in that they (and I in this post) aren’t talking about favourite colours, but actual, factual things and techniques that work. For each person. Watch it, or don’t!

So here we go:

WASHING

Always, always wash resin and PVC models before priming or assembly. I probably should theoretically wash metal and HIPS plastic as well. I read that some people swear by doing so, but I’ve never had a problem not doing so in 30+ years. I’d also wash Mantic’s crap “restic” and especially Trollforged’s shitty “Trollcast” (this is what Raging Heroes’ “resin” models are made from. That shit is the worst production material ever.)

PRIMING

Spray prime your models – don’t do it with a brush if you can avoid it. Black and white paints that you paint on with a brush are radically different to using a proper brush-on primer, and again different to using a spray. Just use the spray. Sprays stick to the models much more effectively than painted-on primer or undercoat.

Get three cans of primer (cheap spray paint from the hardware shop works – you don’t need GW’s expensive cans).
Black, White, Grey. Make sure they’re all matte, not gloss. I use hardware shop cans for most models, and have some Tamiya ones for “extra special” models.
Unless you’re going to pre-shade with zenithal highlighting (and you should try it sometime, anyway).

Just choose the colour most suited to the dominant base colour paint you’ll use. White for bright and light colours, black for dark colours and metals, grey for “in-betweens” and… you’ll get a feel for it. Reds and pinks get white.

It’s probably also worth having some “good” primer as well for those special models. I use either/or Tamiya or Gunze or Mr.Surfacer from “normal” model shops. At the same time, most models aren’t “special” and don’t need it.

If I’m painting a whole lot of something in particular, I’ll often follow up on a black or white initial coat with a coloured (or metallic) coat. It’s a hell of a lot faster, and gives you a pretty decent base coat that you can still touch up and continue to paint over. I’ll use another cheap can from the hardware store if they have an appropriate colour – but if they don’t, I used to buy a can of Tamiya Spray, or Citadel, or another hobby brand. Now, I go to the local paint specialist store (Paintaway is my local) and go through their book of colours, and choose the exact shade of custom colours that I want. Sure, the cans cost AU$30 each, but so do the Army Painter Sprays, or the Citadel, or the Plastic Soldier Company, or…  and the Tamiya ones are cheaper, but tiny. Also, I can always go back and get the same mix and don’t need to worry about them discontinuing the colour that I’ve been using (unlike GW/Citadel).

Great Unclean One

It seems to work pretty well.

Or to put it another way:

This is how I prime and base coat (when I spray a base coat):
Results?

but…

I personally don’t like Army Painter sprays. They sandpaper your models’ surface too easily if you spray from too far away, and I’m just not into spray can brands that need special snowflake instructions in order to function as well as the cheap stuff from the local hardware store. Other people find the Army Painter sprays to be perfectly fine, and so, you know, good for them. Genuinely. I can’t and won’t personally recommend them though – as I have better options available and feel that anything that doesn’t require special snowflake instructions is a better option.

Over many years I’ve seen a lot of people complain about GW sprays being inconsistent or sandpapering their models and such. I was always fine with them, but don’t bother anymore – because as I’ve noted, I can just get custom cans from the paint shop which is much closer than a GW or any GW stockist.

Here’s a couple of great videos from Luke of Luke’s APS on how to use Spray Cans properly. Including the cheapest brands he could find in the UK.

I use this one.

Matte is completely fine as long as you don’t go too thick. You want a bit of tooth for your brush paint to get onto. Gloss is only good if your first step is going to be to wash the models, but can have its place as a coloured undercoat that is also a basecoat. Satin is my go-to. You can also cheat with a gloss base spray by then going over it with a satin mid-coat, and then continuing to paint.

