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Author Topic: (Kickstarter) Cigar Box Battle Mats  (Read 845 times)

Offline zemjw

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(Kickstarter) Cigar Box Battle Mats
« on: June 14, 2018, 10:08:44 AM »
They've just launched a new kickstarter/pre-order project - link

I lost count on the number of mats that you can choose from, but it is a lot  :)

Some of them are very tempting, but I think international shipping and customs charges will exclude me :'(

Offline Nordic1980s

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Re: (Kickstarter) Cigar Box Battle Mats
« Reply #1 on: July 26, 2018, 10:32:05 PM »
Having lately acquired some of these mats, they are a true "level up" upgrade to most gamers collections. Combined with a good sized 5cm thick dark grey cellural foam sheet available from shops selling bed and pillow padding by metre (think as in sleeping pad or yoga mat foam, but way thicker), they provide an easily customised surface with 3D real contours that go both up and down. Dice roll easily and softly. If any miniatures tumble, there is no damage to either the model or the surface. One can lean to the gaming surface and it will bounce back, unlike traditional game boards made of styrofoam or insulation sheets. Images show some of these mats acquired through North Star Military Figures - big thanks to them!

I missed this latest Kickstarter campaign, but hopefully some of those beautiful new designs will trickle down to us ordinary customers at a later date...

(Why gaming sheets like these haven't been the norm for last 30 years is IMHO a testament to archaic general level of the miniature industry, lagging by decades other industries.)
« Last Edit: July 26, 2018, 11:02:00 PM by Nordic1980s »

Offline jeffreythancock

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Re: (Kickstarter) Cigar Box Battle Mats
« Reply #2 on: July 27, 2018, 02:48:57 AM »
I wish you could have grids printed on them (hexes or squares)!

Offline Daeothar

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Re: (Kickstarter) Cigar Box Battle Mats
« Reply #3 on: July 27, 2018, 08:01:39 AM »
...Why gaming sheets like these haven't been the norm for last 30 years is IMHO a testament to archaic general level of the miniature industry, lagging by decades...

Maybe it's because a lot of us like to see the texture of terrain as opposed to flat printed relief. For instance; the European mat shown in the picture above has woods and hedgerows printed, but then also has physical hedgerows placed on it.

To me, and probably a lot of others, this is jarring and therefore actually shaped and textured terrain is highly preferable.

Now, this does not go for all types of gaming surface: I've playing space combat games on mousemat material game mats for many years, and they're perfect for that type of game.

The same goes for naval battles and aerial combat (there's a nice example of such a mat in this month's issue of Wargames, Soliers and Strategy), and perhaps smaller scale battles (1/300, 1/600) on desert terrain. And Dropfleet Commander takes place in very low (near atmosphere) orbit, high above a planet's surface.

But whenever there is terrain that interacts with line of sight, I don't think it's desirable to have that printed on your mat, and personally, I'd even state that any terrain feature that has a relief of more than, say, 2cm in real life, should not be printed, but represented by 3D terrain instead.

After all; we paint our miniatures to our best ability, to look as good as possible, imitating real (or imagined) life, and then placing those on a printed mat, no matter how nice it looks, simply detracts from the desired effect of realism.

Now, I understand factors such as time and space limitations; not everyone has the resources, storage room and/or the available time to build a table. Then there is the fact that not everyone has the skills or desire to build one. Or that one would like to play on so many different types of surface it would be (again) impractical to build a full table's worth of surface for each and every one of those settings.

All of those are valid arguments for the use of ready made mats, and I'm not ragging on anyone who uses or even prefers them. Heck; I have several (space) mats myself and I love them.

But I do believe that the majority of wargamers, when given the choice, prefer textured over flat printed terrain for all the reasons I stated above.

And for what it's worth, I do not think the miniature industry is any way near as archaic as you suggest, with the use of digital sculpting, huge advances in the use of materials, moulds and multipart plastics and -resins, 3D-printing, MDF-terrain and many, many more. But it does remain a hobby with physical , tactile aspects, striving for realism on a small scale, that simply cannot be replaced by flat printed features, no matter how beautifully rendered...

