Dwarven Forged!

Our recent Dwarven Forge order has arrived…

My wife and I are both ecstatic! Whilst not all perfect in every sense it exceeds our expectations and we certainly do not regret the purchase. It is unfortunate that DF pieces are so expensive because we definitely want more!

Now I am known to have longer blog posts than many people. This one is going to be my longest yet, so go get your tasty beverage of choice and settle in for a bit of a long ride….

It all really started when we saw the Dwarven Forge stand at Spiel 2019, a gaming Convention in Essen, Germany.

https://www.spiel-messe.com/de/

Dwarven Forge had a large set up of terrain and it was one of the most impressive to us despite the very large number of other tables. It was a mix of several of their terrain types, all of which were cool but it was the caverns that really got us. The quirky, characterful nature of the caverns looked like a perfect match for the Hagglethorn Hollow buildings we had already pledged for on Kickstarter.

I also liked the burrows and we both though the magnetic accessories for the roofs of the town buildings were cool but my wife was focused really just on the caverns in the photo below…

Photo credit: Christian at Magabotato

However, the prices of DF pieces put it all into the “awesome stuff but we will never be able to afford it” category for me. Little did I know at the time though just how much my wife was in love with those caverns and how determined she was to one day have her very own.

When my wife puts her mind to something she tends to find a way…

We had a great time talking to the DF staff. I mentioned an idea about using an underground set up around the edges of a surface game board as I had seen on a Fallout gaming table. This led to a discussion about terrain not just to game but to display as a more permanent diorama.

And we also saw what a great time people were having role playing an adventure with Stefan, the boss at Dwarven Forge. My wife and I hope that when Spiel gets held again at some point in the future DF makes a return and we can sign up to join an adventure DM‘d by Stefan!

Our DF dreams shelved as we left Spiel, we were surprised when quite some time later our mate Tom decided he wanted to part with his DF cavern pieces. He gave us a very good price and so our DF obsession really began. Thanks again Tom!

We also got heavily involved in the DF Wildlands Kickstarter. In large part because we learned the Tabletop Troubadour would not be doing a Kickstarter on the Hagglethorn Hollow trees and my wife was keen to have quirky, characterful forests to go with the Hagglethorn Hollow village we pledged for.

For those unfamiliar with Hagglethorn Hollow…

…. and the subsequent Hagglethorn Hollow Kickstarter…

Hagglethorn Hollow has had a considerably delayed production. We have been waiting a couple of years now, twice as long as anticipated but we are hoping to finally see it delivered in the next couple of months.

How well the Hagglethorn Hollow and Dwarven Forge pieces play together remains to be seen…

However, back to our growing obsession with DF, we turned down Tom’s offer for unpainted DF tower pieces but later picked up on his offer for DF painted castle pieces that we have been very happy with….

… and we ordered some “tester” pieces from Dwarven Forge. Things we thought might compliment our Wildlands pledge and give us an idea of what to expect. These pieces were generally from the Dreadhollow Forest component of the DF Caverns Deep Kickstarter. We were aware of the shift in painting from the pre-2020 style to the new style matching the Wildlands Kickstarter and thought we would be getting all pieces in the newer style but we’re surprised to get some pieces in the pre-2020 style. And what a difference!

We understand why DF has had to make the change but we have to admit that we are disappointed. Perhaps the more solid overall green is more “general purpose” but we like the aesthetic of the additional colors on the fallen leaves.

The longer we had these pieces, the more I looked at the little details and the more surprised I was to find such amazing sculpting being hidden away by the factory painting.

We had chose factory painting for two reasons. One, I read that painting DF pieces from scratch could be challenging due to the material not playing well with various paint brands. And two, my wife wanted to save our painting time for more miniatures rather than more terrain.

But me being me, I could not help myself…

You can see where I have started to make changes compared to the originals. It is not difficult, the factory paint work saves me a lot of time and even where pieces are sculpted identically the slight differences in painting helps individualize the pieces. This reduces the risk of pieces looking unnaturally repetitive.

One of the big signature pieces I spent more time on is this big tree stump…

Now granted, my drybrushing of the mushrooms looks cool in my opinion but it does cause them to get a bit lost in the other details compared to the factory maroon.

Most of my work is tidying overspill, picking out details, adding some drybrushing and washes. Then a brush on mat clear coat where ever the pieces look unnecessarily glossy. I have also tried to add a few different shades of green to help some individual plants stand out.

