Every time someone brings up battlemats (or battlemaps, if you prefer), I rave about Tact-Tiles. I’ve owned my set for over a year, and I couldn’t be more pleased with them. I’ve mentioned them before on TT, in Three Mapping Options, but they really merit a full review.
There are 4 pros and just 1 con to Tact-Tiles, and I’m going to lay them out for you in this review.
Tact-Tiles are modular, gridded dry-erase boards for use with miniatures — think of a hard plastic battlemat that comes apart for easy travel, and you’ve got the idea. Pictures will do a better job, though, so I’d recommend taking a peek at the Tact-Tiles website.
Tact-Tiles have 4 advantages over every other kind of battlemat I’ve ever used:
Durable: Tact-Tiles are made of hard plastic, and are
about 1/4″ 1/8″ thick. They obviously won’t tear (like a flexible battlemat might), and the plastic is pretty tough — they’ll last you a long time. Unlike wet-erase battlemats, they also don’t hold marker stains (which, if you’ve ever used a wet-erase battlemat, is a big pain in the butt!).
Configurable: Each 10″ square tile looks like a puzzle piece, with interlocking edges. This means you can make your map in any shape you want: one big square, a cross, a series of corridors, and so forth. Once the party moves on, you can also remove a tile, wipe it off, and use it to expand the active section of the map.
Portable: I bought the expanded set, which comes with a carboard carrying case, but even without the case these are eminently portable. Unlike a big pad of paper or a rolled-up battlemat, Tact-Tiles can be piled up in a neat stack and will fit in your backpack. (They are a bit heavy, but if they were much lighter they’d move around the table too easily during play.)
High Quality: The folks at BC Products went to a lot of trouble to make Tact-Tiles useful: The dry-erase surface is top-notch (I’ve never had markers leave stains on mine), the 1″ grid is slightly raised and uses a mix of thick and thin lines to help you break up larger distances, the lines match up well from piece to piece and the tiles are very solid.
Actually, just “con” — there’s only one downside to Tact-Tiles:
Price: Tact-Tiles aren’t cheap by any stretch, at $41.75 US + shipping for the basic set. The expanded set is $56.95 US, and a 3-pack of extra tiles will run you $15.96 US. That’s quite a bit more than comparably-sized — or larger — traditional battlemats, whiteboards or pads/rolls of gridded paper.
My set was shipped promptly, and came with something I didn’t expect but have come to love: little square foam sheets to separate each pair of tiles in the box. When I load my tiles back into the box, I separate each dry-erase surface with one of these sheets; in a year of use, I’ve seen no wear and tear on the surface or the gridlines.
I highly recommend Tact-Tiles, particularly if you’re not satisfied with your current battlemat. My set is easily one of the most useful items in my GMing toolkit — especially for D&D — and I can’t imagine going to back to flexible wet-erase mat (with their tendency to hold colors, particularly reds) ever again.
Update: I emailed Tom Belcher at BC Products to let him know about this review, and he wrote back with this tip regarding pre-drawing maps on your Tact-Tiles:
One of my favorite benefits of Tact-Tiles is the option of pre-drawing an encounter ahead of time and revealing the map one tile at a time. As long as you use the foam pads, the drawing will transport well, though you might have to do a little touch up.
Just let the drawing dry for about an hour before packing to let the ink completely dry. The key is the foam pads, they help prevent the tiles from siding (the siding action is what erases the ink). Also, position the set during transport so that the tiles won’t slide around or shake much.
Thanks for the tip, Tom!
November 2007 Update: I occasionally get email from GMs who’ve read this review and want to know where they can get a set of Tact-Tiles. Unfortunately, BC Products has disappeared from the web and appears to have gone out of business. I know they lost the supplier for some crucial component or process involved in making their tiles, and I assume they couldn’t find a way around that issue.
I sincerely hope someone else license them or creates an alternative, but at present I haven’t heard any rumors that something like that might be in the works. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news!