The Kraken Wargaming mats are now available from FantasyWelt and today I received my version of the 4 x 4 Cobblestone City mat. First off, some images of the design:
|The Cobblestone City mat image from the Kraken Mat kickstarter|
|The Cobblestone City mat in 4 x 4|
|The Cobblestone City mat in 4 x 6|
So this is what the mat looks like in the flesh:
The mat is made from the usual "mouse pad material" that is popular for gaming mats these days. It provides a very smooth surface where terrain and miniatures can easily be moved across and it has the rubber backside that makes it stick to the table.
I see Your True ColoursWhat you can hardly tell from the photos is that the mat has quite a blue cast. From the original images you would believe the design to be dominated by grey and brown colours but this is not the case. This struck me immediately when I unpacked the mat and it didn't look any more convincing when the mat was laid out.
I already found the cobblestone mat from UrbanMatz to be a bit bluish. However, it is not that bad with the UrbanMatz mat because thir cobblestones are much smaller (resulting in less "blue" surface overall) and it has a lot of dirt and other stuff in its design which adds others colours, green and even red from blood stains, giving it a nice dark gritty look.
|Comparison of the cobblestone mats from UrbanMatz (left), |
Deep-Cut Studio (center) and Kraken (right)
The tone becomes very obvious when the mat is placed next to the cobblestone mat from Deep-Cut Studio. You can also get an idea when you compare the colours of the stonework on my buildings to the colour of the mat.
What I actually find much more problematic than the colour is the design of the stones. Those stones are HUGE. Everything looks way too big for 28mm figures. The cobblestones do not fit at all with the 25mm cobblestone bases from Fenris that I use on my figures or the cobblestone plaster sheets from Vampisol that I use on my terrain. They are sized more like flagstones, while the flagstones on the mat are just... well, really huge.
|I find the design especially wrong when there are buildings on top|
|Another comparison with the more delicate design from Deep-Cut Studio|
I think a big part of what makes this design look so wrong is the shadows. All these stones - especially the cobblestones - have very "deep" shadows. When you look at a figure standing next to them it appears that there is enough space between the individual stones for figures to put their feet in these gaps. And these gaps are not only wide, they are also deep. If this terrain where true people would constantly trip, stumble and fall when walking the streets. If you ever found the details of Tabletop World's stonework to be too exaggerated for 28mm scale then you will hate this design.
I also don't think it is a good idea to go too wild with details on a gaming mat. After all it is still a flat image, no actual terrain. The reason why the UrbanMatz and Deep-Cut Studio mats work for me is that they only provide a subtle "background" to play on. If you stress certain details on a mat like rocks or tree stumps, etc. it becomes obvious that it's just a flat mat and breaks the immersion. I want the mats to replace the flat physical board. Any actual terrain pieces must still be placed on top in all their 3D glory.
What I find particularly astounding is that Kraken prided themselves with the excellent details of their mats and attributed this to their unique method of actually building real physical boards that were then later photographed and edited. I can hardly believe that the basis for this design was an actual proper looking physical game board. Or maybe the image was increased so much that the scale became more like 48mm?
All in all, the mat is a big disappointment for me. This is also a shame, because the guys seem to be very cool and ambitious with their mats. The communication throughout the kickstarter was absolutely excellent. I am sure that the other designs work a lot better and my grief is only related to this specific pattern.
What remains, is that Kraken convinced me that there can be great cobblestone mats (when I saw the kickstarter) and it pushed me to try the UrbanMatz and Deep-Cust Studio mats before the Kraken one even arrived. So ironically due to Kraken I am now gaming a lot with the Deep-Cut Studio mat after having dismissed the concept of gaming mats for a long time. So today marks the unexpected end of my quest for a great cobblestone mat and for that I still thank Kraken.