Sunday, January 24, 2016

Cobblestone Gaming Mat from UrbanMatZ

UrbanMatZ produces gaming mats for the tabletop. When I saw the cobblestone mat I immediately ordered one.

Until quite recently I had never even considered using gaming mats. I am quite picky when it comes to terrain and building a gaming board. My personal gaming board project, the Port of Gierburg, has been going on for many years and I am willing to take the time, effort and costs that are neccessary to make it as perfect as I possibly can - with little to no tolerance for making compromises. A flat illustrated mat for a surface definately does not fit into this concept.

The Cobblestone City design
from Kraken Mat (4' x 4')
This was until November last year, when I saw the Kraken Mat kickstarter which, among many different designs, featured a cobblestone pattern. Before that I had never seen a cobblestone mat and even though I wasn't particularly interested in getting one I did find it surprising that there weren't any around. From fantasy settings such as Mordheim or Frostgrave to World War II settings you would think there is enough demand to justify such products. The story and photos of the Kraken Mat had me curious enough to give it a try. That's when I first overcame my inhibitions.

As of today, I am exictedly waiting for the Kraken Mat to arrive (which is currently planned for May I believe). However, although the Kraken Mat looks absolutely beautiful from what I can see I still had one concern: With all the streets and pavements printed on the mat you are quite restricted when it comes to placing terrain features such as buildings, barricades, etc. To allow for all kinds of scenarios with different terrain setups it makes a lot of sense to have a "general purpose" mat - a full cobblestone pattern with no other features that restrict the placement of terrain.

So I was pleasantly suprised to see exactly this in a comment in the Mordheim Facebook group: the Cobblestone Battlefield mat from UrbanMatZ. I thought "I already got one, might as well try this one too", and ordered the 4' x 4' version.

The Cobblestone Battlefield mat from UrbanMatZ

Close-up on the details


The design consists of very nice irregular cobblestones. There is dirt, grass, blood stains and what I believe are manhole covers, all of which make the design more interesting. I would have actually preferred that there was no blood since I find that to be better suited for fantasy settings whereas my games are more on the historical side. Funny enough, such a blood-less version is available since yesterday.  So a bit of bad timing for me but very cool overall for all other potential customers.

I do not want to go too far into detail with reviewing this. There are a lot of (obviously positive) video reviews on the UrbanMatZ website and I will simply say that I concur: This is a really great product. I was a bit worried that the surface may be a bit problematic since this is mousepad material and I could see the fibre texture in the close-ups in some of the video reviews. But during normal usage you don't notice this - you have to get very close to the mat to see the fibre surface so I don't find this to be a problem at all.

We actually ran a game on the new mat just yesterday and it was great. The surface is soft and smooth (if you know mousepads, then you know this). This is perfect for moving miniatures and placing buildings. Before, the models regularly caused little scratches on my IKEA table. Moving figures across these mats feels a lot safer. Also rolling dice on the mat is a pleasure as the mat deadens the sound.

A little setup to give an impression of the gaming mat in action:
Highwaymen and Thief-catchers fight it out in the city


So all in all, does this gaming mat replace a properly modelled 3D gaming table? Of course not! But as my "proper" gaming table will turn out similarly restrictive in terms of terrain placement as the Kraken Mat I am super happy to add this piece to my gaming inventory. While my scratch-built table will be the obvious pick for "flagship" scenarios and photo-taking this gaming mat will be the choice when variety is needed. And because of its flexible design I believe it will actually see more play than my "main" gaming board. For only 45 EUR and a super nice carrying bag included I think this is not too bad a deal.


Saturday, December 26, 2015

Using SketchUp for Gaming Board Building

The free 3D modeling software SketchUp is a great tool for planning tabletop wargame boards and I have started to use it for my own projects.