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Offline Mason

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Re: (Kickstarter) Cigar Box Battle Mats
« Reply #4 on: July 27, 2018, 08:52:31 AM »
That was very well put, Daeothar.
I could not have said better myself.
 :)




Offline carlos marighela

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Re: (Kickstarter) Cigar Box Battle Mats
« Reply #5 on: July 27, 2018, 09:40:09 AM »
They appear to look OK if you are viewing them from directly above and I suppose with air warfare games they would be a decent option but otherwise I think they’re a bit mehhhhh.
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Offline Nordic1980s

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Re: (Kickstarter) Cigar Box Battle Mats
« Reply #6 on: July 27, 2018, 12:20:28 PM »
Maybe it's because a lot of us like to see the texture of terrain as opposed to flat printed relief. For instance; the European mat shown in the picture above has woods and hedgerows printed, but then also has physical hedgerows placed on it. To me, and probably a lot of others, this is jarring and therefore actually shaped and textured terrain is highly preferable. ... After all; we paint our miniatures to our best ability, to look as good as possible, imitating real (or imagined) life, and then placing those on a printed mat, no matter how nice it looks, simply detracts from the desired effect of realism.
If textured terrain is wanted instead of flat sheets, it changes nothing of the core question: why haven't Zuzzy-like 3D mat sheets been provided with each boxed copy of Warhammer, Fantasy Warriors, Kill Zone and such for the last 30 years? Plastic, rubber and fabric are all cheapo, lightweight and one-component solutions compared to hardwood, actual metal nails/screws and litres of glue, paint, flock  sand and whatnot.

Hardcore hobbyists will always go their own way, not being content with the materials already provided by the market. I'm arguing here for the rest 98 % of the hobbyists, for whom a green-painted plywood or a basic green felt is a thing in itself still in 2018. This is why I'm so happy about these new good quality factory made gaming mats - it was about time, on the eleventh hour of our hobby.

Now, this does not go for all types of gaming surface: I've playing space combat games on mousemat material game mats for many years, and they're perfect for that type of game.
...until the moment an another hobbyist walks into gaming club room and notes that flat sheet like that doesn't reflect the optics of deep space at all with the comets, stars and deathstars all missing; flat waves do no carry ships forwards in naval games nor do flattened battlescapes of air warfare allow the airplanes to descend through the clouds to play a hide-and-seek amongst mountain valleys. See how the same arguments could be used to dispel space or airbattle mats as being way too flat-eart..., ahem, a flat-spacer when it comes to such games? ;)

But whenever there is terrain that interacts with line of sight, I don't think it's desirable to have that printed on your mat, and personally, I'd even state that any terrain feature that has a relief of more than, say, 2cm in real life, should not be printed, but represented by 3D terrain instead.
That's a beautiful principle, but how does that fit in with the physical reality of where gamers need often to place the miniature models several actual centrimetres above their realistic ground level because the model scenery and bases will simply not fit in the correct position?

Now, I understand factors such as time and space limitations; not everyone has the resources, storage room and/or the available time to build a table. ... But I do believe that the majority of wargamers, when given the choice, prefer textured over flat printed terrain for all the reasons I stated above.
One could be optimist and assume that perhaps one day all the miniature gamers will get this Christ-like psychological evolution: grow up, behave better and most importantly custom-build beautiful 3D sceneries that will be a wonder to behold for many generations to come. A visit to nearby gaming shops and gaming conventions - that is, the very sacred temples of our hobby - will quickly dispel that dream as Soviet-like fairy tale.

This is why we're living the renaissance of printed gaming mats, for convenience always thriumphs over realism and the associated hard work. This is why Zuzzy's production troubles are a strategic/memetic issue beyond the existence of mere one company, for the concept of easily available 3D gaming mats would be magic solution to all of this. For which good quality printed mats are close contenders or second-best options. (Or better depending on the game type used with, as seen with popular mass unit games like the Warhammer Fantasy Battle game.)

