Something a little bit different for this piece as its an unbiased straight up review of a product for the Sentry Box, that I didn’t buy, but not to worry, I have to return all of these goodies to the store to go in to the terrain room for when we can all get together for games again, so hopefully, people can try it out themselves soon enough.
Monster Fight Club ran a successful Kickstarter campaign, that I unfortunately missed out on, but luckily for me, (and the rest of you?) it is now filtering through distribution.
For this review, I brought most of the range that is currently available back to the studio to crack it open and play some games on it.
The first product I opened up was the 22″x30″ gridded double sided neoprene game mat. This was one of the products that really caught my eye as that size seems perfect for my D&D encounters and would be an interesting change from the normal Wet Erase mats we normally use, especially for our outdoor encounters!
My first thought was on the choice to package the mats in boxes as the folds are fairly evident upon opening the mat and laying it out, but the cost saving seems to be passed on to the customer and as will become apparent in the later photos, it does not take long for them to settle and as long as you roll or hang them after that it should be a solved problem, but probably worth keeping in mind if you are expecting to be able to open this up and get right into the games.
Once it’s down on the table though I was sold on it immediately, I am admittedly a fan of Neoprene Mats for my playing surface ever since I started playing X-Wing and FFG released their own mats, they are very tactile and provide a protective surface, not only to the table below, but also for the models being used on them.
The bonus from this one is that its double sided with a nice verdant green side and then a more baren, tundra/desert side. The versatility is what really sells it for me and whilst I think I am currently more partial to the Green side, I already have plans for that I could play on the other side.
The second box that I was looking forward to cracking the cellophane on was the Verdant Forest box as all of the photos I have seen makes them look outstanding and I wanted to get a look with my own eyes.
The base is a double sided neoprene, which as another slight criticism (well the same one again really…) comes folded in the box, when I think there is space for it to lay flat underneath the packing cardboard, but that really is being overly picky as I left the first table set up out overnight and everything had settled perfectly in the morning, but just be aware, that if you open it to play right away, you will probably be limited to using the side that is curve down just to prevent any of the base bending up in the way.
As for the trees themselves, I don’t actually think the photos do them justice, they are in two pieces, the Trunk and Branches, and the Foliage. Both are formed from coloured plastic and then look to have had multiple layers of paint applied, the texture on them lets the dry brush effect really take hold and gives a solid look.
The other thing I really like compared to something like the Games Workshop Trees that were my previous favorites for pure aesthetics (other than someone else having painted them for me…) is that the foliage is all one piece and can just fit over the branches without any glue, this gives you a more solid piece where you are not scared of damaging the leaves when you are moving individual trees out of the way.
In addition to the ruggedness of this design, it also allows you to easily change the look to a winter tree if you are going for a more barran look.
Rock Hills were next on the list and I was excited to check these out as from the pictures I had seen they looked fairly modular, and so I wanted to see how they had pulled it off with my own eyes.
They come in three pieces, a large, medium and small and the modular set up I had seen involved the large and medium rocks being pushed together so I gave it a shot and it sort of works.
I say sort of as it’s not a real tight fit or anything, which in hindsight makes sense as I would be concerned with scuffing the paint job with repeated use if it were a snug fit, but if you are down and dirty with your nose on the table, you will see the gaps, so make sure you discuss how the hill actually blocks line of sight when you are playing with your friend who just wants his Tau Railguns to shoot through the crack in the hill in to your ork hoards…
Banter aside, I am again impressed with these, and think the balance is good between flat spaces for model stability and multiple levels for a better look.
Those two boxes and a pack of Broken Ground and Verdant Green Bushes gave me more than enough scenery to really fill out the 22″x30″ mat that I had set up, so full in fact that I ended up pulling some bits off the map as I thought it was a little too busy for what I would normally set up for your normal Random Encounter for D&D 5e.
I am also in the middle of reviewing the Solo Play in Elder Scrolls: Call to Arms and could not resist throwing the models down to give an idea of how it all looks on the table.
So here we have our brave Dragonborn proceeding through a mountain valley only to be ambushed by some Draugr and Skeleton Archers…
As you can see, the grid pattern manages to be clear when you need it but I don’t think it is obtrusive and I really like the look one the table, especially for the literal zero effort of assembly & painting that I would normally have to do.
With all of that said, I don’t think I need to bore you with more openings of packs, but needless to say, I did crack them all and wanted to check out the other colours so here we have on of the 3’x3′ mats (this time without Grid Lines) set up for a little Warhammer action, with the brave forces of Wissenland defending an entry to one of the passes in the Black Mountains, hopefully holding the line against a rampaging Goblins.
This gets to my least favorite box in the set so far, the Bridges and Barricades.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I think they look awesome and I managed to build what I think is a cool set up for the photo, but I feel like they are trying so hard to be usable as both bridges or barricades that they don’t really work as either.
I mean this from a purely mass battles tabletop perspective as I have a cave set up I am working on for Tabletop RPG’s that I think they will be perfect bridges for but you are definitely restricted in how they can be assembled as barricades, that said, I still think they look cool in the picture, so what do I know!
That about wraps it up, I have had them for two weeks and have put them through a few setups and have thought of many more that I want to try with other bits and pieces I have from other companies, so all that is really left to do is actually rate them I suppose.
That leads me to my first caveat I suppose, because of the nature of the mats, being available in both Gridded and Non Gridded I am going to sort of split it into two parts.
As an alternative to a Vinyl Mat and Wet Erase I love this stuff, sure it’s more expensive (well given a long enough time line you will need to buy an infinite number of pens…) but I think the level to with it adds immersion on the table for so little effort is astounding, and if you are buying it as a group (please don’t make your DM pay for all the stuff folks…) I think it really is worth the investment. Clocking in at about $250CAD~ for the first set up I showed, which had terrain pieces kept off the board as it felt full enough, but you could probably start off with just the Mat and the Trees for about $105CAD and have some interesting encounters.
For a table top battles game, the age of issue of terrain density always comes in to play, and because of that the cost tends to spike, but that said, I still think Monster Fight Club is an outstanding option, where whilst you may be paying for convenience, I don’t feel like you are paying a premium when you consider the amount of terrain you are getting and the quality of the stuff.
The set up I did using the 3’x3′ mat clocks in at around $270CAD~ and whist you lose some of the versatility of the double sided mat, I still think that’s a reasonable table set up for the price, as again there was some unused bits that I left off the table to make the photos a little cleaner.
I suppose the best recommendation I can give is that come pay day, I plan on adding them to my own collection, given my finite hoby fund each month, I plan on starting with the Smaller 22″x30″ mat, the Verdant Trees and the Rock Hills as I think that will be more than enough to get started and is easily expanded upon in the future.