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B.J. Snark's Craft Corner for Gaming Geeks


Today's Project: B.J. Snark's Best Battleboard Ever!*

Introduction
I've mentioned my Big Home-Made Dry-Erase Battleboard to a few people, and at least one has asked me to put construction instructions up in my journal. So here we go:


Materials
Table 1: Materials Required
Sew Perfect Pattern Cutting Board $6.79
Con-Tact Memoboard Dry Erase Adhesive PaperE2 rolls at $4.99 each

The Cutting Board unfolds to a 40" x 75" surface overall, with a 36" x 72" grid of heavy blue or black lines at one-inch intervals. The margins surrounding the grid have rulers graduated to 1/8".
Each roll of Memoboard Paper is 18" x 72", with a few extra inches at the end. Two rolls very neatly cover the gridded surface.
The Memoboard Paper is translucent, allowing the thick grid lines to show through without overwhelming the smooth white surface.


Methods
  1. Find a large, flat area of floor, preferably uncarpeted.

  2. Unfold the Cutting Board to its full extent.
  3. While kneeling on the Cutting Board, carefully align the edge of one roll of Memoboard Paper to the far edges of the blue grid.
  4. Carefully affix the edge of the Memoboard Paper to the surface of the Cutting Board. Slowly pull the roll, using the grid lines to keep everything properly aligned. Smooth out the wrinkles as you go; it's easier than it sounds, if you keep the paper taut and only let it make contact with the Cutting Board a few inches at a time.
  5. When you reach the end of the Cutting Board, you may have a few inches of contact paper left. Fold the extra over to the back side.
  6. Repeat the above steps with the second roll.
  7. Fold and refold the board along its "hinges" to pull the contact paper tight. It may take a while for the board to "break in" properly.
    Estimated Time: 30 minutes. And most of that's clearing the level space on the floor.


Results & Discussion

The big advantage B.J. Snark's Best Battleboard Ever! has over the Standard Vinyl Game Mat</b> is sheer size. When I first made this thing, my GM looked at it and said, "That's too big. I've never needed a map that size." I responded, "No, you've never had a map this size, so you compress all your fight scenes to a single sheet of hex paper." Once he used it a couple of times -- SHAZAM. We were having grand, epic-scale battles in huge jungle terrain, and mapping entire dungeon levels on the board. Movement mattered. Tactical maneuvering became possible in a way you just don't see on smaller maps.

It's not just the size of the board itself, either. When you use big, wedge-tipped, relatively inexpensive dry-erase markers instead of the fine-tipped, delicate, costly overhead projector markers that a vinyl mat requires, you can scrawl out great swaths of terrain with impunity. Great, swooping pen strokes that would moosh the tip of an overhead marker can create rivers and scrub and forests, huge pits of lava, or twisting back alleys. Small, fine-tipped markers can provide a level of fiddly detail that wedge-tips can't do easily -- but fine-tipped dry-erase markers are also available.

Oh, and if you forget to erase a vinyl battlemat before putting it away for a few months, you're going to be seeing echoes of that fight scene forever after. With the dry-erase battleboard, a quick swipe with rubbing alcohol will take off any old marks.

The flat, rigid surface is a boon. It folds into six sections, so if your table's too small, you can let the edges hang down or fold them under. However, it will extend over the edges of a not-quite-large-enough table. It will turn a round table into a larger square one. It will let you slide two tables together to make a single surface. (Just don't set your drink down on an unsupported cardboard edge.) It will protect the felt on that pool table in the rec room. You can even spread it out on the floor, and it will lie flat. Paper mapsheets or a vinyl game mat will rumple and hummock if you try that -- you'll be hard-pressed to keep your miniatures standing, and that's the whole point of this exercise, isn't it?

Portability is an issue, I admit. The battleboard folds down to about 40" x 12", so you won't be stuffing it into a backpack. However, experience showed me long ago that you shouldn't do that with a vinyl mat, either -- as I mentioned above, they wrinkle and crease. After a few months of regular gaming, your vinyl mat will provide you with three-dimensional terrain... whether you want it or not. Your best bet is to keep it rolled up in a mailing tube -- and that's just about as awkward to tote around as a folded battleboard.

I admit that I prefer a hexagonal grid to a square one, but the more I play with minatures, the less I use the grid to constrain and define movement. The grid is there to help size and position the scenery. If I want to figure out ranges or movement, I pull out a measuring tape.



*"Best [Item] Ever!" should bring to mind Richard Scarry, not Comic Book Guy, you Philistine.
Tags: battleboard, crafts, gaming, rpg
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