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TGN Review: Deep-Cut Studios Custom Game Mat

Recently, Deep-Cut Studios started a new program where you can send in a photo and they’ll print a custom game mat for you. They sent out invitations for reviewers to get an early look at the service and give people their thoughts. I was one such reviewer selected, and since I’d been meaning to get a custom mat for a while, I jumped at the opportunity. So, let’s take a look at the custom printing service from Deep-Cut Studios in this TGN Review!

Starting off, Deep-Cut had wanted us to talk about the entire process for creating a game mat. For me, that started with trying to figure out what, exactly, I wanted. As many of you have seen, one of my favorite games lately is Guild Ball. So, I figured I’d get myself a custom Guild Ball pitch. Now, I am no artist. I am definitely no graphic designer. But I know people who are and so I contacted one of my good friends, NotDice, and asked if he could whip something up for me. A couple hours later and a bit of back-and-forth, I had my image ready (small aside, in payment for the design, my friend didn’t want money. No, he wanted cookies. So, I baked 3 batches of cookies and a pan of brownies as his payment. He seemed rather happy with the exchange. I was, too). Below is the image he came up with (shrunk down, of course, because otherwise the image file is huuuuuuuuuuuge!).

The process on the Deep-Cut website was actually ridiculously easy. There’s a spot where you upload your photo and… that’s really all there is to it. Just make sure it’s a .jpg (the site tells you this) and you’re good to go. You do get a preview of the mat that will be made, which was good, and everything seemed just fine. From there, it’s a simple matter of paying for your mat and finishing up your order.

The shipping estimate said that my mat would arrive in a week. Now, Deep-Cut Studios is in Lithuania. I have to admit, I had my doubts that the mat was going to make it from there to me in a week, especially when it took a couple days for it to get out of Europe. However, once it hit New Jersey, it literally took only 24 hours for it to be sent out for delivery. I must applaud UPS on this one. Well done.

So, how does the mat compare? Well, opening up the box and unrolling the mat, the quality seems good. The edges seem nice and clean. The printing is good. It’s got a good backing on it, and the fabric seems very-well attached to the backing (there was no peeling of the fabric off of the backing, for example). And I could tell my friend did a pretty good job with the mat. Anything that looked “off” I chalked up to the original design, rather than the printing, itself (like where the pattern obviously repeated itself in the grass). Checking the size, it’s a full 3’ square, as I’d ordered. Though, there was a little bit of issue with the lines on the mat. In the pictures below, I tried to get as close-in to some of the details as possible and still have at least some focus on the camera (I don’t exactly have a professional camera studio set up, mind you).

A Guild Ball field has rather precise lines on it for the deployment zones, the goal line, and where the goals are. I had sent my friend a list of where the lines were supposed to go, and he showed me that he had, indeed, put them in the right place. However, the lines on the mat were off by about .5” from the edges. So, for example, that makes the goals about 1” total further apart than they are on a normal Guild Ball pitch. Talking with my friend, he figured that was because Deep-Cut had stretched the image slightly to give bleed to the image. For those that don’t know, bleed is when a designer will make an image larger than it needs to be so that when a printer prints it and cuts it out, the cuts can be off slightly, but there won’t be white space around the edge of the image. Look at any punchboard of tokens from a game and you’ll always notice that the image for a token is bigger than where the cut is. That extra area around the cut is the bleed. The photos below are taken against one of the official Guild Ball mats directly from Steamforged Games.

Now, I have to say, that any mat that doesn’t have specific lines on them (say, a battlefield for a game like Warhammer or Kings of War or Warmachine), this won’t matter at all that the image is stretched slightly before cutting. But, in the case of games that do have special lines on them (Guild Ball and Blood Bowl, for example), your lines will end up being slightly off. The Deep-Cut site does have a disclaimer saying to expect a 1% possible change due to the stretchy nature of the material.

So, all in all, I’m mostly-satisfied with my mat. Are the lines slightly off? Yes, and that’s certainly an issue if you want to make sure your mat is 100% precise (for a game that uses pre-printed lines on the mat). Will I still use it for Guild Ball games? Sure. I mean, yes, the game is a game of inches and it’d suck to find out you’re .5” away from a goal you might’ve been able to score, but .5” isn’t godawful. Is it perfect? No. If mat hadn’t had those lines on it, I wouldn’t’ve been able to tell that anything was amiss.

In the end, if you have a photo you’d like to use to make your own, custom game mat, I highly recommend Deep-Cut’s new service. However, beware if you want specific lines on the mat, as they could potentially end up slightly warped due to the stretching for bleed.