To my eyes this is evidenced by the renaissance of fantasy and scifi boardgames. They are just as "nerdy" and niche as our hobby, but far more practical to acquire, own and use. If wargaming wants to go big some day within its own contested econiche, it needs to reboot some of the basic assumption held within its own memetic field. This is where ready-made products enter the picture: Reaper Bones instead of a 30-part kit that takes 30 hours to build up and paint; good looking battle mats instead of carpets, plywood boards and ugly insulation sheet foam boards. [Edit: some of the battle mats available commercially look just horrible. On the other hand Cigar Box battle mats represent definitely the best end of the spectrum.]

And for what it's worth, I do not think the miniature industry is any way near as archaic as you suggest, with the use of digital sculpting, huge advances in the use of materials, moulds and multipart plastics and -resins, 3D-printing, MDF-terrain and many, many more.
The miniature industry has played a good catch-up game for the last decade, as seen in good quality battle mats, terrain products, Reaper Bones and such. My gist is: why so late? Why not in the late 1980s to early 1990s era when the miniature industry and hobby bloomed and was already decades old field by then. Some examples:
  • use of self-destructing brittle resins and lead metal alloys instead of good quality plastic in models
  • use of metal instead of plastic, whether in model figures or scenery
  • Reaper Bones et al replicating in the 2010s something that was the norm in toy soldier market by late 1960s
  • accurately shaped plug-in components that need no glue decades after toy industry
  • use of gaming mats decades after it was the norm in toy industry
  • use of lightweight foam-like scenery decades after it was the norm in toy/railway model industries
  • model buildings are often costly, half-cast (detailing on only one side), take eons to build up and must be mail ordered; aquarium decoration pieces are cheap, fully detailed, one component items and locally available (please see the Greek temple in photos above)
  • Games Workshop succesfully cast prototype plastic Jes Goodwin 28mm Eldar already in the 1980s, then said nah... why?!?!?!
  • games made my miniature manufacturers tend to have inferior components and art compared to ones made by board game manufacturers: compare GW's shoddy Advanced Heroquest to MB's golden Heroquest etc. (exact same idea, production values light years apart)
  • ...and so on.
« Last Edit: July 27, 2018, 12:58:12 PM by Nordic1980s »

Offline Mason

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Re: (Kickstarter) Cigar Box Battle Mats
« Reply #7 on: July 27, 2018, 01:11:58 PM »
My guess would be 'production costs' is the answer to a lot of the questions that you posed.
Remember that compared to the big boys producing the games that you mention, most gaming companies are tiny in comparison and cannot afford to invest so heavily in something that may or may not prove popular.

GW is one of the biggest companies in the industry, and has been for some time, but at the time of Heroquest being released would have been a tiny little fish compared to MB games...

Also, a lot of people still like to 'make stuff'.
 ;)


Offline LeadAsbestos

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Re: (Kickstarter) Cigar Box Battle Mats
« Reply #8 on: July 27, 2018, 01:57:22 PM »






Caribbean Sea, Broken Ground (I think), Lost Temple.

We like them!
« Last Edit: August 08, 2018, 12:56:01 AM by LeadAsbestos »

Offline Daeothar

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Re: (Kickstarter) Cigar Box Battle Mats
« Reply #9 on: July 27, 2018, 03:45:30 PM »
@ LeadAsbestos: I think you've achieved the best possible result combining mats with physical terrain pieces. I totally dig the sea mat with the islands, and I would probably do the same (should I have a sea mat, that is). The jungle table is also very nice, but to me, the lack of relief in the paving stones is still a bit of a letdown.

But awesome tables, both! 8)

My guess would be 'production costs' is the answer to a lot of the questions that you posed.
Remember that compared to the big boys producing the games that you mention, most gaming companies are tiny in comparison and cannot afford to invest so heavily in something that may or may not prove popular.

GW is one of the biggest companies in the industry, and has been for some time, but at the time of Heroquest being released would have been a tiny little fish compared to MB games...

