donderdag 7 juli 2016

Urbanmatz - my short review with plenty of photo's

I've always been a fan of mats. I'm not in the position to have finely made modular boards with hills, rivers and what not, and store them. So, over the years I purchased Mat O War mats and Hotz mats, either new or second hand, and the latter more aimed at air wargaming with hexes. I am still very happy with these mats, both brands have turned out to be very durable, the Hotz mats being slightly more practical due to their light and easily foldable fabric. Somewhere around this time last year I started eying mats in vinyl-ish stuff and mousemat material, for future plans, but they were out of my price league. I joined several companies FB pages and just looked, and thought about it.

FFW a few months later and I kinda made my mind up, by choosing Urbanmatz. I'd seen the review on Guerilla Miniatures Games Their concrete mat, while not perfect due to a huge effing dragons skull and collection of bones, seemed to be the perfect fit for my This is not a Test and other Post Apocalyptic (future) games. I then asked, on Facebook, if they would bring out a mat without the skull and bones and they replied, rather quickly, that it was their intention to do so. I kept looking to other companies and reading reviews in the meantime. Friends of mine bought some vinyl mats, 1 looked great, like advertised, while another was a pixelated mess, and both were shiney to look at. Again, no vinyl for me, cheap as they may be.

FFW another few months, I had been selling stuff to pay for the purchase of their new concrete mat, so with the funds available I asked again if the new concrete mat would be available any time soon, and to my joy I got a quick reply, again, and was asked if I wanted to see shots of the new mat. Martin added me on FB and showed me the pictures of the new mat. Martin also told me he was not happy with the printing on the new mats, as it was blue-er and darker compared to the old concrete mat. I gave him my honest opinion on the mat. Yes, it was darker and blue-er compared to the old mat, but concrete itself varies in colour from location to location due to weather, mixing and age. I told him I would be happy to have a 6x4 one in my collection, together with a 6x4 cobblestone mat and a 6x4 space mat. Martin then surprised me with a generous offer, they had done some test prints of a intermediate concrete mat before (no dragon skull, but with the bones)....if I wanted a free 4x4 test copy? I did not have to think about that very long (as in, not at all) and agreed to that. I made my order for the 3 6x4 mats plus shipping, and Martin would do the rest. These 3 mats plus shipping set me back 198 euros (59 euros per mat and 21 euro shipping for the lot, paid with Paypal) which is a lot of money with such a limited income as mine. I rationalised this because they should be hard wearing, will give me hobby pleasure for a long time, I had sold a ton of stuff and they look really, really good. I hoped anyway.

Martin contacted me again telling me he had received my order, and that there would be a small delay as they were processing a very large order but would get mine shipped asap. 2 days later I got a notice my mats had been shipped. And a couple of days later this arrived at my doorstep.

Keep the boxes! Do not recycle them, keep your mats and bags inside these. I'll explain later.
Each mat in their own carrying case, each with a simple label for the size and type of mat.
Each mat is rolled tightly, and fits inside the carry case. With the 4x4 you can be a bit sloppy with rolling it, but the 4x6 must be tightly wound and straight else you will run out of room fast.
Minor letdown; one of the 2 zippers on the free mat is busted. Is this a problem? Not really, it has 2 zippers so it still functions as it should. Would I have complained if this was not a free mat? Complained is a strong word here, I would have sent a message and a picture of the offending part, but would leave it there.
Each mat is a layer of mouse mat material with printed fabric on top.  This will (eventually) fray at the edges when rubbed repeatedly over a long time, like you can see on a well used mouse pad (and even there it takes forever). If you use a board with slatted sides, like I have,  this kind of wear is easily prevented.
When zoomed in, you can see the individual dots the printwork is made up of. Unless you spend the entire game with your nose point blank on the mat, you will not see this as your eyes and brain should combine to make a nice, pretty picture in your head.
Starting off with the 4x6 Space mat, you can see the black is actually a very very dark blue. Printing black is rather difficult and it always comes out as very very dark colour. This shade of blue suits me just fine. The mat rolls out just like this, no adjutsments were made other then to fit it inside the edge trim. Photo is taken under 2 daylightbulbs. The pattern is soft, not overpowering with gas clouds or supernovas like some companies do (and to each their own I say) and I prefer it this way.
The same mat in daylight coming from one direction. There are some lines from unrolling it, but a short tug at either end of the mat flattens that. What looks to be the sheen on the mat is actually the power of the sun on a clear day overpowering my poor phone camera. The sheen in reality is almost not present.
Details like smaller gasclouds are present but again, not overpowering and the printing issoft yet sharp at the same time. I had worries the details would be pixelated and blobby after seeing the mat used by Ash (Guerilla Games) during his Throwback Thursdays BFG, but that was purely due to the camera and it looks just perfect in real life.
Harsh daylight (yes, we do have sunshine in the Netherlands) drowns out the detail, nut it is there.
Plenty of space to maneuver I say!
The free intermediate 4x4 concrete mat. Under my lights not nearly as dark as in the pictures Martin sent me. Also, no dragon skull, but yes, there are bones. Martin has informed me this intermediate mat was purely a tester and is not for sale. This mat is photographed under daylight bulbs.
Lots and lots of bones, a few skulls and some more wreckage
...but no Dragons skull!
Correct scenery placement hides the bones if they bother you. In this case some 28mm ruins.
And the same can be done with 20mm scenery.
Minor details like drainage hatches (which are overscale for 28mm as well, tbh) can be hidden with scenery placing, again.
Or some 15mm containers. I feel these mats work fine for 15mm to 28mm, and I will use them as such.
The same mat, but now in daylight. Lighter towards the sun.
The cobblestone mat (without blood) in daylight. I've seen various companies do a cobblestone mat, but this one has no (visible) repetition and the lines between the stonework is soft, not almost black like others. I feel this blends in better.
Any lightning of the colour is due to the sune coming from one direction.
Some details might look overly big but this could easily be a stone capped well. These are 28mm miniatures. This mat should work from a more affluent Medieval/High Fantasy look (think Mordheim, Frostgrave etc) right up to a cosy French town during WW2. It also makes a great bse for a dungeon crawl, just add walls.
Modern buildings do not look out of place on this mat
Should do fine for a Imperial City.
If you think of them as bigger sized pavement slabs, it does not look out of place in 20mm either. 15mm at a stretch.
The same capped well, now next to a 20mm car. Put a statue on it perhaps?
Details of the bloodless Cobblestone mat
Last is the Concrete mat, under daylight bulbs again. There is a blueish tinge to the concrete, but nothing looks out of place. The big centre aquare of bones has been replaced with 3 conceret squares and 1 green grassy square. My 28mm ruin is almost a spot on fit for a square (jay!)
Somebody needs to mow the lawn.
The ruined brickwork at the edges of the mat. Here we see the details seem to be bigger then 28mm, almost more 54mm. I assume this has to do with the processing of the picture. Too much small detail and it becomes unprintable and fuzzy to the eye, and bigger details (well, oversized ones) are more easily picked up by the eye.
Though again, a hatch big enough to (almost) park a Rhino in is a tad big! But again, not visually disturbing, and easily ignored or covered with a piece of scenery.
The same mat in real sunlight. With 28mm items for scale.
The printed detail is of excellent quality.
The entire mat in natural, directed sunlight.
Now, Martin, found the new mat too dark, and was unsure if to put it in prodcution, so I made some side by side shots of the mats in daylight and under daylight bulbs for you to compare.

