I’m on the road a lot, and move frequently, which means a lot of wargames played on kitchen tables and folding desks. And as appealing as nondescript grey or faux woodgrain is, it does do a number on suspension of disbelief, and a full game played on a well done table can look spectacular.
But green felt can only do so much.
Enter the F.A.T. Mat, by Frontline Gaming.
The F.A.T. Mat (the acronym stands for Frontline And Table War) was launched with a successful Kickstarter campaign – and one that, as a backer, rather refreshingly delivered as promised in short order. It is, basically, an enormous, table-sized mouse pad. Fabric on the top that’s nicely water repellant and printed with a pattern, grippy rubber on the bottom to keep the cloth from moving around. It comes in both 4’x4′ and 4’x6′ sizes, and in a number of patterns – artillery blasted wastelands, urban areas that match the standard line of Games Workshop Imperial-themed terrain well (and conveniently have deployment zones marked out), frozen landscapes, grassy plains, etc.
Rare is the product that I can recommend pretty much without reservation, but a F.A.T. Mat is it. I got the ‘Alpine’ board in the Kickstarter (as part of my quest against grass bases) and it’s beautiful. See the picture below, as my Eldar finish encircling a routed Tau army:
Besides making the table look great, there’s a couple other big benefits:
- Unlike textured tables, you can enjoy a scenic table without the annoyance of little rocks and gravel making it hard to balance figures. Figures are super-stable and easy to move
- The slightly soft surface makes rolling dice more pleasant – it robs them of some of their momentum, meaning they won’t go skittering all over the table – basically the opposite of the dice problems some of the newer Games Workshop “Realm of Battle” boards are having.
- They’re profoundly portable. Easy to roll up, fold, stuff in the back of my car, etc. If I had a complaint, it’s that the carrying sleeve that comes with the mat is of a somewhat mediocre, Tyvek-esq material.
Basically, they make the entire game just a little bit better looking, a little bit more pleasant, a little bit better. Definitely worth the $85, skipping a new Riptide or what have you.
I’d give the F.A.T. Mat a 9.8/10, the only minor reduction from what’s otherwise a spectacular product being the cheapish carrying case. I don’t know that the marginal utility of buying a second one is very high (unlike the aforementioned Riptide…), but the first one has been one of the best gaming purchases I’ve ever made.