Friday, January 16, 2015

Blue Dungeon Tiles

Anyone reading this blog might have noticed that some old school looking grid maps were at my table during JimCon 4. These of coarse were the Blue Dungeon Tiles from Red Kobold Games that I received shortly before the convention. They are a recent Kickstarter project that I was drawn to due to their apparent versatility, old school look and generic appearance.

Start setup for Dungeon Crawl Classics

I didn't get as much use as I had hoped at the convention due to a low turnout at the table where I was going to use them the most. I did get to use them to great effect in another game that for the most part was designed to work in the theatre of the imagination. That of coarse was "The Future King". As the adventure progressed I found it got more complex. I started using one of the tiles to keep track of initiative and survival points (HP). Then a complicated melee at a ford with a river monster had my players wanting to visualize where everyone was. We didn't even use miniatures, we just marked where everyone was with a dry erase marker and made adjustments when needed. It worked out great.

Used tactically for a complicated river melee and to track combat.

I found the tiles quite versatile. You can make up small areas on the fly which is very convenient and if you're taking them to a convention you can pre-plan on what specific tiles you need and just bring those ones. They work with dry erase, non-permanent (some people call these wet erase) and permanent markers (you need to draw over with dry erase markers if you use these). In my set up for my DCC game I found I was drawing a lot of lines on the joint between the tiles. Don't do what I did which was to try to speed up my cleanup and use a dry erase cleaning fluid on the tiles to remove my permanent process blue marker. The fluid ran over the laminate on the edge and wicked into the paper  stock of the tile leaving a small blue stain. Stick with using a dry erase marker for removal of permanent markings as its less messy. 

The tiles arrive.

One drawback I found with the tiles was that all the pre-designed features are practically useless for replicating RPG maps in adventures (at least the ones I seem to own and other old school designs). That's because the walls are drawn in as a filled in grid width and walls just aren't drawn in that thick in most older adventure designs and in quite a few new ones as well. They are great for creating structures on the fly (like shops, towers, forts etc.) or for designing buildings and dungeons for custom scenarios. That being said the backs of most of theses tiles are just a grid with no features so you can easily draw in what you need yourself making the tiles themselves far from useless. 

a lot of tiles!

In terms of tiling these on the game table I found that they work best if you can assemble portions ahead of time with blue painters tape. You can use the tape to create custom map features on the top or place it on the bottom to simply keep tiles together. As with most tiling systems keeping the tiles from moving apart can be a bother, but all the tiles are square, uniform and flat which makes things as easy as you can get without having some sort of interlocking system like Tact-Tiles.

A treasure in tiles

Overall I'd say Blue Dungeon Tiles are a 4 out of 5. I really like them and will likely be using them at the table for years to come. I'm also planning on using them to assist in the design of some of my forthcoming custom dungeons for 5e. I can see these being super useful if you were to utilize Appendix A: Random Dungeons from the 5e DMG.