I took a break from DMing recently… after almost three straight years in the chair, I needed a break from the Wednesday night Adventurers League event I regularly attended. Now… I’m rested, reset, and excited to get back to a weekly game.
During my break, I gave some thought here and there to the reasons for my decision, and a key one was the amount of time required each week for preparation. Don’t get me wrong — I’m not complaining about the responsibilities of the DM/GM. Prepping for a game night is critical, and I want to give my players a memorable time. For this reason, in addition to the adventure prep time I was spending a LOT of time creating unique terrain.
As I plan for my return to the chair, I’ve made some decisions regarding how much time and energy I’ll spend on painting minis, creating 3D terrain, and painting unique floor tiles. I’m determined to find a balance, and for this I plan on cycling through three different types of tabletop gaming:
- Theater of the Mind — basically, describing what players see, what NPCs look like and do, and even handling combat in a more historical manner… basically removing the minis and game grid and using narration and my players’ assistance in telling the night’s story.
- Full-blown 3D terrain and terrain tiles — this one takes the most time, but it also generates the most excitement from my players as well as allowing for strategies/tactics when it comes to combat.
- Battle Mats — these are pre-printed bird’s-eye-view maps that can be purchased (or made, but requiring less time than terrain tiles and 3D terrain) and provide colorful surroundings for the placement of minis. Paizo has a gigantic range of these (and I’ve reviewed some here), but there are plenty more companies out there that make battle mats in various sizes, themes, and price.
It’s this last one that I’m most excited about because of what has just dropped into my hands from Loke BattleMats, a UK-based and family-owned company that specializes in this kind of game supplement.
Loke BattleMats offers a wide range of mats (over 110!) that include both PVC vinyl and neoprene, ranging in sizes from 3×3′ up to 6×4′ and from gridded to hex to plain. The PVC vinyl can be written on with wet markers. I’m hoping to review some of their mats in the future, but right now… I want to show you this picture!
This is a two-page spread from Loke BattleMats new Big Book of Battle Mats. My heroes are under attack from a bunch of skeletons as they try to make their way to the treasure chest. Here are the details:
- 58 fantasy-themed pages
- Fully-laminated pages for easy wipe-off of wet markers
- Wire-bound so it lays flat
- Linked designs on facing pages so you can use single page or double-page
- 1″ grid system
- UK A4 single-page size = 8.25 × 11.7 inches
- A3 double-page size = 11.7 x 16.5 inches
Flipping through the book, I’m blown away. There are simple pages such as gridded stone and sand and snow pages… all the way up to a massive throne room and a beach scene complete with shoreline. There are hallways… and ruins… a bridge… and a blank tavern floor! More examples include a merchant square, a rooftop scene, and a wharf and docks running over water.
It’s an impressive collection — enough to win the UK Games Expo People’s Choice Award 2018 for Best Accessory. I’m holding in my hands a tool that is going to help me immensely in getting control over my prep time. I prefer combat with minis whenever possible, so this little gem is going in my game bag for good.
Coming in September, they’re releasing another book of Battle Mats… but in both A4 and A3 size! That means each A3 page will be 11.7 x 16.5 in! If they stick with the wire bound layout and making certain facing pages share a theme, that’s going to be another must-have for me. (I’ll keep you informed when it releases.) This one will be fantasy based… PLUS they’re doing an A3 and A4 battle mats book for SciFi and a second Fantasy based book!
More information on Loke BattleMats and their products can be found on their website. You can order a copy of Big Book of Battle Mats directly from Loke BattleMat’s online gaming store here. The book is £19.99 or approximately $26 plus shipping.