Twisted Passages: Bendy Dungeon Walls Review | Print |  E-mail
Written by Bill Silvey   
Thursday, 13 September 2007
There's an old adage: "Well-made, fast or cheap. Pick two." With gaming products, this is a truism. For example, prepainted D&D minis are cheap (you can find some under a buck in buy-it-now eBay sales), they're fast (no painting time) but the paint jobs are often lacking, and they tend to be as rubbery as all get out.

When it comes to gaming terrain, you can generally either DIY with products like HirstArts molding kits or paper printouts you fold together, or you can go for expensive premade pieces from Dwarven Forge. When we heard of Bendy Dungeon Walls from Dark Platypus Studio and noted the price ($24.99 USD per set) we wanted to know if they had made the hat trick: Fast setup time, affordable, and well made.

We were surprised when we received our sample sets from Dark Platypus Studio: We're used to mostly bulky dungeon terrain (the aforementioned HirstArts and Dwarven Forge), so the Bendy Dungeon Walls' small packing footprint was a welcome change.

A bit of history first. The Bendy Dungeon Walls were initially made from white metal, and available for $120.00 for unpainted sets or $180.00 painted at GenCon 2006. These sets were also larger, 100 wall sections with 10 doors. According to the vendor, the sets sold out, but due to the pinch being felt industrywide with the increase in metal costs, they opted to go to the plastic now in use.

Each set consists of 50 wall pieces and five doors. Each wall section is 1" long and conveniently conforms to the 1" = 5' scale of D&D Miniatures. While this is advantageous from that standpoint, the individual pieces are tiny by comparison. The walls are freestanding; each hinges to the others, and the hinges allow up to 270 degrees of movement, enabling you to quickly position each wall once you build it. As the battle rages or the adventurers explore, each terrain section can be quickly reconfigured to conform to a new area of the map ... at least, that's the plan.

Unfortunately, the reality is that the sets we reviewed had flaws. Flash stuck out from some of the hinge areas, causing poor connections. The bases of some walls were poorly cast, meaning that setting up long wall segments could be an exercise in frustration as they tended to fall over. To be fair, Bendy Dungeon Walls' creator Andrew Barlow cautioned us that the sets he sent were prerelease and acknowledged that they had casting issues that would be resolved before the official release. We hope this is the case, because some of the flash caused hinges to break in a couple of instances when we tried to rotate them, rendering those wall pieces far less useful.

As noted, the wall sections each have narrow bases on which they sit. While shorter angled or curved walls are fairly stable, these narrow bases unfortunately make the sets unstable for long corridor pieces unless you can carefully brace them with adjoining sections, which somewhat negates the advantage of quick setup times.

Whether we could bend or turn the pieces to reshape them and move them -- with the samples we had, anyway -- was entirely dictated by the condition of the hinges. Most of the time it was a fairly trivial matter to move walls around.

The walls are very lightweight, and painted in a basic dungeon scheme. The plastic could be easily primed and repainted if you desired a different look.

The sets come with five doors (pictured below), and these are the most disappointing parts of the sets, frankly. The doors' bases are as narrow as those of the walls, and the doors are totally freestanding ... or free falling, as we found out. The slightest bump, no matter how stable the rest of the dungeon, can cause doors to fall down.

While the doors are decently sculpted and cast, the painting left something to be desired. The work seemed to have been done in haste, with paint spotting the whole door away from the molded fixtures and handles.

Overall we found the doors, without hinges or broader bases, to be nearly useless, which is unfortunate. What dungeon crawl is complete without a locked door to pick or bash down?

The next issue we had with the Bendy Dungeon Walls was the near absolute reliance on using them with a battlemat of some kind, be it a blank grid, a D&D Minis style battle board or some other measured surface. Unless you're going to use the scale of the walls themselves as the "grid" (not a bad idea, come to think of it), it is imperative that you use one of the noted "floors." Interestingly, we found the product more stable on a vinyl battlemat rather than a bare table, which was a nice discovery after encountering the above-noted flaws.

What we'd like to have seen in each box would be perhaps a fold out paper grid mat for quick setups, maybe a natural cavern floor print on one side and a standard flagstone pattern on the other. Again, these are prerelease sets and we may see such expansions from the manufacturer in the future. Barlow of Dark Platypus told us of plans to release Bendy Sci-Fi walls, Bendy Town Walls, Bendy Cavern Walls and so on.

As to the noted problems with the prerelease sets (the final sets will be released in October of this year), again, the issue with the casting has been corrected according to the manufacturer. Barlow also said that a stronger plastic would be used for the final release, and that a replacement policy for those who purchased sets with problem sections would be established soon.

Our final assessment of Bendy Dungeon Walls is this: We want to like them. Nothing is as cool as having a 3D dungeon on the table, and the idea of one that won't blow away or become easily damaged, or cost an arm and a leg, is attractive. The offering from Dark Platypus needs to be better refined, however. If you want a dungeon terrain you can throw down on a D&D mapboard or battlemat you already have, these might suit you. If you're after more eye candy than simple walls and doors provide, you might want to look elsewhere.

2.5 out of 5 stars

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