I had a brief look at SketchUp years ago when it first became popular after being acquired by Google. Then, I totally forgot about it until I read a recent blog post by Clarence Harrison over at Quindia Studios. He is building a new game board and uses SketchUp for the early layout work. This seemed super useful and as I have been somewhat stuck with my own gaming board - the Port of Gierburg -  because I am rather clueless as to how to continue with the layout and set-up of buildings and everything, I decided to reproduce my current board in SketchUp. This would give me a good basis to start experimenting with different configurations of buildings, walls and levels.

Workflow and Asset Structure

After a bit of fiddling I quickly settled with a "workflow" and structure for my assets:

  1. Individual terrain pieces such as buildings, board sections, etc. are created and saved in separate files.
  2. Another file is created for the entire gaming board. This is where everything comes together as the individual assets are imported as components.

I found this to be the easiest way of handling things as it allows me to focus on individual pieces and later combine them. This is not so important for the board sections, but if I ever end up with buildings, barricades and other items which are also "movable" in reality, I can try out things in virtual reality. Similar to how you would experiment with different furniture configurations of a room.

The Port of Gierburg in SketchUp

For my Gierburg gaming board this meant that I created the following three pieces (corresponding to their real-life pendants):

The digital version of Dock Section I

The digital version of the current state of Dock Section II

The dock sections put together


To get a better sense of scale I also made two quick sketches of the Town House and Tavern models from Stronghold Terrain. They are particularly well suited because of their simple architectural structure. I only did very rough versions of the buildings without detailed timber-frames, windows, etc. I might spend more time on such details if I am ever in the mood, but for now these models will definitely suffice.

Sketch of the Town House from Stronghold Terrain
Another view of the Town House

Sketch of the Tavern from Stronghold Terrain

The current board with the two houses


Now I have a great basis to try out different things for Dock Section II. I have a couple of ideas and visualizing them like this will hopefully help me make a decision so I can finally continue working on the board. Last but not least, this is also a great way of working on my game board when I am not in the mood or don't have the time to do actual modeling or painting work, yet still want to be a bit productive.


Sunday, December 20, 2015

Tavern from Stronghold Terrain

The Tavern by Stronghold-Terrain is the latest addition to my collection of 28mm houses. Let's take a look!

The contents of the Tavern kit
I already painted up a couple of buildings from Stronghold-Terrain's range of medieval terrain: the Townhouse, the Guild House and the now out of production Facades. The Tavern now is the last building from their range (except for the Stables, which I am not interested in for now).

Like their other houses the majority of the pieces is made from hard plaster, except for the roof, the base and a few extra bits, which are all cast from resin.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Porcelain (tooth)brush stand

This is a little thing I wanted to share: A small toothbrush stand.

The Porcelain Toothbrush Stand
from MUJI
After a couple of months pause I recently got back into painting. And I finally got around to see how this little piece worked out... A few months ago my girl-friend dragged me into a MUJI store (because they seem to have very good pens). Even when on a hobby break I'm always on the look-out for things to put to use in the hobby. When I saw these small porcelain toothbrush stands I immediately thought that they will probably work well for holding brushes. It was also cheap enough to give it a try.

So, short and sweet: Yes, it does work well and I love it! The stand can easily hold a number of brushes (especially the thin ones used for wargaming/tabletop/modeling). What I like about this solution is that the stand is such a small elegant piece and the brushes are perfectly accessible (in contrast to the usual bulky brush stands). When I am working on a certain piece I usually keep using the same 4 to 8 brushes and they all fit into the stand. A great addition to my workbench, well worth the under 3€.



Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Whatsup?

It's been a long time since my last post and indeed I did as little hobby activity as the lack of updates would make you believe. Nevertheless, as the year draws to a close I feel like a little looking back and ahead.

The Port of Gierburg board is still a big work-in-progress. I find it hard to decide on how to proceed with the intended upper level and I really need to make up my mind and just go with something.

