October 12, 2010

Really Cheap Tact-Tiles Substitute

dry eraseA while back I talked about Tact-Tiles, both the kinds you can buy and do-it-yourself ways to make them.  For my Lazy Homemade Tact-Tiles #2 idea, I suggested buying a very cheap dry erase kit from LTD Commodities. Well, it no longer appears to be available at LTD, but I did pick up a set myself before they pulled it.  I poked around a bit and, man, the kit is hard to find now, but I did find one set on eBay here: link.  So, obviously, right out of the gate, this option now has one strike against it.  I figured I’d go ahead and post my thoughts on this kit as a gaming tool anyhow.  Hopefully someone out there has better Google-Fu than I do and can locate a retailer if they’re interested.

Here is what you get:

The panels are paper-thin, but they are basically big stickers after all.

Each panel is 12 inch x 12 inch and you get 8 panels total.  That is a pretty good sized gaming area.

I put the panels down on my gaming table and they covered a large chunk.

I doodled a bit of a dungeon on them and they worked fairly well.  Understandably, I had to hold down the panel so it wouldn’t move, but it wasn’t a problem.

So here is the skinny:
  • If you want a grid, you’ve got some work to do. I know from personal experience,
    there really is no way to permanently mark this kind of surface apart from scoring it.  These panels are going to turn into confetti if you score them.  One possibility would be to mount the panels onto sections of poster board and then score them.
  • A quick note regarding a grid, keep in mind games like D&D 3.5 and 4e work on a one-inch grid, so you can really just use a tape measure without much trouble (well, I’m assuming that is true for 4e. I haven’t played it).  Savage Worlds operates on this grid too and, despite the emphasis on a battle map in the Savage Worlds rule book, the official demo I played at Origins used a tape measure.
  • The panels stay in place reasonably well. I bumped the table a bit to test this and the panels more or less stayed in place.  I’m guessing inadvertent bumps by players might be more problematic. Having not played with the interlocking Tact-Tiles, I’m not sure how much of an advantage they offer.
  • The panels were covered with a clear film that came off.  I initially wasn’t certain if this was suppose to happen. I’m still not sure, but the panels were still erasable after I removed the film (although shadowing did increase noticeably).
The Verdict
  • You get what you pay for. These panels aren’t as snazzy as the original Tact-Tiles or the current Battlegraph Boards.  However, if you can find a set, this kit is a hell of a lot cheaper, especially if you consider the amount of playing surface you get.  You get 8 panels for a 2 foot by 4 foot playing area. In comparison, the Battlegraph Boards are $7.00 per 12 inch piece and a set of Tact-Tiles will run you several hundred dollars on eBay (no joke, check the ENWorld forums).
  • If nothing else, these panels would be handy for those times combat spills off your regular battle mat.
Since I am fine with my homemade battle mat, I didn’t keep the kit for myself.  I hung it up in two sections in our kitchen, thinking it would be fun for my daughters.  They really liked it, but, whoa boy, was it a bad idea.  My girls are six and three and, well, their marker control is still rather suspect.  Suffice it to say, they didn’t always stay on the dry erase area.  Word to the wise, dry erase markers don’t wash off non-dry erase walls…  our kitchen is a bit more colorful now.  I certainly do not recommend the kit for its intended purpose unless you have a wall you probably be ok with your kids drawing on to begin with.
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