What IS a Battle Mat anyway?

What IS a Battle Mat anyway?

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A detailed and interesting battlefield is key to any wargaming experience, and having a proper 'battle mat' significantly enhances this experience. Battle mats bring your imagined landscapes to life, providing an immersive backdrop for your miniatures. This article delves into what battle mats are, their history and evolution, different types available, and the advantages of using them. We'll also guide you on selecting the best battle mat for your needs and tips to get the most from it, ensuring a great miniatures wargaming experience.

What is a Battle Mat?
The centerpiece of every wargaming session is the battle mat. Even the best painted miniatures and terrain look sad on a blank table. This indispensable asset, often made of neoprene, cloth, vinyl or cardboard, constitutes the very landscape where the drama of your virtual conflict plays out. A battle mat, in simplest terms, is a surface, sometimes marked with a grid, topology, or just simulated landscape graphics that enhances your gaming experience. Whether you are commanding massive legions in an epic fantasy standoff, or outsmarting rival gangs in a far flung future, a battle mat provides the canvas for your masterpiece of a gaming scenario. Far from mere extravagance, it's an aid helping gamers to visualize the battlefield, measure distance in-game, mark interesting features such as dense woods or quicksand, etc. For seasoned gamers, the battle mat is more than just an accessory; it's an avenue of immersion, making the narrative come alive and coalesce your intricately painted miniatures and painstakingly assembled buildings and other terrain elements into a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. A battle mat isn't just a simple game component, but a catalyst awakening your miniature world to life.

The History and Evolution of Battle Mats.
The story of battle mats is enmeshed deeply in the tapestry of wargaming history. Take a step back in time and you would find players reliant on hand-drawn maps, giant heavy sand tables, computers the size of a bathroom or just mental imagery to play out their wargaming drama. Even though this presented a spark for players' imaginations, it was not effective as a long-term solution or one that regular folks might have access to. That's where battle mats came into the picture. Battle mats, in their most primitive form, were just pieces of grid-lined paper. Designed to plot movement, artillery strikes, battle strategies, and other details of the battle and offered a visual tableau for their miniature conflicts and adventures. As the wargaming community expanded, so did the need for more versatile and engaging battleground surfaces. Battle mats evolved, incorporating durability, portability, detailed designs, and game-specific themes. Fast forward to today, we have battle mats as an essential part of the tabletop gaming experience, promising a vibrant and interactive arena for gaming enthusiasts worldwide. In a nutshell, the sheer advancement of battle mats is reflective of the wargaming industry's growth, proving its worth as a game-changer in its own right. Today I wouldn't even consider playing a miniatures game without one.

Different Types of Battle Mats.
If there's one thing that's true in the world of wargaming, it's that no two games (or gamers) are quite the same. The same can certainly be said for the plethora of battle mats that are out there today. From size and style to materials and design, you're spoiled for choice when it comes to selecting the perfect miniature battlefield. Rubber-backed battle mats made of neoprene (scuba suit material aka giant mousepads) have become wildly popular and are renowned for their exceptional resilience and non-slip properties. However, they tend to be heavy, need to be rolled up as opposed to folded up, will only work on a table of its size or larger, can't be cleaned, and are... well... perpetually flat. Vinyl mats are an inexpensive option as high quality graphics can be printed on them and they are quite durable. The downsides of vinyl are many however, they tend to hold their shape and want to remain rolled up. They are also rather slippery and can also have unsightly ridges in the material itself. Cardboard battle mats while useful in small sizes are problematic when trying to represent a full 4ft by 6ft battlefield. A new development in recent years has been cloth battle mats. Cloth battle mats have many of the benefits of neoprene mats but the inherent properties of cloth make it a superior choice to neoprene.

#1 Price, a cloth battle mat is generally cheaper than a neoprene battlemat. There are many reasons for this, not the least of which is just plain weight. Neoprene mats are heavy and cost a lot to ship, while cloth mats are light and can be folded up into a smaller footprint without permanent creases.

#2 Ease of handling and table setup. Cloth battle mats are light, compact and can be easily transported in your backpack or bookbag to the local game store or convention and setup in seconds. Takedown is just as easy. One other benefit I think that gets overlooked is table fitment. A 4ft x 4ft and bigger neoprene mat is not usable on a 2x2 end table or a 3ft wide folding table. Even our biggest cloth battle mat will though, as the excess just drapes over the smaller table effortlessly.

#3 Dimensionality. A neoprene mat is.. flat. Even if you put a book underneath, it's still mostly.. flat. The great thing about cloth mats is that you can build up, hills, cliffs, and ridgelines and even create depressions like sunken roads or rivers easily. Just design your battlefield topography with books, magazines
or foam pieces, then just throw the cloth battle mat over top and give it a tuck and pull here and there - BOOM instant topographical battle field.

#4 Texture. With neoprene, vinyl, and cardboard battle mats the surface is and always will be.. smooth. Some cloth battle mats however, like our line of 'Plush Cloth Battle Mats' have soft grass like texture built in and allows the terrain and miniatures to sink into the battle mat, which gives a subtle yet impactful effect.

My Personal Thoughts.
I am a member of a local gaming club and we game every Saturday evening with anywhere from 6 - 16 people gaming. Literally any game you have ever heard of gets played at the club. When we first got the club started we invested in a bunch of neoprene battle mats and even built a custom wall organizer for them. We used these mats for years. Then one day someone brought in a plush cloth battle mat and built hills and a river underneath of it with a pile of WhiteDwarf and Wargames Illustrated magazines we have at the club. We were hooked.. I don't think we have used a neoprene mat since and have amassed quite a collection of cloth mats. I take that back.. we do use them, we flip the neoprene mats upside down to the rubber side and put them on the 4x4 tables when we play board or card games. When I am setting up for my Mordheim campaign day or a one off game of Spectre Operations, or ANY game for that matter.. I always grab a cloth mat, I don't even consider the neoprene mats any longer. The two main features responsible for this are the ability to make hills and depressions and the soft fuzzy texture on the plush mats, these are the proverbial game-changers! As I looked around the market for cloth battle mats, I really felt like the few companies that make cloth battle mats weren't putting enough emphasis on just how good and versatile they are. Some of the companies had poor or limited designs or their designs were rather cartoony. So, BattleMatBazaar was born! But let me say with 100% conviction that even if I had nothing to do with BattleMatBazaar I will still recommend cloth battle mats to anyone and everyone that will listen.

Transform your tabletop battles into epic adventures with a hand crafted battle mat from BattleMatBazaar.com. Elevate your wargaming experience with our premium mats designed to immerse you in thrilling combat scenarios. Whether you're a seasoned veteran or just beginning your journey into the world of miniature wargaming, the right battle mat can make all the difference. Discover the perfect battlefield for your next game and unlock new levels of realism and immersion. Explore our diverse selection of cloth battle mats today!


1 comment

John Moore
John Moore

Will you be at the Origins game fair?

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