Every Week It's Wibbley-Wobbley Timey-Wimey Pookie-Reviewery...

Saturday, 8 October 2022

Mapping Your Cyberpunk Game

Given the origins of the roleplaying hobby—in wargaming and in the drawing of dungeons that the first player characters, and a great many since, explored and plundered—it should be no surprise just how important maps are to the hobby. They serve as a means to show a tactical situation when using miniatures or tokens and to track the progress of the player characters through the dungeon—by both the players and the Dungeon Master. And since the publication of Dungeon Geomorphs, Set One: Basic Dungeon by TSR, Inc. in 1976, the hobby has found different ways in which to provide us with maps. Games Workshop published several Dungeon Floor Sets in the 1980s, culminating in Dungeon Planner Set 1: Caverns of the Dead and Dungeon Planner Set 2: Nightmare in Blackmarsh; Dwarven Forge
has supplied dungeon enthusiasts with highly detailed, three-dimensional modular terrain since 1996; and any number of publishers have sold maps as PDFs via Drivethrurpg.com. Loke BattleMats does something a little different with its maps. It publishes them as books.

A Loke BattleMats book comes as a spiral-bound book. Every page is a map and every page actually light card with a plastic covering. The fact that it is spiral-bound means that the book lies completely flat and because there is a map on every page, every map can be used on its own or combined with the map on the opposite page to work as one big, double-page spread map. The fact that the book is spiral bound means that it can be folded back on itself and thus just one map used with ease or the book unfolded to reveal the other half of the map as necessary. The fact that every page has a plastic covering means that every page can be drawn on using a write-on/wipe-off pen. It is a brilliantly simple concept which has already garnered the publisher the UK Games Expo 2019 People’s Choice Awards for Best Accessory for the Big Book of Battlemats and both the UK Games Expo 2019 Best Accessory and UK Games Expo 2019 People’s Choice Awards Best Accessory for Giant Book of Battle Mats.

The newest release from Loke Battle Mats is The Big Book of Cyberpunk Battle Mats, which presents “60 Pages of Battle Mats for Modern Tabletop RPGs”, marked in either one-inch squares or one-inch hexes. The first map is plain, but the second is where the volume starts getting useful. The first map is of a classic motel, consisting of an office and a ring of small rooms each with an en suite bathroom. There is a certain seediness to it. This is followed by the first of several roads and streets. Some of these have roadside businesses like a bar or café, whilst others do not. 

For fans of Cyberpunk 2077, the collection includes an underground carpark and rooftops, complete with ventilation units and grills, whilst another has a helicopter landing pad. Other sites include an underground station,  plus a street entrance, a suite of offices and a foyer, parts of a cube farm, and a penthouse apartment or suite. 
For fans of ShadowRun, there is a convenience store a la a Stuffer Shack, whilst for fans of Bladerunner, there is a high floor of an apartment building, complete with parts of the apartments of the floor, a la the Bradbury Building. This is one of the disappointments of the book in that it is only big to one half of the floor. Perhaps if there is a second volume of The Big Book of Cyberpunk Battle Mats, the other half could be included in that?

The last few maps in 
The Big Book of Cyberpunk Battle Mats move properly outside. There is a very rough, dirt race track with a couple of burnt out vehicles, a street scene again with a ruined  vehicle and buildings on either side of the street. There are also maps of ruined buildings and ruined railway platform, complete with a train on its side. The book ends with another plain grid for the Game Master to draw the details on it as she needs them, but perhaps the most disappointing map is that of plain grasslands, which seems out of keeping with the feel and tone.

Essentially, as you leaf through the maps of 
The Big Book of Cyberpunk Battle Mats, they move from bright lights to darker places and into a darker, perhaps apocalyptic future. Or just simply ruins, or dilapidated locations out in the Badlands... What this highlights is the flexibility of the maps in the book. They work for several genres, not just the the Cyberpunk one. Most obviously, the Modern genre, but also the Science Fiction and the Post-Apocalyptic genres too. The most obvious is with The Big Book of Sci-Fi Battle Mats, but for the Cyberpunk genre, this collection plugs into Cyberpunk Red, expanding easily the maps and floor plan options which come with Cyberpunk RED Data PackCyberpunk Red: Easy Mode, and the Cyberpunk Red Jumpstart Kit. Of course, not forgetting other Cyberpunk roleplaying games such as Carbon 2185: A Cyberpunk RPG or ShadowRun. Then there are modern roleplaying games and post-apocalyptic roleplaying too numerous to mention that this supplement would work well with.

Physically, The Big Book of Cyberpunk Battle Mats is very nicely produced. The maps are clear, easy to use, fully painted, and vibrant with colour. One issue may well be with binding and the user might want to be a little careful folding the pages back and forth lest the pages crease or break around the spiral comb of the binding.

There is no denying the usefulness of maps when it comes to the tabletop gaming hobby. They help players and Game Masters alike visualise an area, they help track movement and position, and so on. If a gaming group does not regularly use miniatures in their modern, post apocalyptic, Science Fiction, or Cyberpunk roleplaying games, The Big Book of Cyberpunk Battle Mats might not be useful, but it will still help them visualise an area, and it may even encourage them to use them. If they already use miniatures, whether for roleplaying or wargaming, then the maps in The Big Book of Cyberpunk Battle Mats will be undeniably useful.

The Big Book of Cyberpunk Battle Mats is full of attractive, ready-to-use maps that the Game Master can bring to the table for the roleplaying game of her choice—and do so in a surprising range of genres. Both practical and pretty, The Big Book of Cyberpunk Battle Mats is an undeniably useful accessory for a surprising range of genres. If your gaming group likes its maps, then whether playing a Modern game, Science Fiction game, a Post Apocalyptic game, or a Cyberpunk game, The Big Book of Cyberpunk Battle Mats will definitely look good when put down on the table.

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