As you can see I am currently working on a number of pieces…


The only time the Vallejo brush on mat clear coat has been a problem at all is on the tree branches with leaves. The clear coat did not fully flatten the gloss and some of the branches/leaves are a little bit tacky. I am hoping that passes over time. Normally dust is not a friend to wargaming figures but it can help on terrain sometimes.

Here are some DF pieces I have finished…

Another gift from Tom was this resin piece. Thanks again Tom!

I do not know anything about this piece but I tried to get the paint to match our DF pieces as best I can. It certainly matches the sculpting aesthetic but the material is resin rather than Dwarvenite. I think I need a lighter drybrush coat on the stones.

Speaking of Dwarvenite, the hard rubbery material Dwarven Forge currently uses in making a lot of their pieces, it struck me the other day as remarkably similar to the material Schleich uses to make their figures.

https://www.schleich-s.com/de/DE/

Although their trees seem out of production and tend to be expensive on eBay I have been wondering if they could be used to add to our forest diversity since we have decided to move away from more traditional model railroad flocked trees.

I have been thinking about Collecta trees as well.

So I have been keeping my eyes open for good deals on eBay.

I need good deals because we were so pleased with the Dwarven Forge pieces we already have that we put in a much larger order with Dwarven Forge… and it arrived yesterday!

This…

… became this….

…. which lead to this!

So as you can see, we got a bit of several different types of terrain thanks to the way Plaguelands sets are packaged. Mountains, forests and caverns. We could not afford the dungeon bits as well but then we are looking to Archon Studios Dungeons and Lasers for our dungeon needs in general.

We were also particularly keen to check out the terrain trays which are neoprene terrain mat pieces with a metal layer to use with the magnets in the newer DF pieces.

We had hoped to get this order before the pledge manager had closed for Wildlands but sadly it did not. We chose to trust in the gridless terrain trays for Wildlands without having seen these trays… but considering how we feel about these trays it was the right call! We love these trays! I just wish we got more! My wife wanted more gridless trays from the Wildlands Kickstarter but I was hesitant. Seems I should have followed her instincts. Fortunately we partially corrected my bad call by adding some trays in the late pledge manager but not everything was available in that limited opening. So we missed out on some tray designs unfortunately.

You can see the forest terrain tray here next to the Dreadhollow Forest floor pieces. We love the colors for the trays, in fact I would really like to have enough for our entire 6×4 foot table but that would be rather expensive. These trays are double sided with slightly different color combinations and we are thinking that when mixed with the separate clear water texture mats coming with Wildlands we can actually get four uses out of each tray, two different forest and two “wet swamp” uses.

And I think I will be saying, “Good bye trusty old Citadel golf course green grass mat.”

My wife was not originally a big fan of the big forest floor tile pieces but I convinced her to try a sample. Her biggest concern was how off putting the join lines would be on the immersion of the gaming table. However we both found the lines less obtrusive in person than in photos or videos. At least so far. We will have to see as we get more pieces together, resulting in more join lines.

We ended up with more stumps than trees as we did not move quick enough during the recent restock at DF. We did not anticipate things selling out quite so fast. It seems DF, like Games Workshop, does not keep everything constantly in stock so you have to move quick if you see something you like. This also keeps prices on eBay quite high unfortunately.

The thorny brambles are even better than we expected! We both love them and we definitely want more.

However we are not fans of everything we got…

We are not huge fans of the “horror plants” in Plaguestone but then are not playing the D&D setting I believe they are from. My wife suggested they might work for our sci-fi Core Space project. The bigger plants are ok but I am really not a fan of the smaller ones. The Minotaur would be cool for us, if only it was a regular Minotaur rather than what looks like some sort of Chaos mutation. Maybe we will find a use for it in our Tarnished Splendor project.

And we are slightly disappointed by the color mismatch on the forest to mountain transition trays…

… as well as to the forest trays…

The colors are just too light, too faded looking but I suspect we will find some use for them.

Maybe as roads?

We were very disappointed to hear that DF will not being doing roads in their next Kickstarter.

However…

We love the mountain pieces! They are darker and more characterful than I expected, so they should work great blending in with both the caverns and forests.

Next up we have more caverns…

We have here a mix of old cavern pieces, Caverns Deep pieces and cavern pieces from the Hellscape set that have been painted in the Caverns Deep paint scheme. I was really worried our older cavern pieces would not “fit in” with the colors of the Caverns Deep pieces but I think they are close enough to work.

