Category Archives: Product Review

Review: Flat Minis

In my younger days back in the 80s we did a lot of role-playing. Should have been studying but instead played D&D for three days straight sort too much role-playing.  One thing we used to do was make cardboard flats for gaming – in New Zealand in those days you just didn’t get metals although most people I knew had the odd figure here and there.  So, as aids for combat and so forth  I used to draw my own and mount them on card.  Had a big collection – especially Judge Dredd flats – that I wish I still had but it went south many decades ago.

In recent years flats have made a big comeback. Go to Drivethru-RPG and you can find dozens of down-loadable minis. There are even fan-made freebies out there – like these ones for Tekumel: Empire of the Petal Throne RPG (these examples are single sided).ept-minis

I was asked to review some paper minis from the aptly named company from Lithuania called Flat Minis.

Right off the bat I have to say that I think that they have a great product. The minis are printed on an elasticised material with an adhesive backing. The images are double sided and come individually packaged in a small plastic bag.

The neat thing is that there is a laser-cut plastic body matching the image of the mini to stick the miniature to. This then clips into a small base to hold upright. The plastic is fairly rigid and about 1-2mm thick. I think these would be robust enough to be chucked into a container for transport without any damage. The cost is €2 per figure. Not exactly cheap but you get a gaming token ready to go with no effort. I would prefer metals but then add the extra cost, painting time, storage for transport and so forth. For role-playing I think these are a good idea.

Assembly took about five seconds. The sticker wraps around the plastic cut-out and the completed 2-D miniature fits snugly into the plastic base.

The actual images are somewhat cartoony – perhaps a little too much so for my taste.  The printing however is crisp and the colours vivid.  The current range from Flat Minis includes some eighteen characters.  I would prefer a more realistic representation of characters – but these will do the job intended. If they made these for either the Harn or Empire of the Petal Throne settings – I would buy the lot.

Some other examples from their current range.

flat-minis-examples

And of course one good thing about 2D miniatures. They can fit through really narrow gaps on your dungeon layout.

img_6896

Flat Minis – http://www.flatminis.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: Deep Cut Studios’ Mousepad Gaming mats

Deep Cut Studios are based in Lithuania. They produce a fairly extensive range of gaming and battlemaps using a variety of materials ranging from traditional cloth to magnetized PVC.  All their mats have high quality printed surfaces available in a large range of backgrounds from cobblestones to deep space.  Deep Cut Studios kindly sent me a sample pack of their Mousepad-style maps to review. First off I will give you a description of the samples sent to me and then my thoughts on the product.

When the package arrived I was surprised to see that it got to me despite no street address – just my name and the town/postcode where I live. The joys of living in a small community.

img_6652

The package contained some 20x20cm tiles and a rolled sample piece. Interestingly, even though rolled and in a soft courier package it unrolled dead flat. Actual mats are shipped in cardboard tubes so crushing is unlikely during shipping.

The mats themselves are standard mousepad rubber with the image printed into the surface material. It has a matt finish – my camera flash makes them look a bit shinier than they actually are.

Detail and quality of the printing is good.  I am not sure exactly what the white terrain is supposed to represent – sand or tussock perhaps. It looked a little like the left over wool on the ground where we shear our sheep – just with less sheep crap.

The first thing to note about these tiles (sold separately by Deep Cut for about €1.50 each) is that they sit absolutely flat when placed on a flat surface.  Where two tiles abutted the join was visible but not distracting in any way – at least when I actually aligned them correctly and didn’t sit one on top of the other. I took these photos with the mouse-pad tiles on top of a felt gaming mat so there were quite a few bumps underneath the tiles and I also chose the point where my two 6×6 tables adjoin which mean that the surface underneath was not exactly flat.

I was interested to see how much abuse these could take. I scrunched the sample piece up and left it overnight. In the morning I rolled it out and it sat flat again. Bear in mind this is a sample piece and not a 4×6 gaming surface but once again showed that the material is good at sitting flat.

IMG_6669.JPG

Now – one thing that gamers do sometimes is have a drink sitting on the table. Coffee, coke, beer or even a Quad venti half caf breve no foam with whip two splenda stirred skinny three pump peppermint mocha if you are a hipster gamer from Seattle. And one thing that is sure to happen eventually is that drink being spilled. So, I misread Deep Cut’s claims about this product – I was reading the notes for the cloth mats that said ‘machine washable’. Yes – I machine washed the mouse pad mat and hung it up to dry. It came out fine but if you do spill anything on it I would suggest using a damp cloth to clean it 🙂 

I also used a craft knife and a pair of scissors to cut the material to see if it could be useful as markers for areas of say “difficult terrain”.  With a sharp knife the material cuts easily and cleanly. Even my not so sharp scissors did a good job but I would recommend using a hobby knife if you wanted to use this material for such a job.

