Dungeon Tiles

By Wizards of the Coast

All o’ Board

Throughout society, great disappointments after initial excitement far outnumber the unexpected surprise. Within the political realm, consider the last two administrations. With respect to Hollywood, consider the Matrix sequels. And within the gaming realm, consider Space: 1889 Gamer Bling, too, gets overly excited about little things.when it was released. Lots of hype, lots of anticipation, lots of buzz… that quickly faded into a disillusioned emptiness and several Academy of Game Critics awards, including “Biggest Letdown after an Extended Media Hype.” The First Edition Gamer Bling Official Companion was a similar meltdown letdown: young, leggy, sharp, and blonde, all of which engendered such a strong reaction in the genetic programming of Gamer Bling’s Viking blood that it impaired much of Gamer Bling’s higher brain functions (like the ability to notice that she was, in fact, empty).

Yet, sometimes one finds treasures in unexpected places. Like the Second Edition Gamer Bling Official Companion, for example.

See, when Gamer Bling and the woman-who-currently-helps-Gamer-Bling-maintain-the-illusion-that-he’s-civilized first met, they both wrote each other off within 30 seconds. The soon-to-be Official Companion clearly averred that she thought Gamer Bling was a lazy geek, and the air was filled with the SFX of a flushing toilet. This did not particularly bother Gamer Bling, inasmuch as he was angling for the soon-to-be Official Companion’s best friend, who, unlike the soon-to-be Official Companion, was (a) blonde and (b) had big boobs.

For reasons that Gamer Bling cannot to this day explain, he nonetheless spoke with the soon-to-be Official Companion week after week, and eventually they had a very nice casual wedding at which much Winchester Root Beer was consumed, that being the last time that Gamer Bling has ever seen the stuff (to his great sadness).

Thirteen years and two Official Expansions later, there’s still not a better Official Companion to be found. And, since we live in the South, her hair gets sun-bleached every summer, and in the wake of childbirth, her dimensions have also improved. Who says you can’t have it all?

Trevor Horn, in the Recording Studio, with the Hit Single.Now if only she liked new wave and technopop. Instead, Gamer Bling is forced to listen to The Buggles only when she is not around, because the Gamer Bling Official Companion just does not appreciate the fact that video did indeed kill the radio star.

No particular segue here, but the aforementioned story (or at least the second half of it) is rather a parallel to the subject of this week’s review.

See, in all the time that Gamer Bling has spent playing games, attending cons, and working at WotC, he has never heard anyone talk about Dungeon Tiles.

He means this most sincerely. It is not a joke. Even while he was snarbbling up 3e at the company store, Gamer Bling cast nary a glance at the Dungeon Tiles. Nor did any of his friends, coworkers, or fellow brand managers mention them even once.

Pretty surprising, since it is a long-running excessory line from one of the gaming industry leaders.

He can’t even remember seeing Dungeon Tiles in a game store. They had to have been there—right?—at the very least at ONE of the stores he has visited, but they made no impression on him, unlike the fist of that street thug who sucker punched him and broke one of his teeth. Real brave, waiting until Yours Truly was looking away. Not government, just normal people.But, as Gamer Bling was at that time one of the Guardian Angels, the Houston Police addressed the matter quite nicely, thank you very much.

How utterly sad.

Not the police thing, but the Dungeon Tiles thing. And the broken tooth, too. But Gamer Bling is not here to write a review on the sub-par crown that the dentist installed. The old man’s probably retired now, anyway, and thus no longer in a position to misalign someone’s jaw.

Dungeon Tiles. Stay on target.

Gamer Bling always assumed that Dungeon Tiles were retail versions of the cardstock cutouts of the sort that were included in early 3e issues of Dungeon and Dragon. Thus he never spent any mental energy looking at them, thinking about them, or having lascivious dreams about them. Unlike many of the other items he has discussed on this blog. Like, for example, the Second Edition Gamer Bling Official Companion.

Until now.

