Thursday, 25 July 2013

Whats-a-mat-a-you!

I was just over at EndTransmissions gaming stuff waffling about gaming mats because he asked for some intel and it reminded me I had promised to talk about my recent purchase a bit more here. Here is my comment btw.

"After a series of failed attempts to get people to shut up and take my money I eventually found Hotzmatz which is run by Eric Hotz. The guy is outstanding at customer service and communications. His mats are made of felt and he screen prints them with a variety of designs. The mats are then treated to avoid fraying and damage (this does mean you shouldn't machine wash them). It cost me about $40 Can (£25) all in to get a great mat and have it shipped from Canada to the UK. It is Russian Roulette whether you have to pay an import duty of around £13 (I dodged it).

The Mat'o'War products that AW used to sell are available from 'The Hobby Den' which is based in Ireland. The guy who runs it is a typical example of the lazy, grumpy curmudgeon you seem to often get selling hobby supplies. His P&P costs are exorbitant and his communication skills are appalling. The MoW products are super awesome though so it may be a way forward if you have lots of money and very low customer service expectations.

With Hotzmatz you will have a choice over whether to get a street plan or anything like that printed on, I chose not to to keep things versatile. I definitely recommend having a look at the website."

The experience of trying to get a decent mat delivered was frankly baffling. It all started with an attempt to create my own mat (how hard could that be?) which failed spectacularly (quite difficult as it turns out). I don't actually know of anyone who got the results they were hoping for at the first attempt and with material costs close to the cost of a bought mat I would suggest it is a complete waste of time even thinking about making one. It requires so much time and knowledge to get right it just ceases to be worthwhile.

When it came to trying to buy one though I kept getting slapped with massive hidden costs (usually labelled as P&P but unless they are using helicopters to deliver items I don't buy it) or being told that the items were out of stock. Whenever I tried to email the hobby suppliers for information I got ignored or brushed off and Brian, who runs Hobby Den, was the worst of the lot. I actually put in an order with him and I was happy with the price Paypal told me to cough up so I settled back to await delivery. After two weeks of silence I knew something was up and started to double check my order. An online note had been attached asking for an extra 20 Euros P&P which was only visible to me if I happened to review my order. Bearing in mind that I had already paid P&P costs I was more than a little dismayed to run into the same old problem. I emailed the guy to express my dissatisfaction and was basically told I was an idiot for not reading the small print (it was there somewhere but at no point does it appear on a page during the ordering process, you have to seek it out) and that he had personally emailed the information to me (wrong). I politely demanded a refund.

My final experience was with Hotzmatz and what a different story that was! Eric was a legend, he communicated well (and often), his website is easy to understand and use and the overall service is exceptional. Not to mention the mat is great ! It's durable and versatile and, of course, the phenomenally low cost was a bonus too.

Example of a Hotzmatz mat.


There does seem to be a wider malaise within the hobby supplies industry, I have had so many bad experiences now that a comparison to Amazon and even Ebay makes the hobby industry seem like a joke.

All in all, I would recommend buying mats over making them though. Unless you have a very good prior knowledge of the materials involved and consider yourself to be something of a latter-day Da Vinci!

Thanks for stopping by!

9 comments:

  1. Hi!

    Thanks for the heads up! The Hotzmatz mat looks rather spiffy and having a positive review of it is tempting me to actually buy one! Sadly I first need to get space for a gaming board...

    All the best!

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    1. No problem, I am always happy to share my good and bad experiences on the off chance it may be useful.

      The great advantage a mat has over a board is that it can transform any surface into a battlefield! There's no need to live in a mansion, I suggest you transform a household table into your warzone of choice and get skirmishing my friend!

      Take it easy.

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  2. What a turn down, well, thanks for the heads up.
    I'm still considering trying Matt Darrow's method here :
    http://mdarrow.blogspot.fr/2013/06/from-ground-up.html

    Gaming mats are something of interest but I've always wondered about their longevity (be it a home made or a manufactured one)...

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    1. I checked out Matt's mat, it certainly looks the part. My two concerns would be overall cost versus a bought one and the steady loss of flock. A couple of cans of cheap hairspray is a great way to remedy the loss of foliage on mats and trees (TOP TIP: and real life Christmas Trees) but if you can buy an identical mat ready made for only a bit more than the cost of materials and a perfectly serviceable mat for the same cost or less then what's the point? I've been gaming a lot on my Hotzmatz product for a few months now and it's as good as new. At those prices I would be prepared to replace it every few years anyway. It is just screen-printed felt though, it looks great with terrain added but it's not as realistic as Mr Darrow's effort.

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    2. Makes sense, Loss of flock was my fear in fact. Knowing your Hotzmatz survived gaming is proof enough for me.

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  3. At least you ended up with a good final product, how much did it all cost?

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    1. I blew about £30 on completely wasted materials when the home made venture went south. I had not used the flock/grass/bush foliage so I was able to re-purpose those fortunately. I don't dare to put a value on the wasted hours. I was very grateful to end up with a good mat for only a further £25. I got refunded in full by Hobby Den too, thankfully.

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  4. Interesting. I have considered making a mat or two but haven't thought about how difficult it may be. I made some styrofoam boards that turned out okay but they're a little fragile. I have heard nothing but good reviews about the quality of Hotz Matz, but have heard mixed reviews about delivery times and communication. Thanks for your review.

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    1. I've had a lot of good results making boards from extruded foam over the years but for the Boone's Landing project I needed something portable and easy to store so a mat was the obvious answer. As an experienced board maker I underestimated the challenges involved in making a good mat. The one off cost was high too, making three and selling two would give you a free mat but just making one was expensive. And my first attempt sucked.

      Eric Hotz is a communications legend if you ask me, judging from my single personal experience that is. He is a one man outfit though so I guess he gets a little busy sometimes. My mat didn't need any extra/custom screen printing so he was able to just grab one of the shelves and send it my way. If you need street plans or hexes you will have to wait longer I expect.

      Always a pleasure to help!

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