Some people live in places where spray cans don’t work very well, due to humidity or temperature which may or may not be seasonal. I often see airbrushes recommended here, and I’d probably agree, but I’m hot garbage with an airbrush and I find it a massive pain in the arse to set mine up, especially for priming a few figures, and so I just never end up doing it – so I’d suggest that they’re right, but can’t speak from personal experience. I suspect that airbrushed primer would be a bit less hardy than sprayed-on stuff, which is another reason that I just don’t bother. But then the climate that I live in means I don’t need to worry about it. In winter, it’s a pain in the arse waiting and hoping for a weekend when it’s going to be warm and dry enough to spray. The weekend because I’m usually still at work during the warmest part of the day, it gets dark early (and spraying at night time, even with a porch light isn’t the greatest), dry because I spray outside and can’t do it in the rain (obviously). Sometimes this means I build up a backlog of a couple of weeks worth of stuff to varnish and undercoat, and so on those rare days, I seem to be out there constantly, spraying this and that. And then leaving them to dry forever. Yeah, I can see the appeal of using an airbrush!

This has now gotten a bit longer than I’d anticipated, and I haven’t even gotten onto the paint that you paint on with a paint brush yet. So I’m going to call it here and do a follow-up post on that in the next couple of days. Otherwise I’ll be here all day, and I’ve got pressing stuff to do.

Review: Urbanmatz’ 6’x4′ Dirty Roads Game Mat.

Warning, Pic HEAVY! – Also, most pics can be clicked for larger versions.

Urbanmatz' 6'x4' Badlands Game Mat

Here’s the last of the first batch of my gaming mat reviews of Urbanmatz‘ products from the Czech Republic. The Dirty Roads 6’x4′.

I’ve got a bunch of Deep Cut Studios and Gamemat.eu products that I’ve also purchased that I will be photographing and writing reviews for shortly as well. But today we’re looking at the Dirty Roads.

Oldhammer Zoat

Often when I buy something from a company, there’s a “key” item that acts as an anchor for other stuff you then add-on. In the case of my Urbanmatz order, it was this mat. After seeing several photographs of it online, I was sold. The overall colours and theme matches my bases once again, as the Urbanmatz Badlands mat did.

Urbanmatz' 6'x4' Badlands Game Mat

As with the other mats I’ve gotten from Urbanmatz, the design is printed onto neoprene (mouse pad material) and is once again quite nice. This time, the game I’m using to showcase the mat is an Age of Sigmar clash between Dwarves and Ogres, set in an unnamed Old World city (because I can use the ruleset without the background!) We were trying out the rules, so it’s an actual game rather than a mockup.

Urbanmatz' 6'x4' Badlands Game Mat, Age of Sigmar

We made a bunch of mistakes, mostly due to not quite understanding all of the nuances and not reading warscrolls properly. I’ll put a lot of that down to the rules. Well, not the actual rules, but man-idiot Kirby’s insistence to the designers that everything fit on four pages in total. I’m all for streamlined rulesets, but 4 pages is a bit much (or not enough!) I’m looking forward to trying out 40k 8th with 12 pages of core rules.

Urbanmatz' 6'x4' Badlands Game Mat, Age of Sigmar

One thing that can’t be argued is that we had a good looking game of toy soldiers. While I consider the quality of my models and terrain to be pretty solid, quite honestly the mat really does add to it. And no, I’m not paid to say this and didn’t get a discount – if I were offered one I’d certainly  accept it – as I accepted the stained Snow Territory 6’x4′ mat, but I’d also state it upfront in my reviews, as I did there.

Urbanmatz' 6'x4' Badlands Game Mat, Age of Sigmar

Urbanmatz' 6'x4' Badlands Game Mat, Age of Sigmar

Urbanmatz' 6'x4' Badlands Game Mat, Age of Sigmar

I didn’t set up a full 40k mock battle, nor any historical skirmish games because it literally takes hours to get out all of the stuff, set it up, photograph it and take it away for photos, but the actual AoS game being played on it shows it’s versatilty pretty well, along with those scale shots. I think this mat works very well for a variety of genres and a variety of scales. I could easily use this mat for 40k and it’s derivatives, Fantasy Battles/9th Age/Kings of War with fewer buildings, Age of Sigmar and other more densely built up fantasy skirmish like Mordheim and Frostgrave (if you play outside of the snow!) or Malifaux (in a sectioned-off area, or the smaller versions). It also works across period and scale quite nicely, as demonstrated by the below set of photos, so 20mm games such as Flames of War/Team Yankee/Crossfire will work as well as Bolt Action or SAGA with Romans or SAGA with Crusaders.

