Recently, WizKids has released several sets of interlocking three-dimensional tiles (called WarLock) that can be used to physically build encounter locations. This is clearly their answer to Dwarven Forge tile sets, and while it isn’t cheap by any stretch of the imagination, it is also very, very cool. TL;DR: if you have the money and inclination to spare for this kind of thing, I highly recommend them, though some sets are better than others. As an overall product, I give Warlock a 10/10: this is an excellent addition to the gaming marketplace.
A couple of disclosures.
- I received no promotional considerations, discounts, or freebies for this review. I’m just some semi-adult nobody who still likes playing with toys, and I paid full list price at a friendly local gaming store for these. I have no regrets, and will almost certainly be buying more as they come out.
- I don’t actually own any Dwarven Forge tiles, primarily because up until a couple of weeks ago, when I wanted tiles or terrain I either 3D printed or made them. However, the information I use for comparison is freely available on the Dwarven Forge website. While I’m sure there are differences in quality and how they work in-play, unless rubbing Dwarven Forge tiles grants wishes or something, I’m confident the comparison is fair, even if I’m not personally holding a piece at the time.Â …unless rubbing Dwarven Forge tiles grants wishes or something, I’m confident the comparison is fair, even if I’m not personally holding a piece at the time.Â
- Cost: at 100 bucks for a starter set, these are not cheap. However, that’s less than the cost of two core books for most of the non-indie games that are out there now, so it’s not aninsurmountable obstacle for players who are in the market for this kind of thing.
- Availability: this is a big, big deal. The main reason I never bought Dwarven Forge stuff is honestly because it wasn’t available at any of the stores I shop at, and I’m really, really big into instant gratification. I’m blessed to be in an area where there are no fewer than four local gaming stores I go to on a fairly regular basis; three of the four had these tiles in stock on opening weekend.
- Visual appeal: all tiles are pre-painted (thank goodness), and when clipped together, they look seamless. These are gorgeous pieces.
- Size: at 168 square inches of floor coverage, the Dungeon I set is just a little under a quarter of the footprint of a Paizo battle map. You won’t be building any megadungeons with this unless you also plan on spending megabucks. The Town & Village set is much smaller at the same price, clocking at 96 inches. The basic dungeon set is about the same cost per square inch of coverage as a pre-painted Dwarven Forge starter set (58-60 cents/square inch).
- In what might be the single-best idea Wizards had, the floor tiles are all two-sided, with one side being stone floors, and the other being wood. This vastly increases the flexibility of the sets, since you can swap floors between town and dungeon options. The fact that the walls clip on, rather than being built in also improves their flexibility.
- The walls are all half-height, with some pieces (windows and doors) rising higher.
- Doorways come in several varieties: external doors that clip to floors, including some double-doors. All external doors open and close. Internal doors slide between floor tiles.
- There are also several internal wall pieces that also slide between floor tiles, which is both a brilliant idea, and lets you create complex internal structures.
- Walls can go in pretty much any square configuration, which means that the square inch-age you get is more flexible than comparison sets.
- Also included in both core sets are columns that clip directly to the walls and can be used to close the awkward gaps that appear any time you’re trying to build out walls for this kind of exercise.
- The walls and floors connect using plastic clips in some cleverly-designed slots in the bases. The sets also come with additional clips to make them compatible with 3D-printed pieces, which
was a big selling point for me. Testing this with OpenLock (my 3D printed tiles of choice), other than a slight difference in color due to the palette I chose for painting my tiles, it works flawlessly, which was a delightful surprise.
- The material is basic plastic, but given the number of times I shot a piece across the room when I tried to awkwardly force a clip in, they stand up pretty well to basic rough-and-tumble play. Don’t barbarian rage and huck them at your players or run over them with a wagon, and you should be fine. The weak points are likely to be the clips, which you can buy additional packs of fairly cheaply.
- Building rooms with these goes fairly fast, but it’s not instant–it took me about an hour to make the piece on the featured image, but compared to hours or days to make your own, that’s lightning fast.
Dungeon Tiles I (10/10, $99.99): If you only get one set, get this one. It’s not fancy, but it lets you do everything you want to do with building out dungeon rooms, and provides a baseline you can add other sets to. This is hands down the best set in the bunch.
Town & Village (9/10, $99.99): probably the neatest-looking set, but it has substantially less floor coverage, and unless you’re doing a lot of indoor battles, it will probably see less use. Interestingly, the lack of floor coverage is due to including two fewer basic floor pieces and not including the larger floor tiles (2X8 and 4X4) in this set that were included in Dungeon Tiles I. I’m not sure what drove this decision, other than potentially materials cost, but it puts this set in a clear “second place,” and is the only reason it doesn’t get 10/10.
