In the last post in this series I talked about Battlemats. The problem with Battlemats is that they are either totally blank in which case you need to spend time drawing what you want. Or they are specific to one encounter or one type of encounter. Is there a middle ground?
The above picture probably is recognizable by the majority of gamers as belonging to one of Wizards of the Coast Dungeon Tile sets. They have good art, durable, and somewhat inexpensive. In addition to Wizards of the Coast, there are many third party outfits producing dungeon tiles and their 3D variants. It is a staple product for many PDF publishers as you can see when you browse RPGNow's top 100 list.
Dungeon Tiles have been with the hobby since the early 80s. Probably their original inspiration was the Geomorph series from TSR. Once the geomorphs were out there it was natural to expand them to full scale for 25mm minatures. (1" = 5').
Some of the early set were quite gorgeous for the day. Chaosium produced Fantasy Paths, Village Paths, and Castle Paths.
I found them difficult to use because they don't really fit together well. But they had some great individual tiles that I used over and over again. The tavern on the lower right is probably got the most use.
There were others.
I don't know who the two. The one in the upper left was designed with a magnetic base and designed to fight on to a metal board. Unfortunally a decade the glue holding the base deteriorated and half them are missing the base (along with the board). The one on the right is the one I used the most. It was a bit of pain because the small 10' by 10' tiles had borders you wree supposed to use in laying out the dungeon. Never had enough corners to do what I want. Plus it slowed down deployment unless I had everything sorted just so.
Of the early tiles only the doors I continue to use
In general I find Dungeon Tiles, regardless of sets, useful in limited circumstance. The main problem is keeping them properly sorted for deployment. The current generation is way better than what I started out with back in the day. What I like about today's dungeon tiles are the "bits" As shown below.
They are little pieces of scenery that I toss out to dress up something I drew on the plexiglass. They are easier to keep sorted because their small size. I find myself using the real large pieces as well. It is easy enough to keep them on a nearby bookshelf to pull and assemble into a battleboard.
I think the best use of tiles is still the traditional dungeon drawn on the grid. The pieces are similar enough that sorting is rarely an issue and I find tossing out tiles can be faster than drawing.