Urbanmatz' 6'x4' Badlands Game Mat.

Urbanmatz' 6'x4' Badlands Game Mat.

Urbanmatz' 6'x4' Badlands Game Mat.

Urbanmatz' 6'x4' Badlands Game Mat.

Urbanmatz' 6'x4' Badlands Game Mat.

Based on its similarity with the “Badlands” design and colouration for the non-road sections, I’ve also found that it works both with “forest” and “jungle” foliage when I was playing around with my scenery, so once again that’s a positive.

Urbanmatz' 6'x4' Badlands Game Mat.

Once again, the mat came in it’s own, labelled bag at no additional cost, which is good. Until this one, I really liked these bags. Unfortunately, the zipper turned out to be faulty on me as I was putting the mat away after reviewing it. I’ve got it back in awkwardly by not drawing the zip to the end, which is awkward. Since this was only the third or forth time I’d had the thing out of its bag, I found this really disappointing. I’ll let them know about it, and update with their response.

Urbanmatz' 6'x4' Badlands Game Mat.

Urbanmatz' 6'x4' Badlands Game Mat.

Verdict: I’ve said this before, but this mat is very much what I wanted it to be. As I’ve mentioned, it was the “key” design that motivated me to buy this batch of mats from Urbanmatz, and I’m very happy with the final product, as I was with their service. I’m considering buying another batch of mats in the near future (another 4 or so). I figure that while I’ll have spent a fair bit on game mats in 2017, I’ll then be set for the rest of my life, assuming that the neoprene lasts!

Review: Urbanmatz’ 6’x4′ Badlands Game Mat.

Warning, Pic HEAVY! – Also, most pics can be clicked for larger versions.

Urbanmatz' 6'x4' Badlands Game Mat.

Here’s the next of my gaming mat reviews. Once again, this one is from Urbanmatz, based in the Czech Republic. The Badlands Game Mat. I chose this one as I’d been wanting something to (approximately) match the style that the majority of my models are based with. That is: dark earth, patchy grass and the occasional bit of rock.

Urbanmatz' 6'x4' Badlands Game Mat.

Citadel Miniatures Zoat.

Like MY base!

As with the other mats I’ve gotten from Urbanmatz, the design is printed onto neoprene (mouse pad material) and is quite nice. The following pictures of a Kings of War game basically show the mat off for similar Rank & File-based games, so your WHFB, 9th Age, WotR, or historicals such as Hail Caesar, Pike & Shotte, etc. I recently reviewed their 6’x3′ Space Mat along with the Fantasy Flight 3’x’3′ X-Wing Starfield Mat and also their Snow Territory 6’x4′ mat.

Urbanmatz' 6'x4' Badlands Game Mat.

While the mat may look a little glare-y in some photos, and perhaps a bit washed out – it’s my lighting and photography to blame there. In person, it looks really nice.

Having said that, this is probably the time to emphasise again that despite them sending me a (stained) snow mat gratis, this isn’t any kind of paid for review, I paid full price (plus shipping to Australia!) for this mat and just as when I’ve reviewed and links to places like Red Box, Maxmini, Kromlech, Scotia Grendel, Brigade, RPE, Reaper, Games Workshop or anyone else, I don’t get any kickbacks from the links inside this review to pimp their wares, nor to I carry on and on about how wonderful (X company)’s products are every post. Unlike some others out there. 😉

Urbanmatz' 6'x4' Badlands Game Mat.

Urbanmatz' 6'x4' Badlands Game Mat.

Urbanmatz' 6'x4' Badlands Game Mat.

Urbanmatz' 6'x4' Badlands Game Mat.

