Please note that this mat was provided to me free of charge by Big Viking Mats in order for me to provide my thoughts on it.
I’ll be the first to admit that while I previously found the idea of a mat for boardgames appealing it was never something I considered actually owning for myself because it always felt like a frivolous purchase made by people who have far more disposable income than myself. Now, though, I have to admit that having a mat made gaming a lot more comfortable. So let’s check out the Big Viking Mat, eh?
Currently on Kickstarter and due to end on May 20th I got my hands on the mat much later than I’d like due to the highly inconsistent nature of International post, so these aren’t going to be in-depth thoughts but rather quick impressions. I sat down for a solo game of Elder Sign and its expansion Gates of Arkham, figuring that the cards and dice would be a nice test for the nylon surface and neoprene padding.
The first impression is that it’s seriously plush. At 4mm thick the mat I got my hands on is thick and soft, and that depth may increase to 5mm on the Kickstarter due to stretch goals. This level of padding makes playing most games much more pleasant than constantly leaning on a hard surface where wrists, forearms or elbows can become sore or itchy, plus picking up cards becomes far easier because you can simply push into the neoprene in order to get your finger under the card. In the long run, this really helps mitigate the damage that can get done to the edges of cards when you’re attempting to grab them off regular tables. The usual clatter of a handful of dice also becomes a muted thud, which may or may not be pleasing depending on how you personally feel about the noise dice make. I mean when they’re being rolled, obviously. Not when they’re just sitting there. That’d be bloody stupid.
Currently, there are four sizes on offer designed to cover the most common table sizes, so you can opt for large dining room table, five-piece dining room table, a round/card table and folding table. In terms of size these breakdown to 75″ x 39″, 46″ x 27″, 32″ x 32″ and 59″ x 25.5″. In my case I opted for the folding table size as it actually fits neatly onto my worktop where I play a lot of solo games or do run throughs on my own to get the rules down pat before introducing the game to my friends. Hopefully, the sizes provided will be fine for the majority of people.
As for prices they range from $48 up to $105 for the dining room table size, which is quite pricey. Considering the thickness of the material and that most mats only about 2mm padding, though, I feel like the prices and reasonable for what you’re getting.
What I can’t really offer my opinion on is the long-term durability of the mats. Being neoprene and being black you obviously want to avoid scratching the surface with anything sharp or putting down cups with wet bottoms. With this said I did pull out my pocket knife and proceeded to try cutting and stabbing the mat, and was pleased to see that in both cases no visible damage was done, the material simply absorbing the blade. This gives me a lot of hope for long-term survival of the Big Viking Mats. The edges are another question. You can clearly see the neoprene sandwiched between two surface layers of nylon, and I’m a little concerned about potential fraying or about the nylon slowly coming free of the neoprene over time. Without using the mat for months or even years I can’t judge how the edges are going to react to long-term abuse. Given the quality of the mat, though, I believe it should handle the rigors of life pretty well.
There’s very little to actually say about a mat, really. When you get down to it, there’s not much to pick apart and discuss, hence this is a rather short review. So I suppose the question is would I personally recommend this? Well, yes. Now, in the interest of transparency, it’s worth noting that I haven’t used a lot of other mats to compare this one with. Still, having gotten a chance to get some hands-on time with Big Viking Mats’ product I’d have no problem splashing some money on the Kickstarter, although I’d personally say that a plush playing area isn’t a priority unless you’re really into boardgames by this point and get together with people frequently to play. In other words, it isn’t something I’d recommend to absolutely everyone, but that doesn’t stop me slapping my recommended sticker on here. It’s wonderfully soft, seems to be highly durable and comes in enough sizes to satisfy most people. Now, if only it could make a cup of tea, too, eh?