Micro Art Studio’s Infinity Gaming Mat
Micro Arts Studio War Game Mat – District 5 review
The folks at MAS were kind to send me one of their new battle mats for a review. Which I consider to be quite a lucky course of events, as I was somewhat on the fence with this product.
And it came out beautiful.
First, the raw technical details:
The mat is full 48×48”, i.e. 122x122cm, and 2mm thick.
At this size it weighs 2,7 kg.
It comes with no user’s manual of any kind (not that I expected one, just stating a fact).
MAS sells this for 49,20 EUR, plus shipping.
As it was said, it resembles a good quality mouse pad, including rubberized, non-slip backing.
It came to me folded into a cardboard box, but it apparently isn’t meant to be stored that way – unfolded, it doesn’t lie completely flat, I’m feeling the material rises up to maybe 1mm in some areas, where the folds were. I have yet to see if this will disappear after a few hours (update: actually, they did).
A cloth cover – light grey in colour, you can see it in the photos – is attached, implying the mat should be rolled for storage, and probably rolled not too tightly. I guess I should add a length of plastic pipe to wrap the mat around it to make the roll stiffer. However, this makes the mat into an almost 3kg, 120cm+ tube, not something I’d consider handy for moving across the town to your gaming spot. Granted, Infinity needs a lot of terrain, which usually isn’t neither light nor small in volume. However, a 122cm means that not every car trunk will hold it.
I’ll check how it reacts to folding, though (see below for “destructive testing” section).
Sure, that is of no consequence shall you keep the mat in your gaming place – club, FLGS or your very own gaming room, but if you move with your gaming stuff…
The backing seems perfect – there is no chance for the mat to slide on the table, yet it doesn’t stick to it: if you partially raise it and then pull, it will slide.
The corners are slightly rounded, starting about ½” from where the tip should be. While it shouldn’t be an issue in a normal game, you might find it irritating in case you would like to join two of these mats for a massive, 4×8’ table.
Again, not an issue in normal game, and I guess such rounded corners are way more durable. I believe MAS would one day release a 4×6’ variant for those who use bigger tables (or those other wargames) on a regular basis.
The edges of the top layer are a little fuzzy, but only time will tell whether it will be durable, or not so much. If the mouse pads I had are to be anyhow comparable, the edges will degrade in time, but not to the point where this would be an issue (after all, mouse pads are used in a much more intensive manner than a gaming map… unless I should envy you the amount of games you play! ;)). Either way, that fuzziness was noticed on two, opposite, edges only (apparently, it depends on the cutting direction) and was too fine for my camera to catch it.
Therefore I consider it to be of no consequence – only a grumpy ol’ cat like me could have even paid attention to it.
Okay, I’ve been circling the main thing for long enough. So, how is the surface of the map, you’d ask?
It looks beautiful. Like a pro-level painted terrain piece, like the stuff you see on the promotional vids. The mat isn’t cheap, but – and this is something I’ve learned buying MAS products for a few years already – you get what you’ve paid for, every penny. The surface is smooth, but not slippery – a mousepad would be a good comparison, but most mouse pads aren’t so soft to touch.
The layout… well, that’s another kettle of fish. There are several roads on the mat, as well as loading docks, building locations and other nice stuff. The building locations are provided for 1 objective room, 2 L-shaped buildings and 8 standard District 5 apartment buildings. Naturally, you don’t have to use all of these, and you can use other manufacturer’s buildings.
The building locations are spread on the mat without a clear pattern (which is good), however, the objective room one is near the mat’s center – yet too far off the middle for the requirements of games like ITS 2014 Beacon Race (or any other scenario that uses a central objective room). Sure, you don’t have to put the objective room exactly there, but it kinda ruins the purpose of having a mat on your table, doesn’t it? So, this is a little downer for tournament organizers who’d want to run ITS on this mat (hint: use the mat for other scenarios, and let’s hope the next MAS release won’t have that problem).