The British Unrated Cutter
from Games of War
In October/November, Games of War secretly released a new ship: A British Unrated Cutter. I immediately purchased the ship as their quality has always been absolutely top-notch and I don't want to again miss the oportunity - like their Sea Prince, which went out of production before I made sure to get one. What is funny is that I actually previewed their work-in-progress ships back in 2012(!) on this very blog (under the tag line "coming soon" too). How time flies...
Anyway, if you are only slightly into pirate gaming you should absolutely pick up their products. The cutter is a very very nice ship with superb quality once again. I shall do a review some time soon. In fact, the ship is already primed and it shouldn't be too hard to paint. Probably a good way to get back into the hobby.

The huge stunner last month was the release of the gigantic Town Gate by Tabletop World. This thing looks mind-blowing. Fortunately they also made the Guard Tower available again. My order is on its way and I can't wait to see these two pieces in the flesh.
The Town Gate from Tabletop World

Then I recently backed the Kraken Mat kickstarter because of their Cobblestone City mat. Usually I am not fan of gaming mats but their unique approach to producing the designs won me over. They actually build the terrain and then photograph it and only make final touch-ups in Photoshop. This gives the mats a very realistic look - realistic in the sense of wargaming terrain, of course. This will make it blend well with the actual terrain pieces on top of it. So that's the theory. I really can't wait to get mine. Hopefully it will be a great alternative to my never-ending Gierburg board so that I have a great board for setting up my finished buildings.

The Cobblestone City mat from the Kraken Mat kickstarter


So lots of toys to draw me back into modelling and painting. Also, I already look forward to next year's Tactica convention at the end of February. The visit always gives me a huge motivation boost to finish some projects.

I also heard that Games Workshop intends to resurrect the Specialist Games section. Will this mean an eventual return of Mordheim in some way? This is definately something that would spark my interest - even it were in the weird Age of Sigmar setting. Though I hear that all the (attention, pun incoming!) cool kids  are playing Frostgrave these days. Hopefully there will be a demo game at the Tactica to get an idea of the rules. After all, I was playing Mordheim in the snow already years ago.


Friday, May 15, 2015

Weather Dice

Recently I ordered a couple of different dice. Among them was a set of six-sided 16mm Weather Dice, which I mostly bought out of curiosity. Now let's see what we can do with them.


Once I held these dice in my hands and rolled them for a few times I immediately felt the urge to come up with a way to put them to actual good use. With all the pirate gaming there must be uses for them!

Here is a table with the six different weather outcomes and some game system agnostic effects. The idea is to always roll two weather dice and apply both results. However, the sun will result in overall good weather, negating the other dice's effect. The "cloudy" symbol represents a simple "no effect".


Sun
The sun is shining and the weather is fine. Dot not apply any other weather effects from the other dice.
Clouds
The weather is slightly cloudy but still fine overall. No further effects.
Wind
Wind is blowing, making it difficult to aim with ranged weapons.
Rain
It is raining. Blackpowder weapons may not function and need to be reloaded.
Thunder
A thunder strikes a random target on the board.
Snow
Snow is falling, decreasing sight and limiting the models' movement.


For a properly piratical weather table I would probably change "Rain" to "Heavy Rain" and "Snow" to "Light Rain". This is where things really depend on the specific setting and system at hand.

What do you think?


Monday, March 23, 2015

Broom Binder House from Thomarillion

At this year's Hamburger Tactica show I bought the newly released Broom Binder House from Thomarillion.



Usually the buildings and terrain I collect for wargaming are made from resin. The buildings from Thomarillion (produced by Ziterdes), however, use a very different, unique material: a light-weight, dense hard foam. Ever since I first saw their products I have been both intrigued and sceptical, but never found a good reason to buy any of these products. That was until I saw the new release the Broom Binder House, at the Thomarillion booth at the Tactica. It is a bit bigger than what I have seen from them and I immediately thought it would fit perfectly with the Stronghold Terrain buildings, such as the Town house.