Indeed; GW had to seek out MB to ensure their games would reach a large market, but also to make certain their components were to the desired standards, as they did not have the resources of their own back then.

Battle Masters did have a mat for instance (and a bloody large one at that), but it simply was not to current standards, and this was produced by one of the biggest names in the industry! (and to be honest, even then, as a gangling teenager, I thought it looked a bit naff).

But at the time, there was no market for such items among wargamers; they were quite happy creating their own terrain. Both because it was the standard at the time and it just looked way better!

You refer to board games as well, and here too, production values have gone way, way up, when compared to games from, say the early eighties. You only need to compare Space Hulk 1st ed with 3rd ed and you know what I mean. And again, this had to do with cost; had those companies had the funds to have their games published to today's standards affordably, they would obviously have done that.

But as Mason mentioned; they were almost all just small fries, and did not have the money to do so. Even a relative giant from those days, FASA, only provided paper maps (but did actively promote creating 3D terrain), simply because having anything else made for their game would have been too cost-prohibitive.

If textured terrain is wanted instead of flat sheets, it changes nothing of the core question: why haven't Zuzzy-like 3D mat sheets been provided with each boxed copy of Warhammer, Fantasy Warriors, Kill Zone and such for the last 30 years? Plastic, rubber and fabric are all cheapo, lightweight and one-component solutions compared to hardwood, actual metal nails/screws and litres of glue, paint, flock  sand and whatnot.

I don't think the idea (if maybe not the technique) of the Zuzzy mats (which I do sort of like, as they do have some texture to them) was conceived back in the eighties. Besides; adding a mat to boxed starter sets would drive up their prices considerably, most likely pricing them out of the market.

Back in the day, people simply spent a portion of their spare time (re)creating miniature terrain on their tables; it was an accepted and required part of the hobby. Today though (and I'm a big victim to it as well), there is so much distraction, and we require so much of ourselves, that the time to make terrain is often no longer there.

Obviously, even back then, there were those who simply did not like to spend their time and effort into making terrain, and there are many pictures around of seventies or eighties tables being simple green tablecloth affairs with a few clumps of lichen and a box for terrain. Just as many as there are nowadays I reckon.

Except now, people can buy affordable mats to camouflage some of their lack of terrainmaking. But I'm simply of mind that they will never look as good as actual, sculpted, shaped and textured terrain.

So for those who lack the space, time or inclination to make their own terrain, mats are a perfect alternative; I'd rather they game on professionally printed mats than on a bare dining table top. But mats will never be a replacement for 3D terrain, for those who like making that.

Hardcore hobbyists will always go their own way, not being content with the materials already provided by the market. I'm arguing here for the rest 98 % of the hobbyists

I don't consider myself a 'hardcore gamer', but I do like creating my own terrain. The division you give seems a bit off, as I don't think it's based on any facts. I can't support my point with facts either, but my gut feeling tells me there should be more than 2% of the miniature wargaming community who like making their own terrain...

Also, a lot of people still like to 'make stuff'. ;)
Absolutely; for many people, the building process is an important part of the hobby. I know it is for me.

And as Nordic1980s mentions the hobby lagging behind the advance of technology; even though printing has been around for a long time, and it would technically have been possible back in the day to print on mousemat material, it's only been the advent of newer and cheaper digital printing that has brought the costs down to affordable levels. And I'm not talking about those glorified shopping bags such as in Battle Masters.

I doubt there would be much enthusiasm for printed gaming mats when each would have to net at least €300,- a piece! ;)

...until the moment an another hobbyist walks into gaming club room and notes that flat sheet like that doesn't reflect the optics of deep space at all with the comets, stars and deathstars all missing; flat waves do no carry ships forwards in naval games nor do flattened battlescapes of air warfare allow the airplanes to descend through the clouds to play a hide-and-seek amongst mountain valleys. See how the same arguments could be used to dispel space or airbattle mats as being way too flat-eart..., ahem, a flat-spacer when it comes to such games? ;)

You make a fair point in regard to, for instance the clouds, but to me, it's all a matter of perspective. A space mat, with its stars and other celestial bodies is perfectly usable, as all of the oblects depicted on the mat are very, very far away. So far, that they could not possibly interact with the miniatures on the table; they're background. The same goes for aerial mats: houses, fields and low level clouds are too far down to interact with the miniatures planes at the given altitude. Again, they're background only.

