What Makes a Good Gaming Mat?

sci fi game mat

Battle mats have become essential accessories on the tables of tournaments, clubs, stores and home-gamers throughout the wargaming community.  Neoprene game mats are a clear favourite for gamers, but with mats coming in a range of materials and sizes, what makes a good gaming surface?

Types of gaming mat

Cloth Mats

These can feature great quality prints, be lightweight and easily folded away BUT they are prone to creases and can be awkward to play on.  They can be a cheaper option but the saving can lead to frustration later down the line when your minis are displaced by slippy material. Pinning them to the corner of a table can solve some of the lumps and bumps of playing on a cloth surface but it’s not perfect.  These material mats aren’t waterproof either and can stain easily.

Vinyl (banner material)

These are made from the same as outdoor banners.  They tend not to lie flat and can have a shiny surface.  Whilst they are waterproof and can be easily wiped clean, the surface is hard so dice ‘clunk’ around and any minis dropped on them could be damaged.  They are defiantly cheaper than the premium alternative but you’ll eventually wish you purchased a neoprene mat.  Vinyl battle mats should be rolled, not folded as this may permanently crease them.

Neoprene (mouse mat style)

These are the superior gaming surface recommended by many players around the world. Neoprene battle mats feature high quality printed surfaces and a sturdy rubber backing that grips to your table without making lumps or creases.  They are typically waterproof and are soft enough to protect any miniatures that may fall.  Cards feel great to play on the surface and dice roll eloquently.  They can be heavier and more expensive than lower quality alternatives but are far superior.

Cardboard

Think of classic board game tiles.  While the artwork can be printed at high quality, the lifespan isn’t very long and large surfaces tend to be cut for folding.

necron game mat
Circuit City Game Mat by Saucermen Studios

What to look for in the best gaming mat

Design

Depending on the games you play, you will want to purchase a game mat to complement the theme.  While fantasy players will most-likely want natural landscapes, sci-fi gamers may want cities or industrial flooring.  You should also consider what armies will play on the table and which terrain or scenery you have available to complement the mat’s design.

Storage

Neoprene gaming mats are usually rolled up and stored in bags where cloth mats are folded and can be packed away quite small.  A good carry case is useful which allows for portability and safe storage of your mats.

Size

Different games have different play areas.  Warhammer 40,000 can be played on areas up to 6x4feet, whilst infinity has a 4×4 foot play area.  Smaller skirmish games such as Games Workshop’s Kill Team plays on a table area of 22×30 inches.  Think about the biggest possible play area you will need for the systems you play.  Large mats can be scaled down by folding, masking or even hanging off the table and even allow for variation in choosing which part to play on but small mats may quickly become outgrown if you decide to play larger games.

Set-up

How quickly can your mat be set up?  A good neoprene gaming mat just needs to be unrolled or literally thrown onto the table whilst other need unfolding, flattening or even attaching to the table to remove creases.

Quality

Gaming mats have a range of quality.  Colour, print, materials and the artwork itself.  Ultimately you’ll want to get the mat in your hands but the next best thing is to look on forums and online community groups for close up images.  Buying from a reputable supplier is always a good option.

Cleaning

Consider the work case scenario when playing a game in terms of dirt and mess.  Sandy bits falling off scenery, food crumbs and even spilled drinks.  Neoprene and vinyl mats are incredibly easy to just wipe up and clean off with their hydrophobic (waterproof) coating, but other materials such as cloth or card will just absorb the nastiness.

ice game mat
Icy Wastes Game Mat by Saucermen Studios

Game mats in Australia?

See how people are using battle mats across Australia at www.facebook.com/saucermenstudios

Saucermen Studios offer a range of battle mats using the highest quality materials.  They are based in Australia, with their studio based in Brisbane.  Saucermen studios gaming mats are compatible with Warhammer 40,000, Age of Sigmar, Corvus Belli’s Infinity, Malifaux, Warmachine, Star Wars Legion and many more systems.