Review: The Dungeon Book of Battle Mats
Have you ever wished that you could just pluck an atmospheric dungeon off the shelf and get playing with the barest minimum of fuss or faff? Well, this convenience is exactly what the Dungeon Books of Battle Mats offers.
The pair of matched tomes are the latest release in Loke’s Book of Battle Mats series, all of which make it easy for GMs to toss out high-quality backgrounds for battles at the drop of a hat. However, where their predecessors aimed to provide as broad a range of settings as possible, these new books are focussed on one thing and one thing only – dungeons.
As with so many things this focus brings both good and bad. On the positive side you have the fact that the maps feel incredibly coherent and well-designed. Every dungeon they contain serves a purpose, and being able to just pull out a cleverly constructed fire temple whenever you feel like it makes you look like a much better planner than you actually are.
Of course, this commitment to a single type of map comes at the cost of flexibility. If your party tends to avoid traditional dungeoneering and instead run into most of their battles in ballrooms and city streets, you’re going to struggle to find appropriate backdrops in these books.
Looking the Books
If you want the details you can check out their individual reviews above, but in simple terms the entire series is made up of pre-drawn maps printed on stiff pages. They can be drawn on with whiteboard pens or wet-erase markers, so it’s easy to annotate things and add in new windows, doors or huge piles of bones.
The main material difference with the Dungeon Books is that, as the name implies, they come as a pair. Each book is a square measuring about one foot across, and as the pages on each spread neatly line up with one another you can choose how big you want your dungeon to be.
Indeed, this matching design carries across the books themselves, so if you set the two of them to matching pages you can turn them into one huge complex measuring two foot on each side. This does all depend on you having a big enough playing area to make things work, of course, as well as a reason to have your party explore such a large area in a single go.
It also relies on them stumbling into the dungeon in the first place, but if all else fails the books each come with a plain grid that can be converted into whatever you want using markers.
Honestly, even if this plain grid was all the books had to offer, their sturdy construction and relatively easy portability would still make them a rather decent purchase.
Pick and Choose
If the Dungeon Books of Battle Mats were a brand new idea and the first product in their line, I’d be recommending them so hard you’d think I was taking a kickback from the designers. They are, after all, a clever design with solid quality.
However, in the time I’ve had them on my shelf, I have to admit that I’ve left them behind in favour of one of their more flexible predecessors more often than not. The handful of times I have used them were in sessions designed with one of the dungeons in mind.
This, it seems, is where The Dungeon Books of Battle Mats excel. If you’re sketching out plans to hunt through a haunted mine or a wizard’s tower you can grab the books and just let them guide your adventures.
Will they replace the Big Book of Battle Mats in my DMing bag? Probably not. However, when I have a spectacular dungeon crawl lined up I know what I’ll be scouring for inspiration.
Though less flexible than it’s predecessors, Loke’s latest Book of Battle Mats is a dream for dungeon delves of all sorts