From the ground up

The desire for improvement in what you are passionate about is natural for people.   It manifests itself differently in different people.

When it comes to wargames, so will practice and practice, game after game, honing their playing skills against tougher and tougher opponents until their skills are top level.  Others will pour over the rules and build army lists, working with different combinations of units and artifacts to find the optimum list that fits how they play and win.  Still others spend hours at the painting table, building on natural ability with learned skills, from layering to NMM (Non-Metalic Metal - a style of painting that simulates metals and their reflections with non-metal based paints) until each and every miniature is a tiny work of art.

I have those same desires to improve.  Unfortunately what I tend to not have is much natural talent. I've been improving my painting skills, but I don't have the inborn talent required to truly get to the top rank.  I have no natural aptitude to look at unit statistics and make the toughest list - my natural tendency it to simply go balanced with a lot of different units, and I rarely find those really effective combinations.  And my skills as a player just aren't that great, and beyond that I don't have the time and dedication to play multiple games per week that it takes to truly get better.

It is often said that those who can; do.  And those who can't; teach.  (Those who can't teach; administrate).  I think I've found my niche, in teaching and supporting games.  My favorite of course is Kings of War.  Several years back I said I wanted to support competition in the wargames market (ok, specifically competition with GW).  It didn't take me very long to decide that I needed to do more than just buy other products, and instead actively support Mantic and Kings of War, so I started teaching the game and running events.

I started out with terrain I already had in my own collection, cut a few large sheets of felt, and just started to grow from there.  I have thought about what it would take to make portable game boards - but I don't have the place to store them, nor a way to transport 6'x4' boards.

However in the past few years, painted game boards have seemed to become a bit passe' - being replaced by the more flexible (pun intended) gaming mat.  There a PVC mats and cloth mats, but it seems to me that the most popular are the 'mouse pad' type mats - printed cloth with neoprene backing.  This means they won't slide around on you gaming table, and have enough weight to them to not roll back up.  They also cushion your dice a bit so that they don't bounce quite as much, and help to provide a tiny bit of sound insulation when lots of games are going on.

The most popular of these have been the F.A.T Mats - but those have now split into two separate companies.  Just the other day my first FLG Mat from Frontline Gaming arrived - the lava 1 mat. They had an introductory sale when they initially became available.  I figured a lava mat would be good to go with the volcanic terrain I had from TH Miniatures last kickstarter (which I wrote up here). I had to darken up the edges to match the mat a bit and make a couple of volcanic hills, but now I have a nice volcanic battlefield.

Vents are obstacles and large lava pools w/stalagmites are difficult terrain (i.e. like forests)
One of my local players (thanks Felix) told me about a local company that was creating mats using initial funding from kickstarter.  Hidden Forest Gaming actually ran a second kickstarter recently to replace the misprinted snow mats (and so I ordered a new grass mat on that kickstarter).  On their website they had a special deal on the misprinted snow mats, so I ordered a couple (always looking for a bargain).  Well for once luck was on my side, and their online system allowed me to ordered two of these when they only had one left - so they replaced it with a grass mat.  So adding some snow to a big rock (made out of paper mache' by my daughter many, many years ago), a building, and two new hills (plus the two ice walls I had, and some snow flocked pine trees I picked up really cheap after Christmas at Jo Anne Fabrics) I have a nice winter snow mat.

When I ordered the mats from Hidden Forest, I also ordered some of their old 'forest' terrain pieces - these are thinner neoprene shapes with woods printed on them.  While I don't feel flat terrain looks good, these are great bases for woods once you add a few trees to them.  (I do have some winter woods coming with the mat I am getting from the kickstarter).  Unfortunately their 'older' pieces are quite a bit smaller than the bases I had been using for forests.

felt forests vs. mat forests
So it looks like I'll need to get some of their newer pieces (which have larger pieces - a 8", 7" and two smaller ones) and combine multiple of these to make a proper size.

The grass mat works great with my existing terrain, including a couple of new buildings I picked up at Adepticon.
A nice pastoral battle field
Last October when Jon and I went to Chicago for Dragon Fall - they were selling the mats they had made for the convention (with their logo in the corner).  I picked up three of these for a great deal (which is what actually got me started with the mats).  The print on these is a mix between badlands and grass, showing both greenery and dirt.  This also fits quite well with my existing ruins and hills. Unfortunately I can't find any markings to indicate who actually manufactured these mats.
A rougher area for battle.
I've talked to some people who feel some of these may be inferior.  The Hidden Forest mats have square corners, which some say will not wear well (though it seems if the corners start to wear, it will be trivial to trim them to the rounded corners like the FLG Mats have).  All the mats seem to be the same thickness.
mat corners

mat edges
All the mats come with storage bags.  These have handles, and straps on the end to hang them (the Hidden Forest mat bags only have a strap at one end, but seem to be a bit heavier than the other bags)

Mats in bags
So I'm starting to improve my tournament and teaching tables - with the game mats and the forest bases that both replace felt pieces.

F.A.T. Mats are now sold by TableWar Designs, and while I don't have one of their mats yet, I did get their MicroMats system (via their kickstarter), and absolutely love the blue gradient mat (that perfectly fits as the background in my Foldio2 smart phone portable light box (which I talked about here).

My original goal was to be able to do 12 tables for tournaments - though our local gaming club (The Ohio War Kings) may need to have 20 tables for a GT we are hoping to put together for next spring. But progress is progress.

Because it is all fun and games . . . 


  1. Keep up the great work building up that terrain collection! One can never have too much terrain!


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