Now, I do have some doubts about Dropfleet Commander (which, by the way DOES have several fold out paper mats included, just like DropZone Commander); in this game, ships operate on 3 different levels; high, medium and low, and this is represented on the miniature's bases, but I'd rather see 3  different scaled miniatures representing the same craft at different altitudes. Also, Hawk Wargames provide objectives and terrain features for the planet below, which I don't see working; they should remain flat tokens, as again; they're just background!

Sea battles? I do see a point when battles take place in stormy seas, with waves, dozens of meters high, but on calm seas, the ripples are again so small that they are also just background; most naval games are at ridiculously small scales after all.

Basically, there are two schools of thought in regards to gaming mats; both have their plusses and minuses and to each their own. But to state that 3D terrain is outdated or archaic would be wrong: visually it will always be superior to printed terrain, but when given the choice between a bare wooden tabletop or a mat, I obviously would choose the mat as well :)

As for the points you make in regards to 'mistakes' made by the industry: most have to do (again) with production costs.
* Brittle resin was the only type commercially available. Only later were advances made that made better types of resin available and affordable. Lead was the standard for miniatures at the time, mostly because at first, people cast them themselves, it was cheap, and pliable. Only later, with stricted health and safety regulations, was lead phased out, in favour of other, and also harder, materials. Those materials made it then possible to create sharper features, but also drove up costs again.

* You refer to terrain models taking eons to build. And that probably reveals you're no fan of building terrain ;) Others take actual pleasure in assembling those buildings!

* GW choosing not to cast plastic Eldar had everything to do with the costs of plastic injection moulds versus metal spin moulds. it was an economic decision, based on the assumption that Eldar would not sell as well as Space marines (RTB01).

* Again; entities such as MB, Mattel or Kenner had massive resources compared to GW, FASA or other miniatures companies. Advanced Hero Quest was GW's attempt to recouperate the production of injection moulds for the Skaven and Henchmen; they used the same moulds for Warhammer Quest as well. Advanced Hero Quest was to Hero Quest what Advanced Space Crusade was to Space Crusade: GW using the profits of their cooperation with MB to commission new moulds and then creating (admittedly very poor) games to make those viable. Other examples are Space Hulk, Ultra Marines, Lost Patrol and Tyranid Attack; all using the same small range of miniatures, because the investment to make those miniatures was HUGE and had to be earned back.

(I omitted a few of your points, but those were already addressed earlier)
« Last Edit: July 27, 2018, 03:52:23 PM by Daeothar »

Offline carlos marighela

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Re: (Kickstarter) Cigar Box Battle Mats
« Reply #10 on: July 27, 2018, 11:18:14 PM »
Good choice, that wall paper would have looked awful in the drawing room.  :D

Offline Ninefingers

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Re: (Kickstarter) Cigar Box Battle Mats
« Reply #11 on: July 28, 2018, 07:10:13 AM »

(Why gaming sheets like these haven't been the norm for last 30 years is IMHO a testament to archaic general level of the miniature industry, lagging by decades other industries.)

If you want to see a hobby industry that's decades behind, just talk to a railway modeller...

Offline Nordic1980s

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Re: (Kickstarter) Cigar Box Battle Mats
« Reply #12 on: August 07, 2018, 11:07:16 PM »
Nice photos LeadAsbestos! The water texture looks very real-like in the first photo.

Let's hope the new island designs will be available for mail ordering in future... was just thinking of the possibility to play Jagged Alliance A.I.M. mercenaries on SOF-like action, with these Cigar Box battle mats setting the basis for an exotic Metavira Island scene.