The map is asymmetrical, so even if using only the basic building layout suggested by MAS, lines-of-sight won’t be too obvious. Which is good.
Now, I know this is to be expected from a single piece mat – all you can do with this is rotate your gaming field 90 degrees every time you play. And this still gives you just 4 variations on your deployment zone, if you are to follow the ground structure provided.
I hope MAS would release a different style of map, made of 40x40cm (or even 1’x1’ / 30,5×30,5cm) squares you could mix’n’match to create your gaming mat. The material they used for this one seems really up to the task…
Well, as they say, the first pancake is always spoiled – but as I look at the MAS War Game Mat, I must say that if this is the spoiled one, we should wait in awe for the second one! 🙂
So, to wrap it up, pros and cons:
+ exactly 48×48 inches.
+ no-slip backing.
+ looks great.
+ asymmetric layout avoiding obvious lines-of-sight.
+ durable (as far as I was able to check this)
– unwieldy for transportation if rolled.
– somewhat heavy.
– definitely not cheap.
– the Objective Room location is off-center.
Would I recommend it, personally?
It really depends. If you’re after a gaming surface that looks really cool – the MAS War Game Mat pays that bill.
If you want a gaming surface that inspires a lot of variation for your table layouts – I’m not really convinced it will do so. But I might yet change my mind after a few months of using this one!
The quality and – as far as I was able to test it – durability are MAS standard, which in general terms means – excellent. Personally, I just like more flexibility / modular approach in the gaming terrain I use. Though, after a couple of days testing this mat I must say it had grown on me. It is just so damn pretty…
You may say it is expensive – and definitely I wouldn’t call it cheap – but what you pay for is quality stuff.
Bonus content: destructive testing!
Well, not quite – I’m not going to consciously tear this beautiful gaming mat into pieces. But I got a few ideas for various mishaps that could happen to it during a game – and if they end up in destruction of the mat, so be it. I owe it to you as a reviewer.
- Folding. Yes, MAS clearly suggests this mat should be stored rolled, not folded – but what if…? Will it get permanent bend lines, will the surface wrap and wrinkle?
I caught two corners of the map with laundry clippers and left it for 48 hours, one clipped together with print to the inside, the other – to the outside. The result:
As you can see, it didn’t wrinkle or gain a permanent bend line. Sure it didn’t lay absolutely flat once the clips were removed (more noticeable in the corner where I folded it with top layer inside), but a few minutes and a few gentle strokes with a hand remedied that almost completely.
Which, to be honest, exceeds my expectations in that manner!
And definitely qualifies as a pass in my destructive testing run.
- 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?
I was out of soda, so I sacrificed a little beer for this test. It dries up nasty and sticky too. For a little extra, I used some soy sauce too, it has a nice dark colour and should penetrate the mat well, if the beer doesn’t. Let’s pretend some Chinese take-away decided to defect (I sense a Yu Jing conspiracy here! ;)).
I intended 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.
This test did kind of backfired: temperature wasn’t high enough to make the stuff dry in the time I could allow it for curing. After about 3 hours it was still completely liquid, and I had to wrap it up already… However, as I observed, there was also absolutely no soaking into the mat. I have no idea as to what the MAS guys did to the top layer of their mat, but I just collected both liquids with a few sheets of paper towel, and there is no evidence there was anything spilled on the mat!
I’d say the test is inconclusive – there was no chance to test the mat for scrubbing / cleaning.
However, in the practical department, it shows that you shouldn’t worry if you accidentally spill some beverage onto the mat. It isn’t going to leave stains, and if you sweep it away while still wet, you can forget there was any spill at all!
And since it is what does matter, I assume that spill test was a pass, too.
- High temperature. Sure, I wasn’t intending to put a hot iron on it, but what if someone puts a mug of hot coffee / tea on the mat?
Well, I did exactly that- poured myself a mug of hot tea, and left it on the mat until it cooled down. After 45 minutes, it was definitely a little less hot than I like, and the mat under it looked, as you can see, as if nothing has happened.