As gamers, a lot of us strive to make our battlefields look as realistic as possible. For some of us that come from a lovely paint job, some highly accurate historic forces and other beautiful battlefields to fight over. However, most of us combine these aspects to a varying extent. For me battlefields are key, they can make any army look good and help tell a great story.
For me, the key to my battlefield is a great mat. While most are 2D, ie nice patterns printed on various materials, there is a growing market of 3D mats. I recently picked up two different ones from The War Gaming Company, with a hope that it would great a new look for my forces and games. Today we will be looking at their Classic Grassland Game Mat 5 x 7.
I must admit my history with teddy bear fur mats isn’t good. I once bought the material online and followed a guide to paint it myself. Several spray cans, much floor scrubbing (you forget the spray dust settles everywhere) as well as combing later and I had what was still a bit of a green mess! It was usable but stank and really wasn’t the right shade. Not at all what I was after.
The key advantage of teddy bear fur mats is that, the fur creates the image of long grass and gets bent naturally by models as they are placed and when you drag models through it (ie tracks). At first glance, I was a little concerned that the mat might be a bit long for 15mm, however in actual fact, as the images show its a pretty good length. The grass perhaps isn’t the style for every battlefield but is perfect for the eastern front (Bagration is just five months away!). It could also work well for the orchards of rural Normandy. Also as a friend of mine noted its actually perfect for Vietnam as well.
The mat comes in a vacuum-sealed bag but its light and easily foldable for storage. I found that fold lines dropped out very quickly and using a brush you can remove them straight away by adjusting the fur.
The mat comes as 5’x7′ so bigger than your typical table. The reason for this is that it allows you to place items under it to create realistic rolling ground or hills. In the picture below the windmill is placed on a normal gaming hill and the mat contours perfectly to it. The same will work with books as well as allowing different heights and sizes.
In order to create a better effect, I decided not to place my normal bases for my forests/woods on the board. Of course, this causes an issue with defining the edge of the wood, which is very important during gameplay. The nice thing here is that the the the fur can be brushed against its grain to stand up. With a small brush, I did this in areas to highlight the area denoting the wood and smoothed a defined line with my finger. Then I placed my trees down on the area. It actually works really well and we had no problems when playing on it. Perhaps not perfect for a hyper-competitive game but for 99% of people, I’d suggest its a brilliant trade-off for having a mat that blends together, rather than as a tree base the wrong shade stuck on top of it.
The fact that the fur can be brushed also allows you to create areas of long and flat grass, this could be very handy for games of Vietnam where you want areas to be Elephant grass.
This mat came from the Wargaming Company in the USA and costs $60 which is about 45 GBP or 54 Euros. That stacks up very well vs the competition especially considering the 3D nature of it.
For us in the UK the sting comes at another $60 USD for shipping bringing the total to about 90 GBP. Now that is a lot, however, it all depends on your wallet and how much you value the look of your board. It’s an expensive hobby. The good news is that the manufacturer is looking for a wholesaler in the UK which would eliminate the high shipping cost and bring this back to what I would call a fair bargain level for the quality of it. In comparison for our colonial friends shipping to the US is just $17 which is very reasonable.
I must admit I love this mat. I was slightly dubious about whether 15mm would be lost it however I have been really pleasantly surprised, it works really well especially for the eastern front and Vietnam. The ability to ‘brush’ the fur makes it easy to create areas to denote long grass or mark out the area for woodland. The extra foot on the length and width also mean you have the ability to make lots of hills and still have a 6×4 playing area.
The price is very fair, on par with other printed mats however unless you are in North America, the postage is likely to be an issue for the casual gamer when it comes to costs. That said if they find a UK wholesaler I can see this selling really well.
If we are interested in getting one of the mats you can find it here.