I started looking for alternatives to game mats when I got into X-Wing. The mats being sold by the manufacturer were expensive and small, totally unsuitable to the large scale epic games I wanted to play. Using their mats I would need several to cover two six-foot-long tables which would have cost me a couple hundred dollars, money I was reluctant to part with.
At first I spent months looking through blankets & sheets at Fabric stores and 2nd hand shops thinking I’d make my own star field map only to get discouraged at how much work and effort it would take to create that. So then I started looking for pre-printed star field cloth, sheets, or blankets online. Although I found some, the prices were very expensive and most images unsuitable. Then one day I tried a different approach and googled “galaxy curtains”. Voila! Up came a ton of drapery perfect for the job but still expensive. Some however caught my eye – shower curtains!
Lo and behold, after months of searching I finally hit the jackpot. Amazon and Ebay each carry a large selection of shower curtains many with awesome astronomical images printed on them. And most curtains were available at 60 x 72 inch sizes which is the size of 2 long tables pushed together. Even better were the other finds… curtains with a variety of maps, hexagons, and imagery for setting the mood. The real clincher though were the prices. Although some ran $80 or more, many others were $30 or less.
To date I’ve purchased 8 curtains; two of 3” hexes for Canvas Eagles & naval games, two transparent curtains I will be drawing hexes on to use as overlays on other map curtains, one of a vintage city aerial view for Wings of Glory (plus a battling bi-planes curtain to set the mood), and two nebula/galaxy curtains with planets for scenarios for X-Wing, There was even a curtain that imitated the Sails of Glory playing mat but since I had already made one there was no reason for me to buy it.
How well do they work you ask? Beautifully! I use 10 clamps from Staples to hold the curtains down on the tables. If I need a smaller area map I just fold a curtain over to expose the desired portion. They also fold up nice and small for storage/transport and if they get all crunched up I can just wet & toss them in the dryer on low heat to make them wrinkle free.
The cost for my curtains has ranged from $10 to $30 each, a mere fraction of what gaming mats would have cost to cover the same area. The hardest part is finding the right curtain. Amazon alone offers over 400 pages of shower curtains and retailers don’t always use the correct descriptions so you may have to scroll through tons of pages to find what you want. Prices can also vary wildly depending on the seller. Often if I find something pricey I want, I’ll put it on my wish list & check back often to see if the price has dropped. Sometimes after a few weeks it will, particularly if it is the last of a batch they want to clear out. Another problem is many curtains get discontinued so putting them on a wish list might result in them no longer being available. Sometimes they come back, sometimes not. There are also new offerings frequently so you may have to check often – it took me almost a year to find my aerial map for Wings of Glory. An lastly, many curtains ship from China so you may be looking at a 6 to 8 week delay before you receive them. All of this can be a pain I admit but for me, shower curtains have been an awesome, low cost game mat solution.
Amazon Home Page for Curtain “Game Mat” (City Map)
Amazon Navy Blue Hex Curtain
Amazon Solar System Curtain
Amazon Bi-plane Curtain
Amazon Galaxy Curtain
Amazon Island Map Curtain
Amazon Olympus Mons Curtain (Mars)
Amazon River Valley Map Curtain
Amazon Satellite photo Curtain
Amazon Earth from Moon Curtain
Amazon Jungle Green Curtain
Amazon Coastal City Curtain