Gamemats.eu 2nd generation gaming mat – review
Gamemat.eu is a company based in Czech Republic, and, as the name suggests, deals primarily in wargaming mats (though these days they do have some other interesting products, too). As some of you may remember, in November 2014 I was reviewing a gaming mat by them. Seems the product has evolved, though (which is why I refer to it as “2nd generation”).
Pretty nice, ain’t it? This is the Quarantine design, Gamemats.eu – being a consummate gaming mats producer – does offer a number of different designs. But I’ll cover that later.
Note: you will surely notice there’s a difference in colours between the photos I’ve taken. It is a matter of the light used. I’m sorry for the inconvenience, but I’m not a professional photographer…
Let’s start with technical details:
The mat is 121,9×121,7 cm, and 2,25mm thick.
At this size it weighs 2,0 kg (Gamemats.eu lists it as 2,5 kg, my bathroom scales begs to differ), carrying bag included.
Gamemats.eu sells these for 49,- EUR, plus shipping.
The streets printed on this particular pattern are about 5,5” or 14cm wide.
The size does differ from the perfect 4’ by 4’ by an insignificant value – 2mm in one dimension. The only reason I know this is because I was actually measuring it. Twice. From user’s point of view – these 2mm make absolutely no difference.
As the attached European Conformity paper explains, the mat is made of 90% rubber and 10% polyester.
It came rolled in a tall, thin cardboard box, packed in its carrying bag. It came rolled with the print on the outside and when unrolled, I wasn’t able to notice if the edges were raised. Even if so, on the 1st generation mat (which came rolled with print on the inside) it took less than one minute for the mat to get perfectly flat.
I used to have the issue with gaming mats in transport, but the carrying bag (aka Battle Bag) that came with the mat seems to be solving. More on it later.
The non-slip backing seems perfect – apparently it is the same stuff as on the 1st generation Gamemats.eu mat I’ve been reviweing before. It prevents the mat from sliding on your gaming surface (be it table, or polished floor), but at the same time doesn’t stick to it. Judging from my group’s experience with the old one – it stays firmly in place when you set it up and have a game, but can be effortlessly rolled and stashed once you’re done.
One can’t ask for more in that department!
The corners of the 2nd generation mats are sharp (1st gen. had rounded corners. Not an issue, really, but I considered it slightly irritating. I must say I got used to it, though) – a perfect tip, so you could just lay two of them side by side to create an 8’ by 4’ gaming area. Of course, Gamemat.eu makes 6’x4’ mats too, and in quite a few variants. So, if you like to play Infinity on a big table, they will have something for you in stock.
The carrying bag, aka “Battle bag”. Now that’s a big plus – 1st generation mats didn’t had anything alike. The bag is made of black, industrial-grade nylon fabric with, as far as I can tell, PVC coating on the inside. If you had to do with roll-up banners, it is the same style of a bag. It is closed with a two-way zipper running along the entire length of the bag – good idea, getting those mats into a bag opened on one end only is somewhat tricky. Just remember to roll it neatly (not necessarily tight – it isn’t required) and it fits right in.
This kind of fabric is water-resistant, though of course the zipper and seams aren’t. But we’re talking about a convenient bag to store and carry your gaming mat, not rain gear for outdoorsmen. I’d consider the bag splash-proof: it should withstand being moved around the town – from bus to tram – when you’re going for a game on a rainy day.
The bag has small grab handles on each end, and long carry handles about its middle, all made from black nylon webbing. These carry handles are long enough for me to conveniently hang the bag off my shoulder. Somehow, the bag with a rolled mat inside is stiff enough to keep its shape when held by these (though it folds in half if you grab it in the middle of the mat). All in all, a very, very nice bag, and a real solution to the problem of transporting your gaming mats around. I’m sure that tournament organizers are going to love this! Though if you have a couple of these, you’d probably want to attach luggage tags to them(the grab handles on each end are likely to be perfect for the job), as to be able to tell different bags contents without opening each one of them!
Curious enough, these bags are available separately from Gamemats.eu store, too (at 6,99 EUR apiece).
Right, enough on the technicalities. How does it look and feel from a gaming point of view?
