I like Dungeon Tiles. They look good at the game table, while costing far less than fancier alternatives such as Dwarven Forge terrain.
As nice as the tiles look in play, they present a bunch of problems. Thanks to my own ideas and some suggestions from other gamers, I’m ready to offer solutions.
|Tiles slide on the table during play.
|Spread shelf liners
|Arranging the tiles on the table takes time, even if you gather the correct tiles ahead of time.
|Temporarily affix tiles to presentation boards
|Finding the tile you need from among more than twenty sets is difficult.
|Refer to my complete list and gallery of tile sets
|Loose tiles defy organization because they lack set markings.
|Color code tiles by marking edges
|Loose tiles require storage.
|Choose boxes for tile storage
|Arranging maps from assorted, loose tiles is cumbersome because of the volume of tiles and the need to keep flipping them to see both sides.
|Use Pymapper to design layouts
Spread shelf liners to keep tiles in place on the table
Spread sheets of non-slip drawer liner, available anyplace that sells housewares. The liners grip the table and keep loose tiles in place. The lightweight material easily rolls up for transport. If you create a map that you want to recreate later, snap a picture for later reference, and then drop the tiles in a bag or a project case.
Temporarily affix tiles to presentation boards
For all but the simplest layouts, loose tiles take too long to arrange on the table, so I like to assemble maps in advance. Use removable mounting putty to stick the tiles on foam-core art boards. Office supply stores sell both the boards and the putty. Get the white putty, and not clear removable mounting dots, because the clear stuff sets after a while and will damage the tiles.
Once you attach the tiles to boards, you can transport the maps by slipping them into an artist portfolio case. Portfolio cases can be purchased for as little as 10 dollars.
Color code tiles by marking edges
Did your mom force you to keep each color of Play-Doh separate to keep it bright and pristine? Like colors of Play-Doh, Magic cards, and miniatures, Dungeon Tiles work best when you mix them up. Magic cards and plastic miniatures come printed with set markings, so you can mix them up, then put them back where the belong. Because Wizards of the Coast lacked the foresight to print set markings on each tile in invisible, UV ink, we must find our own solutions for the tiles.
A quick web search for “invisible uv ink pen” will turn up pages of vendors selling selling pens that write with invisible ink that appears under an ultraviolet light. Many of the pens come with battery powered UV lights. I have yet to try these pens, but they suggest a simple way to mark tiles.
Update: I tried an invisible UV ink pen. The ink doesn’t stick to the tiles well enough to provide an invisible marking. However, as inexpensive favors for a kids’ party, these pens will thrill the youngsters.
In Dungeon Tile Storage and Really Useful Boxes, DigitalMage gave me the idea of marking tiles by using a marker to add stripes to the edge. This provides a brilliant solution because the codes are clear to see, but do not mark the printed surface of the tiles. You can add the stripes easily, and even mark a stack of tiles with a few, quick strokes of the pen.
The DigitalMage suggests making from 1 to 3 stripes to represent a set series and from 1 to 7 stripes indicate set number—up to 10 stripes per tile. I lack the patience for that, so I recommend using color codes. I purchased a couple of eight packs of permanent markers, and then tested the markers on the edge of a punched tile sheet. This revealed ten markers with colors distinct enough to work as color codes.
For color-coding tiles, select 7 or 10 marker colors that appear distinct on the edge of a dungeon tile. When you punch tiles from a sheet, mark the edges.
Refer to my complete gallery of Dungeon Tile sets for recommended codes. My system repeats the same 7 hues for the seven sets in each of the DT, DN, and DU series of tiles. I use peach, pink, and sky blue for the Master Sets.
Choose boxes for tile storage
Schemes for organizing tiles fall into two broad categories:
Organize by content
Organizing by content works best if you like to spread out the tiles and build maps on the fly. Start by arranging tiles by into terrain types such as dungeons, caverns, sewers, cities, outdoor, and so on. From there, you can sort by size.
The DigitalMage presents an terrific example of this approach in Dungeon Tile Storage and Really Useful Boxes. Really Useful Boxes recently launched their product line in the United States, opening this option to gamers in the U.S.
Organize by set
Organizing by set works best if you want to recreate layouts from sources like Living Forgotten Realms adventures, or if you want to build a map arranged on computer. For this system, just drop all the tiles for a particular set in a bag or a flat box. This slim project case offers enough space to store unpunched tile sheets, but I prefer this hanging project case.
The case lacks enough space for unpunched tile sheets, but punched tiles of every size fit. The hanging cases store easily in file cabinets or in boxes designed for file folders. Use file folder labels to mark the cases. In this EN World thread, Buzz shows how to pack tiles into hanging project cases, and then into an easily-transported tote.
Use Pymapper to design layouts
I’m certain some Dungeon Masters enjoy upending a box of tiles on a table and arranging a dungeon, but not me. For one, no table offers enough space. And you cannot see both sides of a tile at once, so arranging scattered tiles inevitably involves a lot of flipping.
For designing tile layouts, I highly recommend the Pymapper program. (‘Py’ because the program is written in the Python programing language.) Pymapper lets you draw maps by dragging Dungeon Tiles from a palette onto a map grid. The palette shows both sides of each tile at once. The program allows easy rotating, flipping, and layering of tiles. Pymapper’s developer works actively to provide updates and improvements to the software.
The one hassle with Pymapper is that, for copyright reasons, the program does not include images of the dungeon tiles. However, you can some tiles on the Pymapper site.
Do you have any suggestions for using Dungeon Tiles?
For similar advice on miniatures, see my post on organizing miniatures.