Natural daylight. Left is the 6x4 unreleased Concrete mat, right the 4x4 tester Concrete mat
When zooming out the difference is more apparent. The diference in color is quite visible. But both look perfectly fine as what they are, concrete. Here is the catch though, in natural daylight, with the mats reversed, it was the 6x4 that looked lighter and the 4x4 that looked darker. Thanks, natural light :) I have no Daylight bulbs to show as the difference in grettone was much, much less visible.
In case anyone wonders. how does this compare to a Hotz mat for instance, I unpacked my European Fields mat.

Just unfolded, the felt material has some creases it from folding. Rubbing it a few times removes most of them. You will notice that the largest mat they sell a bit less wide then 4 feet.
However, depending on the size of your hex pattern, this may or may not be a problem.

My end conclusion is that none of the 3 brands of mat I have is better then the other. If you want a light weight mat (for instance when you have to fly to a convention and have to pack light) the Hotz one wins out by far due to its weight. For sheer durability the Mat O War wins out, you just can't do anything it (normally) to harm it and is the perfect mat for a tbale that is played on week after week or at a club. But for looks, the mats I picked up from Urbanmatz are the winners. Yes, they are heavier, but win in the visual department, come with a easy carring sleeve and roll out without almost any creases in the first go.

The material is soft enough to the toutch, smooth but not slippery. I've read it handles water and stains with ease but I don't allow food and drinks on the table or near my miniatures so I would not know about that.

All in all, contact with Urbanmatz was way beyond what you normally expect from a company, costs are a bit high but not more (actualy a tad less) then others and when bought as a group the sting is a bit less.

I hope you found this review helpful, and let me know in the comments below if you have any questions.

Edit: One thing I have not mentioned is, why go for 6x4 mats when all you usually need is a 4x4? It takes no additional space to store a 4x4 or a 4x6 mat, the cost increase for the extra area is ok when you can afford it, and you can just overlap a 4x4 table. If you then needed more room for a bigger game or more players, at least you have a 6x4 ready on hand. Long term thinking.

Edit 2: The mats I bought are the following:

6x4 Space
6x4 Cobblestone 2
6x4 Concrete 2

The mat I was given for free is a 4x4 test Concrete 1.5

Prices have increased since making my order, the 6x4 mats originally sold for 59 euros, they currently sell for 69,90 euros. Shipping prices have unchanged, and he now offers shipping for 4-6 mats as well. The unreleased Concrete 2 mat has since been released.

6 opmerkingen:

  1. Thanks for this detailed review! Mats may be less visually striking than a foam/filler/flock dedicated board, but they are certainly easier to store (and cheaper if you put a value on your time)

  2. Thanks for the detailed review, Gunbird. Very interesting!

  3. A very interesting comparison.
    I was looking for a decent underground for an apocalyptic city and the concrete mat looks just right.