Monday, February 29, 2016

Tactica 2016

The annual Tactica tabletop convention took place on February 27-28 in Hamburg. As in the previous years before I went on Saturday and had a great time.

Again lots of great tables and participation games could be enjoyed. A table that particularly impressed me was this Frostgrave board. What I like about it is that it contains many of the Tabletop World buildings that I also have except that these were modified to turn them into ruins. Very cool!

Probably the most impressive table was this 16th/17th century Japanese castle by Frank. You can read more about it on his blog here (and part 2 and part 3).

Another highlight was this board from Freebooter Miniatures to promote their rules for playing with ships. I am already used to Freebooter bringing very cool gaming boards to Tactica but I liked this one especially because it is so unusual and effective despite its relative simplicity.

My 'preview highlight' of the show were these miniatures for a field bakery at the Black Hussar Miniatures booth. These Prussians from the Seven Years' War range are very cool looking unique civilians and I can very well imagine using them for my pirate games. They will be released in about a month and made available as several packs.

Another teaser was this crane at the Thomarillion booth. It would be a great alternative for my current crane and I don't think you can have too many cranes around the docks.

The Game

We managed to play one participation game of Jugula. My friend Jens was very interested in these gladiator rules from Studio Tomahawk so we took the opportunity to learn more about the game. It was indeed a quite enjoyable game and I can see how you can have a lot of fun mastering all the tactical possibilities. It would make for a very nice side project as you need very few miniatures and you can can build a great arena table if you like.

Treasure Hunter

I had a very specific shopping list this year. Firstly, I wanted to stack up on my pirate figures collection. In my opinion, Foundry still has the best range of pirates (aside from Black Scorpion, but the two don't mix that well). In addition, I chose to go with North Star Figure's Blackbeard model as a captain for this new crew. It really is a shame that their sets are so expensive (23 GBP for 8 models, compare with 12 GBP for Foundry's sets of also 8 models)

Then I picked up the rulebooks for Frostgrave and En Garde!. With Frostgrave being all the craze these days I wanted to take a closer look at the rules. I might even end up making a small warband. Or I guess I could use my existing gang of gypsies.

I have been a big fan of wagons and coaches since I first used a Stage Coach in Mordheim. So when I saw the coach from Schilling Figuren it was another immediate must-have. I already have a lot of unpainted wagons and coaches from West Wind's Empire of the Dead: Requiem kickstarter and the Berlin Carriage from Warlord Games but I just had to add this to the lot.

Finally, my most important haul: Elmar Fischer aka Elladan of Stronghold Terrain made these custom casts of his beautiful building fronts for me. I talked to him about my Port of Gierburg project and how I plan to have a huge facade on one side. He was so amazingly helpful to make these pieces from his out-of-production houses and fronts so that I can build a big facade from them.

In conclusion, the Tactica has been another fantastic event. I am especially happy about my purchases and super grateful for Elmar's help and support. I already look forward to next year.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Ocean and Cobblestone Gaming Mat from Deep-Cut Studio

Two new gaming mats have arrived for my collection: The ocean mat and cobblestone mat from Deep-Cut Studio.

After my great experience with the cobblestone gaming mat from UrbanMatZ I was looking for an appropriate sea mat for playing piratey ship battles. I found a suitable mat design from Deep-Cut Studio. At that time their mats were available only in two versions: PVC and cloth. I hadn't really seen any good feedback on those materials and I was very happy with the "mousepad material" which I got to know from UrbanMatZ. Just recently Deep-Cut Studio (DCS) made their mats available again in that version as well so I gave them a try. While I was ordering the Ocean mat I thought why not save on the shipping costs and try their cobblestone mat as well?

Unlike the UrbanMatZ mats, DCS mats do not come with a free carrying bag. If you already have one this is no big deal as you rarely need to carry many mats around. For storing the original package is sufficient enough, if not nearly as nice as a proper bag, of course.

The first thing I noticed is that the DCS mats have sharp corners where UrbanMatZ has rounded corners (true mousepad style!). I think I do prefer sharp corners although it doesn't matter much to me.

Another thing I noticed later on is the smell: The DCS mat smell a bit of rubber. It didn't last long, though - after a few days it was gone. But I didn't notice this with the UrbanMatZ mat.

The Ocean Mat

Detail image of the Ocean mat from
the Deep-Cut Studio website
I chose the large 6' x 4' version because - well - ships! If you plan on running 28mm ship battles you better go with the largest option.

Surprisingly, the design of the actual mat appears somewhat different to what you expect from the pictures on their website. The pictures show an uneven curly surface. Of course, I am not talking about the physical surface here - I mean the graphic design. The actual mat is more like a flat blue surface with the occasional white foam. The curly design is just missing (as if you had hidden a layer in Photoshop). Here is a photo to show the difference:

Detail of the Ocean mat from Deep-Cut Studio

I have to say that the design looks a bit better on photos than in reality, yet is still nice enough.

The different design aside, the mat is quite nice. The production quality is high and I look forward to playing my first ship battles on the mat. I believe gaming mats like these are the perfect solution for representing water surface. The material is perfect for moving ships about as the models slide smoothly across the board.

The Cobblestone Mat

I ordered this 4' x 4' cobblestone mat as a kind of bonus. I was already quite pleased with the UrbanMatZ mat but I wanted to have a comparison (and I was too impatient to wait for the Kraken Mat that would come sometime in May).
When I rolled out the cobblestone mat I was quite pleasantly suprised. The design is very nice. The details are sharper than those of the UrbanMatZ mat. The cobblestones are nicely small, very well fitting for 28mm scale. I also like the colours: The UrbanMatZ mat is kind of blueish while the DCS mat has a more "normal" brownish grey tone and fits my buildings much better.

A scenic shot with some buildings and highwaymen

A comparison between the UrbanMatZ cobblestone city mat and
the cobblestone mat from Deep-Cut Studio

The mats from UrbanMatZ and Deep-Cut Studio and their backs

All in all, I can definately recommend the mousepad version mats from Deep-Cut Studio. Of course, the different design vary a lot and it is very subjective whether you like them or not. At least the cobblestone mat I find absolutely excellent.

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