In my post, “Battle maps take over Dungeons & Dragons,” I credited the 1995 release, Player’s Option: Combat & Tactics with introducing tactical play to the D&D game, and the supporting adventure The Gates of Firestorm Keep with introducing the now-common feature of bundling battle maps with adventures. Alert reader Curtis tipped me off to several earlier instances. Thanks Curtis!
In 1985, TSR launched a series of D&D accessories with AC1 The Shady Dragon Inn, a collection of pregenerated characters with a name that suggests something else. A gridded, miniature-scale map of the inn appears on the flip side of the cardboard cover. This map seems like a way to do something with the inside cover, because the inn of the title gets virtually no mention beyond that.
In 1984, AC3 3-D Dragon Tiles: The Kidnapping of Princess Arelina packaged cardboard walls intended to be folded into 3-D dungeon rooms, with cardboard standees, maps, and an adventure. This product’s play map lacks any grid, so the set seems unsuited to visualizing tactical combat. Instead the accessory appeared intended as a toy for younger players. In 1985, AC5 3-D Dragon Tiles featuring The Revenge of Rusak presented a similar package with village fair and wilderness tiles, this time with a grid sized for the playing pieces.
In 1986, the classic adventure Night’s Dark Terror includes a section where players defend a homestead against a goblin siege. To aid dungeon masters running the assault, the adventure packages a gridded map of the battlefield and a set of punched counters to represent the battling forces. This adventure was a decade ahead of its time.
In 1995, alongside Combat & Tactics and The Gates of Firestone Peak, TSR released the boxed mega-adventure, Night Below: An Underdark Campaign, which includes gridded maps and color counters. Although Night Below, does not explicitly tie with Combat & Tactics, it supports the move to battle maps and tactical combat.