Today I’m going to review the Dungeons & Dragons accessory DN5 The Urban Underdark Dungeon Tiles. Technically, these are released under the 4th edition logo but as with all Dungeon Tiles products they are usable with any version of D&D and, in fact, with any game system that makes use of 1″ square grids. I mean, they’re just cardboard tiles with images; there is nothing that makes them game or genre specific.
Before I go into my thoughts on this product specifically I want to talk generally about Dungeon Tiles. I’ve been collecting these things for years. I have two copies of every set that has ever been released. They are double-sided, full-color cardboard tiles made from a thick, sturdy stock. I have experienced zero curling or curving of the tiles and no peeling of the laminated images. Overall, I think these are one of the better things to happen to tabletop gaming over the years. As the production quality of many items in the struggling tabletop gaming industry declines, Wizards of the Coast continues to publish these tiles with the same high-quality standards as the early sets. Personally, I would rather they raise the price on a product like this than lower the production quality.
On a semi-related side note, the secondary market price of some of the early sets can be quite high. For example, if you want to buy a still-shrink-wrapped copy of DT1 Dungeon Tiles (the first set, which was released in 2006) if will run you as much as $75 or more. But Wizards released three Dungeon Tiles Master Sets as evergreen products (products that they claim they will always keep in print): Dungeon, City, and Wilderness. These three Master Sets, each of which is very fairly priced at $19.95 for 10 double-sided sheets of punch-out tiles in a box that can be used to add 3-dimensional terrain to your game because it is covered in 1″ grid lines, obviate the need for the early out-of-print sets. So if you haven’t gotten into using tiles yet but have been thinking about it, start with the Master Sets and then add other sets as desired.
As a caveat, I want to say that my opinion of The Urban Underdark may be a bit colored by the fact that I own so many tiles. I will try to distance myself from that as much as possible in this review. Most of the early tile sets are long out of print and their prices in the secondary market can be quite high in some cases. As a result, Wizards of the Coast has released some tiles sets recently that might seem redundant to someone with an extensive collection of older tile sets. But unless you fall into that (presumably) rare group, I don’t think the redundancy will affect you.
My main issue with these tiles is the misleading name. When I purchased the product I was expecting subterranean city tiles, which would be an amazing addition to any Dungeon Tiles collection. However, that is not at all what is contained in the product. The tiles are mainly underground caverns. There are some pieces — which definitely do not represent the majority — that have caverns that lead into (or out of) more traditional stone-worked dungeon areas. However, if you buy these tiles expecting to be able to create subterranean cities you will be disappointed.
That said, if you don’t already own underground cavern tiles these will fit the bill beautifully. They have excellent artwork and a good mixture of large, medium, and small tiles. There are excellent “accessory” tiles that contain things like clusters of fungi, lava pools, pits, skeletons, etc. They have a very similar look to them as the older sets DT5 Lost Caverns of the Underdark (published in 2007 and fetching anywhere from $30 – $50 in the secondary market) and DU3 Caves of Carnage (published in 2009 and fetching around $20 in the secondary market). And, in fact, if you own either or both of those sets and have been looking for some nice tiles to complement them then The Urban Underdark will do nicely.
As with all sets of Dungeon Tiles (the Master Sets excluded), you might not be satisfied with your options if you purchase just one set. I always buy two sets when I get Dungeon Tiles for this very reason. But at only $11.95 each, buying two gives you a great value for under twenty four bucks.
So wrapping up, I feel that The Urban Underdark is a great addition to a time-tested line of roleplaying accessories. You’re going to get a long-lasting and good value for your money. If you already own previous sets of subterranean cavern Dungeon Tiles and haven’t felt like you wished you had more, however, this is probably not the product for you. And if you’re looking to make underground cities as the name of the product implies, you definitely won’t be happy with it either. Finally, if you like to build complex or sprawling maps you probably will need two or three sets. All in all, I give The Urban Underdark a solid B+ and I will continue to purchase Dungeon Tiles.
Thanks for reading and please support your neighborhood hobby shop by buying local!
An example of a hybrid tile from cavern to dungeon (or vice versa)
from left to right: tiles from Lost Caverns of the Underdark, Caves of Carnage, and The Urban Underdark
a The Urban Underdark hybrid tile shown leading into a dungeon tile from Master Set: Dungeons