Thursday, July 26, 2012

Banners on the Cheap

Last month I was approached by a company called Banners on the Cheap. Seems they wanted to get the word out about their products to a new audience; gamers. They offered to give me a banner of my choice in return for a review (with the understanding that it will be an honest review), so here 'tis.

Originally, they offered to do a map of some sort for me. Several other bloggers have taken them up on that offer, and their results look pretty good, but I decided to do something a little bit different; I went for a battlemat.

In my own case, since I'm working on painting up a mess of late Medieval/Renaissance ships (1/2400 scale from Figurehead, but more about them in another post), I thought having a nice blue hex field to sail them on would be just the thing to test out the services offered.

Turns out that the hardest part of the whole process was setting up my .pdf file of the hexes, but that's only because of my own incompetence in the area of graphics. I went for 4' by 6', which is the size of the wargaming tables at Dexcon and Dreamation, and conveniently was within the budget the kind folks at Banners on the Cheap allowed me.

I've got to say, I'm very pleased with the results. The material itself isn't quite as nice as that offered by Chessex, but it does seem very sturdy and likely to stand up to hundreds of games. Where the Chessex mats are soft and sort of "floppy", the Banners on the Cheap mat is a little more crinkly, but not so much that it looks like it will crease (the slight bubbles you might see in the first image are just due to my not taking the time to smooth the thing out after I unrolled it onto the floor). The image itself was fairly crisp, certainly good enough for my purposes, and there was very little bleed. The process of uploading the image and choosing the size, etc. was incredibly simple and took all of about 5 minutes to accomplish.

But I've got to say the coolest thing about Banners on the Cheap (and their affiliates Signs on the Cheap and Magnets on the Cheap) is both the price and the ability to customize the final product. My 4'x6' battlemat, with shipping included, would have cost me under $40. Compare that to Chessex, whose "megamat" is half the size and comes in the colors they offer and nothing more. Their "mondomat" is slightly larger, but comes in at three times the price, and is still not customizable.

Imagine being able to whip up a customized hex map for a miniatures game, with all the terrain and everything already printed on the map itself. Considering the cost of terrain, $40 sounds like a steal, especially if you're going to be playing the same game more than once! (Ogre comes to mind as a prime candidate, as does Battletech, Malifaux, or Heroclix.)The same can be said for dungeon battlemats; you can literally put anything you want on the thing and have it printed out in whatever size you want.

If you're looking for a place to do some custom battlemats as I did, or large wilderness, campaign, or even dungeon maps as others have, I heartily endorse Banners/Signs on the Cheap. I will be using them again.

Banners

12 comments:

Unknown said...

What sort of material is it made from? Paper? I could not tell if it was more of a 1 shot item or something I could write on and wipe it off like I can with my 4'x 8' mondomat.

It would be nice to bang out a generic forest, caves and other common areas if it is something I could use a lot.

Joseph Bloch said...

It's vinyl. I did a test with a wet erase marker on the back (the same sort recommended for the Chessex mats), and it came off fine.

ScrivenerB said...

Could you try dry erase and let us know how it goes?

ScrivenerB said...

Perhaps on back, if you're dubious.

Koewn said...

Fabric stores (Hancock's, JoAnn's, whatever is in your neighborhood) will have rolls of clear vinyl in multiple widths - I'm using that right now with a grid underlay from the same store (not recommended, the underlays are easily ripped) - vinyl is only for use with wet-erase, but if you want to preserve the banner as much as possible, lay the clear vinyl over it, then roll them both up on a thick dowel rod when the game's over.

I'm totally going to look into this - last time I made a *good* grid underlay I printed out my grid on tens of iron-on sheets (with rules around the edges!), and ironed them on to a length of muslin, then sewed the vinyl on around the edges. Too much work.

Joseph Bloch said...

Yeah, dry erase markers are explicitly verbotten on vinyl. The material will soak up the ink.

I did do a longer-duration experiment with a wet-erase marker, though; left it on overnight. It came off immediately the next morning. Can't wait to try this baby out!

Incidentally, this stuff looks like it won't rip any time soon. It's very tough.

shortymonster said...

I've just thrown the link up to a war-gaming mate of mine who wanted a play area roughly the same size, with the same pattern, for naval war gaming too. I know the shipping to England will be massive, but after the time he spent hand drawing on all the hexes, I think he's still a bit annoyed that there's someone out there that could do it for him, and look quite a bit better.

Joseph Bloch said...

Shorty, if you're interested I'd be happy to send you the .pdf I used.

Koewn said...

I just made a 4x8 hex and a 4x8 square grid this morning, in PDF or PS form, if anybody wants it - Joseph, I wouldn't mind comparing it to what you made so I can see if I'm doing it right.


Looks like they can do doublesided banners; a hex/square flipover mat would be the killer intro product for them if they really want to get into this space.

Joseph Bloch said...

My suggestion to them was to have a selection of pre-done grids in various sizes and formats, so folks could then make their own.

So if one person wanted something with 1" hexes on a green background on one side, and 1.5" squares on a gray background on the other side, they could do it just using the tools on the site.

They already have templates for various stock-type banners, so this would seem to be just an extension of the concept. No idea if they'll do it, but even if they don't, anyone can make their own and just upload it.

William Dowie said...

Actually, I'd like a copy of the pdf you used. I've been trying to figure out how to make a hex grid since they offered me this deal and I am bad with graphics programs. My plan was to do it on a tan background and make a giant Chessex looking hex mat, but you beat me to the punch on the hex mat concept. Maybe I should try and figure out squares? I really like hexes for facing though.

Joseph Bloch said...

Here you go:

http://www.mediafire.com/?y1i58z0a12h86k3

If you put it in GIMP or some other graphics program, you should be able to change the colors to do black hexes on a tan background, or whatever you want.