Publisher: Mythberry Studio
Year Published: Currently a Kickstart campaign, expected to deliver this year
It is no big secret that RPG’ers love immersion. While many are satisfied with a theater-of-the-mind approach, others are always looking for ways elevate their gaming experience using miniatures, terrain tiles, and more to make the experience more tactile.
As a result, there has seemingly been an explosion of new products hitting the market for the more visual gamers over the past few years. With the advent of 3D printing in particular, it seems there is virtually no dearth of 3D printed materials these days.
Many of the tiles sets for terrain are specifically designed around a particular theme. For example, cave tiles will likely consist of rocky floors with the occasional stalagmite thrown in while a dungeon may see chains littered across a block-construed floor to add the necessary atmosphere.
Note that there is nothing wrong with such an approach to tile design…
However, the main detriment to such an approach is often the price tag—the axiom of “once a cave tile, always a cave tile” would apply to this situation, as you are pretty much always going to be locked into whatever you purchased, and will require additional purchases to create similar moods for different environment types. Want to make a building or town? Or maybe a grassy patch of lawn? Be ready to fork over your wallet again!
MythBerry Studio seems to be taking a different approach to RPG tile designs. Rather than designing individual sets that are tailored to all infinite varieties of landscapes players may find themselves in (sewers, wilderness, mountains, caves, castles, towns, etc) they have designed a system that is designed to be flexible and utilitarian. The result is something that (perhaps) can be whatever players need it to be.
Today, I will explore the merits of their design idea and discuss whether I find it to be viable and if it has any shortcomings.
For the purposes of this review, I received two of the MythBerry tile sets that are now available on their Kickstarter (or on their website, MythberryStudios.com in the future). This was in exchange for an independent review of their design and my honest thoughts.
Each box contains 16 Base Tiles, 16 Cap Tiles, 16 Pillars and 64 “Mythberries”.
As such, I will state right off-the-bat that if you are looking for the “prettiest” tile sets or ones that can match the most expensive ones you have ever seen on a visual level…you should probably look elsewhere (at least for this iteration).
Because (at least to my eye) upon opening the box, and sifting through the various pieces, it immediately becomes clear that the MythBerry Tiles were crafted (as stated earlier) with a utilitarian (rather than aesthetic) design in mind.
What this means on the most fundamental level is that it appears that you should be able to use these for a variety of situations, rather than being limited in application.
That is not to say that things look “horrible”. But rather, upon opening the box, the tiles have a “plain-Jane” sort of quality. Again, not inherently a deal-breaker, as these were most likely construed as such with versatility in mind, but if you have ever played an older first-person video game where every wall looks virtually the same, I think you can imagine that whenever you craft a terrain using these tiles, whatever miniatures you place within them are probably experiencing a sense of deja vu. “Heya, Freydo, you ever get the feeling we’ve been here before?”.
With that having been said, the mechanics of how the tiles interlock and interact with each other couldn’t be any easier. Take a base tile (which conforms to a traditional gridded pattern where 1 square=1 inch, in a 2×2 pattern) and on its bottom side, put a MythBerry into one of many fitted holes in the tile of your choosing. The MythBerrys act as a sort of jointed connecter, and these snap into place in such a way that allows both for a sturdy interlock between pieces, but also, because of its jointed-knee shape, allows for some flexibility in how you can create an angle between two pieces.
Once you have all of the MythBerrys you require in a particular tile, you may elect to put an End Cap tile on it, which is serves as a straight plate that covers up any ugly aesthetics of the MythBerry connections if so desired, or better yet, helps create another level surface for you two use. You may connect the included Pillars in a similar fashion, which can include a variety of uses. Of course, you may use it to elevate a platform of tiles, but additionally, you can use these to make doors, or even functional drawbridges (as depicted in their Kickstarter video), thanks to the flexibility permitted by the rounded MythBerry head joints.
Contrary to many modern tile designs, it should be noted that the MythBerry sets are not made using 3D printers, but rather injection molding, which is part of what makes everything feel very sturdy yet flexible. There are some plastics that I feel would break too easily, because some occasions due require a bit of force to separate pieces, but the extra mile the MythBerry team went to create a mold seems to have paid off, because I haven’t managed to break anything yet, and I did have to exert myself a bit in some instances! (If you ever use a End Cap, I recommend pushing on a MythBerry within the tile to leverage the End Cap out!)
