A gaming mat. Otherwise known as a battle mat. It’s the new fad apparently, with wargaming companies everywhere starting to offer their own variants.
Many of you have been playing on a Citadel wargaming mat for ages. You know, the flat green, canvas mats that you played the game-that-is-not-named on. I know my club still has about half a dozen of them.
But that’s not a wargaming mat in the sense that I’m referring to here.
A gaming mat. So what’s all the fuzz about?
A gaming mat in 2016 means a lot more than just a green canvas. Because you can now get them in all kinds of prints and materials.
For this review, I got my grubby hands on the Meadows 4×4 feet gaming mat by Gamemat.eu. Their business was one of the first I noticed offering solely gaming mats. I approached them for a review on the blog and they graciously offered me a discount on one of their mats!
Before I say anything else, let me note that it came in a sexy black carrying bag. Worth mentioning, check it out:
Gaming mat: the materials
A gaming mat comes in the following materials: cloth, PVC or mousemat.
I’ve mentioned cloth and you’re probably familiar with it: it’s the floppy stuff your Citadel mats are made of. Kind of like a regular ol’ folding cloth you spread across your kitchen table.
But like, with grass. Or something.
PVC is a sexy acronym for plastic. It’s much like the stuff you’d put on your floor if you’re too poor for wood (I know we had our floors covered with it back home), but it’s thinner than that stuff. I’ve also gotten my hands on a PVC mat, so I’ll write up a review for that, soon. That way you compare the two.
The gaming mat we have here, however, is made of a third material: mousemat.
It’s exactly what it says on the tin: mousemat. Oldschool, Windows 95 mousemat (not those with the hard plastic upper layer, though: I’m talking the smooth ones).
Check it out:
Hence the mat is all bendy like this:
There’s a couple of things to be said about mousemat vis-a-vis PVC (I hear both are superior to cloth in pretty much every way), but I’m going to leave that to an inevitable “versus” article, further down the line.
Suffice to say that the mousemat materials (including the rubber underlayer) ensures that the mat lies flat on the table. It’s virtually unmovable, unless you lift up a part and pull.
It’s really neat and does make an instant attractive playing surface:
I feel like I should point out the fact that manufacturers stress the “noise reduction” that comes with this material.
So, for those of you who are annoyed by the loud noise caused by clattering dice: your prayers have been answered. The mousemat gaming mat will soften the relentless taxing of your ears!
Gaming mat: How does it look?
Enough shenanigans. How does it actually look with some minis on there?
The first thing that struck me was the saturated color of the print. It’s very, very green.
Whether that’s a problem is, of course, entirely up to your tastes. I’ve seen a few mats by now and I think this one is very green.
See for yourself:
The print is a little vague. Kind of like they went over it with the Photoshop smudge tool.
That’s not a bad thing per sé, mind you, because it keeps the focus on the minis and the terrain. I’ve seen much crisper prints than this one, but I’ve also found some of them distracting. YMMV, I suppose.
Gaming mat stress test
Now we get to the fun part…
… is this mat resistant enough to the wear and tear of household gaming?
I’m talking coffee stains. Hot coffee cups. Folded edges.
Weeell, I can tell you… it IS resistant to all those things.
But not because I subjected my precious new gaming mat to all those awful things…
Lucky for me, the guys over at Data Sphere did. Kudos to them (and a good read, too!).
Tl;dr: you can safely place coffee cups on it, you can easily rinse or wipe off spilled coffee/soda/etc and the mat is bendy enough to resist being forced out of shape.
Moar gaming mat pics!
Moar, you say?
Is this gaming mat thing worth all the fuzz?
Yes. Yes, it is.
While I like scenic boards as much as the next wargamer, mats allow for an easy-to-use and easy-to-store solution. They instantly upgrade the look and feel of your gaming experience.
Admittedly, the pricing might hinder some of you to get on board.
The gaming mat shown in this review will set you back €49, plus €15 in shipping across Europe (Gamemat.eu ships worldwide, though). That’s a whopping for €64 for a 4×4 playing area.
There are more affordable options out there and we’ll be sure to cover some of those in the coming weeks. However, gaming mats are not, and probably won’t ever be, cheap.
Do you own a gaming mat?
Which one? And what’s your experience with it? Let us know in the comments!