Friday, August 12, 2011

Review: Dark Platypus Magna-Map

Thought it would be a good time to talk about something I picked up last year that has changed my gaming somewhat. On Paizo's website I found a product Bendy Walls that I found interesting. I went to the manufacture's Website Dark Platypus Studio . When I find an accessory on a site like Paizo's, I always check out the manufacturer. You never know what treasure that you might find that didn't get picked up by Paizo.

A little backstory. Ever since I gamed at the HQ of 3DO and used their magnetic whiteboards. I have wanted to get something like that that I could either get painted with Hexes on one side and Squares on the other side or Use a clear overlay with either Hex or Squares printed on it.

For as long as I have gamed. There has always been the problem of miniatures that fell over. Either due to being bumped, blown down by the wind, even someone shaking the table. This is quite annoying and can lead to dented and scratched paint jobs on the minis.

  I finally had a space where I could have a gaming table and I filled it with a nice looking one leaf Dining room style table and chairs set. I bought it from a family who was moving away and got it cheap. For a few years I made due with my Chessex Megamats. They work find and as long as you use waterbased pens like Vis a Vis and other non-permenent markers they clean relatively well (don't leave any color on them for more than a week).

 There on the Dark Platypus site I found the Magna-Map. It's 24″ x 36″ in size which makes it roughly equivalent to half a sheet of 8.5"x11" paper with 1/4" grid printed on it. Yes it comes in 1" square and nothing else. Since I play Hero system, Square grid isn't terribly useful to me. So I sent him a letter asking him if he considered making a Hex grid mat. To cut the story short(er), he hadn't considered it and pointed out he could make a custom one if I liked. I asked for a quote and went ahead and ordered a custom Hex Map. I paid the paypal upfront and in a couple of weeks or so I recieved my Hex Magna-Map. I loved it so much I went and purchased two of the 1" grid Mats. I took the two, taped them together and made a Mega-Magna-Map

Using the Mat.
   The mats are a rubberized plastic. Made of the same material that roll magnets are made of. The difference here is that while the mat is magnetically attractive, it has no magnetic field of it's own. Because the material is impregnated with some form of iron. The mats are HEAVY. The 24″ x 36″ mats are around 3lbs in weight. They come in a roll, and like most rolled things the edges start out with the curl left over from being in that roll. Quickly the mat flattens out completely, with no middle mat curls (like some vinyl mats can do).
   Writing on the mats is pretty easy. You can use either waterbased pens like you use with vinyl mats or you can use dry erase pens. The waterbased pens wipe up with water like normal. Even after leaving red, blue and Black lines for 2 weeks on the mat, the colors came right up with water. With no residual lines like sometimes happens on a vinyl mat. It works pretty well with Dry erase as well, but I have found that erasing right after the game is best. If you allow the dry erase to set too long you will have a hard time erasing it from the surface.
  The MagnaMaps all have a lightish grey surface with medium grey edges that mark out the grid. If your gaming room is somewhat dark, it can be difficult to see certain colors on the mat. With good lighting it's all good though.
  The reason to buy one of this is to use with magnets. So I have been both using magnetic accessories and been retrofitting my mini bases with magnets. You can feel the magnet being attracted to the mat, but the mat doesn't attract as strongly as a sheet of iron. So you figs will stick to the side of your fridge and magnetic whiteboard stronger than here. Now you do feel an attraction and stuff does stick very well to it. I have minis that have rubbersteel magnets and some that have rare earth magnets. The rubbersteel magnets have a greater surface area and that helps a lot. You can get the magnets precut so you can retrofit your all of your slota based minis no matter what size the base. FRP games Magnetic bases  Hasslefree Miniatures Magnetic tape  are both great places to buy this stuff.

Great accessories for your Magna Map. First everything in Dark Platypus' catalog are great items. They have magnetic Stalagmites, Columns, Their Bendy Wall line can be converted to have magnetic bases. Also they have Dungeon Clings, which are grown up colorforms in the shapes of common gaming terrain (ie trees, stairs, steps etc)

Magna Map by Dark Platypus
Surface works with both Dry Erase and Waterbased pens
Magnetically attractive
Looks like a dungeon floor
Lays very flat
Grey too dark, lines can be hard to see on mat
Not available in Hexes (unless you custom order that costs more)

I would highly recommend the product. Just make sure you have decently bright overhead lights. Dark Platypus is very easy to deal with, they ship quickly (Magna Maps ship separately due to their size and shape), and don't charge a huge amount for shipping.
Dark Platypus Game Aids
Dark Platypus Magna Map