Over the course of 24 hours, I spent more than a good 6 hours tinkering around with the MythBerry sets. And as simple of a design it is to use, I am surprised to say that there is actually a sort of “learning curve” to optimizing your designs. Sure, it is very easy to snap in the berries, but one still needs to learn to discern the best way to balance your structures, and one will discover that it is often best to secure tiles with two berries rather than just one, but in addition, you may also need to find where is the optimal place to leave space for an interconnection that will face a third piece that is facing different direction than the others.
In this sense, I very much felt like a kid playing with legos again, learning that you can still, somehow, manage to fabricate what you envision in your mind’s eye. And even though as children we might not have possessed all of the “optimal” pieces contained in other lego sets to complete our “ideal” visions for our creations, we (presumably) all learned that many times there was nevertheless still a method available for us to make what we intended, even though the ultimate form the project took looked significantly different from our initial concept.
Now take that old memory of building with Legos and apply it to the modern world of Role Playing and DnD and you have a pretty solid idea of what it feels like playing (*ahem*, working) with MythBerry Tiles. It is very much akin trying to make a Lego Batman city, knowing full well that there is a dedicated Lego Batman city out there for sale that your parents never bought for you…and being stuck with the most basic grey and black blocks that you can possibly find in your bucket.
Now, in all fairness, before one thinks I am offering a heavy-handed leveling and criticism of the product, I am not. Rather, it does need to be highlighted that I have seen many hard-core, dedicated tile sets out there, and they look absolutely gorgeous with full, lush detail contained within their being—caverns, dungeons, and you name it all look as true to life as you could possibly imagine.
The problem is that they all cost an arm and a leg, and take up a lot of space if you want to have every viable terrain type in your collection.
The strength of the MythBerry products lies in their versatility. Although plain, they can be anything you want in terms of buildings, and then some. And the price is quite down to earth, considering all they can do, being a fraction of what a dedicated and singularly themed tile set might cost.
Are there any other downsides that I can think of? I did find an area of untapped potential within the current features, namely within the End Cap tiles—which were definitely a bit too plain—why couldn’t these have some extra details and features built into them so that when they snap in, you could perhaps have a grass tile, or wooden wall or other such surface?
I managed to get in touch with the creators of the MythBerry system, and I was happy to find that they are already way ahead of me and my observations, and are planning to create more End Cap tiles in the future. This in itself would be very welcome and add a ton more value to the already flexible features of the tile set. I would imagine this would still be a lot more cost effective than buying individually themed tile sets as well, given that the End Caps are not quite so thick and (perhaps) a bit easier to replicate than some of the bigger and bulkier designs I have seen out there.
If you are interested in funding these tiles on Kickstarter, I would definitely suggest getting at least 2 of the kits—though having played (ahem, worked) with these for a few days now, I can say that if you wish to make more than 1 large building (or two small ones), you are going to need more!
I also recommend (at this stage in development) using other materials to supplement your MythBerry tiles. For example, I found that it was a waste trying to use them as floor tiles, and would run out of them too quickly when utilizing them as such. As a result, you may have noticed in my pictures that I decided it was best to also utilize a gridded mat for the ground floor of my edification so that I could spare more of the tiles for actual buildings, walls, etc.
I also wanted to try making a maze, but alas, I quickly found that 2 sets was not enough to even make a beginning other than a few short passageways!
Now the strengths?
Mythberry perhaps offers one of the best ways to create multi-level dungeons/buildings that I have seen. It does need to be mentioned that you need to find a good way to support the upper levels using a few base tiles and columns on the bottom level, but once you do, it is really nice seeing that you don’t have to just rely on your imagination on a flat drawing to show changes in the level in a structure. And you can even move the whole thing at once without toppling it, and it can take some hefty weight in miniatures!
This is also great for gamers on a budget, or for those , who (like me) like to maximize their bang-for-the-buck and see the world from a utilitarian point-of-view, wanting to do as much as possible with their investments.
All in all, it was great to see new innovation in the world of gaming tiles.
Jazz Paladin- Reviewer