I also took a few 40k-themed photos as well. We set up a small imperial supply outpost out in the boonies somewhere, where the Imperial Guard present are assaulted by (who else?) the Iron Warriors.

Urbanmatz' 6'x4' Badlands Game Mat.

Urbanmatz' 6'x4' Badlands Game Mat.

Urbanmatz' 6'x4' Badlands Game Mat.

I didn’t set up any fantasy or historical skirmish games for photos, but I think you can pretty well judge for yourself at this stage. It’s going to work well for a lot of genres and games from dinosaurs, through ancients, all flavbours of historicals and moderns through to sci-fi. It’s a nice, generic rural “out int he bush somewhere” pattern that works well with the three elements that I use in most of my models’ basing. I also found that it works both with “forest” and “jungle” foliage when I was playing around with my scenery, so that’s a bonus in my book.

Once again, the mat came in it’s own, labelled bag at no additional cost. I really like these bags, and it would be great if Urbanmatz would consider selling them separately as well. I need to get one for my FFG X-Wing mat so I don’t need to store it in the box anymore, one for my GW “green grass” mat, one for my ancient Armourcast (I think) mat, and then a few (or one) to bundle my smallish Mantic ones into. I know of another vendor who does sell them, so I might have to sort it out that way later on.

Verdict: This mat is pretty much what I wanted it to be. I can’t say that I’m surprised, but if it wasn’t a good one, I’d be pretty disappointed and would not be shy about sharing that. It’s a good mat, the quality is there, and the design is one that I’m happy with. If you like the design, I can’t complain about the quality of the mat or the service I got from Urbanmatz, so I really don’t have any hesitation in recommending them.

I’ve got one more of these things to review now – Dirty Roads. We’ve actually got an AoS game set up out in the shed ready to go, so I’ll try and get some in-progress shots to include in the next review.

Review: Urbanmatz’ 6’x4′ Snow Territory Game Mat.

Warning, Pic HEAVY! – Also, most pics can be clicked for larger versions.

Recently, at the end of 2016 I placed an order for three gaming mats from Urbanmatz, based in the Czech Republic. There was a delay on one of the mats I ordered, as it was out of stock for a few weeks, though Martin was kind enough to offer me a freebie Snow Territory mat, which he explained had some yellowed stain marks on it. I gladly accepted the offer, and am reviewing the mat now, with the noted discolouration noted and allowed for. I recently reviewed their 6’x3′ Space Mat along with the Fantasy Flight 3’x’3′ X-Wing Starfield Mat.

Urbanmatz' 6'x4' Snow Territory Game Mat.

Once again, the Urbanmatz mat is on neoprene (mouse pad material) and is quite nice. I wasn’t sure what to expect when it was offered, and while I was secretly hoping for a 6×4, was expecting a 4×4, not wanting to get my hopes up – but it turned out that it was a full-sized 6×4 mat.

——

Now I don’t have any models at all based for a snow environment, and even my thoughts around (eventually) playing Frostgrave involved basically ignoring the cold-weather setting but my initial thoughts when it was offered was actually to use it as a second mat for X-Wing, especially given the precedent from the recent films for atmospheric fighter battles.

Urbanmatz' 6'x4' Snow Territory Game Mat.

Urbanmatz' 6'x4' Snow Territory Game Mat.

Unlike some other Snow/Arctic mats I’ve browsed recently, the details in the Urbanmatz offering are quite subtle and non-specific, even being pretty scale-agnostic. Just offering a hint of something buried below the snow, but subtle enough that the mat could also be used as a cloudscape if that was something needed for a game. I’d take some comparison pictures showing the textures with 15mm armour followed by 28mm infantry if I had anything painted appropriately.

Urbanmatz' 6'x4' Snow Territory Game Mat. Star Wars X-Wing

I did spend the better part of an afternoon with Marouda setting up and laying out figures to see how it all would look. First up were a couple of flights of X-Wing ships.