On a lark, the vivacious Katie Page, who has a great phone voice and gets to work as a publicist for the D&D brand line, enclosed a set of Dungeon Tiles along with the [Adjective] Heroes packs she was sending to Gamer Bling for review.

And Gamer Bling, who had never before in his life actually picked up a package of Dungeon Tiles for some inexplicable reason, picked one up and thought to himself, “Woah,” in his best Keanu Reeves fashion, as his ignorance jumped off a virtual building and fell into the street and went splat.

No low-estimation assumption of Dungeon Tiles survives the first jump.

This is because Dungeon Tiles are not a thin pack of notebook-sized C2S cardstock. A pack of Dungeon Ties measures almost half an inch thick. Each sheet is a heavy piece of cardboard almost 2mm thick (that may sound small, but measure it out), and reminds Gamer Bling of the markers and counters used in the cool games that Yaquinto used to make.

The thick tiles are scannable... but not faxable.

Each sheet is roughly 8.75 x 11 (a little bigger than A4, if Gamer Bling recalls his wonky European paper sizes correctly, and you Europeans are hereby allowed to mock your humble reviewer openly if not), which gives enough space, when one deducts for dividers and federal taxes, to create 80 squares of full-color terrain. That’s 2000 square feet, for those of you still playing 3.5 and derivative works.

But that’s not all! Each piece is printed front and back, giving you 160 squares (4000 sf) of varying terrain. And, if you are very patient with a razor blade or band saw, you could slice the sheets in half crosswise, and use all the terrain squares at once! Yeah… in Gamer Bling’s dreams.

The terrain is demarked into squares (5’x5’ squares for you gam3rs) by the edges of large flagstones for dungeon flooring, or by small white crosses for wooden or grassy terrain. Various smears, stains, lichens, shadows, and other details help obscure the fact that the terrain is, in many places, cloned.

Roughly half of the room tiles have darkened areas at the edges to denote the presence (or absence) of walls.

Even better, some of the sheets are cut and printed in a manner to allow you to assemble 3-Dimensional terrain! When assembled, these are Ooooh! Aaaaah! It's like the map is coming out of the tabletop!plenty sturdy enough to withstand casual play abuse from gamers and miniatures, and when dropped to the floor they remain in one piece instead of disintegrating into their component parts. (Those of you who have read Gamer Bling’s dice tray piece understand that this last comment was one he had not anticipated putting in this review, until he had, shall we say, an inadvertent and spontaneous experiment in Dungeon Tile drop durability.)

And, best of all, since the 3-D pieces are assembled by with mortis-and-tenon or interlocking joints and held together by friction and good engineering, you don’t have to glue them. This means you can take your pieces apart and reverse them (turn the piece inside out, as it were) when you need 3-D terrain with a different feel.

And thus did Gamer Bling write up this review while gleefully cackling and fiddling with small pieces of cardboard terrain. Note that this is not generally considered a sign of mental stability.

Weak Points

First of all, the packaging is minimalist like Scandinavian furniture. Except that this, unlike Ikea kits, comes with no instructions for the 3-D pieces. This is not a problem unless you are one of those people who is, shall we say, architecturally challenged.

As mentioned above, many of the textures are cloned. Gamer Bling noticed it was especially egregious on the stonework walls—but once they’re assembled, you rarely see more than one wall at a time, so it doesn’t matter as much as he feared.

The Dungeon Tiles are absolutely not marker friendly. No dry-erase, wet-erase, or non-erase markers should be used on them. Ever.

The fact that these are built with interlocking pieces of cardboard means that, unlike terrain made with folded paper, your 3-D pieces have eaves and flanges (as shown below). Depending on how strong your suspension of disbelief is, this may or may not be important. Likewise, expect no curving walls.

Even flanges and eaves are cooler when there's a samurai involved.

