The Rain in Spain...
When I attended Salute I had the chance to pick up a gaming mat from the folks over at PWork Wargames. The one I opted for was a 6x4 ‘Arid Plain’ design, and I wanted to give it a quick review here.
Since you can see what the mat looks like and we’re all aware of what a gaming mat does, I’ll jump to the meat of the review and ask, “Is it a good buy?” Part of the answer to that depends on whether gaming mats as a whole are worth it. At the end of the day, you don’t technically need any sort of mat or terrain to play a game on – just a relatively flat surface and a few bits of cover. If you’ll allow me to be a bit philosophical here, the only truly ‘necessary’ thing to play a wargame is a set of rules and some physical objects to use according to those rules. Heck, you could even just play a game using cardboard chits for figures and desk clutter for scenery. But few, I wager, would want to do this; the point of wargaming is that it’s never been about the purely mechanical aspects of play, but rather the creativity and immersion it engenders.
The point is to fix in our mind what we mean by ‘worth’. If we as wargamers agree that we want to make our games look nice, we have a framework to judge the value of something like the PWork mat. So, on that basis, could you get something that does the job of simulating a battlefield for less money? Yes. I could get a couple of those thin paper mats with grass or gravel on it and save some dosh. Would it look as nice? No. I could also try and make a mat of my own, but that takes time and effort. Also, for anything that looks even halfway about as good as the PWork mat I’d probably have to spend the same sort of money, as homemade terrain still requires an upfront investment for basic materials. For this reason alone I’d say that the idea of mats in general are worth it. That’s not to mention the other little benefits that going down the mat route has; rubber mats grip tables well, they don’t crease when you fold them and they’re pretty durable.
So, finally, is the Arid Plain mat a good mat? Quality-wise all the benefits listed above are present here so there’s no complaints on that front. The visuals are generic, but that’s the whole point; you could use it for fantasy, sci-fi or even some historical settings without a problem, which I really appreciate. If such things bother you though, it’s worth mentioning that PWork have quite a range of mats, of which some – like Hellgate and Lifeless Land – don’t really have any analogues elsewhere as far as I’m aware.
Price-wise the 4x6 mat will set you back €69.90 – what with ongoing Brexit shenanigans and currency fluctuations it’s probably best to not try and translate the figure into GBP just yet. This is at the upper range of what’s on the market; although it’s pretty much price-matched against its European competitors, there are a few British companies – Loke Battle Mats for example – that sell mats for slightly less. The only real complaint is that it doesn’t come in a carry bag, which some other manufactures provide free of charge and would have been nice. These things have a fair bit of heft to them – not surprising really since it is rubber after all.
If you were on the fence about mats in general, I’d say they’re a good gaming investment it if you can afford it and that the PWork Arid Plain mat is mostly as solid a choice as any you can get out there.