Urbanmatz' 6'x4' Snow Territory Game Mat. Star Wars X-Wing

I honestly think it looks a treat for X-Wing and gives a nice unique look to the (pretend) battle – and should do so when we actually do play X-Wing on it.

Urbanmatz' 6'x4' Snow Territory Game Mat.

Here’s a close-up of some of the discolouration on the mat. I was expecting it to be far worse, potentially in large yellow piss-patches in the middle of the mat but the issues are limited to a few places around the edge. While I can fully understand why Urbanmatz are unable to sell these, they’re minor enough for me to be able to ignore, especially given that the mat was a freebie.

Urbanmatz' 6'x4' Snow Territory Game Mat, Bolt Action

Time for some 28mm models, then. As mentioned before, I lack enough proper painted WW2 to really do much, and I’m completely lacking in snow-themed terrain, so I laid down some old, old Armorcast ruined building corners and my platoon of painted Warlord T-34/85 tanks. The tanks looked alright, though obviously whitewashed would have fit in more effectively.

Urbanmatz' 6'x4' Snow Territory Game Mat, Bolt Action

The buildings, left unbased as they are is usually a positive on darker surfaces as it allows for much more modularity, but on the Snowy Terrain mat they do kinda stand out too starkly. Clearly, if I want to do much with this mat, I should sort out some snow-covered hills and perhaps a few copses of snow-tipped trees. Frozen lake? Snow-covered cabin? Grimdork from Dakka did a whole little snow-themed table recently, and I do have a jar of Jo Sonja’s texture paste around here somewhere…

Urbanmatz' 6'x4' Snow Territory Game Mat, Bolt Action

The buildings could probably work reasonably well on the Snowy mat if I were to make some squares of “internal damaged building” to lay in the middle of them. Or maybe even some squares of appropriate-looking linoleoum cut with slightly uneven edges?

Urbanmatz' 6'x4' Snow Territory Game Mat. Frostgrave

Next up was to lay some more dense scenery onto the mat and see how it looked. First up we went for a kind of Fantasy layout, a pretend-game of Sorta-Frostgrave, to see how it all looks. More specifically to see how my existing terrain worked with the Snow Territory Mat.

Urbanmatz' 6'x4' Snow Territory Game Mat. Frostgrave

And… it actually looked decent. To me at least. The dark, scorched brown looking bases on both the models and some of the terrain obviously contrast quite starkly with the Snow Territory mat, but it kinda works for me. Obviously snow on bases would make everything tie in much more effectively, but it’s far from awful.

Urbanmatz' 6'x4' Snow Territory Game Mat. Frostgrave

I hadn’t expected it to work this well, but I found it quite reasonable. Far from perfect, but very workable.

Urbanmatz' 6'x4' Snow Territory Game Mat. Frostgrave

Urbanmatz' 6'x4' Snow Territory Game Mat. Frostgrave

Urbanmatz' 6'x4' Snow Territory Game Mat. Frostgrave

Next up I added my Conan Wolves into the fray. Frostgrave has random encounters. Probably not 10 wolves at a time, but whatevs. This is for photos.

So yeah. Not too bad at all. Next up was to swap some of the fantasy terrain out and do the same with some 40k models and terrain.

Urbanmatz' 6'x4' Snow Territory Game Mat. Warhammer 40,000, 40k, Kill Team

Urbanmatz' 6'x4' Snow Territory Game Mat. Warhammer 40,000, 40k, Kill Team

Urbanmatz' 6'x4' Snow Territory Game Mat. Warhammer 40,000, 40k, Kill Team

Urbanmatz' 6'x4' Snow Territory Game Mat. Warhammer 40,000, 40k, Kill Team

Urbanmatz' 6'x4' Snow Territory Game Mat. Warhammer 40,000, 40k, Kill Team

Urbanmatz' 6'x4' Snow Territory Game Mat. Warhammer 40,000, 40k, Kill Team

Urbanmatz' 6'x4' Snow Territory Game Mat. Warhammer 40,000, 40k, Kill Team

Yeah, that’s a lot of 40k photos. Basically, I took a ton photos and used a small proportion of them above. I guess the point of them all is to give a good “feel” of how the mat works in a smallish 40k game with a pile of scatter terrain on it. I wasn’t hopeful when it came to using it for 40k, but as with the “Frostgrave” game above, I’m pleasantly surprised with how well it works.