Offline mcfonz

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Re: (Kickstarter) Cigar Box Battle Mats
« Reply #13 on: August 09, 2018, 10:54:46 AM »
I also find issue with archaic - 30 years ago was 1988. I bought my first PC at 16 in 1998 and it had a 4gb hard drive, still took floppy disks and dial up was still the most common connection.

My point? The tech to create and print battlemats like these simply didn't exist. Archaic? Nope, not even close.

This hobby is all encompassing, there are folks who call what they do 'traditional' wargaming. Some play with traditionally toy scales of soldiers etc. It doesn't make it archaic. It makes it diverse.

Just like the term 'car enthusiast' can cover the lovers of classic/vintage cars as well as modern heavily customised cars and super cars.

Live and let live.

Offline Nordic1980s

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Re: (Kickstarter) Cigar Box Battle Mats
« Reply #14 on: August 29, 2018, 04:26:25 PM »
I bought my first PC at 16 in 1998 and it had a 4gb hard drive, still took floppy disks and dial up was still the most common connection.
A 1998 designer computer would have been a powerful Mac with either a Zip drive, writable cd rom drive or both. For sending large image files between illustrators and the printing office, an office broadband connection would have been used.

Commercial cloth prints have been around since the middle ages and fleece as material since the 1980s. Photorealistic fleece mats like Cigar Box's New Europe could have been difficult or impossible to produce decades ago. But what about the more traditional illustration styles on traditional cloth, or alternatively Zuzzy-like 3D rubber texture mats? Rubber mats, fleece and printed fabrics all existed already in the 1980s.

This hobby is all encompassing, there are folks who call what they do 'traditional' wargaming. Some play with traditionally toy scales of soldiers etc. It doesn't make it archaic. It makes it diverse.
On a general level, I agree. It's not like one needs to make a binary choice between 17th century metal and 1950s plastics. Or between handmade terrain boards and printed battle mats. Or handmade 3D terrain models and printed shapes on battle mats. Some hobbyists are lucky to have spare time to paint model figures perhaps couple of  evenings per month, such as working parents with young children. Then there are hobbyists who can create beautiful hand-made stuff on a 24/7 basis, such as pensioners, unemployed, students with light or online curriculums. Both groups want good looking games, but have different means to get there. For the first mentioned group the classic toy soldiers, Reaper Bones figures, Ziterdes/Hudson & Allen hard foam terrain, Zuzzy 3D mats (RIP?) and Cigar Box Battle Mats are a godsend.

A historical question could be that where would our hobby be, if one mr. Gygax would not have found from a dime store a bag of cheapo Hong Kong made monsters to use with his Elastolin knight figure collection? While Elastolin knights and Hong Kong bulettes have long been gone now, luckily a modern hobbyist can visit a hobby store and buy some nice Reaper Bones figures to get the same kind of nice looking, lightweight and generally speaking survivable warriors and monsters. (As in no more unexpected visits by mr. Lead Rot. Latest victim in my collection was a 1st edition Terminator Captain...)

Earlier there was associated talk on plastic models and whether the manufacturing cost was the prohibitive issue. Already long before Citadel's Failcast and whatnot, there were in the 1980s this polyurethane resin material* that was like plastic for all practical considerations. This stuff is not at all the same hard, brittle and heavy resin that most miniature wargamers associate with word resin. This liquid resin casts easily into rubber moulds and solidifies in about the same time frame as molten metal into a non-brittle opaque material that can be modelled and painted just like any proper plastic model casting. Why that 1980s material has not replaced heavy metals or traditional brittle resins as the favoured casting medium is an open question that I like to highlight.

*This product by Micro-Mark looks a bit like the one I used myself succesfully over a decade ago. Because I bought the product back then through a local retailer, I'm not entirely sure if I have linked the correct North American brand.

I wish you could have grids printed on them (hexes or squares)!
Some of the older designs from Cigar Box do have hex patterns available and I agree they would work on these, too. The red Mars like mat would make a fine battlefield for Battletech games!
« Last Edit: August 29, 2018, 04:39:47 PM by Nordic1980s »