Sunday, January 24, 2016

Cobblestone Gaming Mat from UrbanMatZ

UrbanMatZ produces gaming mats for the tabletop. When I saw the cobblestone mat I immediately ordered one.

Until quite recently I had never even considered using gaming mats. I am quite picky when it comes to terrain and building a gaming board. My personal gaming board project, the Port of Gierburg, has been going on for many years and I am willing to take the time, effort and costs that are neccessary to make it as perfect as I possibly can - with little to no tolerance for making compromises. A flat illustrated mat for a surface definately does not fit into this concept.

The Cobblestone City design
from Kraken Mat (4' x 4')
This was until November last year, when I saw the Kraken Mat kickstarter which, among many different designs, featured a cobblestone pattern. Before that I had never seen a cobblestone mat and even though I wasn't particularly interested in getting one I did find it surprising that there weren't any around. From fantasy settings such as Mordheim or Frostgrave to World War II settings you would think there is enough demand to justify such products. The story and photos of the Kraken Mat had me curious enough to give it a try. That's when I first overcame my inhibitions.

As of today, I am exictedly waiting for the Kraken Mat to arrive (which is currently planned for May I believe*). However, although the Kraken Mat looks absolutely beautiful from what I can see I still had one concern: With all the streets and pavements printed on the mat you are quite restricted when it comes to placing terrain features such as buildings, barricades, etc. To allow for all kinds of scenarios with different terrain setups it makes a lot of sense to have a "general purpose" mat - a full cobblestone pattern with no other features that restrict the placement of terrain.

So I was pleasantly suprised to see exactly this in a comment in the Mordheim Facebook group: the Cobblestone Battlefield mat from UrbanMatZ. I thought "I already got one, might as well try this one too", and ordered the 4' x 4' version.

The Cobblestone Battlefield mat from UrbanMatZ

Close-up on the details

The design consists of very nice irregular cobblestones. There is dirt, grass, blood stains and what I believe are manhole covers, all of which make the design more interesting. I would have actually preferred that there was no blood since I find that to be better suited for fantasy settings whereas my games are more on the historical side. Funny enough, such a blood-less version is available since yesterday.  So a bit of bad timing for me but very cool overall for all other potential customers.

I do not want to go too far into detail with reviewing this. There are a lot of (obviously positive) video reviews on the UrbanMatZ website and I will simply say that I concur: This is a really great product. I was a bit worried that the surface may be a bit problematic since this is mousepad material and I could see the fibre texture in the close-ups in some of the video reviews. But during normal usage you don't notice this - you have to get very close to the mat to see the fibre surface so I don't find this to be a problem at all.

We actually ran a game on the new mat just yesterday and it was great. The surface is soft and smooth (if you know mousepads, then you know this). This is perfect for moving miniatures and placing buildings. Before, the models regularly caused little scratches on my IKEA table. Moving figures across these mats feels a lot safer. Also rolling dice on the mat is a pleasure as the mat deadens the sound.

A little setup to give an impression of the gaming mat in action:
Highwaymen and Thief-catchers fight it out in the city

So all in all, does this gaming mat replace a properly modelled 3D gaming table? Of course not! But as my "proper" gaming table will turn out similarly restrictive in terms of terrain placement as the Kraken Mat I am super happy to add this piece to my gaming inventory. While my scratch-built table will be the obvious pick for "flagship" scenarios and photo-taking this gaming mat will be the choice when variety is needed. And because of its flexible design I believe it will actually see more play than my "main" gaming board. For only 45 EUR and a super nice carrying bag included I think this is not too bad a deal.

*Update May 28th, 2016: The Kraken Mat arrived today. Read more.

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