Help support TMP

"Trend: photo-realistic surface mats for all gaming genres?" Topic

23 Posts

All members in good standing are free to post here. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the posters, and have not been cleared with nor are they endorsed by The Miniatures Page.

Please remember that some of our members are children, and act appropriately.

For more information, see the TMP FAQ.

Back to the TMP Poll Suggestions Message Board

Back to the Wargaming in General Message Board

Areas of Interest


Featured Hobby News Article

Featured Link

Featured Ruleset


Rating: gold star gold star gold star gold star gold star gold star gold star 

Featured Showcase Article

Cheap Scenery: Giant Mossy Rocks

Well, they're certainly cheap...

Featured Workbench Article

Vegetation on the Cheap

Making terrain can be quick and inexpensive.

Current Poll

834 hits since 17 Feb 2022
©1994-2022 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Personal logo Sgt Slag Supporting Member of TMP17 Feb 2022 8:32 a.m. PST

I do not wish to rain on anyone's parade of gaming, but I wonder how the majority of TMP'ers feel about the trend towards photo-realistic gaming mats to cover the gaming table with?

I've noticed, over the past several years, a trend towards such realistic mats being used more and more, for tabletop games at the few conventions I have attended. I guess I am a grognard, as I prefer unrealistic mats which are far more versatile, albeit entirely unrealistic in appearance.

What say you, TMP Brain Trust? Do you prefer uber-realistic mats and figures, or do you go for unrealistic appearing mats, and less than contest-worthy painting of figures on your gaming tables?

To further explain my view, it seems like the younger gamers are more insistent upon uber-realistic paint and mats. I experienced paint snobbery regarding some space ship models I had on display in a commercial setting; a friendly convention attendee loaned me some of his Star Wars, factory painted models (suitable for use in filming the next Star Wars film!) to replace my blocked and Dip'ed space ship models. I appreciated his input, and his loan of ship models, but it really demonstrated the newer generation's ideas on gaming -- IMO.

Again, it seems to demonstrate that I am an old-fashioned curmudgeon gamer. I am OK with that. My green Tee-Time Indoor/Outdoor carpet, with matching foam hills, covered in the same carpet, are extremely modular; they were fun to make, and they scratched my crafting itch in a most satisfying manner. I can set up any type of terrain I want, with hills stacked to the point of making mountains, if I need mountains. Not realistic, but immensely modular, and satisfyingly playable. And… Good enough to game with, for me. ;-) Cheers!

huron725 Supporting Member of TMP17 Feb 2022 8:53 a.m. PST

Interesting thoughts.

I really enjoy seeing the well put together to the n-th degree games; boards, miniatures..etc. (eye candy)

However, I do not do this for my own gaming. I am in my late 50's and have been cobbling things together for my games for years. Nor do I put on convention games. So I'm not going to win any awards.

For sure there are a lot more pre-painted pre-packaged terrain and miniatures available now. That probably has a lot to do with it.

doc mcb17 Feb 2022 9:07 a.m. PST

Well, both. Been gaming 60+ years and have a lot of homemade terrain, still used on occasion. OTOH I really like the battle mats. Embrace the power of AND.

A lot depends on WHERE the game is being played. If it is in my basement, with large table that can be set up and kept up indefinitely and in complete security, the mats are not really needed, plus the battle area is typically too large. But if I am on the road -- doing a con game or, say, a birthday party for a kid. then quick and portable counts a lot.

advocate17 Feb 2022 9:16 a.m. PST

I'm good with pretty much anything that provides a decent looking game. Plain and simple can be good, especially if done in a consistent style. But I like the newer mats too, and have a couple.

Personal logo Sgt Slag Supporting Member of TMP17 Feb 2022 9:20 a.m. PST

Full disclosure, my snobbery experience took place at a game convention a few years ago, prior to COVID. It did have a chilling effect upon my interest in running a convention game again…

I, too, love the photo-realistic mats, the uber-painted mini's are uber-fun to see, but I'd rather not game with them as I don't want to be responsible for damaging them in use -- it happens, no matter how careful the players are.

I guess I am saying that this new trend makes me uncomfortable, to a degree, and I am losing interest in running any con-games because of it. Sad, but true.

It is also dampening my interest in running any games at my FLGS, as well. Not sure, I don't go there very often. At home, I play with like-minded gamers, most of which are older gamers, like me, who have similar investments in the older, less-realistic style of gaming.

