I've been looking for an urban terrain mat suitable for Winter of '79. None of the urban mats I've discovered so far come up to scratch. Either being too American, too modern or whatever. I contacted Deep-Cut regarding a bespoke Winter of '79 mat and not unsurprisingly, they quoted something just over £400. My pockets aren't that deep!
Recently though.... I came across the out of print 3'x3' game mats designed for TANKS - The WW2 Skirmish Game, which are available at a reduced price from many retailers.
The 'Caen' mat, notionally for 15mm works really well with 20mm figures and vehicles. "Caen? Normandy?" I hear you say, well in 1979 the streets of many older, historic or poorer districts in towns and cities across the UK were still cobbled. "But 15mm?" In the photo below you can see a selection of 1/76th British Army vehicles for scale purposes. The 2D building footprint is actually about the same as a normal 3D OO model railway terrace property.
These are relatively thin PVC mats with a silky matt finish. The quality of the artwork & printing is far superior to the photos used to advertise them. Whilst not ideal, these TANKS mats do represent great value for playing urban games when you consider that you can't buy a single mid-terrace brick house from Hornby now for the £17.99 I paid for this mat. No ham-fisted fiddling with constructing Metcalfe card buildings either!
My intention is to pimp the mat for games with 3D street furniture and scatter terrain - rubbish piles, abandoned cars, skips etc. Maybe even a couple of gardens for extra cover. There's nothing stopping you or me for that matter, using the roads and replacing the 2d buildings with 3D ones.
The Caen mat doesn't just offer value for money. It's easier than ever now for me to play a throw-down game set in Winter of '79. The design offers tactical challenges and the large grass area can be converted into a churchyard, playing field with and without changing huts or pavilions, etc. Two mats can even be joined up back to back for a larger combat arena.
For more of a 'trouble at mill' game this 'Minsk' factory mat again from TANKS might be what you are looking for. This was around the same price as the Caen mat, perhaps a couple of quid more but I wanted to use it for throw-down 15mm Stalingrad games with homebrew rules replicating the old PC game Close Combat. The overall scale of the mat is again notionally 15mm and I found that both 200mm and 28mm work, if you assume these are smaller workshops as found in a typical edge of town industrial estate of the time. Again street furniture and scatter terrain will really make a difference to the tactical value of the playing surface and ring the changes.
If I've piqued your interest, you must shop around for the best deal. I found myself buying from different sellers as the different mats on offer at some sellers were being sold at different prices. Since the relaunch of the TANKS WW2 Skirmish Game in October the prices have gone up - extortionately so in some instances but there's still bargains to be had.
For instance I bought this OOP 'Berlin Autobahn' mat again from TANKS for more Modern & Post-Apocalypse gaming. Bear in mind that the first McDonalds opened in the UK in 1974 and that could be a Little Chef beside it. This cost £20 from the very helpful team at Goblin Gaming where other sellers were asking for £35.
To sum up, I can recommend the Caen mat produced for the TANKS - WW2 Skirmish Game, for your Winter of '79 inspired urban games if you can find it at a good price. The one I have will also be used as urban areas of Arnhem, Hue and Bosnia, the latter inspired by Ghost Recon, amongst other settings.