Hey guys, Calvin here from Dark Elf Dice. We’ve been adding hundreds of new products to the Dark Elf Dice website and I’ll be showcasing new and interesting items from time to time on the Game Night blog.
Out of all the products we’ve added so far, the one that really piqued my curiosity was the BattleTop by Crystal Caste. Why this particular product? Well, if any of you know me then you know I’m a miniatures freak. I collect them, paint them, and most importantly (for me at any rate) game with them. I have a difficult time role playing the old school “pen and paper” route; I really need to have miniatures in play to visualize my character and surroundings. There hasn’t been much innovation in the realm of player aides for miniatures for years, so naturally the BattleTop caught my eye.
So what exactly is the BattleTop? Basically, it’s a portable game table that sits on top of your playing surface (my playing surface is usually the dining room table). When unfolded, the BattleTop measures 24″x36″ (the perfect size to hold a medium sized Combat Mat which, incidentally, is included with the BattleTop). When you’re finished playing, the BattleTop folds up and latches closed. It comes equipped with a heavy-duty carrying handle that makes the table easily portable.
The concept seems relatively simple enough — a small miniatures game table that sits on top of your game table, but it actually took Crystal Caste years to develop the actual product. Why so long? Well, if you’re familiar with Crystal Caste products you know they build quality stuff and are sticklers to details. The BattleTop is no exception and it appears to be made of the same materials used for the company’s signature BattleHive carrying cases. I suppose if you were into accessorizing you’d have it made, because the BattleTop goes with a BattleHive like a pair of Ed Hardy jeans goes with a Ed Hardy hoodie.
All right. So we have a well-made miniatures gaming table that looks good and took years to develop, but how does the BattleTop work in an actual game setting? One of the cool things about my job is that I get to test out new products that we carry on the Dark Elf Dice website, so Saturday night I used the BattleTop in a Dungeons and Dragons game I’m currently running. I had the BattleTop set up beforehand and actually placed it on top of a large Combat Mat to give the players two dimensions to game on. This in itself was something totally new for me (gaming on two planes) and the setup reminded me somewhat of Star Trek tri-dimensional chess (even though I only had two dimensions, the concept was similar). The BattleTop was our “main” gaming area, and the underlying, large Combat Mat was the secondary area. In the midst of a battle against a frost giant and minions, I transported half of the player characters and minions to the secondary gaming area via a hidden dimensional door (yes, I know… I’m a nasty DM!). We then had two battles going on at once in real game time. In order for this to work though, I had to turn the BattleTop 90 degrees and slide it over some so we could play out the battle on the large mat (you really can’t see what’s going on directly beneath the BattleTop). The use of the BattleTop really added a layer of excitement to the game (pun intended) and the players had a blast!
Besides multiple gaming surfaces, the BattleTop offered us a unique visual perspective when looking at our miniatures. Typically, when you game with minis you have an aerial view of all the action and you’re looking down on top of the models’ heads. The BattleTop literally raised the playing field so we were better able to view the miniature’s painted details. This gave the appearance of being “closer” to the action and I have to admit was pretty cool.
Here then is my final take on the BattleTop:
Pros: Neat concept. Well made product. Easily portable. Comes with a medium Combat Mat. Allows for multi-dimensional gaming. Elevates gaming surface to bring miniatures closer to eye level.
Cons: Cost (even on sale at $74.69 + shipping, the BattleTop may be outside of some gamers’ budgets). Rubber feet (the BattleTop has five folding legs capped with rubber feet; the feet are not permanently attached to the legs and must be pressed into place before the table is set up — not really that big of a deal, but I’m kind of lazy).