Urbanmatz' 6'x4' Snow Territory Game Mat. Wolfpack

Urbanmatz' 6'x4' Snow Territory Game Mat. Wolfpack, Bears

I thought I’d see how the wolves I painted recently look on the mat without vikings and scenery in the way as well, especially given their snow-grey coats. The answer: pretty decent.

Urbanmatz' 6'x4' Snow Territory Game Mat. Star Wars Miniatures

Star Wars Imperial transports in roughly 6mm scale? Seems to work well…

Urbanmatz' 6'x4' Snow Territory Game Mat. Star Wars Miniatures

As does their larger cousin in (sorta) 28mm scale from the Hasbro/WotC Star Wars Miniatures game.

Urbanmatz' 6'x4' Snow Territory Game Mat. Star Wars Miniatures

Leading to potential use next time we go to a snow planet in the Star Wars Edge of the Empire RPG (The PC’s minis are on the far right).

Urbanmatz' 6'x4' Snow Territory Game Mat. Star Wars Miniatures

I evidently only have 6 Snowtroopers. How embarassing! I also couldn’t find my AT-STs.

Urbanmatz' 6'x4' Snow Territory Game Mat. Axis & Allies Angels 20, WWII Dogfight, WW2 Dog Fight

Bringing us full circle with some air combat, I got out some Axis & Allies Angels 20 planes to see how it looked.

Urbanmatz' 6'x4' Snow Territory Game Mat. Axis & Allies Angels 20, WWII Dogfight, WW2 Dog Fight

Once again, I feel that it looks fine – Great even for air combat battles. I got out some Soviet and Luftwaffe planes for these pics, but it would work just as well for Western Europe 1945 or any other era’s dogfights above the snow. I had a feeling that it’d look good after seeing the X-Wing ships on it, but I wanted to put the WW2 fighters on it and see for myself.

Urbanmatz' 6'x4' Snow Territory Game Mat.

Urbanmatz' 6'x4' Snow Territory Game Mat.

Once again, the bag shots. The 6×4 bag comes with a carry bag that’s noticeably larger than the 6×3 (above in the shot).

Verdict: I’m very pleasantly surprised with the snow mat. I have to admit, it’s not something I’d have ever really considered purchasing, and getting it for free is the only reason I own it. Having it in hand and having had a significant play around with my models on it along with the camera, I can really appreciate it now – especially given the versatility that I managed to work out of it. It’s perhaps not the very best design out there if you only want to play Frostgrave, but I personally really appreciate the fact that it’s very scale-agnostic and works for games and scales from X-Wing to WW2 Dogfights to the more typical 40k/Frostgrave/etc. Clearly it’d work just as well for SAGA, WHFB, Kings of War, Bolt Action, Flames of War and pretty much anything in pretty much any scale needing a winter snow theme, given some complimentary scenery (which I mostly lack).

And to reiterate – while I received this mat for free, there was no request for, no offer nor any implication of Quid Pro Quo in exchange for it. It was kindly offered (I’d guess because I’d already bought 3 and 2 of them were OOS) and gladly accepted, without knowing the size or condition it would be in, given that they were upfront that it was marked. All of the photos were taken over a couple of sessions as I worked out how best I could make use of it myself, and all of the review text are my honest thoughts, feelings and reflections on the mat.

Reviews: Fantasy Flight Games’ X-Wing 3×3 Starfield Mat & Urbanmatz’ 6’x3′ Space Themed Game Mat.

