I received Dungeon Craft: Volume I and its expansion Hell & High Water from 1985 Games in order to write this review. If you are interested in purchasing these products, they are available for $30.00 each at the official store (only physical format).
One of the most common doubts when preparing a role-playing session is how to visually represent the combat (or certain parts of intense exploration). Many use plasticized sheets on which to draw, others rely on a pre-printed grid on which to put their miniatures. In this review I want to talk about Dungeon Craft products, which are plasticized, writable and colorful modular maps!
Inside the box
Even just holding and discovering the box of this product is a great pleasure. It is very smooth, robust and captivating. Both the management of the spaces and the quality of the illustrations are sublime. They seem taken from some beautiful manual! On the backs there are also convenient presentations of the contents.
On opening it, we find the centerpiece, the plasticized sheets of Dungeon Craft. Each box includes about 50.
The quality is truly excellent. They are beautiful to look at, resistant to smudges and liquids, with a nice hand-feel. The illustrations are detailed, captivating, and also present on both sides of the sheets; providing double the number of sheets in maps. You just have to be careful when handling them, as the coating material makes them very slippery.
Large, small, and various environmental elements are represented on them, for a total of more than a thousand elements per box. For example, Volume I includes trees, bushes, camps, waterways, houses, dungeons, human pawns, goblinoids, and some larger creatures such as dragons. In Hell & High Water there are demons, lava, treasures, pirates, ships, islands, and more.
In both boxes there are also handy sheets that explain…
How to use Dungeon Craft
First, the least fun facet: cutting. Each element must be cut out along the dotted lines provided before it can be used. Any reasonably steady hand will suffice, but it’s a good thing this has to be done only once.
Then comes the fun part: creating your own game world. As you can see from the images in this review, Dungeon Craft allows you to create many different combinations, useful for many occasions, giving the product great versatility. The only flaw is the lack of a basic (portable) square board, or maybe the tiles could be safely laid out on the table. In any case, I would have liked to have some sort of base underneath that could hold all the cards.
Finally we play! You take the 2D tokens included among the cut-outs and create your own adventures. Alternately, you can use standard miniatures or even write/draw with (erasable) markers on the cards, so you can make useful notes or add details. Note that no such markers are included in the product. At the end of the session, the materials go easily back into the box for convenient storage.
Last thoughts on Dungeon Craft
Tiles to make up a game map aren’t exactly innovative, but that doesn’t mean these don’t deserve attention! Their simplicity rhymes with their attributes of functionality and quality, making these products to keep an eye on. And versatility can be added to those attributes.
I was also struck by the care and attention to detail shown by 1985 Games. An example?
Some of the tiles representing dungeon spaces can be turned over to reveal the same areas but with active traps underneath. The DM can simply flip these sections over when adventurers disarm or perish on these dangers. This attention to detail makes me feel the price is fully in line with what 1985 Games is offering.
I can safely say I am satisfied with Dungeon Craft.
Now we just have to wait for more, new sets so we can go on composing increasingly varied worlds!