As Mat and I have been fawning over the X-Wing Miniatures Game of late, it seemed only right that I take a look at the Space Game Mats from Gale Force 9.
Sized three-foot by three-foot, they’re the ideal size for X-Wing. It’s almost as if they planned it that way.
I got my hands on the Frozen Planet Space Mat entirely because it was blatantly done to look like Hoth, which suited me fine for the scenario I was dreaming up for the third X-Wing battle report (going up later this week).
I’ll be perfectly honest: I didn’t have high hopes for the game mat. The fact that it was made from vinyl didn’t thrill me as if the printing wasn’t good quality it can rub off and you’ll end up with a very expensive blank piece of not much. Fortunately the production quality is pretty good. The vinyl feels substantial, it’s got a pleasing texture and thanks to the weight it rolls out nice and flat, with all but a tiny bit of curling which eventually flattens after half an hour or so.
The design of the ice planet space game mat itself is pretty cool. That’s not to say it’s stellar (ahem…) but it’s certainly better than most people could do themselves. Some of the details are a tad basic yet passable, but there’s some nice flourishes that make it pleasing to the eye. Mat and I both have a design background so we perhaps had a more critical eye than most. That said there are a couple of niggles. The glow on the edge of the planet – either supposed to be a sun rise or the atmosphere glow – hasn’t been masked properly so it just kinda stops. As I say, not everyone will notice it but we did. And some of the stars don’t feel that convincing, but I’m being overly picky again.
The overall affect, however, is quite striking. The nebula especially (in the bottom right corner) is pretty and continually pulled my eye when we played over the mat. Perhaps that’s because I was the planet end but I think that’s where the real work went. The planet is cool and everything but it’s an ice planet at the end of the day. It’s blue, slightly swirly and, well, icy. It also feels a tiny bit too big for the space. Granted it’s as much to do with the fact that most gamers, myself included, are used to having a fairly plain gaming space with scenery on top. It almost felt wrong plonking the Millennium Falcon on top of it.
But the big advantage is that it’s an all in one. And a good-looking one to boot. It dovetails nicely with the X-Wing Miniatures Game minimal approach to wargaming. Just unroll the game mat, bask in its photoshopped beauty, stick down your models from a galaxy far far away and get playing. It’s a very elegant solution to a game that would otherwise require you to paint one side of your gaming boards black and spend a solid £50 on a variety of coloured sprays to make it tasty.
When you put it in that context the price tag actually doesn’t seem too bad. Granted, if you wanted to wrap a 6×4 it becomes a little less viable but for the average game of X-Wing you can’t go wrong. And the range is broad enough that between you and your mates (should you be so lucky) you can have a few of the mats to keep things fresh. Or make a Death Star run.
The Gale Force 9 game mats are available from Firestorm Games priced £27.00.