I am a casual player of X-Wing at best. I’d like to play more, but my limited free time is the biggest difficulty I have. I had a couple of starter sets, and a very respectable pile of additional ships. Regardless, shortly after the middle of 2016, I went on an X-Wing shopping rampage. I then followed that with a Star Wars Armada shopping rampage, buying a bunch of stuff for that game from scratch. I also picked up the official Starfield theme mat from a local game store for what I felt was a reasonable price.

Fantasy Flight's X-Wing Starfield 3x3 Mat.

Fantasy Flight Games’ X-Wing 3×3 Starfield Game Mat. The glare is the result of my down spotlights.

The FFG mat is on neoprene (mouse pad material) and is very nice. It’s the perfect size for basic games of X-Wing, and I assume, Armada as well (haven’t played it yet). I can see it also being useful for any other small-scale space games as well, as a Starfield is nice and generic. I’m thinking that it could potentially work really nicely for GW’s upcoming offering – Gangs of Commorragh as well.

Fantasy Flight's X-Wing Starfield 3x3 Mat.

Just to remind you…

So we played X-Wing. We enjoyed the game and had fun. But with a decent sized trio of X-Wing fighter wings landing, as well as a solid pair of fleets for Armada, it was obvious that we’d need to expand the play area from the basic 3×3 to the next tier, which is officially 6×3. I looked around for options, and considered the Death Star Assault mat to place alongside the Starfield, but as cool as the Death Star looks, I felt it was more than a little too specific, and I wouldn’t want to be playing all of my larger games in the shadow of the Death Star, so I just kind of forgot about it for awhile.

Urbanmatz' 6x3 Space Mat

Urbanmatz’ 6×3 Space Mat. Once again, the glare in the centre is the result of my down spotlights.

I enquired about mats that might suit my regular 28mm figures’ bases in a thread on Dakka, and Martin from Urbanmatz responded, suggesting that I take a look at one of his offerings. More on that later on, but in the end I placed an order for three mats from Urbanmatz, with VAT removed and the quantity making shipping much more reasonable than ordering one or two – Mighty Ape  sells Urbanmatz’ mats individually for about AU$150 – the same price I can buy them direct from Urbanmatz from when paying shipping for each individual mat. Except Mighty Ape then adds their own shipping on top! Much cheaper to buy and support them directly and get a few mats a once to combine the shipping costs, so that’s what I did. The one we’re looking at in this review is obviously the Urbanmatz Space 6’x3′ mat.

Urbanmatz' 6x3 Space Mat

One of the larger stars with a subtle nebula around it on Urbanmatz’ Space mat.

Martin also offered me a free damaged snow mat with my order, and I responded that I’d be quite happy to receive one. I’m mentioning this here both to be upfront about receiving a freebie, and importantly to point out that the (let’s face it) generous gesture from Martin doesn’t influence this review or my opinion on his mats at all, since it it were rubbish, I’d state as much. This is neither paid, nor a promotion, after all. After placing my order in November, I was emailed to let me know that they were out of stock of one of the styles I’d ordered, and would I like to change the mat, or get a refund, or just wait. Since I know how slowly my hobby stuff moves, and the state of the War Room (still not 100% cleared and cleaned up) I elected to wait – but I really do appreciate the email. I’ve had ordered from e-tailers have significant delays in shipping more than a few times, and usually I find that there’s no contact after a confirmation email. And then of course I get mightily pissed off at the wall of silence for weeks after placing an order. Getting emailed to ask what I want to do when an item is out of stock is a really nice bit of customer service in my opinion, and definitely something that mollifies my potential rage. So a pretty good shopping experience overall.

Urbanmatz' 6x3 Space Mat

The other larger stars on Urbanmatz’ offering. As can be seen, their biggest, brightest stars are still pretty subtle.

So in mid-December my mats arrived, having been dispatched around the 6th via FedEx with tracking from the Czech Republic. On seeing the long, heavy box, my friend Pyrowave asked me what it was, and I responded by telling him it was a deactivated rocket launcher I’d purchased from the Czech Republic(!) I buy a lot of random gamer-ish crap, so it was actually sort of believable. To him, at least. 😉 Fast forward about a month until tonight, and I finally got the room cleaned up enough to lay out some mats on the gaming table. I opened up the Space Mat to take a look at it, and figured that I may as well take some photographs and review it, as well as the official mat at the same time.

