Company Spotlight: Yarro Studios
Just a quick post to give a shout-out to a great resource for you. Tanner Yarro has created an amazing map book for roleplay gaming called, "Immersive Battle Maps." This is a massive book (over two feet tall and almost 18 inches wide) with grid-lined pages providing immersive, beautiful maps for your adventures.
I've run about a dozen campaigns over the years, and I'm not gonna lie: the hardest part in prepping for a campaign is not creating the plot, building ideas for vibrant NPCs, or balancing encounters. The hardest part (or more accurately the longest part) is map making, especially if I don't want to do a lot of drawing during the session. And Yarro Studios removes most of the headache - a few quick notes on what you get, followed by a quick critique of the book.
It should also be noted before we do this review that we are not being paid to do this review - I make no money off of this. I'm just a grateful gamer who wants to give a nod to a great resource, and Tanner did a great job getting us the product after a great Kickstarter, so I want to pay it forward.
I. What You Get
I backed the Kickstarter when it came out, and it comes with a copy of the book (though you could get more than one - more on that below), as well as a set of stickers. The stickers include "add-ons" to dress up the scene: fire effects, cannons, catapults, weapons of various kinds, sigils, warding circles - all kinds of things.
The technology era for the stickers is medieval to exploration (so up through roughly the early 1800s). So if you are running a Cthulu campaign, a Firefly campaign, or a setting that doesn't fall nicely into that range you might want to forego this book. But if you are running a D&D, Pathfinder, Zurn: Medieval, Warhammer Fantasy, or other similar setting, this book will have great content for you.
So it's a straightforward Kickstarter: you are getting maps and map components. Nice and simple.
II. Upsides of Immersive Battle Maps
It is quite clear from looking over this book that the team put a lot of thought into this product. First, the book is huge: over 50 maps available to you, representing a wide range of terrain. All of the pages are dry-erase safe, and the lamination is excellent and flawless.
The color palette is excellent, and the sheer variety of scenes that you can create using this book is staggering. When I first backed this project I didn't think we'd get this many maps, and boy am I happy with the final result.
The stickers are easily removed from the sticker sheet, and are easily applied to the page (also, behold: my hand, for the few who ever wanted to see me in a picture). They come up easily, but not so easily that a person who is careless in moving a miniature will move them. It's easy to use, and as long as you keep them away from small children, they will last for a long time.
And the variety of stickers is incredible, as noted above. Several siege weapons and cannons (which is nice, because miniatures for those are expensive to come by short of the scorpions and ballistas from Warlord Games), and all stickers are done from the above view (which matches the way the maps are made). The scale is pretty decent on the whole (more on that in the critiques below), and will serve you well in your games.
III. Critiques of Immersive Battle Maps
My critiques are small and minor: none of them are serious, which is part of why I can recommend this to you in good faith. The biggest critique is that there are no page numbers, so while there is an index of the maps, you pretty much have to estimate where it might be based on its location in the index, open up, find a map nearby that you can clearly indentify, and then keep flipping until you find the one you need.
But honestly, that's the only flaw: the stickers go on easily, come off easily, and transfer back to the sticker page easily. The pages open easily (there was one case where my wife and I thought two pages were stuck together and it was just a thick page, but that's the closest that we had to a "problem" in opening the pages), and the way they constructed the binding is brilliant: your book will last for a long time as far as construction goes.
The size of some of the stickers does surprise me; I don't think a ballista or catapult would be as small as the stickers suggest, but then again if you think about this as containing most (if not all) of your battle map, you can't afford to have much larger items. On the whole, though, they nail the proportions.
One could also argue that the era-specific nature is a drawback: if you were doing, say, a western, steampunk, modern, or sci-fi campaign you will find yourself limited in which maps (and even more so, stickers) you could use in your campaign. But truthfully I don't think that was the target market that the book was created for, and for such settings it might be worth producing new books in the future.
Personally I'd prefer that the books be more era-specific: if I never intend to run a western campaign, I'd much rather that there not be a bunch of maps that I'll never use because I don't intend to visit a saloon, ghost town, etc. in my campaigns. I'd rather buy a book for content that I will use, and I think Immersive Battle Maps does that very well.
So if you like what you see, I encourage you to send your business to Yarro Studios; you can pre-order via the Kickstarter site. They are worth every dollar you spend on them.
Until next time,