17 January 2020

Mansions of Madnes Path of the Serpent investigators

Painted up the investigators for Mansions of Madness from the Path of the Servent expansion. Not very happy with Ursula Downs  "The Explorer" since the shirt is still shiny despite two coats of varnish. These investigators were pretty quick and easy to paint. The expansion itself is a bit bland, not really a fan of the new scenarios. However, the investigators are really interesting with very good abilities that we are more than happy to add to our favorite board game in our collection.

What still confounds me is hos FFG can make the investigator minaitures so good, but still make the monsters so average in sculpt and casting quality. Often the minsters are slim, flimsy, bent to hell and ugly. I may end up painting some of the monsters from all the collections sometime in the future if I find a use for them, but for our games we just use the monster tokens to represent their presence on the table.

08 December 2019

2D rivers and terrain from Playmats.eu review

Rivers is something that I never had in my terrain collection, and they are used plenty for games like SAGA and By Fire & Sword just to name a few. At the clubs where I used to play the default rivers were the prepainted "Battlefield in a box" rivers. I was never a fan due to them being unwieldy and weirdly shaped which oftentimes took up too much space on the table. They were very durable, but also oddly unnaturally colored and prone to "warping" so that you had to bend them into shape. For long that was still the best alternative to homemade rivers. But as I have no time or equipment to make my own, I tried to find an alternative that ticked some of my requirements: cheap, natural looking, lightweight/easy to store and customizable.

By accident, as I was browsing playmats for Dungeons & Dragons I saw that Playmats.eu also had a range of 2D terrain. Primarily two terrain types were of interest right away, hills and rivers. The theoretical reason behind getting 2D hills is pretty much "playability". I think I'm not alone in being frustrated as units of single based miniatures slide down slopes of 3D hills. I wanted to see how the 2D hills looked IRL, adding them to my cart alongside the rivers and some broken ground.

Let's start with a rundown of the material. The 2D terrain is made out of foam, similar to that on mousepads, and the top layer being vinyl with a print. The terrain is approximately 2mm thick, with a black edge. The print on the vinyl is high quality detail, though due to the material choice it can appear a bit glossy under strong light from certain angles. Not so much a problem as a bonus on the rivers that could emulate reflective water - but perhaps not as desirable on other terrain. I wonder if you could spray the print with a matt varnish though? A big bonus is that the material lends itself well to being cut by scissors or a sharp knife, so you could make smaller river pieces yourself.

The other bonus of the material is that it is very soft, tipping miniatures over will not damage the paintjob. The back of the terrain is made out of foam, and if placed in a gamemat it will effectively prevent the terrain from easily sliding around on the table.

The rivers can be purchased in packs, or by single pieces. I purchased single pieces, each piece being roughly 30cm/12" and at 6 euro a piece I think this is a great deal. Being able to purchase single pieces allowed me to buy exactly the type of river I wanted, without oddly shaped pieces that I was not interested in. The rivers are, from what I understand, made with By Fire & Sword in mind. That is a 15mm wargame, where the water should be about 10cm wide. That is also the case with these rivers. Though they work quite well with 15mm and 28mm miniatures and terrain alike. In 28mm this is more a stream, than a proper river though, but still looks the part.

When it comes to the hills and the broken ground, these are sold in packs of 3 terrain pieces. These are rather small for hill if you use them for 28mm, and I purchased them with 15mm in mind. However, the look of these do not clearly scream "HILL!" to me once placed on the table. The hills look more like rough terrain/broken ground. The broken ground terrain looks like, well, broken  ground so that's great. I will thus use both the "hills" and broken ground as rough terrain in my 15mm/28mm games. And while the 2D scatter terrain looks nice, even with some 3D terrain next to it, I would give the advice to not pack these terrain pieces too tightly with themselves or other 3D terrain as that can give a weird impression.

Spread them out a little, I think the way SAGA terrain is spread out with a minimum range between terrain pieces is ideal. They are ideal for a patch of rocky ground for instance.

I highly recommend the rivers, they are imo perfect. 

The other 2D terrain is a matter of taste I would say. You might want to start out with a small purchase and see if it fits your terrain collection and playstyle first.

You can check out the 3D rivers and other 2D terrain by following the link to Playmats.eu.