All responses appreciated, no matter the viewpoint. And, yes, doc mcb, I see, understand, and appreciate your views -- they make perfect sense. Thanks for sharing your insights. Cheers!

doc mcb17 Feb 2022 12:04 p.m. PST

Sarge, I think a lot of us fear that the hobby is dying. Of course it is ALWAYS changing, but the question is generational. MY grandchildren are as interested in gaming as their father, and as I have been, but they may be the exceptions. (The oldest grandson is heavily into a D&D campaign -- which makes me feel OLD . . . .)

David and I have been, as it happens, discussing in some depth how the current (and likely to continue and get worse) high prices of materials, postage limitations, etc. will affect his business and the hobby generally. We enjoy going to cons but I cannot be masked, so we'll see what that future brings. I have an enormous investment in 25-28mm AWI, and am wondering what will become of them when I am no longer around.

So no question that things are different and will continue to be, even more so. Do we believe in progress? Yeah, I guess, but it is NO SURE THHING!

doc mcb17 Feb 2022 12:07 p.m. PST

Old Skool, yes, I'm interested mainly in the ground and much prefer adding the 3d trees and buildings and fences. BUT, again, if I am pressed for time it is surely easy to unroll the matt. Just depends on circumstances.

John Leahy Supporting Member of TMP17 Feb 2022 2:04 p.m. PST

I have been buying several game mats over the last several years. None are really specific to a particular battle. They are a great tool for us IMHO. They can make an ok looking game better by a grade or two. I also have fleece, cotton and other fabric mats that I have sprayed to make them look better. I also have some custom made boards that I rarely ever use now. I like my terrain items to work with my game mats. Seems like the best of both worlds to me.



robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP17 Feb 2022 2:17 p.m. PST

Photo realist mats serve a critical function in absorbing surplus hobby money. One can only justify so many custom dice after all, or purchase so many 3D-printed figures with one's own head. (Kidding, a little. I've done two of the three myself. But it does sometimes feel as though we're spending more money than the hobby can readily absorb.)

More to the point, I can see a printed mat which exactly replicates a particular battlefield in the right ground scale for the game, and I've fought on painted mats done for that purpose. But it's an expensive one-shot: next week, you're adding felt roads, which spoils the effect, or explaining that a road or creek on the mat isn't really there, which makes it worse than a regular mat. For weekly use, either modular boards or a decent mottled base mat with add-on terrain are better looking and better value.

doc mcb, PLEASE plan early for troop disposition--and in the meantime, get rid of surplus. "Joe, find them a good home once I'm gone" is not a plan for anything above maybe one van load.

Expense, though. I will say one more time, this is not an expensive hobby: we just spend a lot of money on it. Buy plastics. Use a 3D printer. Homecast. Go to microscale. Haunt the flea markets. Scratch-build terrain. Lots of ways to wargame cheaply. The price of transportation is not set by the price of Teslas, Mercedes or first-class flight, and the price of miniature warfare is not set by this year's most fashionable figures and terrain.

For that matter, would anyone care to add up the money he's spent on projects which never made it to the table? How about armies never used ten times?

No, I wouldn't care to myself.

Thresher0118 Feb 2022 12:20 a.m. PST

I love the look of them, but have heard that at least the "mouse-pad" type rubber mats can be easily damaged.

I'm not sure about how durable the printed fabric mats are, but suspect they may be a little better. Don't know for sure about that though.

Seems like for safe, repeated use, they'd need a clear mat laid over them for protection.

The Last Conformist18 Feb 2022 12:43 a.m. PST

"Mouspad" (neoprene) mats are reasonably tough in my experience. I've seen more damage to my cloth ones, though "cloth" covers a multitude of materials that aren't all equal.

My neoprene mats aren't photorealistic, though, they depict stylized landscapes that you can put 3D roads, hills, and whatnot on.

Where photorealism would make most sense would be aerial games where you're not going to have any 3D terrain anyway. Also blue navy naval, but anything involving coasts will be less suited because for game purposes you're likely to need rigidly defined coastlines, extents of shallows, etc.

UshCha18 Feb 2022 1:00 a.m. PST

Old Skool Gamer has it. They for most gmes they are (too me) a pontless one off. If playing an arial, navel (all at sea) or space game then the playing surface is just that and its pattern is achedemic as it has no impact on play. However even ships may look odd, defeating the experince if the ships base is out of kilter with the mat.

For land based games its pointless, its unlikely you will get 3D fetures to match and a single terrain mat is as pontless as a chocolate tea pot after one game.

irishserb18 Feb 2022 6:16 a.m. PST

My preference is for 3-D modular terrain.

