Swish, ship and klating…the sound effects in my head as i roleplay my heroic way through hordes of imaginary cardboard cutout enemies…and the ultimate dropping of foil-coated cardboard sword onto the harsh dungeon floor.
It’s all in the mind, you know!
(Press play for a roleplay ambience)
Roleplay in general is a figment of our imagination… or rather a vehicle to spurn our imagination into becoming its creative best… and the use of systems such as D&D5e facilitate such imaginative mental creativity. Our trusty dungeon master leads us on a merry dance throughout mystical lands and presents us with opportunities to interact with a whole host of imaginary folk…some good, some bad and some most definitely very ugly indeed.
So how does this help us?…and I now refer to us as the solo adventurer. The poor soul desperate to explore magical kingdoms and do fisticuffs encounters with great homping beasties?
What’s All the fuss About?
And so in this instance there is, in fact no fuss at all, with regard an actual solo roleplay system. Instead I have been trying out something rather snazzy to help any roleplayer or skirmish miniature gamer… something useful to all but viewed in this case particularly from a solo player’s point of view.
The Big Book of Battle Mats has been splayed across both sides of my table for a number of days now, playing host to several of the solo roleplaying systems that I am in the process of reviewing (most due to be published .. probably when I get back from a once in a lifetime visits to Essen)
..so what is this book when it’s at home and how the ‘ecky thump does it help us if it is not a solo rule system?
Breaking From Tradition:
At this juncture I am about to break from tradition, not only as this cannot be called a game. as such. that I am reviewing, but also a break or deviation from the review format I usually take for my solo games.
As The Big Book is, just as it says on the label, a book of Battle Mats, I couldn’t use my normal headings to accomodate me rambling on in my usual meandering fashion. What I shall do instead, is explained how I have used this book, how it benefits roleplayers and how it fits in to solo gaming as I see it.
What is it? It is fifty eight pages of thick ringbound book of glossy pages sporting various gridded terrain styles representing interiors, wilderness, towns, halls, caves and a host of other highly detailed fantasy based images. Each of these A4 sized pages is divided into 1 inch squares overlaying the featured terrains.
In essence this is a very useful tool to help visualise the locale of any encounter, be it as part of a roleplay game, or a purely skirmish bashed miniatures game… and it doesn’t have to be populated by highly detailed figures either to immerse us in a world of fantasy. Tokens and wooden meeples work just as effectively on top of the detailed features..
So, to details… there are many pre-constructed interiors which may not suit all scenarios but this is a versatile little chap which players utilise to their own best advantage. Pre-constructed scenes can be chosen for encounters rather than pre-rolling on numerous charts, which could otherwise be quite a labour intensive activity under normal circumstances… so to give example, our party of heroes may encounter a goblin cave in the wilderness… so, rather than creating the scene through use of terrain generating tables we merely turn to the wilderness cave page… or maybe they encounter a secret society performing a sacred right in a temple… we turn to a temple mat…. and well, you get the idea.
…but, I hear some of the more cynical of you interject, what if we want specific mapping elements to be included? A table or chair in the corner of a dank dungeon, hiding a secret lever? Well, I was initially amongst that throng, but soon I discovered how handy the numerous blank or low detailed pages could be. With a dry-wipe marker, customised mapping, labels and a whole plethora of detail can be added by even the least artistic of us.
Now, the book has its limitations in that it is focused on localised encounters, so wilderness mapping will not be possible through pre made pages. The book is, after all, just a pad of fifty eight pages. That said, double pages have complimentary schemes making, in effect, an A3 playing area for each pair of pages. But it doesn’t stop there…oh, no! In addition to the premade locations, there are blank grids which could actually be used to track the basic mapping of large-scale wilderness travel (only turning to more specific pages for localised encounters). And as the pages are wipeable, any cockups mapping are easily rectified… unlike my old days of biro on paper…pooor misguided fool that I was in the 80’s
Meeples and Standees:
The Big Book of Battle Mats is published by Loke Battle Mats
(I have no details at hand regarding the artis/s of any artwork used but I am sure interested parties at find out more by contacting Loke B M )
I tried this book out with the Two Hour Wargames’ Swordplay 2018 rules sustem, which is a semi-skirmish based system usable by solo players wanting a miniatures roleplay/combat experience. As players in this system, we go from encounter to encounter , creating a small amount of narative/story for our selves between events, but primarily focus ou energies on small gangs of races encountering each other in a number of situations. These are determined from rolling against the system’s many tables. As such, this book actually proveds an incredibly useful tool to aid us visualise this. The encounters in the system are not overly detailed regarding specific features of a location, so te many pre-determined pages of the Battle Mat book work out perfectly for us, be they indoor, outdoor or without doors altogether.