Urbanmatz' 6x3 Space Mat, Fantasy Flight's X-Wing Starfield 3x3 Mat.

FFG on top, Urbanmatz below. Very, very close in thickness.

Urbanmatz' 6x3 Space Mat, Fantasy Flight's X-Wing Starfield 3x3 Mat.

Urbanmatz’ Space mat corner. You can see the subtle bluish halo around some of the stars that helps to make it feel richer in colour than the FFG mat…

 

Urbanmatz' 6x3 Space Mat, Fantasy Flight's X-Wing Starfield 3x3 Mat.

…and FFG’s X-Wing Starfield mat’s corner. Just a little more squared off, but still rounded.

Urbanmatz' 6x3 Space Mat, Fantasy Flight's X-Wing Starfield 3x3 Mat.

Urbanmatz left, Fantasy Flight right.

I really like the Urbanmatz Space mat. It’s on the same type of neoprene mousepad material as the official FFG Star Wars mat, but it feels a touch thicker and heavier, which I like. The starfield pattern is a little darker and feels richer in colour than the FFG mat, which by comparison is a little lighter. I think the UM mat seems richer and more colourful (despite being mostly just plain stars) is because of a slight bluish halo around some of the larger stars, which the FFG mat does not have. Corners are slightly different to the FFG in the way that they’re rounded off, but this doesn’t matter to me. I think the FFG’s mat’s slightly squarer corners would work better when butting the mat up next to another one, like the Death Star or Bespin or whatever to create a 6×3 playing area, so it makes sense. On the other hand, the 6×3 is self-contained at that size, so it’s a non-issue. While we were laying the FFG mat on top of the UM one, Marouda commented that she thought the Urbanmatz mat looked a lot better, so it wasn’t just me.

Urbanmatz' 6x3 Space Mat, Fantasy Flight's X-Wing Starfield 3x3 Mat.

Urbanmatz’ Space 6×3 Mat on the left, overlaid with Fantasy Flight’s X-Wing Starfield 3×3 Mat on the right. You can see a fairly stark contrast between the two.

Urbanmatz' 6x3 Space Mat, Fantasy Flight's X-Wing Starfield 3x3 Mat.

Pretty much the same photo as above, but with the lighting adjusted to a much “truer” representation of the darkness of both mats.

All in all, I’m very happy with both purchases and both products. If I were going to “start again”, I’d buy my 3×3 from Urbanmatz, as I like their space mat more than the FFG one, and I also appreciate the carry bag that Urbanmatz’ product came with, as it’s better than the cardboard box that the FFG one came with – and miles better than the nothing that my Mantic mats came with, or the throw-it-away cardboard box my GW green-flock field mat came in. Having said that, I’ve got no regrets in having started with the FFG mat, and taken on its own still looks great. Both get a solid thumbs up from me, though I do give the edge to Urbanmatz’ product based on the “black” of space being darker and the “colour” of the mat feeling richer, the mat itself feeling slightly thicker and heavier – which I prefer – and the included carry bag.

Urbanmatz' 6x3 Space Mat

Urbanmatz’ mat bag. Comes with a full-length zip and some decent sized handles for carrying.

Urbanmatz' 6x3 Space Mat

Each of the ends comes with a loop handle, so I guess you could hang the bags, as well as a little tag to let you know which mat is inside.

I’d love to see some kind of colourful nebula mat from Urbanmatz in the future. There are some amazing images out there of space, and a colourful one like that would be a great counterpart to the dark starfield. I’ll (hopefully) be reviewing the others I received in the next week or so – I haven’t even had a chance to open them up and look at them yet!

Urbanmatz' 6x3 Space Mat

Pew! Pew! Urbanmatz’ 6×3 Space Mat