Dale Yu: Review of Big Viking Mats (Accessory)
So, let me start by explaining my “Regular” game group. This group meets once a week in my basement, and we usually get four to five hours of gaming in. Over the years, this group has evolved into a small intimate group – there are only five people on the usual email list. The reason for this is pretty simple – by keeping the group small, we never have more than one table’s worth of gamers at this group. We all get together, pick a game, sit around the one table in my basement and have fun.
I have really grown to like this situation. Everyone in our group likes each other. No one takes overly long to make a move. Everyone is willing to try any game at least once – which is awesome, because there are always new games to be played around here!
Since we’re pretty much at a max count of five, we’ve been able to fit around a 6ft folding table from Costco, and we’ve been using this table for years. It’s your typical industrial style table which conveniently folds in the middle for storage. However, this isn’t awesome for gaming as there is a crease smack in the middle for small chits to get stuck in. It also can be quite difficult to slide cards or bits easily across the surface.
The molded plastic surface is somewhat textured, though over the years, this has been polished down a bit from constant use. There are a number of slick areas on the top, though probably just as many sticky parts from innumerable Coke Zero accidents. The surface was once quite level, though over the years, there have been a number of bumps/dents to the table as well as a fairly warped portion section which came from an ill-fated attempt to put my Uuni pizza oven on it one day. (Who would have thought that a pizza over that gets to 900 degrees on the inside would be able to radiate enough heat to warp a table even through a brick platform?!)
Yet, despite all of its flaws, it’s the table I happen to have, and it’s definitely not ready for retirement (or I’ve not ready yet to buy a new one). I was quite happy to be approached by Paul Gray to take a trial run with his new Big Viking Mats. He’s currently just started a Kickstarter campaign for these, and he’s already met his funding goal with over three weeks left to go.
Link to Kickstarter Campaign here
OK, if you’re a regular reader of the blog, you’ll probably know my general stance on Kickstarter reviews – namely that I don’t often do them. This is mostly because there are so many published games right now, and I don’t even get a chance to cover all of those … That’s not to say that I won’t focus on a KS boardgame project on occasion, but that’s more the exception than the rule. However, accessories fall into a different category – and seeing as this is something that my game table needed, I was more than happy to give one a while.
After learning the dimensions of my table, Paul was gracious enough to send me out the largest size, the Dining Table mat at 75” x 39”. This is actually a smidge wider than my folding table, but we just let the extra material hang over the table margins. The mat is nice and thick, and it’s covered in a nice smooth black Nylon like fabric (I don’t know what it actually is). There is a heat transfer logo in one corner. If you’re having problems picturing it – think of a humongous triple thick mouse pad that is the size of a folding table.
It came shipped to me in a long skinny box, and it was curled up tightly to fit inside the box. However, given the heavy weight of the mat, it unrolls easily and does not have any residual curl even at the edges after only a few minutes of lying on the table.
So I’ve now gamed with it for the past few gamenights, and I must say that it’s a definite improvement over the naked table. The most noticeable difference is the smoothness of the surface. All of the little pockmarks and the one warped area are now smoothed out by the heavy mat. I mean, the mat isn’t magical and it doesn’t somehow expand to fill in the dips in the table, but it is definitely an improvement. It is very easy to pick cards and chits up off the surface, and it’s nice and squishy to rest your elbows on. Finally, I was surprised to hear (or not hear!) how much the noise of rolling dice is dampened by the mat.
It is a necessity? Of course not. As long as you have a table, you can play a game on it. But is it an improvement? Yes, it is. We don’t have to worry about the crack in the middle of the table. I don’t worry about people bending the edges of my cards trying to pick them up off the surface. I also don’t have to worry about waking up the neighbors when we play dice games!
So, to be clear, what do I get out of writing this? They sent me a mat free of charge to try out. Otherwise, I have no vested interested in the company or KS campaign, and I do not get any rewards or kickbacks from future sales. The backing levels seem decently priced, $60 for a card table sized mat or $105 for the large dinner table size. However, one of the options is to buy a mat which is custom cut for your table. I think having an exact sized mat would be a sweet addition to a game table, and certainly something I’d consider for any hard plastic table. I would also definitely consider it to protect a nice wooden table from any gaming wear.
There are some stretch goals that will add thickness to the mats as well as the options for different colors, but I’ll admit that I’m really happy with the sample that was sent to me, and I’m glad to have it as an enhancement to my table. I’m happy to recommend this to others as I have been extremely happy with the sample given to me. I’d honestly never thought about buying a mat like this before – but now that I have one, I don’t know if I’d ever choose to play without it so long as the mat is nearby.
Link to Kickstarter Campaign here
Until your next appointment,
The Gaming Doctor
Dale, if you were to lose the production sample box somehow, would you go out and support the kickstarter to get a replacement of the same size?
Oh also, in case you’ve had any accidents already, how does the mat deal w/ drink spills?
Considering this, though $105 is enough that I’m hesitating on it.
Hubert – if I somehow lost the sample mat, I think that I would probably go and find a replacement. Having the mat has been a really nice addition to the table. I have toyed with the idea of trimming my sample so that it exactly fits the table, and if I were doing the KS, I would likely ask for the custom cut.
we have not had any spills, but it absorbs the condensation from beer bottles nicely. No stains at all.
How has the mat held up for you, assuming you are still using it? Are the edges fraying? Any other deficiencies that have shown up over time?
we still use it every week – well… every week until coronavirus caused us to go on hiatus. It has no visible fraying. I even had to take shears to it (gasp) to finally trim it to the exact width of my table. It handled that like a champ, and even the hand cut side has no separation of the cover fabric and the cushioning.
We do try to curl it in opposite fashion each week to keep it flat. As it stands now, we have to weigh down the curled end for about 15-20 minutes with a few heavy game boxes to make it entirely flat; but even if we didn’t do that, it would still be just fine
still would highly recommend.