Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Zen Again: MKP Game Mats

Monday Knight Productions manufactures a series of game mats geared specifically towards tabletop wargamers. These heavy duty felt mats are available in both hex and square-grid patterns, and come in two basic sizes: 3 foot by 3 foot, and larger 4 foot by 6 foot mats.

The standard green game mats, which are airbrushed and flocked, run about $50 for the large 4x6 mats and half that price for the smaller 3x3 mats. They also sell mats with sea and sky colored backgrounds for naval and airplane games respectively.

I also discovered that MKP sells "plain mats" (not flocked) where the grid pattern is printed directly onto the felt. These mats sell for just $28 for the large 4x6 size, and only $14 for the smaller 3x3 mats. That seems like an awesome deal. I'm very tempted to buy one of the larger plain mats and will be seeking them out at the upcoming FALL IN! convention.

You may be wondering, what's the advantage of gridded game mats? Here's my perspective.

I own a 4x6 foot, grass flocked battlefield made out of a material similar to heavy duty foam board. I received this as a Christmas present about 2 years ago (pretty cool eh?). The battlefield comes in 3 separate sections, each 4x2 feet long. This provides a very nice looking battlefield, it's fairly lightweight, and I'm happy to own it. But like so many traditional tabletop wargame battlefields or coverings, it lacks a grid pattern. Some wargame purists abhor grid patterns, seeing them as something which corrupts the visual spectacle that is a beautiful wargames table. So they wouldn't see anything wrong with my grass flocked battlefield. I fully understand their viewpoint; aesthetics are an extremely important part of miniature wargaming.

But from the viewpoint of a "practical wargamer", gridded mats have one big advantage over plain, un-gridded terrain boards: they really speed up game play. Instead of measuring move, charge, and shooting distances with a ruler, you simply count X number of hexes or squares when manuevering your troops on a battlefield containing a hex or square-grid. The more measuring that you can eliminate, the faster the game plays.

Unfortunately, the majority of miniature wargames are not designed around the concept of hex-based movement, so you might have a very difficult time finding an enjoyable game system that can take advantage of a hex-gridded game mat. That's why I prefer the square-gridded mats.

With a square-grid of 1 inch or even 2 inches, horizontal and vertical movement of your troops is greatly simplified. You can count off squares or grid-points instead of measuring in most cases. The only time that you really need to break out the measuring stick/tape is when your units are positioned at weird angles. So while you won't really eliminate 100% of the measuring, you will reduce it drastically and help speed up the game. And the best part is that there are many wargames which are designed to measure movement in 1 inch or 2 inch segments, so you'll have plenty of game systems to choose from.

In my Sword of Severnia fantasy wargame, which is still under development, distances and ranges are measured in inches. Also, units aren't just a loose collection of models, but rather, all of the models in one unit share a common rectangular base or movement tray. This is similar in concept to the idea of "elements" in a game like Hordes of the Things or Vis Magica. So the 1 inch or 2 inch MKP square-grid mats would work quite well as an underlying battlefield in this game system.

I already own a hex-gridded felt game mat from Hotz Artworks, and I really like it a lot. The Hotz mats are definitely worth a look as well. The price for their 4x6 mat is in the same ballpark as the MKP mat, although they only offer 2-inch squares rather than both 1 and 2 inch varieties.

For more info on the MKP mats, check out these links:

Have fun!

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