My overall impressions of this product are positive. A 6×4′ mouse pad mat is priced at €54.90 plus postage. A smaller 4×4′ mat more suitable for skirmish gaming is a very reasonable €31.90. For these prices you get a light,  easily portable and attractive gaming surface.  Fact is you would be hard pressed to make something yourself for much less than that and I am pretty sure it wouldn’t be as portable or durable.  The exchange rate with the European Peso is also quite attractive at the moment – at least from my part of the world.

The tiles I were sent were all cobblestone road sections and I think would work best with 28mm skirmish gaming tables – Pirates or Sharpe Practice type games as the roads are quite wide. The one design that I couldn’t find on the Deep Cut Studio’s site was a Wild West town – something that I would be particularly interested in as I often take my Wild West skirmish games on the road when I am away from home and want to do some gaming with mates on a weekday evening.

One thing to remember is that these mats present a dead flat gaming surface. Contours and hills would have to be placed on top. For that reason I think that they are best suited for games and gamers who are not too worried about elevation being a three dimensional thing.  Deep Cut do make tiles with hills and so forth that are somewhat reminiscent of the old Battletech game boards if you really need 2-D hills. All their mats can be customised with regards to size and the addition of hexes or grid overlays.

Go to the Deep Cut Studios site and have a look at the range – it is large and there should be something there that you like. I particularly liked the cobblestone mat and the village mat with cobbletone streets. As far as the plain ‘grass mats’ go my only complaint is that the grass looks just a tad out of scale. With buildings and terrain placed on top probably wouldn’t be such an issue to me.

Deep Cut Studios: http://www.deepcutstudio.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/deepcutstudio

Blaze Away Miniatures: Napoleonic Spanish Review

Mick from Blaze Away Miniatures kindly sent me a few of the pre-production figures from their yet to be released Spanish Napoleonic Range.  I have ordered only once before from Blazeaway and purchased some of their Australian colonial “Bushrangers” for my Wild West Skirmish games. Off the bat I have to say that they seem good sorts to deal with and the order was processed incredibly fast.

On to the miniatures. Mick sent me three of the new range. These were two Grenadiers and a Line Infantryman (Full Dress).   These models have been photographed ‘as is” and I have not trimmed any flash or otherwise cleaned them up.  As I said, these are pre-production samples only.

Image

Grenadier Charging, Line Firing Line, Grenadier Marching

The Blaze Away website says that these figures are a comparable size to Front Rank. The shot below shows the difference in size and bulk compared to Front Rank and comparable plastic figures.  When I first looked at the models my initial reaction was, these guys are huge – scale creep at work.  But I got the ruler out and measured them. The March attack figure is 29mm from the soles of his boots to his eyes. By comparison, the Perry Plastic British infantryman is almost exactly 28mm.  The Front Rank Wurtemberger is 28.5mm. The real  difference is in the heft. These guys have not stinted on the paella, let me tell you. In this respect they are very like Front Rank – well fed indeed.

Image

Front Rank, Blazeaway, Victrix plastic, Perry plastic

The detail of these models is, on the whole, very good.  A small fault is that some of the buttons on the tunics were a little underdone. What I liked were some of the small touches. The blanket/rolled greatcoat looked like it was big enough to actually keep the guy warm – not the undersized rolled up shawl that adorns the backpacks of many miniatures (like on almost all my Connoisseur infantrymen for example). The figures all have fixed bayonets, and their bayonet sheathes were correspondingly empty.  The faces are not amazingly detailed, but I don’t paint eyes anyway so that would never be a minus to me. I liked the beard on the Grenadier.

Image

The firing line Fusilier I received is reaching back to take a cartridge from his pouch. I liked the animation in the figure and have to hope that the rest of the Firing Line set is as good. His face is very ‘Spanish’ and I rate this figure.

Image

The Grenadier charging is not a guy I would want to see running at me if all his mates are the same size. This guy is also 29mm from boots to eyes – and he is leaning forwards. Standing up straight he would be about 30-32mm for the same measurement I suspect.

Image

Another view of the same miniature.

Image

I cannot comment on a full range from seeing three figures, but my initial assessment is that if these minis are representative of the entire range, it will be a good one.  The miniatures have the type of animation that I like in a Napoleonic figure. I have said it a million times, but I feel that many of the modern miniatures, whilst excellently sculpted and cast, have a sameness and stiffness to them.  The muskets and bayonets are extremely well cast. They wont bend or break easily when fumble-fingered wargamers are handling a base of these miniatures (something I fear when moving my plastic miniatures on the table top).

Mick said that these will work well with Front Rank, and I agree. I also think that they would be able to be mixed in with Elite or Connoisseur without any trouble – if not in the same unit, at least in the same army, without looking out of place.

The Blaze Away Spanish range will be a great addition to what is currently available for the Peninsula War gamer.  Now they just have to get them on the market.