It is a very good design for a somewhat generic, modern-to-near-future city map. There are city streets (note – oriented diagonally on the map. A very nice trick in Infinity, for it makes it extra difficult to use these as DZ to DZ fire corridors. There are vents / massive air conditioning exhausts. There is debris and dirt and spilled liquids. Concrete paving and ceramic tiles.
And, which I find useful, no building outlines telling you “you should be putting a house here, and it should be THAT big”. You want to have something somewhere, you place it there.
Sure, in the long run you’re not going to worry too much about where your buildings land, but some players feel uneasy putting a building in a middle of a road…
The surface is excellent – soft and warm to the touch, but not squeezy enough to cause stability problems for your models.
The only nitpick I have (and I guess I wouldn’t be myself if I haven’t found something to pick on) is the colour. I believe the mat would be looking better if there was more contrast to the design, the details would be popping out more. Dunno. A computer graphics designer (like the one who makes these designs for Gamemats.eu) could probably amend this in a few minutes worth of work with different filters and colour intensity tools of his graphics program.
On the other hand, I guess it is more realistic the way it is.
So basically a matter of taste.
The other mats I kept talking about.
Gamemat.eu offers their 4×4’ mats in 7 vastly different styles, the Quarantine I’m reviewing here, and:
- Wastelands, which is the one I got for a review in 2014, of course now made up to the 2nd generation standard.
- Meadows, being a pretty conventional grassland surface (that being said, there are enough planets in Human Sphere to surely have some large areas covered with grass on most of them!)
- TriCity, the urban one. Since most of the Infinity games tend to be played in urban terrain, you could call it a default Infinity mat. Though I’d say the new urban design, Quarantine, looks better.
- Arctic, a really cool (if generic) winter terrain. Hey, snow is snow, no matter what lies under it 🙂 I’d really love to have that one!
- Yep, that’s what was there in 2014 – but there are 3 new patterns – the Quarantine, which I’m reviewing here, and:
- Sands, fitting perfectly any desolate place on Bouraq.
- and Space, which, for obvious reasons is less interesting to us, Infinity players.
(note – pictures were kindly provided by Gamemat.eu, save for the Quarantine one which I made myself)
Additionally, there are whopping 12 styles of 4×6’ mats (priced 69 EUR, Battle Bag included):
- Meadows of War, being a bigger and more varied equivalent of 4×4’ Meadows.
- A pretty similar Highlands of War.
- Quarantine zone, essentially larger Quarantine mat.
- Fallout Zone, an industrial-type area with several blast craters depicted (reminds me of the old Dune II computer game :D)
- Sands of Time, a larger variant of the 4×4 Sands.
- Battleground, apparently in-between of Meadows and Wasteland.
- Mayhem Square, which to me seems to be addressed rather to the WH40K players. But could do for a generic urban ground if you don’t mind the symbol in the center.
- Hell on Earth, which seems to be a volcanic ground.
- Fallen Earth, a broken, volcanic ground. I must say I’m not really impressed with this design (but that’s a matter of taste).
- Tales of Mars, a reddish, desert terrain depiction. I like it!
- Snowstorm, a more futuristic take on the Arctic theme.
- Kingdom of Heaven, which is IMO well suited to a fantasy game, though not really for Infinity.
There are also 3×3 mats (sold with no Battle Bag) – smaller variants of Meadows, Wasteland, and 3 different takes on a space battle map. Rather not something of interest to us, infinity players, but several other small scale wargames do use these.
Would I recommend it personally?
Assuming you are interested in a 4×4 gaming mat – definitely yes. I’ve been playing on mats for the last year and a half, and i must say it really adds to the experience (and the table looks way more awesome, which helps you attract new folks!).
There are 7 designs in the 4×4’ size available form Gamemat.eu, so you can choose one that scratches your exact itch, if you are into thematic tables (Gamemat.eu has several designs at their store that made the wheels spin in my head!).
Most of them keep to the idea of not suggesting you the locations for your terrain, and I like this fact very much – the Quarantine is an exception, but if you want to have streets printed on a mat, it is unavoidable. Still, there are rectangles that can be build up or left open / covered with scatter terrain, however you see it fit.