Expansion Pack I (7/10, $49.99): This provides more doors, walls, and corners for both the Town & Village set and the Dungeon Tiles I set. It’s a good set, but I’m having a really hard time recommending it. There are no floors, so you’re not improving your coverage with it, and while it includes a lot of pieces that let you do more with the basic sets, at half the cost of one of the full sets, you’re honestly probably better just buying a second starter of the one you’re more likely to use (or saving your money). There’s a pretty narrow use case of “I’m already buying both core sets and want to expand their usefulness” that might make it more worthwhile, so I can’t say “definitely don’t buy this,” but there are probably better options.
Stairs & Ladders (9/10, $49.99): This set includes both stone and wooden stairs, as well as blocks you can use to build out the wooden stairs into various configurations. Remember: all the walls are half-height, so you can’t make multi-level buildings that stack on each other, but these visually work very well together. One nitpick that applies equally well to all the pieces after this: none of the expansion sets other than the basic one connect to the tiles themselves in any way.
Admittedly, making physical objects that can be affixed to other physical objects is really, really hard, and finding ways to maximize their flexibility is even harder. However, given all of the creativity that went into the core sets and making them play together nicely, I was disappointed that basically none of the expansions connect with the basic sets.
Summoning Circles (9/10, $49.99): The core of this accessory pack is an LED panel that activates when you press the center. It has pulsating light and steady light options in green, red, and white settings. There are a set of 5 different stone-textured “skins” available to place over the top of this panel, creating a lot of (ultimately pretty samey) magical circle options. While this set definitely has some “wow” factor, there were a few clear misses here I was disappointed in. First, unique among the floor options, the LED panel doesn’t clip to anything, meaning that if you’re moving around a room with a summoning circle in it, you’re going to have one piece just sort of flopping around loose. Second, the skins don’t attach to the LED panel in any way, either. While they’re flush with other floors, so they likely won’t move around in play, the overall lack of connection points makes this set feel more like an afterthought than a well-considered addition to the set. Finally, and this is a little nitpicky, all of the skins are just variants on “complicated, mystical-looking drawings.” There was a real opportunity here to use the bright LED lights to set up things like glowing obelisks, altars, desks with candles or glowing crystal balls, or any number of other 3D options, and they just…didn’t.
Doors (9/10, $49.99): The doors that aren’t already included in other sets mostly just sit on top of the tiles with a clear acrylic base. The jailÂ doors are very cool, the hidden passageway opens, and the iron portcullis is just the piece to really make a courtyard pop. This is a good set, if not essential.
Dungeon Dressings (7/10, $49.99): This set is just basic internal scatter terrain. Also,Â this is the set where it becomes the most obvious that this whole exercise is just playing with a dollhouse (which I love about this whole hobby, tbh). There are cheaper and more complete options for scatter terrain though, especially if you paint your own. If you don’t mind spending the money, or if having the terrain pre-painted is worth it to you, there’s nothing wrong with this set. But there’s nothing to particularly recommend it, either.
What I’d like to see in the future.
- Featured community builds/contests: Wizards is already featuring products, encounters, and a ton of other content on D&D Beyond. Adding weekly or monthly contests where DM’s show off the things they’ve built with the WarLock tiles (along with what they used to build them) is a great way to build engagement with the product, while also leveraging community creativity to show off what can be done. Prizes like free tiles should be negligible in terms of expense, but would incentivize users to show off what they’re doing. For DMs who really want to throw things out there other than square room>hallway>square room, this kind of thing would be a gift. For extra credit, something like Lego’s Build Ideas would beÂ amazing.
- Iconic locations/Encounters. Sets for specific locations in past and future scenarios would really capitalize on the fact that Wizards has full creative control and (forgive the soulless corporate speak here), build some enormous brand synergy. I for one would break a land speed record buying a “Yawning Portal” set. They’ve already started down this pathway with some existing scatter terrain sets (see Halaster’s Lab, Jungle Shrine, Elder Brain).
- A floor expansion set. This should be a gimme, especially since Dwarven Forge offers such a set when it’s not sold out. For the love of Lawful Good, the larger floors available in the Dungeon I set should be part of this.
- Rounded/uneven walls and floors. You want square rooms? You’ve got square rooms all day long. You want anything rounded right now, you’re out of luck, neighbor.
- Cavern tiles. Gimme some of that sweet, sweet Underdark action. Velkynvelve, stalagmites, rope bridges over chasms. You get the idea.
Are you thinking of buying the WarLock tiles (or have you already)? Feel like showing off what you’ve built? Please do; I need ideas.