Playmats on a Budget

Takenoko, X-Wing Minatures, Betrayal at House on the Hill, Forbidden Island / Desert, Alhambra. All these games have one thing in common; Their pieces slide all over a smooth surface as you’re playing the game. There is a solution for this and it is called a Playmat.

Playmats are great for several reasons. They are usually themed so they look great with the game. They provide an “anti-bumping” surface. And, they can define the playing area. Most playmats also have one thing in common. They can be expensive.

Take, for example, the GripMat Kickstarter project. From what I can tell, it is a great product and I have, in fact, ordered two of the 18” x 36” versions. $50 and 3 months from now, I should have them. I’ll choose one of the space themes and play X-Wing on it, primarily. Now, imagine all of your games and how many times you might need to spend $50+ for a better playing surface? I don’t know about you, but I can’t really afford to do that.

I also own a playmat from Hotz Mats. I paid $42.00 after shipping for a cloth mat that grabs every miniature I put on it. I really don’t like this mat.

I decided to start looking for less expensive alternatives. At the very least, something to get by with while I saved up for something better. I looked at foam core boards but sizing and the smooth surface were my two main issues. I thought about cabinet drawer liners but to make the sizes I need required too many seams and they don’t always lay very flat. Then I remembered some foam material my wife was using for some craft projects.

Silly Wink Foam Sheets make pretty good playmats on a budget. They come in a lot of different colors. The surface is smooth but textured enough that tiles and minatures don’t quite slide like they would on a dining table or coffee table. They lay flat so seams are not an issue. At the end of the day, these aren’t going to give you the quality that something like a GripMat will. But for $6 to make a decent X-Wing minature playing area, you can’t really beat them.

Tonight my wife and I play tested Takenoko on the foam sheets. It worked out great! The tiles didn’t slide like they used to and the dice rolled much quieter and didn’t jump as much as it would on a hard surface. The only other thing I might do is try and find a way to add some grip to the bottoms of the foam sheets because they can still tend to slide themselves.

I recorded a short video below just showing some movement and bumping. Yes, they still move a bit, but again, not like they would on a dining room or coffee table.

I’m always looking for great Tabletop on a Budget ideas. Like this, for example. If you have any ideas you want to share with me, I’ll be sure and spread the info.