We are getting closer to my 6×4 foot dream table for our Middle Earth Strategy Battle Games Battle Companies campaign finale against the Cave Drake!

Little touches go a long way to make the DF pieces even more cool… in particular LED lighting.


We are not a fan of the bone design of the torch handles but a bit of paint will sort that as otherwise we love the torches.

I really wish DF would keep their city builder LED lantern posts in stock. Those look to be such perfect multi-setting pieces. Towns, dungeons… even Skyrim-esque forest roads. And the pricing on those look reasonable…. but not in stock! Grr!

That bed of coals is not just a bed of coals, you can switch out the top to create various other LED lit character pieces. And the lights can be solid white or flickering yellow with a switch so the lighting can best present what you want. Glowing crystals, a blue white water in the fountain. Great stuff!

And despite having painted a few campfires, I just love the LED campfire. Some may think it gimmicky but my wife and I think these LED pieces add to the charming immersion of the table. Those LED candles on the tables look so much better in person than they do in photos or videos online.

We have quite a bit of little detail pieces that help bring scenes on the gaming table to life. I have a number of similar things still unpainted from other manufacturers but I will admit I like getting the help of having some arrive already painted. Perfect for decorating Hagglethorn Hollow and our Tabletop World buildings in the future. We may even end up with some DF as well as Archon Studios Dungeons & Lasers Woodhaven buildings in the future, ie new kickstarters around the corner. Our Ziterdes buildings will likely be phased out due to not being able to access the interiors.

Whilst we are phasing out our model train flocked tree terrain pieces we are still planning on using our Citadel Games Workshop forest pieces. We have tried to paint our first one to match the DF forests and I think we are close.

Bear in mid these are just thrown together without the transition bank pieces we have on my workbench being spot painted. We thought the Dreadhollow pieces were very heavy in that Goblin/Evergreen from our earlier purchase but we can see now that there is more variety of greens and browns than we originally thought, so we may have to rethink the color approach on the base of the Citadel forest.

Suggestions on how we can better integrate these are appreciated!

Overall we are exceedingly pleased with our Dwarven Forge pieces except for the cost, which is compounded by the postage and tax on the already high prices. It is balanced by the incredible durability and modular nature which makes for limitless gaming applications as well as artistic expression via diorama photography. Multi-genre, multi-game setting…Middle Earth (Medieval Fantasy), Tarnished Splendor (Napoleonic Fable), Core Space (Sci-fi)…all our current projects are covered by this DF terrain.

EDIT: I need to add my wife was disappointed by the obvious mould lines and subsequent flash considering the premium prices on the Factory painted pieces. It is a fair point. If you are a modeler, this will likely irritate you as trimming the flash with the factory paint on the piece creates considerably more work.

Overall we heartily recommend Dwarven Forge.

Not just great products but, from the folks we have met so far, great people as well!

Yes, the cost is high but if you are like us and have been unable to go on holiday due to the current international health crisis perhaps you can reallocate your holiday budget like we did.

Personally, I do not think you will regret it!

Do you own any Dwarven Forge pieces? What do you think of it? Do you have any questions? Do you have suggestions, feedback or advice? Please leave a comment!

18 comments

  1. I am just happy that I don’t like dungeon delves because that terrain would be too difficult to resist. Looks like you got a nice collection so far.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Hi! I found my way here from the forum. Welcome to the obsession.

    Nice review, I’m happy you like DF.

    I would like to dispute whatever people have told you about DF being hard to paint, the only line I have had any issue with paint not sticking is on the Hellscape line. Everything else has taken paint without any problems or primer. I only buy unpainted, and have painted up a pretty considerable amount of this stuff at this point.

    Using the Transition trays as roads is inspired, I’m temped to buy a couple more packs just for this.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks!

      I appreciate your comments. It is great to read the views and experiences of others.

      As for the transition tray road idea… any suggestion on how to do a decent crossroad?

      Like

  3. The Dwarven cavern pieces look great and I love the idea of multi level game table. i have a few ideas that I have been thinking about for a while. You may just have inspired me!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I’m thrilled for you, mate! I know you’ve been excited to get this stuff for quite some time and I didn’t realize just how much you were adding to your collection! I agree with your wife on several accounts. Those mold lines seem unacceptable to me considering how expensive this terrain is and that it is pre-painted. I also think her idea that spending less time working on terrain and more time painting minis will help you game more. Painting minis for a game is not too bad but if you have to get a lot of terrain together, that is what really slows you down unless you have multiple people working on a project together. Having so much terrain to work with should be a huge asset for you and I’m excited to see where you go next on your gaming journey 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. We are admittedly pretty excited about the terrain’s potential. It has been very expensive but it is something both my wife and I enjoy. Playing around with various builds is a lot like playing with Lego blocks. I really need to get better at photography to get the most out of it.

