Back in May of 2016 I reviewed the “Woodlands” PWork Wargames Gaming Mat. Many promises were made in that review, some of which I intend to fulfil in this article.
The intention of that first review was to do a “versus” article of PVC vs mousemat. However, it ended up talking another 18 months for Pwork to get their mousemat variant to me!
Curious as to why, I ended up interviewing Pwork Wargames co-owner Alessandro Picollo on the processes behind creating gaming mats, running a business in wargaming and everything that comes with it.
The result is not just a review of their new mat, but also a fascinating peek behind the curtain at Pwork!
PWork Wargames Gaming Mat: The Story
All of a sudden wargaming mats are all the rage. We used to be content with a coloured sheet across the table, but us wargamers like our shinies!
Which makes one wonder… Where do these mats come from?
In many cases, a mat design is made my an artist. The commissioning company subsequently sends the design to China, where it’s printed on whichever material is requested (often PVC or cloth, but the mousepad variant is becoming more affordable and, as such, more common).
At least, this is the story I had in my mind when I interacted with Gamemat.eu and Pworks last year. I learned I was wrong in many ways!
I’d interacted with Pworks about their Woodland PVC gaming mat, which I loved. Pworks owner Alessandro Picollo had said he wanted to follow up quickly with the mousemat variant, which they were “working on”.
Just last month, 18 months later, I finally got my hands on this (absolutely excellent) gaming mat.
So, why did it take this long?
How a Pwork Wargames gaming mat comes to be
As it turns out, creating a gaming mat is about far more than just sending your design to a Chinese factory!
Alessandro explained: “For starters, we don’t just take a chance on where we get our mats printed. We search mousepad printers, we contact them, we ask them about the material details (thickness, weight, etc). We ask to have some samples of the material, then we ask for a printed sample of a Pwork mat.”
Actually holding the materials in hand is apparently very important:
Alessandro: “We look for several traits in the ‘right’ material. First, softness and the right weight (not to heavy and not to light). Next, we look for the right opacity and the mat must not be reflecting. Finally, the rubber backing must have a lot of “grip”, the whole mat must be easy to “roll-up”, but still hold its shape. The actual mousepad we use is a standard mousepad of 2.8mm.”
I can attest to the fact that all these things are 100% spot on with the mousemat “Valley” mat Pworks provided for this article. It’s got a nice weight, but not too heavy. The material is soft to the touch, providing a very pleasant “bounce” when rolling dice on it (this sounds totally posh and elitist, I know, but it’s just a lot more satisfying than the hard impact of dice on a regular wooden table!).
Of course, the material is only half the mat. It’s got to look awesome, too!
Alessandro: “Once we’re satisfied with the way a material feels, we try to print all of our graphics. Often the first try is good, but sometimes we need to print many times the same graphic just to adjust the colours, the resolutions, the whole visual impact. The printed surface must not be reflecting or translucent.”
Again, the “Valley” mat ticks all the boxes. It does more than that: it’s absolutely stunning. Every time I’ve had it out to play on it, people have commented on how good it looks.
The pictures do speak for themselves:
The rocky areas give nice contrast to the grassy areas, giving an overall interesting look. It all looks very natural, which is of course the point.
In fact, getting the colours and resolution of the mat just right for optimal gaming pleasure isn’t easy, either:
Alessandro: “Just to give an example, at the moment we are working on “Seas of War”. This is our sea mat that isn’t available in mousepad material yet. So, in the vinyl and cloth version this is a bright blue mat. But in the first mousepad version it looks more like a light grey / matt green mat, more like a kind a swamp than a bright sea! This is something we have to keep experimenting with, in order to get right.”
Pwork Wargames has been rapidly expanding their operations. Besides more and better mats (“At the moment we are evaluating a lighter and thinner material, but we are in the testing step still…”) Pworks has also just released their first scenery kits.
One thing I’d like to mention here: when you got to the Pworks Wargaming webshop you’ll notice most mats are represented by a computer-generated image. These imagines do not do the actual mats justice.
Take for example the Urban Sector mat. Check out the webshop picture here and then compare with an actual photo below:
Alessandro assures me that all the CGI photos on the website will soon be replaced with proper photos!
I hope this review has gotten you excited for a Pwork Wargames gaming mat: they’re truly amazing products, made with a lot of love, that add that special something to your wargaming nights.
We will soon be adding another review for the Dark Gotham PVC mat, so stay tuned for that one!