These mats aren’t cheap, but again – this is a quality product, and it lasts. I’ve seen some mats printed on a PVC / canvas (the stuff used for advertisement banners) around, and believe me – it doesn’t come even close. Completely different league…
The Destructive Testing, or abuse & misuse:
Seems the Errhile’s Torture Test is becoming DataSphere’s standard for gaming mat testing…
A word of explanation – this is not intended to simulate wear & tear from prolonged use. I can’t run such a test (still, there’s a note at the end of the test section). It isn’t material strength testing either – ripping the mat or cutting it – for I see such tests pointless. Like testing a mini for how many hammer strikes it will endure. I assume we’re all reasonable folks, and we use our gaming mats for gaming, not for cutting. However, there are some mishaps that can happen due to simple bad luck or human error. So far, I came up with three:
- prolonged bending (in storage) that could result in wrinkling.
- staining (and then scrubbing when trying to clean the stain), usually with sticky liquid (soda) or oily food. May result in permanent stains or damaged surface.
- high temperature, a result of food or beverage container being accidentally placed on the mat. Primary risk is separating the layers of the mat due to high temperature.
- Folding. I caught two corners of the map with laundry clippers and left it away for 24 hours (I’d love to make it 48h, but you know – time / space limitations…), one clipped together with print to the inside, the other – to the outside. The result (both pics were taken after 24h with clippers on, to save on article size):
As you can see, no wrinkle or gain a permanent bend line. Sure it doesn’t lay absolutely flat once the clips were removed, but close enough, and I expect it will relax and lay flat after a few minutes.
So it is a pass.
- Cleaning a spill. What if you accidentally spilled your cola, (or a different kind of drink that dries up sticky) on the mat, and then tried to clean it up?
This time, I had all the test liquids required: my favourite dark beer (locally produced. Can’t recommend it enough. Though given it is a Czech mat, I should’ve used a Czech beer here. You know, they make mighty fine ones!), my absolutely-not-favourite soda (I don’t drink soda much anyway), the old stand-in soy sauce, and a steaming mug of tea (see next paragraph).
Interesting enough – contrary to the 1st generation, I haven’t noticed the mat soaking any of the liquids immediately after it being spilled. I have now to give it 24 hours or so to dry up (I’d love to give it 48h, but simply can’t afford the space / time required :P). Then, we’ll see the results.
But for now – even if you spill something on the mat by accident, a quick reaction is likely to remove the liquid with no staining.
The intention was to let it dry completely (as it would be far too easy to clean it off immediately), and then try to remove it with a sponge and an off-the-mill dishwashing liquid / general detergent. However, my room temperature has proven to be too low to make the spills dry, so 24 hours later only the soy sauce had become noticeably less liquid. And no, I haven’t noticed any soaking into the mat.
Still, I was able to soak all of it away with a sheet of paper towel and a handful of paper tissues. Only a few tiny grains of solidified soy sauce were left to be swept away.
Just to be sure no nasty smell of stale beer would hold to the mat, I wiped it with a damp cloth. No detergent needed. And of course, no staining.
That’s A+. Passed with flying colours (another improvement compared to 1st generation mat, which did soak some liquid, but was then cleaned without any fuss. Yes, that was still a pass in this test).
3. High temperature. The standard test is to place a steaming-hot mug of tea on the mat, and let it cool down there. You may see on the photos above that the mug’s location isn’t damaged in any way.
Note the tiny grains of the solidified soy sauce in the lower left corner. just swept them away after that.
So, for conclusion of our test – this is a pass, too.
Wear and tear.
Perhaps you won’t ever store the mat bent or flush it with soda / beer / whatever. But you’re going to be using it for its intended purpose, i.e. play games on it.
And before you spend the 49 EUR + shipping on one, you surely want to know how long it is going to last.
So far, I can give you no definitive answer.
However, I have the Wastelands mat I got for testing in the autumn of 2014. Since then, it was being used by my local community on a regular basis, i.e. a few times a week. It was then being rolled for storage (sometimes bent in half) and just kept in a drawer.
So far, it looks as good as the new Quarantine one I’m reviewing here: no signs of degradation.
Some more close-up photos of the mat (note – the models are on their proprietary bases, i.e 55mm for Scarface, Iguana and Kameel REMs, and 40mm for the Geckos):