Ocean Play Mat Options – Which is Best?
A member of the Facebook group asks:
What do you use for a play mat? I’ve used a sheet once but it bunches and moves. Neoprene playmat?
I don’t quite have a favorite ocean play mat, but I’ve used many great options in the past. In this post I’ll answer this question in detail, providing pictures and analysis for the ocean play mats that I use.
This is the mat that comes in European packs of Spanish Main (Unlimited Edition).
There are various “official” mats you can use. For starters, European Spanish Main Unlimited packs contain a basic small plastic mat. (thanks to Holofernes and others for the detailed Wikipedia page)
Gale Force Nine released a vinyl map that you can see here.
Probably the most “famous” is from the Plunder Pack. However, it’s both the least appealing and not very practical. Although I DON’T recommend the map, the Plunder Pack itself is quite cool.
The Plunder Pack map – dull, gray, boring, and prone to excessive creases from folding in storage.
Although the above ocean play mats are better than playing on less nautical surfaces (such as a wooden table or a random rug or carpet), it’s both cheap and effective to get something that really beautifies your games.
The answer? Basic chunks of fabric.
In 2015 I went to Joann Fabrics and bought 5 different yards of blue fabric for a grand total of about $17. At about $3/yard, I can honestly say it was one of my “best buys” of Pirates CSG ever (despite not buying any actual Pirates stuff) and transformative for both my games and associated Battle Reports. Since that awesome purchase, I’ve used almost nothing else in my games. I’ve attempted to rank them here.
#1 – Light, tropical, textured, “Caribbean” blue
This is a light blue fabric that makes you feel like you’re playing a game of Pirates CSG in the Caribbean! I call it a “textured” fabric because it’s not a solid blue color, with some variation throughout to make it look a bit more like real water.
The English and Spanish feel right at home in the “Caribbean”!
#2 – Silky shiny blue
This one is by FAR the most unique ocean I have. It’s a completely different material than the other 4 fabrics I use, making it quite distinct. It’s silky, smooth, shiny, and cool! It doesn’t fold like the other fabrics, being much more susceptible to sliding around in your hands. However, you can still wrap or fold it up easily for storage.
Gorgeous and luxurious!
#3 – Dark textured blue
This is just like the “Caribbean blue”, but with darker shades of blue. Creates more of a “deep sea exploration” feel as compared to the more tropical light blue.
Darker version of the other textured blue fabric.
#4 – Basic light blue
This solid colored fabric is a little more “boring”, but still provides infinitely more thematic element than the brown table below it.
Starting setup for an “Other Worlds” game.
#5 – Basic dark blue
More of a “navy blue”, this may be the most boring of the bunch, but it still turns Pirates CSG into more of a seafaring experience.
Custom islands and terrain can enhance your games even further!
If you’re like me and occasionally need a larger ocean (or oceans), there are still various options. You can use a blue bedsheet that you may have lying around, or bought for cheap. You could also buy more than a yard of fabric – 2 yards would give you quite a lot of space.
To avoid any extra purchases, you could also simply connect multiple (different) yards of fabric together to create one ocean. This has the added benefit of creating a “separation” of ocean colors/textures on your map, which can be great for designating a more tropical look or a more menacing deep blue Pacific look.
Here are a few more oceans I’ve played Pirates on:
Those with a blue table are in luck!
Playing on a blue bed sheet works just fine.
Not my favorite, but this light blue-gray bed sheet is alright.
Combination of bed sheet and fabric yard used in the Sea of Allost (Command the Oceans).
I’m planning to get even more ocean fabrics in the future, especially shiny ones that look like glossy water. For example, you could use a big blue photography background for a Pirates ocean! A simple search reveals tons of great options for affordable prices. Just one yard can vastly improve your Pirates games forever. 😀
A Question (or two) for You
Which ocean play mat is your favorite? Do you generally prefer lighter or darker colored oceans? Comment below and I’ll respond! Feel free to even rank all of them if you’d like.
Thanks for reading and let’s get in touch about Pirates CSG! (firstname.lastname@example.org)