Dungeons & Dragons Kickstarter Heaven – Dwarven Forge & Zealot Miniatures

Classic Dungeon

For those that play tabletop role playing games, especially those like Dungeons & Dragons, you have most likely heard of DwarvenForge.  DwarvenForge is one of the leading (if not THE leading) manufacturer of miniature terrain.    Stefan Pokorny, a professionally trained painter and sculptor, is the mastermind behind this modular dungeon terrain.  The picture above is from their website.

The current terrain is made out of what they call Dwarvenite, a dense, incredibly strong material that is practically indestructible as seen here.  They seriously ran it over with a truck and it bent back into place.  Gives me some hope when I’m playing with my 3 year old, that my pieces will still be in tact when we are done.  Previously they had a resin based terrain that was more susceptible to damage, though still very resilient.

More recently (in the past 2-ish years), Dwarven Forge has had two kickstarters, one for Dungeon Game Tiles and another for Caverns.  On average between the two kickstarters, they raised 2 MILLION dollars for EACH of them.  Insane right?  I was lucky enough to be part of both of them and all I can say is WOW.

I received my first set of kickstarter dungeon tiles towards the end of last year and have never been happier with a purchase.  Are they pricey?  That’s debatable.  At $85 for one set of hand painted game tiles, you get enough to basically cover 1 medium and 1 small room, which isn’t very much.  If you want to make any decent size dungeon, you are looking at some serious coin, however, you are getting a quality professionally painted product, that is indestructible, that is most likely going to last FOREVER. A bargain if you ask me!

The basic set consists of 34 pieces, which includes 14 walls, 6 corner pieces, 12 floor pieces and 2 doors.  During the kickstarter, the first set costs you $95 instead of $85, however it did include free shipping in the US.  As you added on more sets, the price dropped.  Not significantly, but enough to make a difference.  At 2 sets, you were looking at $170 or $85 per set, plus free shipping and access to all the stretch goals.  The stretch goals are where you get the biggest bang for your buck, and you needed to pledge at least $120 in order to qualify for those stretch goals, but we’ll go further into that later.

Just a quick side note:  The costs mentioned above are if you paid to have them hand painted.  You have the option to pledge for what they called “dungeon gray”, which were the unpainted versions for significantly less.  Since I was already investing in the product, I wanted them to look their best, so had them painted by the best.

Anyways, 3 sets at $235 brought the price down to $78.33 for each set.  Now for those of you that have experience with kickstarter and as I mentioned before, the stretch goals are the gravy.  When this kickstarter was active, I was checking the page like every 10 minutes (I was completely addicted) to see if we reached a new goal.  In general, the goals were about $50,000 to $75,000 apart, but this kickstarter was really on the move, right from the beginning.  I ended up with the 3 sets at $235, which allotted me 102 base pieces (34 from each set) and a whopping 120 FREE PIECES due to the huge success of the kickstarter.  So not only did I get the pieces at a reduced price, I got more than twice as many pieces than I ordered!  Plus the additional pieces included, were not part of the basic set, and included columns, curved and diagonal walls, walls with windows, barrels, stairs, pedestals and gold.  Great stuff all around.

Plus, included in those stretch goals was a mapmaker tool that allows you to design/build your very own map with all the dungeon pieces that were available, and it told you exactly how many tiles you used, so you can print out, collect the needed tiles and head off to your game.

So, it was an incredible deal, to say the least.  Again, it is pricey, but you’re paying for something that is going to last lifetimes, to be passed down through generations.  My 3 year old son plays with it now, marching his Skylander figures and knights through the prison (as he calls it) looking for treasure.  It’s awesome.


So then Dwarven Forge launches ANOTHER kickstarter for cavern tiles earlier this year and I can’t help but jump in.  So, since these pieces were a little more intricate, you were getting 26 pieces in the basic set, which included 8 corners, 9 floors and 9 walls.  But, due to the success of the kickstarter, you got 27 additional pieces per set you pledged for and included some great additions like different floor and wall tiles, narrow passages, dead ends, stalagmites and even chasm edges.  Again…an awesome deal.  They are coming in November and I am PSYCHED.  The picture above is also from their website.

While I realize DwarvenForge still needs to complete this kickstarter before moving on to the next, I can’t help but wait in earnest for their 3rd kickstarter scheduled for sometime next year, that will include castles, roofs, etc….