The features such as walls or corridors or bridges added huge visual and tactical interest that may have otherwise been lost to my limited imagination. The grid makes movement and positioning simple and the clear illustrations make differentiation of cover from open ground a piece of cake… although cakes never actually features on any page.
A large scale war could not really be carried out here but I don’t believe there were ever any intentions for that sort of use for the book. It works perfectly for five to twenty models or so… and scale is not too important so long as consistency is maintained. By that I mean that at base fitting within a square can be used against other bases of similar size…but bigger beasts require appropriate scaling…A giant troll, for example, might accommodate 2×2 squares and so must be based and moved accordingly.
I have also been using he Solo Adventurer’s Toolbox by Paul Bimler, a book that allows complete solo playthrough of D&D5e. The book has vast tables for generation of all manner of unpleasant encounter but once again the maps in the Big Book of battle Maps step up to the mark and offer a perfect mapping solution for my adventures’ encounters.
Me, Myself and I:
I really found the Big Book of Battle Mats extremely useful and user-friendly. The wide range of locations didn’t all get used in my adventure but with such diversity there should be something for pretty much any adventure.
I did, for the D&D, find myself mapping some locations on the plane sheets and also tracked movement between locations on the blank pages. This was handy as I needed only one book and a drywipe marker to carry out much of my game… only needing to refer back to the character sheet to alter stats… especially when the sticky substance hit the fan and I lost much health to nasty beasties.
As for the skirmish games, me and my self found the premade scenes absolutely perfect for the encounters from not only from a scenery component point of view but also from a visual aspect too. They bought the encounters to life and enhanced the gaming experience much more than mere pen and paper, I felt. One must remember that we solo roleplayers do not have a band of merry comrades to bounce ideas off and indulge witty banter with, so anything that helps generate atmosphere is always welcome.
Yay or Nay?
Without a doubt a yay. Now, I know this book was kindly sent for me to try out… but never having looked at anything of the like before, I had nothing to prepare me for the experience so this is in no way an endorsement or paid review. As it turns out, it has, from a component quality perspective, betwixt its covers, thick, high-sheen pages (that can endure reapeated assauls from dry-wipe pens) that are lavishly illustrated from start to finish. Even the plain pages have some small textured appearance to them. The only thing I would like to have seen more of, was maybe a few more pairs of plane pages (maybe with a slight grassy feel or rocky feel, for custom mapping of roleplay group movement through wilderness, but beyond that I have no criticism as it has served me well for two quite different ame styles. In my roleplay section I have about ten systems lined up, many of which I shall be using the Big Book of Battle mats in some form or other. ***
As such, acting its part as an independent landscape character, the Big Book of Battle Mats has rolled, played and majored the BSoMT 1d8 die for a magnificent solo roleplay accompaniment score of (7)
I have no idea the plans for this product, but as one of my roleplay systems is set in a sci-fi roleplaying setting, I imagine (with not too much imagination) a sci-fi planetary/spaceship corridor /space-mine/deep space book having its place in roleplay society.
EDIT*** I take some of that back as I realise…and don’t know how I missed it…that there are two interior and exterior blank page sets right at the start of the book…so perhaps a blank marshy and blank woody page set but, really there is sufficient to satisfy most solo roleplay needs. Buffoon that I am!
…now where did I put my marker pen…I want to scribble a quick bottomless pit so the enraged orc bearing down on me has no way of exacting its evil intent about my meagre person…
In retrospect I should never have pinched its collection of action figures or eaten its meatball sandwich or accidentally sat on its collection of antique miniature trebuchets… but we live and learn!
Something For the Weekend, Sir?
Battle Mat website: https:/battlemats.co.uk (link)
Loke Battle mats on Twitter: