Reviewed by Matt Moran
A year or so ago, I made the leap from boards with modular terrain to terrain mats, saving myself hundreds of hours of flocking hills with one simple paint-flecked fleece sheet. I have several now for different environments, and I heartily recommend gaming mats to everyone, ad nauseam in fact! On club night, it’s great to just carry a mat to drape over the tables rather than heavy terrain boards.
Of course making a nice terrain mat at home can take a great deal of time and ancillary equipment, so it’s not for everyone. There are lots of commercial options for terrain mats of course, and one of the newest kids on the block is the partnership between TableWar and Frontline Gaming. Their “F.A.T.” Mats come in 6’x4’, 4’x4’ and 3’x3’, and are available in a variety of attractive finishes, including alpine, starfield, asteroid belt, ocean, shell crater, wasteland, green field and several different urban layouts. In a nice touch, they all seem equally suitable for scales 6-28mm, with very few (if any) features that would definitely tie them to a given scale. I was given the 6’x4’ “grassy plains” mat to review. It comes rolled up in a 6 foot long black bag made of the same stiff plastic fabric as gig bags for guitars, microphones and the likes. Not only does this make it easy to store wrinkle-free (don’t fold the neoprene!), but the bag has two long handles as well, making it a cinch to transport to club either in your hand or on your shoulder.
The mats are printed onto a heavy neoprene backing – the same rubbery material used for mousemats and diving suits. The underlay has a nice grip, so there’s no need to worry about the mat slipping off the table and ruining your models, even without a clamp to keep it in place. The top of the mats are treated with a hydrophobic finish, making them water resistant – a godsend for me and anyone else whose regular gaming opponents like to leave their pint glasses on the table. While thick enough to conceal small changes in height (say the chink between two tables pushed together), the mat also has some flex to it – I tested it with some of my small hills (up to about 50mm), and the resulting contours looked very natural.
The “grassy plains” finish is primarily a grassy texture, broken up with streaks of brown. The different tones of yellow, green and brown they have used give a pleasing overall impression, and the grass has the same “summer grass” timbre as most gaming products from the last twenty years, so most temperate bases will look just fine against it. I don’t know if F.A.T. used fractal mapping to get such a natural looking distribution to their muddy areas, but fresh out of the bag the mat has an unnervingly CGI look, primarily due to the shininess of the fabric. This worried me at first, but when I rolled it out on the table, by some magic of its design the mat dulled considerably and looked far better flat than when it was rolled up. The transformation was significant enough to remind me of those cards you tilt one way or another to see two different pictures!
In conclusion, this is a very nice line of mats. The neoprene makes them sturdy and non-slip, and the variety of designs F.A.T. have already put out all look excellent – anyone considering shelling out for Games Workshop’s new urban Realm of Battle boards should really look at these first. I confess I’m a bit gutted I wasn’t given their “Space” mat to review (it looks awesome!), but that’s just because I already spent long hours this summer toiling over a DIY grassy mat in the garden! Timing is everything…