Sorry for the crease, I haven't ironed mine yet.
With X-Wing just hitting the shelves, and looking like it will become a very popular game, I see a lot of people asking where to get nice looking space play mats. So what better time to post my review of the Hotz Mats' Enhanced Deep Space game mat?! As some of you might remember I talked a bit about various space gaming mats and the options available to us consumers in the post titled Wanted: More Spaceship Gaming back in January. My conclusion was that the CorSec mats look the best but are also the most expensive. Hotz is a very nice second choice that is more affordable and has the added bonus of being able to get double-sided.
The hex side and plain side next to each other.
And that is just what I ordered! I talked to Eric Hotz at the end of January and I was in luck as he was just preparing to make another batch of space mats. I had seen my friend Anders' regular space mat and decided to go for the enhanced version as it looked a little nicer and it would be neat to compare the two. Double-sided meant that I could future-proof my mat and put 1.5" hexes on one side so I'd be able to try out new spaceship combat games like Squadron Strike and Starmada.
The FSE under attack by a UNSC task force. Ships from GZG.
It took about three months for the mat to arrive, but as I was in no hurry this didn't bother me. I've seen it mentioned on the net that Eric, who runs Hotz Mats, can be difficult to get hold of and that it takes ages for the mat to arrive with no info on shipping etc. To that I can only say that he answered my emails promptly and even gave me a discount on shipping. If you're in a rush it might not be the best choice, but if you just have some patience the mat will arrive.
"Just the mat, ma'am. Just the mat."
Now, how is the actual mat then? Well, it's painted black felt with all the pros and cons that comes with. The background nebulae are done with airbrush and the default colours are mostly yellow and red, although I think others are available at request. Over the nebulae are sprinkled loads of white dots representing stars. Some of them have received some extra airbrush attention making them glow a little extra, breaking up the black a bit. It's all quite basic but when watched from a meter or so away (or as far away as you normally are during play) it all comes together to create a great looking effect!
Relthoza sneaking their way through an asteroid field. Ships from Spartan Games.
There's something to be said for painted versus printed mats. While the printed ones do look technically better I think they can sometimes overwhelm the senses and draw attention away from the models - there is almost too much detail! Painted mats give a softer background that in some ways are more conducive to gaming. That is not to say that I wouldn't love to get my hands on a CorSec mat - because I would - but it's not simply a matter of one being better than the other.
When you get closer to the mat you can see the fibers in the felt, which become extra apparent at the painted areas. This takes away some of the space feel, but again, most of the time you will see the mat from much further away where you don't really notice it.
Aw... Luke all alone. I really need those Y-wings! Ships from FFG.
These days all Hotz mats are treated with fabric binder to both protect the felt itself and make it less likely to snag or start to "tuft", as well as protecting the airbrushed paint from wear and tear. The mat that my friend Anders have had for a bunch of years now didn't have this treatment and it's starting to show. It still looks ok from some distance away, but up close you can see that the felt is starting to fray. Granted he's been folding it instead of rolling it as recommended, so that might have something to do with it. The fabric binder does give the mat an entirely different feel though, as it's less soft and more course and it does seem to help against fraying which is great.
These pictures make me want to play some Starmada. Ships from GZG.
The hexes seem to be printed on top of the paintjob and they are a lot less opaque than I first thought they would be. Indeed they are just the right tone so that they kind of blend into the background while still being clear enough to play by. Good balance there! In that old article I worried wheather they might be brittle and "break", but that is not the case so no worries about that.
A Relthoza carrier and escorts. Ships from Spartan Games.
Bottom line is that I'm very happy with my purchase. Looking at it set up now, with an x-wing squaring off against two TIE fighters, it really feels like space - which is the entire point in the end! Glad I got it double-sided as well as some hex-based games were almost closed off to me until now, and I'm eager to try Starmada for one. I still want to get that CorSec Blue Stars mat at some point in the future, but there's absolutely no rush as I have a pretty cool looking mat already.
Love the FSE ships from Ground Zero Games! They just embody so much... spaceshipness.
Really awesome sculpts!
I think most people would be perfectly happy with the Hotz Enhanced Deep Space mat. If you are a great space combat enthusiast who will be using a space mat often you might want to consider some pricier alternative, but I'm not convinced it's worth it myself. I think the mat looks very good and there's nothing that beats felt when it comes to rolling dice!
An added note to budding X-Wing players. Eric offers his mats in a variety of sizes and the 36 by 36 inch mat would perfectly suit the suggested play area for X-Wing. Although, bear in mind this suggested size might grow as the the game grows and larger ships are introduced. Still, it's a bargain at $26.99!
Well, I hope that helped inform some of my dear readers! Now go and warm up your spaceship...
"I used to bullseye womp rats in my T-16 back home!"