Every once in a while, a product comes along that embodies YOU as a person. I think this may be mine. I’ve had and reviewed playmats before, but there’s really nothing to say about them: they are giant mousepads you put your cards and dice on – that’s it. They will eventually fray at the edges, wear through on the top where your hands are, bleach in too much light (back-seat fiasco, don’t ask) – they do their job and that’s all you can say about them; so the main selling point of those products is how they look and what is printed on them… despite having to cover them up in order to use them?
FEAR NOT! By the end of this review, I will instruct you on why this leather playmat is different, and why it is worth your hard earned money.
While most playmats (that run between $18-20) are made of a composite rubber backing covered in a thin layer of cotton or polyester fabric. Some higher quality mats ($25-30) have an additional protective layer of foam between the rubber and the fabric. Some people swear by it, saying it helps cushion shock and prevent tearing – others say it’s hogwash and just roll out a piece of felt and call it a day.
Wyrmwood, on the other hand, offers a stone-oiled water buffalo leather playmat. Stone-oiled leather means that the mat has a very smooth and soft finish, like couch leather, that will not crack or split from normal use (if you’re playing “throw rocks at each other” there may be additional unexpected wear). What this means, in regards specifically to a play mat, is that the leather is one solid piece of water buffalo hide that has been dried, treated, smoothed, oiled, cleaned, then conditioned. It is incapable of fraying or tearing. By definition it is water resistant. It compresses, as all leather should, to absorb shock – such as from metal dice or metal coins – protecting your table, and unlike fabric or rubber, can actually be repaired from heavy use.
As I’m sure you’ve all heard, leather wallets, boots, and belts only last for a few days… What? You’ve never once heard that in your entire life? Pardon me then.
Leather’s greatest selling point is its durability (yes, ABOVE its look). My father has a leather tool bag that he has used heavily for 20 years – a hand-me-down from his father, who used it for nearly 40 years. When you get this play mat in your hands, you’ll understand why I draw the comparison: the leather of that toolbag is nowhere near the thickness and quality of what we’re looking at here.
Wyrmwood has the raw leather as the back, no added rubber or plastics. The raw leather pulls double duty here: one, it allows the customer to see that the entire mat, all 2 millimeters of thickness, is 100% leather; and tow, the raw leather is naturally rough, like a cat’s tongue, and gently grips the tabletop. I appreciate the choice here, as it highlights the focus that this is a no-frills high-quality option; not composite or faux leather. A+
One easy way to showcase the resilience of leather is through means of a scratch test. So I grabbed a nearby dime and decided to rough up the mat a little and show you guys my findings.
“You daft hecker, what are you doing?!”
Woah, calm down, sailor. The guys at wyrmwood were one step ahead of these concerns – with each and every purchase of their play mat, they send a bottle of leather conditioner from Bickmore (which I’ve been using for YEARS anyway). Leather is a lot like a felt tablecloth, you can wear away parts of it and scrape up bits of the material: discoloration is a side effect. But with one single drop of conditioner and about 5 seconds of rubbing:
You can just barely see remains of the “oh-face” in the bottom right corner (which I purposefully left to show this is, in fact, an after photo). Before any of you wonderful Magic the Gathering players freak out on me, after hours of testing, this leather does not bleed at ALL. Your cards and card sleeves are safe!
Though I opted out, in this case, Wyrmwood also offers customization via laser engraving for these play mats as well. I’m not sure what the character limit is [UPDATE: Confirmed 120+ characters as well as personalized art and the option for a personalized title in place of “Wyrmwood” each for $50], but the engravings are very clean, deep, and absolutely gorgeous. You can see the different hues buried within the leather, leaving a sexy and crisp engraving.
I would like to recommend customizing this with something thoughtful if you’re giving it as a gift, but sadly the cost of the engraving is as expensive as the entire mat. Save your cash for something else and just keep the default look – it’s impressive enough anyway.
One thing I would love to see from Wyrmwood: more size options. This mat is, and I say this with love, HUGE. Smoothed flat out, this mat is 24 inches by 14 inches – a little too big for me when I DM, as it doesn’t quite work with a DM screen. Seeing more options (14×14 square, 20×10, etc) might help move more of these otherwise wonderful mats in the future – at very little cost to Wyrmwood (I’d assume).
I like quality. I don’t want to burn through gaming accessories like I do headphones – “getting my money’s worth” is good enough to listen to audiobooks at work but piss-poor for your gaming table. Everything you buy for this hobby should last for years and years without constant supervision, should be strong enough to endure being tossed into a bag and carried around from table to table, and should be something you’d want to pass on to someone else when the mood strikes you – and I think this play mat fits right in.
It’s high quality, gorgeous, and relatively inexpensive considering its competition: you’re getting a 24in x 14in 2mm thick slab of treated leather, a leather storage band with a Wyrmwood signature clasp, and a 2oz bottle of Bick 4 leather conditioner ($7 value) for just a little more than a competitor’s product that will last 1/4 the time this one will.
If this review sparked any of your curiosity, definitely Check It Out on Wyrmwood.com and ask them any additional questions you might have – they’re friendly and very helpful people. This one gets the DropTheDie seal of approval: I use it every single chance I get to play in a tabletop game.
I don’t always advocate rolling, but when I do… be sure you have to Drop the Die.
Review by JB Little, Follow me on twitter for more product highlights and dice giveaways!