05 December 2019

Dry erasable playmat for tabletop RPG's from Playmats.eu review

Last month I placed an order with Playmats.eu on both dry erasable playmats and some 2D terrain. I got an extra playmat for a review of both product types, and having tried out the playmats there was enough experience to write up a proper review.

First a quick backstory. The reason I even stumbled upon this company was when I was looking to find reasonable dry erasable playmats since the original Dungeons & Dragons playmats were all sold out here in Sweden. The only alternatives were paper based playmats, which is a big “no thank you” for me since I want durability and spill proof materials. A bit of Google-fu led me to Playmats.eu, a company based in Poland with reasonable prices for both products and shipping to Sweden. What I was looking for was one playmat for "indoor" locations and one for "outdoor" locations, preferably different colors. If possible I wanted something a bit more pleasing to the eye than just plain black & white grid.

Playmats.eu had a variety of designs, I went with a slightly stained parchment colored playmat for the indoor/cavern locations and a slightly faded green/grey playmat for outdoor locations where drawing with a pencil is not as important and where the squares will be used for movement together with regular wargaming terrain.

The playmats arrived in separate hard cardboard cylinders and plastic wrappings. The material of the mats is vinyl, and compared to other vinyl playmats I’ve had before (like X-wing playmats from another manufacturer) these did not smell at all even though they have a printed texture. Each playmat comes with a non-permanent black whiteboard marker and a wipe cloth.

Since this was my very first ever product that I was supposed to draw on with a pencil I made some tests with the black marker that came with the playmat as well as a few other whiteboard markers I got from work (black, blue and green colored).

Starting with the pen that came with the playmat, it’s easy to draw and erase as you go. The drawing stays “moist” for quite a while and there is always the risk that you smudge out some of your drawing with hands or miniature handling. You can easily and without any kind of pressure erase drawn lines with either the supplied cloth or your bare fingers. In our Dungeons & Dragons session we erased “Door” markers as soon as doors were opened, so it was a convenient way to make changes on the fly. We did not notice too much “wear and tear” of the drawn maps during our 7 hour session during which I wiped and drew new locations as the campaign progressed.

A couple of days prior to our game I let the playmat stay on the table with a large drawn dungeon and let it sit for 4 days. I wanted too see if – and how- the draw dungeon would dry and how hard it would be to wipe a map if you used the same location for multiple sessions spanning more than one day. The first day the drawing was very easy to erase, as previously described. By day 2-3 the drawn lines had begun to “dry out”, still easy to wipe them though. By day 4 the surface was pretty dry and you could no longer easily erase the lines without putting some effort into it. I had to put circular motions, some effort and pressure to rub off the drawn lines with the cloth, which resulted in black particles similar to that of a used rubber eraser.

Regardless of which day (day 1 within minutes or day 4) wiping the playmat did not leave any marks when using the supplied black whiteboard pencil.

So now I tried out the whiteboard markers from work. The black pen was identical in its effect. However, I would advise AGAINST using a green pen as wiping it did leave light green stains on the board when wiping the surface with the supplied cloth. The blue pen was pretty similar to the black pen. My conclusion is that you should try to avoid colored markers and stick with black, or at the very least really avoid green markers.

The gridwork on each map is made up of 25mm/1” sized squares, and 32x32 squares in size. I found that this was enough for even fairly large dungeons or locations. I would recommend to get two “indoor location” playmats that you can have side by side for those really big dungeons where you want to allow backtracking across the map.

Being made out of vinyl you can spill and wipe off drink from the surface, and you will not tear it apart from use. 

However, there is one problem with the material and that tied to rolled up storage in containers. When you put the playmat straight out of the cylinder storage the playmat keeps curling up on the edges since the material is not heavy enough to weigh itself down like you see with mousepad material playmats. I put my playmat on the table and weighed down the two edges using heavy books overnight. This pretty much solved the problem. However, this might not be optimal if you plan to bring the playmat over to a friend or a club where such preparations won’t be possible. In such case you should somehow weigh down the 4 corners

Overall, I think this is a great product that perfectly suited my needs and requirements. I can see this being used for other tabletop roleplaying games other than Dungeons & Dragons. There are also designs with hexes instead of squares it that suits your game better. I can honestly recommend checking out this company. 

In a day or two I will post a review of the 2D terrain I purchased intended to be used for miniature wargaming SAGA, By Fire & Sword and other stuff in 15 and 28mm scale.


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