The die-cutting is excellent, with few sprues, but it’s not perfect. Just to test, Gamer Bling removed an 8×8 tile, rotated it 90 degrees, and couldn’t quite get it to fit back into its place. Likewise, sometimes the die cutting just misses the white crosses. Small and niggling, these weaknesses are, but Gamer Bling is duty bound to pick as many nits as possible.

And, finally, you gotta carry them around. Which means, if you’re a lazy geek like Gamer Bling (see the third paragraph at the start of this review), then you have to find a box to tote all your 3-D pieces.

The Bottom Line

If you got an extra ten to fifteen bucks, Gamer Bling says these are awesome. Durable, attractive, high quality, the generic utility of these pieces and their three-dimensionality makes them as valuable as the Second Edition Gamer Bling Official Companion of dungeon excessoryville.

Summary

Bling Factor: 8
Quality: 9
Utility: 8
Price: $11.95, more or less, depending on which set you get

E-tail

This is a WotC product. It’s almost, but not quite, as readily available as water. So support your local Gamer-Bling-reading retailer and buy it from them. If you have no Gamer-Bling-reading retailers in the area, whup them upside the head with a big stick and larn them some blog-reading etiquette.

The Future

So long as these continue to be profitable, WotC will continue cranking them out. Savvy businesses work that way. Because printing money is fun.

Products

Apparently Dungeon Tiles vary widely in price and contents. But Gamer Bling’s hands-on experience is seriously limited as of this writing.

Harrowing Halls (DU 6) – $11.95

This set is based on a keep or fort, of the sort used by a mad nobleman, a band of robber knights, or a venerable keep where everyone is afflicted with lycanthropy or undeaditude. It includes up to 367 squares of walkable terrain. Most of the pieces are interior, with wooden flooring. The 3-D pieces, however, have both wood and stone sides.

This set includes a bedroom, study, bunkhouse, front porch (2 versions), bar, ground floor of a tower, slatted wood rope bridge, kitchen, bath, parlor, den, entry hall, and dining hall with a U-shaped table surrounding a carpet upon which your fop bard belly dancer can perform. The tiles range in size from a pair of 8×8 rooms to a single 1×2 hall, with most hovering around 4×4.

There are also a number of empty rooms and corridors, plus tiles for a table, a forge, and a magic circle that can be placed as ornamentation wherever is most suitable.

The 3-D pieces include stairs, a few raised areas (shoulder height and ceiling height), a free-standing door, a well, and a couple of tables. Good, generically useful pieces.

Gamer Bling has few quibbles with the art. It’s nothing supremely clever, but it is thorough. For example, the bedroom has not just the requisite bed, but end tables, wardrobes, a wood stove, and a mirror. The study has a reading table with lamps, books, and inkwells.

On the other hand, the bunk room is pretty darned roomy for a batch of hired thugs, and the bathroom does not have a water pitcher or water pump by the sink.

But it took a while for Gamer Bling to figure out why the wooden flooring bothered him. There are two flooring patterns: a standard parallel pattern, and a nice herringbone pattern. But the paralleled floorboards are beveled at the edges, which would be unconscionable for flooring. And the herringbone pattern has irregularities in it, presumably at the cloning edges. The irregularities Gamer Bling can ignore—medieval craftsmen being unable to go to Home Depot for nicely milled supplies—but the beveled floorboards are definitely annoying to the aesthetically sensitive new-age gaming male.

Of course, if you’re paying that much attention to the flooring during the game, it means you’re lying around being useless and making death saves. Snork.

As Gamer Bling’s first set of Dungeon Tiles, this will always hold a special place in his heart. At least until such time as Katie Page sends him a new set to review.


One Response to “Dungeon Tiles”

  1. I too love Dungeon Tiles – almost as much as I love your writing style! That said, I’m a bit less enamored with the 3D implementation (and associated price bump) compared to the earlier (and less pricey) 2D only series. I get my 3D on a bit differently, but that is detailed over on my own blog… http://kataklyzm.wordpress.com/2010/06/13/how-we-roll-maps-tiles/

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