I’m really excited to finally be getting our first gaming mats into production and onto the market!
This has been something we’ve wanted to do for years. Scott and I had discussed many years back when we started designing MDF wargaming terrain with the Sentry City: Old Town range. “It would be awesome to have city maps that specifically suited our terrain”. So far that still hasn’t happened (hopefully it will!) and whilst that would be amazing, a good place to start is with the basics, the staples of 90% of tabletop wargaming tables.
More than a year of testing
We’ve been using this style of gaming mat at the Axes & Ales Gaming Club from the start. I established the club over four years ago and at that time whilst Knights of Dice were doing the ‘show scene’, I met the guys from TAOR Australia at a small event called Hammercon in rural Victoria.
Tyrone was the main organiser that event but also had his own range of gaming mats (at the time of writing they’re on ‘hiatus’), just nice, simple, generic themes. Desert, Space, Grassland, Sci-Fi etc, all the basics. Made from polyester and without the neoprene or rubber backing they were light weight, would be easy to store, easy to post, easy to transport. I’ve had several neoprene mats over the years and they were always so bulky, heavy and difficult to take to the club. It was a no brainer, I bought ten mats that I could easily carry too and from the club.
Scott and I had spoken many times about making our own mats and whilst we never did any whilst Scott was still working at Knights of Dice, I reach out to him in the middle of 2021 to have a chat. I wanted more mats for the club and I wanted my own range. Scott now runs his own design studio, Tired World Studios (which does GREAT work!) and we chatted about making gaming mats starting with the basics.
The first round of prototypes of our own mats have been in weekly use at the Axes & Ales Gaming Club since June 2021. Axes & Ales started in a brewery (hence the name, it was a nice play on dark age figures with axes, that I was really into at the time, and ALE!), they’ve been used almost every week, had beer, food and kids hands on them. They’ve been washed dried, folded and stored and still look great, still lay flat, have no creases, they’ve been great!
My only issuing with releasing them then was the print quality, or specifically the colours. Everything was very dark, most of the rocks looked black, or very dark grey. We did two different sample runs with different profiles and ultimately Scott needed to lighten the colours to achieve a good print.
Being a sole operating things have taken a LONG time, and with some final edits to the artwork and another sample run, things are good to go!
Fabric and material
Care: Machine washable, tumble dry on low heat or hang on the line
One of the big reasons I decided to use this style of mat when I established Axes & Ales Gaming Club was they can be easily washed. Gaming in a brewery came with the inherent risk of food and drink spills and washing a mat with a rubber or neoprene back is WAY more complicated than simply throwing these in the washing machine!
Whilst it’s tempting to offer our mats in the myriad of sizes that games use these days, it really isn’t necessary. Given these mats are produced on polyester and have no backing, they are easily folded to what ever size you need. All mats we produce will be offered as 6×4′ prints.
Offering our mats in various sizes, at this stage, only complicates manufacturing, packaging and stock logistics, increasing costs and reducing turn-around. I know many people will want to have mats in the specific size for their game, but having ran Knights of Dice for seven years and released hundreds and hundreds of products, I’m well aware of the production, warehousing, and supply complications of offering multiple options.
Perhaps in the future, with your support, I can bring someone on again increasing our capabilities! (BUY, BUY, BUY, hehe)
Styles and themes
We’re starting with four basic themes or styles, Grasslands, Snowfields, Desert and Concrete as these are the mainstay of most battlefields and as we move forward (and you guys buy them!) we’ll produce more … many more.
I’m not a huge fan of ‘terrain features’ modelled onto the actual gaming surface, things such as roads or paths, trees, bushes etc. These can both detract from the scene and complicate terrain placement, but they can also enhance it.
There is a delicate balance required, but more often than not I see so many awesome looking tables where the terrain setup on those tables is restricted by the modelled details in the artwork on the gaming mat. As we move forward and our customers provide feedback I’m sure we’ll explore those options and make mats that represent specific features or locations (with the odd path or road modelled into the artwork!) but to start we’re starting with the basics.
More designs and the future
Obviously there are LOADS of different options for artwork as we move forward and you will have your own needs and hopefully provide suggestions and feedback to help us make the gaming mats you actually want.
These first four mats cover the starting point but there are clearly many other ‘generic battlefields’ that can be added immediately, including:
- Deep Space
- Open Ocean
- Summer Fields
- Alien landscapes
We’re SUPER excited to bring these to market as it not only provides us with our own gaming mats for our games and product photography but it also provides us (and our customers!) with the option of choice.