I’ve always had a tough time with gaming mats. The issue of use isn’t in question; I like to draw really crappy maps, sometimes a visual aid is worth a thousand pretty words, and I get a cool retro vibe from drawing out expansive ruins and dungeons as the players slowly explore them. It’s more the issue that despite all the RPG battlemaps and battlemats in the world, I’ve never found the perfect one for all situations:
- Small map packs like Paizo’s Gamemastery line are great; they pack in a lot of details into a little space, but they tend to be too small in my opinion. Plus, my OCD tendencies get me annoyed when I’m either using a map once (and only once) or have to rely on the same 5″x8″ room for a dozen encounters. And as high-gloss, heavy cardstock, pre-printed designs, it gets expensive to pick up new ones for new encounters.
- Big battlemats are expensive, but are worth their weight in gold. One of my friends got a miscut Chessex Mondomat, which is impressively huge at 54″x102″—I drew the entire monastery from the first Legacy of Fire volume on it. They roll up nicely, but you still end up with a big ungainly tube you’ve got to lug around, and getting to the edge of the map is always so frustrating—you have to erase the darn thing and redraw any relevant sections. Using them on a carpeted floor was also a challenge; one friend snagged some pieces of fiberglass to lay on his mat to keep it flat and protected.
- Or you could go the route of the Dwarven Forge miniatures terrain tiles. I’ve seen them in use and the tiles are gorgeous, just great to see the quality of those. Having walls made things pretty interesting as well, giving a little more depth to things. But arranging them for each room gave a decent delay, and the price of them is beyond my scope—I didn’t have $300 lying around during either of the Kickstarters, and sort of balk at throwing a few hundred dollars at painted scenery tiles.
Long ago, I heard of a legendary RPG mapping solution that solved most of these problems while only having a few of its own—the biggest problem was that their first publisher vanished from the internet and production ceased, despite rave reviews from the likes of Monte Cook, R.A. Salvatore, and a Gnome Stew review. This solution was Tact-Tiles, and thanks to a Kickstarter running now, they’re going back into production.
I’m really interested in Void Star Studios’ kickstarter for Tact-Tiles because those look like they’d solve a number of problems I’ve had with mats/maps while covering the same benefits as a normal. Made of heavy plastic, Tact-Tiles are 10″ square-ish map tiles that lock together like a puzzle. The tiles are only one-sided, but the grid side takes wet and dry erase markers, and the grid is laid out with a mix of thin and thick lines to help distinguish distances. You can arrange them in non-standard designs, like L’s and T’s and crosses and the like, which gives a wider range of options to map with.
Even better, when someone progresses past the edge of the map, just plop down another Tact-Tile and continue on. Or if you’re out of Tact-Tiles, take one of them from far back at the beginning—one of those sections that has already been explored and isn’t going to be revisted anytime soon—erase that and slot it in. Voila! No more erasing the map just to keep progressing: you just need to erase what’s no longer useful. I’ve seen people use maps, mats, and even dry erase boards, and one of the few issues has always been that progressing past the map’s edge means the whole thing needs to be scrubbed.
Yeah, that’s fine, but what if you’re using a game that doesn’t use a grid—games with abstract distances like Fate or Dungeon World? Void Star thought of that, and is also offering blank tiles to go with the gridded ones. While I don’t think I’ll need as many blank tiles as grid tiles, I’m glad Void Star included them. It’s nice to see some coverage for all systems—especially since Void Star has their own Fate products—and they do look like they’d offer enough of a benefit over a dry erase board to pick up a few.
The only drawback is the price; none of these mapping options is cheap, and since Tact-Tiles are petroleum-based they do come with a decent pricetag. I’m figuring they’ll more than last long enough to pay for themselves; given how rugged hard plastic can be, I’d expect them to hold up through the wars. (And there’s still a few lucky souls out there with their original Tact-Tiles in functioning order).
And did I also mention that as 10″ squares, they’re a lot more portable than lugging around a huge rolled-up mat, or a zillion bits of scenery tiles?
I relied on someone else having the Megamat/Mondomat for years, and now find myself without a map-bearer. Perfect time to kick for Tact-Tiles for me, because they’re filling a sizable gap in my gaming arsenal—I have all those dang Reaper Bones, but nothing to put them on. Ideally I’d like 9 or 12 gridded Tact-Tiles and 4 blanks for Fate/DW, though I’ll have to balance what I can afford with what I’d actually use… even 6 Tact-Tiles is a huge arsenal, as you can see from some of the neat samples on the Kickstarter page.
There’s still four days to pledge for your own; funding is currently closing on $81,000 out of a $90,000 goal ($ USD), though based on current trends I’d be very surprised (and quite disappointed) if they didn’t fund.