Review: The Giant Book of Battle Mats
If we can take one thing away from The Giant Book of Battle Mats it’s that Loke don’t mess about when it comes to naming things. Their titanic tome of pre-drawn battlefields is appropriately huge, but while this makes it perfect for sorting out epic encounters on the fly it loses out on the effortless portability of its predecessor.
If you’ve read our review on The Big Book of Battle Mats you should already have a good idea of what to expect from it’s giant cousin, as the essential design hasn’t changed. It’s a book of just over 60 full-page maps that range from creepy dungeons to city streets, complete with one-inch grid lines. The neat thing about it, however, is that the maps are printed on tough, laminated sheets that can be drawn on with whiteboard pens or wet-erase markers.
This means that if you want to pull up a quick map all you need to do is flop the book open on the table, add in any little details you want and start rolling dice. Every double-page spread can be put together to form a single larger map, and the fact that it’s ring-bound means that you can lay it flat without worrying about damaging the spine.
So far, everything could apply to either book in the range, but where The Giant Book distinguishes itself is in its size. Each individual page is A3-sized, so when you fully unfold the book it becomes an A2 mat. This really is very big indeed, working out to an area around 24 inches across and 16 deep when unfolded – in standard D&D terms that’s 120 ft. by 80 ft. – more than enough for all but the most ambitious encounters.
However, this does raise the question of whether bigger is necessarily better. And, annoyingly, the answer to that is a resounding ‘maybe‘.
One of the great things about The Big Book was the fact that it was so incredibly portable. At A4-size you could easily stick it in a backpack or satchel, catch the bus across town and then fold it out into a perfectly respectable encounter mat at your friend’s house or the local gaming store. When it comes to the super-sized Giant Book that’s really not possible, and even if you don’t mind carrying it around many people will struggle to fit it onto a shelf alongside their rulebooks and manuals.
On the other hand, if lugging the book about town isn’t an issue and there’s some handy box or cubbyhole waiting to be filled, it’s hard to argue with the advantages offered by the extra room. Not only does it allow for more complex battles in wider areas, the fact that it’s that much bigger lets GMs draw out entire castles and even small dungeons on just one spread.
The designers over at Loke have seized on the extra legroom to upgrade the pre-drawn maps too. While most of the scenes on display are simple extensions of those that appeared in The Big Book there are a handful stand-out pages, including a dockside warehouse and a ruined castle courtyard.
The idea behind the Giant Book is just as solid as it ever was and it is undoubtedly a quality product. However, the lack of portability and concerns over storage do make it hard to recommend without reservations, especially if you directly compare it to The Big Book.
There are a few big ‘ifs’ attached to the book, but they don’t stop it being a wonderful accessory that lets you whip up wonderful maps in a flash. Now we just have to wait for The Titanic Book of Battle Mats…
You can pick up The Giant Book of Battle Mats from the GamingBooks Website.