Paizo has recently released a new Pathfinder Flip Mat, this time around it’s the Bigger Pirate Ship. Measuring 27 x 39 inches, the flip mat has two map designs (one on each side) centered around large ships on the high seas – both of which featuring a 1 inch grid. The set is sold as a way for Game Masters (GMs), referred to as Dungeon Masters in Dungeons & Dragons, to quickly set up an epic sea based battle. However, is this going to be a useful tool in a Game Master’s arsenal? Let’s find out!
The promise of any battle mat style product is to instantly set the scene, reducing the time taken for GMs to set up and adding a visual layer to the storytelling. Paizo themselves often say that the Flip Mat range is there to limit the time drawing and sketching out large scenes, so the story can resume. With the Bigger Pirate Ship Flip Mat this is no different, bringing a sea bound location to life. Perhaps it’s a fight for freedom on a pirate ship or the adventurers are those captaining it. Paizo has slightly undersold the potential uses for this double sided flip mat. While both sides feature large ships on the open water, the reverse side (which features multiple ships and one mostly sunken vessel) could easily be ships sat in a dockyard.
Paizo has pulled out all of the stops with the finish on the mat. Players can freely use wet or dry erase markers to doodle on extra features or quickly show spell cones. It even suggests that permanent markers can be used if used in conjunction with a dry erase marker to remove it, though it’s probably safer to stick to erasable pens! This lets the GM take what are epic locations and tweak them to be fully used in the story being told. Need a hatchway down to a lower deck or an item of importance is at the other end of the galleon and it can swiftly be added. To make the reverse into the aforementioned dockyard a pier could be swiftly added. These aren’t huge sketches as the main scene is there in vivid colour in front of you, these extra doodles just help incorporate them into your storyline and add unique touches to the maps.
The two sides both depict different ships on the high seas. There is one aspect therefore you might expect to be missing that makes the product perfect for a fully fledged quest – there are interiors. The ability to do some swashbuckling from one ship to another is very much present. The ships aren’t just that top deck though. When players inevitably want to delve into the quarters below, with an opportunity to loot, GMs won’t have to shift away from the flip mat to visit the boat interiors. The locations allow for players to stumble across more crew in their hammocks or fall down the stairs into barrels and boxes.
Due to the way the product comes there are a lot of folds and creases. For the first few uses at least players will need to weigh down the map as a result. To get around this would require someone to leave it out to flatten out over a number of days, perhaps with an adventure book or two on top to speed things up. This isn’t practical for most who need to pack away between time spent adventuring – something which would only be exacerbated by campaigns that aren’t set in locations which require many ships to explore.
The Pathfinder Bigger Pirate Ship Flip-Mat from Paizo mostly ticks the important boxes for a battle mat. The locations depicted can bring the high seas to life, and including interiors makes the ships feel a lot less flat. Once flattened out the flip mat also cuts down the time taken for the scene to be set. If players are happy to sit there with a book or two weighing it down, then the Bigger Pirate Ship Flip Mat can instantly grace the table. Still, the folds can be a bit disruptive. For those looking to take an adventuring party out onto the seas the Pathfinder Bigger Pirate Ship Flip Mat would help elevate your experience from pen and paper to a fully visualised map.
(Editor’s Note: The Pathfinder Bigger Pirate Ship Flip Mat was provided to us by Asmodee for the review. It is currently available from local board game stores! Find your local store here.)