Mats can work fine depending on how hey are employed, but if the mat depicts three dimensional things; ditches, curbs, bushes, trees, shell craters, debris, etc. I struggle with the 2-D depiction in a 3-D world. It ruins the illusion for me.

It is the 3-D aspect of the game, that makes it a miniatures game. Something as subtle as curbs or ditches presented in the same plane as fields and road surfaces, steels from the feel of the game for me.

Garryowen18 Feb 2022 6:33 a.m. PST

I like 3-D modular terrain, but a really good looking mat is absolutely essential. I have seen some fleece mats with no painting on them that look fabulous. Also, flocked mats can be great. Or fleece mats artfully spray painted various colors.

What I cannot stand is a plain green mat that looks like a pool table, or camouflage cloth. But there are so many camo patterns that there maybe some that would look natural.

When one first looks at a wargame table, the mat usually fills one's vision more than the figures or the terrain pieces on it. If it looks bad, the whole game looks bad.


robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP18 Feb 2022 3:19 p.m. PST

Good point about aerial and naval games, Last Conformist! I should have thought of them, though I don't usually play them. Might add deep space as another good fit.

Personal logo Bobgnar Supporting Member of TMP18 Feb 2022 3:24 p.m. PST

old school vs high tech school. Different strokes for different folks. lead/metal figurers vs plastic likewise?

Dashetal19 Feb 2022 11:26 a.m. PST

I like the mats, but I chose wisely. My mats are generic types with suggestions of terrain so they can be used as a base for multiple games. The foam under them and buildings, trees, water, essentially placed on top of them looks good and the mat helps sell the suspension of belief you are trying to create.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP21 Feb 2022 7:28 a.m. PST

You know, you can buy a cloth mat of uniform color and just use it for a few years. It will have all the minor variations in color you would wish for.

Personal logo Sgt Slag Supporting Member of TMP21 Feb 2022 10:27 a.m. PST

rober piepenbrink, years ago, I had my wife quilt together some mottled gray cloth squares with mottled green cloth squares. We formed them into square city blocks, with streets, for my 54mm Army Men games. I still have it, I still use it. It looks pretty good, on top of a flat table, with ruined building sections atop it. Cheers!

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP21 Feb 2022 11:36 a.m. PST

You can get all kinds of "natural" looking patterns from the remnant bin at the fabric store really cheap. You can even get that shipped to you nowadays ordering online.

BigNickR22 Feb 2022 3:32 p.m. PST

My two cents?

Gameplay will always trump eye candy, but there is no reason NOT to make your stuff look as good as you can.

I play games that are fun, I paint and build for fun, and I choose to associate with fun people. I would not (and indeed HAVE NOT) turn(ed) my nose up at someone pushing unpainted tokens and cardboard bits around on a Battletech game.

That said, for MY table, as it is a reflection of my desires, I want the table to conform to a "look" that I hold myself to.

For ME, that is Painted based figures, on a play surface appropriate to the game being played, with professional-looking handouts and matched dice sets.

Were I playing someone bringing a guest army (competition or what have you) I would ABSOLUTELY have no problem with whatever the other person brought, (though I may offer painting services, tips, etc if the other person was amiable to it)

Tortorella Supporting Member of TMP22 Feb 2022 5:55 p.m. PST

I have made all my own mats from marine vinyl, bought by the yard when it is on sale. Painted with craft paints,I have made them for grasslands, winter, whatever. Vinyl lasts forever, flexible and allows you to put stuff under it for rolling terrapin and hills – cause the earth is not flat – and best of all, bases move smoothly over it with gentle contact, much faster game since I slide them, save wear and tear by not picking bases up. They roll up easily and store in a closet.

But I could never get an ocean mat to look right. I splurged and bought a Lino sea mat from Tiny Wargames. A little expensive with shipping to the US but it looks like the ocean, tiny whitecaps and all, 6x4. I love it. Lino seems very durable so far, it's for floors after all!

Augustus22 Feb 2022 7:26 p.m. PST

I do not understand this:

"To further explain my view, it seems like the younger gamers are more insistent upon uber-realistic paint and mats. I experienced paint snobbery regarding some space ship models I had on display in a commercial setting; a friendly convention attendee loaned me some of his Star Wars, factory painted models (suitable for use in filming the next Star Wars film!) to replace my blocked and Dip'ed space ship models. I appreciated his input, and his loan of ship models, but it really demonstrated the newer generation's ideas on gaming -- IMO."

He lent you miniatures to use and that is snobbery? So do I understand right that you felt your ships were not painted to compare to his? I guess I do not understand. Are factory painted good?

Sorry - only verified members can post on the forums.