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The GIANT BOOK of BATTLEMATS by Loke is available online from various sources and has a varying cost between £29.00 - £33.00.

As the title says it all there is little to explain about this book. The A3 pages are sturdy and strong, glossy, and beautifully designed in 31 different terrain styles; two pages (including inner covers) for each type.

Apart from the fact that these are glossy and thus able to be written on and then have that writing erased (make sure you don't use permanent marker pens) so the terrain map can be used again, these map pages remind me of those that come with the Standard Games series - "Dark Blades", "Cry Havoc" etc which were also sold variety style in packs, such as 'The Castle'. The Standard Games' maps were on linen paper and folded from A2 but each was separate and thus had all the flexibility any DungeonMaster or GamesMaster could need. They were also hex-overlaid rather than squared which is generally better for all tabletop games miniatures movement (apart from the board-game style D&D of recent years). Players using The GIANT BOOK of BATTLEMATS can allow diagonal movement through the points of each corner if 6 or 8 point movement is required.

There are several ways of using the pages in this book. The first is leaving them in the book as they are - attached at the centre spine by a coiled wire - and simply disregarding the wire. As you can see from the photos this is quite an easy option. It has one advantage and that is you do not have to risk damage by tearing the pages out (they are openly and widely perforated with large holes for easy ripping out) you just open the book and your map is there ready for you. Of course the disadvantage of this method is that you cannot rearrange the pages in any way except to turn the book round which naturally doesn't allow for end to end orientation. Another disadvantage for this option is that you cannot mix and match your terrain without turning the pages, plus the same orientation inability remains true.

There is a lot more variation of theme/terrain in the maps of The GIANT BOOK of BATTLEMATS, allowing for almost every scenario a GM might introduce to his/her players, except space, there is no star-spattered black terrain - though to be fair a couple of the double-pages could be viewed as being alien-like enough to represent a distant planet.

However! These maps show very little by way of water - a small lake, a lakeside edge and a beach being the only water of any significance, steps, roadways and villages are also sparse in supply. The number of variations but lack of similarities means that having two copies of The GIANT BOOK of BATTLEMATS is probably a good idea.

I can understand why the creators have designed this as a book - it looks magnificent and is certainly top quality, outstanding eye-candy, that will stand out on any game store or book shop shelf - but for practicality it may perhaps, for ease and dexterity of use, have been better as separate sheets safely installed in a creatively designed folder (maybe in the manner TSR presented their Greyhawk Campaign many years ago). 

The fact that each sheet can be drawn on with a wipe-on/wipe-off marker (again I stress do NOT use a Permanent marker) is extremely useful to GMs (especially those like me) who have difficulty making their ideas visibly understandable to their players; my scribbles have been known to kill the tension in what should have been a fraught and dangerous situation for player characters. It is also easy to write your storyline descriptions around the visual terrain on the chosen pages, though it could also lead to some minor laziness where GMs react to and write according to the pages rather than having the ideas first and fitting the pages to them. Both ways work fine though.

One of the pages has a squared room with symbols in each square that can be used as traps, treasure map indicators, keys to finding hidden items, objects, locations, magic etc, great plot props. There is also a red-carpeted 'throne room' which would have worked perfectly for a scenario I wrote many years ago for TSR's AD&D 'Open' tournament at GamesFair UK reading University - even now players who were in that game and had 'Angelo' the Paladin as their character, still call me unflattering names (but in the nicest possible way) as they still remember what I did to them in that throne room so many years ago; but I digress a little. The throne room is classically designed with a flowing red carpet from end to dias, a specific area either side of the carpet for major dignitaries, and enough space for any swordplay action that may take place.

Thirty-One double-sided (thus Sixty-two sides) A3 glossy, wipe-on/wipe off reusable, strong, colourful and descriptive game cards for about 30 pence each side is extremely good value. Could it have been done better? Well there is no way I could even design one of those pages so no I couldn't have done it any better as far as the graphics and illustrations are concerned. As for the actual product, 62 sides is amazingly flexible, though I would have preferred to see slightly less variation and three or four sheets for each side (not 'of' each side) - for example two sides with paths leading through them and two village sheets so that you can set up a village with roads going into and out of it and perhaps a market sheet (there are no 'shops') set between the buildings as the village (or town) 'square' and a lake or river providing the consumers water and fishing. With what you have available this isn't logically possible and yet it is a fairly common scene used in many stories and adventure scenarios. While I am being critical I should also point out that an A3 book is rather large to carry around from game to game. This comes about by my remembering players complaining about having to carry 2 or 3 game books to each session they played.

Hopefully I have not put you off buying The GIANT BOOK of BATTLEMATS by my meanderings as to what it could have been, that wasn't my intention. The idea was to promote the goodness and usefulness of The GIANT BOOK of BATTLEMATS but to also impress that there is a minor lack of versatility and an obvious possible difficulty of portability. Price, creativity, quality, playability and durability are amongst the many good words to describe The GIANT BOOK of BATTLEMATS.

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015