A more recent kickstarter, by the MBA (Miniature Building Authority), started around September 18th-ish, revolves around hand-painted castles and buildings.  It has some really beautiful pieces, though a little too expensive personally.  While I would love to be able to drop thousands of dollars on this stuff, it’s just not feasible.  Their product is solid and painted to perfection, but on average, you need a good $1000 to get a decent amount of product.  Plus, I haven’t been impressed with their stretch goals.  They are giving away things like milk maids, or a well, which is nice, but for a kickstarter of that magnitude, I want to see some free small buildings or something to that effect.

Also, in other recent news, the president of Dwarven Forge, Jeff Martin, left the company to pursue his highly acclaimed True Dungeon, but also to kick start his own miniature terrain known as Up Works.  Up Works is miniature terrain for building castles and towers, and is hosting a kickstarter that began on September 30th.  One of the biggest features is the framework, as it allows you to remove an entire level of a castle at once, without disturbing the contents.  The walls/corner/floor pieces are built so that they fit securely into the frame, which is great.  The biggest downside is that the pieces are similar to the Dwarvenforge dungeon tiles and most of the pieces in each building/castle set include walls/corners/floors, which I really don’t need.  They have a framework add on pack, but it doesn’t seem versatile enough for my tastes.  I’m looking for castle walls, small and large square buildings and curved frames to cover all aspects of a castle.  However, the 1st stretch goal was pretty awesome.  With the 3 larger of the pledge levels, you got a whole free building set of the next lower pledge.  That is something I was expecting from MBA’s kickstarter.

What I would like to see, is a rooftop add on pack that is compatible with Dwarven Forge, which is really the gold standard of miniature terrain along with MBA.  However, they are now competing companies and I couldn’t or wouldn’t expect them to be compatible.

While I’m interested in both the MBA’s pieces and UpWorks, I’m going to have to sit back, start saving my money and put it towards next year’s DwarvenForge kickstarter, because the compatibility is important to me and I don’t want more of the same.  Plus, with DwarvenForge being the best in the business, waiting for the highest quality makes the most sense.

Twisted Catacombs

Perhaps one of the most exciting Kickstarters right now, is Twisting Catacombs by Zealot Miniatures, a UK based company.  The kickstarter is all about dungeon scenery and has some serious customization for its backers.  Doors are prevalent in each of the levels for pledging, but you can fore-go the doors and get a specific number of gold coins to spend on any pieces you want!  So while you still might have anywhere between 10-30 pieces that you can’t customize, you get a boatload of coins to customize your particular pledge level.  That is AWESOME.  It’s a genius idea and gives each individual exactly what they need and allows them to fore-go pieces they may never use.  I pulled this picture right from their kickstarter, found here.

I’m also pretty impressed with the level of communication the owner, Eddie Fisher has given over the first couple days of the kickstarter.  While I think he’s crazy for trying, he seems to be succeeding at answering just about any question that comes up in the comments or through kickstarter’s messaging system (as he’s responded to my inquiries promptly).  He’s doing his best to try and bring the scenery that the majority of his backers want and ask for.

I would recommend anyone who is looking to get started on any hobby, to peruse kickstarter, as usually you are getting a whole boatload of free stuff for helping to fund them, bringing the cost down considerably than if buying straight from the company.  I’ve had nothing but great success from the kickstarters I’ve backed and I would highly recommend giving it a go.  While there is a chance that the kickstarter won’t fund or does fund and then they run into other problems, I feel like it’s a gamble worth taking.

Anyways, enjoy the kickstarter ride, it is a LOT of fun.





About jinx_the_bard

Longtime Dungeon Master, tabletop and video gamer. Been playing D&D and Shadowrun on and off most recently. Ran a post apocalyptic, paragon, 4th edition D&D campaign for a couple years. Running a 5th edition campaign now called "The Fall of Astia". Enjoy Borderlands 1, 2 and even the Pre-sequel (which I tend to play with fellow author Ness), Fallout 3 and 4, Bioshock and Skyrim. (Games this good never get boring) I also indulge in Magic The Gathering, mostly in the Legacy and Modern formats. Please feel free to contact me at dungeonmaster.bm@gmail.com for any questions, thoughts or things you'd like to see featured on our site.

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