    Thanks again for being so supportive mate.

    I wish I could point you to some more images of that table. I think it was at Crisis as well as Spiel (where the picture is from) but I can not remember if it was owned by Modiphius or not. It is a stunning table for how it captures so many iconic Fallout locations.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. You might try upping your lighting (I use some cheap desk lamps for all of my pictures and they are a huge help) to see what that does for your terrain pictures. The lighting can make the pictures you take look a lot sharper and I see people taking pictures of terrain or doing battle reports with not enough lighting and it really takes away from the photography, in my opinion. Your reports don’t suffer from this come to think of it, so maybe my suggestion won’t be much help after all!

    I’ll have to do some Googling. Modiphius has a painter who makes obsessively detailed terrain and I aspire to achieve something similar myself. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was he who made that board for them. I think I recognize what house kits are used on the board but I’m curious to see more about the cave side of it and see if I can work out what is going on there. Could be some ideas for future projects there 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • We have tried several lighting solutions to get where we are now. We have admittedly tried doing this on a tight budget so we have more money for things like DF terrain.

      I wish I could be more help with the Fallout table. The underground portions, if I remember correctly, reflected different locations… so something like the mole rat cave, a subway, and a vault… if I remember correctly.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think I spent around $30 to get the desk lamps as I didn’t have a lot of spending money at the time I bought them. I’ve been using the same lamps for 6-7 years now which I hadn’t even realized!

        I haven’t been able to find any images of that table but that’s okay. Next time you see something like that, I’m sure you’d snap a picture of it for me 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  7. My brain hurts just finding storage room for that haul! Seriously, that is a nice board you are building. Does Dwarven Forge have have half tiles? That might break up the tiled look when you have them on your table, or just put some of your scatter terrain pieces on the tile edges.
    Glad my money and time is invested in Hirst Arts molds, otherwise I might be interested in DF.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Do you mean the visible edges of the forest tiles? Or the join lines on top of two connected pieces?

      We have things for the edges of the forest tiles… they just happen to be on my workbench right now getting spot painted. And we have ALOT more coming with the Wildlands pledge.

      We love the bank pieces, as they are called, for creating negative spaces.

      And we have plenty of scatter pieces not in the current photos to help hide join lines, forest, cavern and mountain.

      As time goes by and we start actually gaming with this terrain you will see how it all comes together. You guys know how meticulous I can get.

      One of the advantages of DF is storage… you can just jumble them into RUBs, unlike more fragile terrain options. It is one of the trade-offs.

      It takes longer to set up if you just jumble them in. You can of course store them in a more orderly (and space efficient) fashion. But that is the thing, more time spent during set up or more time spent during take down.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. That’s a nice video!
    I always go for easier setup to start playing sooner! That is the problem with my hirst arts pieces, I do have to be gentle with them but the flip side is I don’t feel bad if they break as it is only plaster of paris.
    Modular terrain is so much fun, half the enjoyment of playing is setting up the table.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. My wife is much more into the creative table building than I am but I do like the end results!

    I have some plaster pieces but only kept the smaller pieces as too many times I chipped the plaster.

    Like

  10. Oh this is truly grand! I too was dubious about that DF price tag, but the quality of the sculpts, the sturdiness of the materials, and the incredible modularity have made me go whole hog on them. (I used to say as a childfree person I had two kids, Time and Money, now I have Time and Dwarvenforge. 🤣)

    That stump looks FANTASTIC! I have just begun to dip my toes into unpainted and I’m quite excited to have that and some trees and mushrooms to try my brushes at. I had such good luck with the unpainted streets I got—and so relieved that they didn’t need to be primed—that I became bold enough to venture into the forest.

    Often what one member of the Dwarven Army is lukewarm over another just can’t get enough of (e.g. those crazy Plaguestone plants). Put the word out in the DF forums that you’ve got some stuff to sell or better yet trade for specific things you need and you’ll likely find a taker. My experiences with the forum have all been great. Fine bunch of folks. 😁

    These are just great choices of pieces. Very good shopping!

    Re: the lines of the forest floor pieces, I find a few pieces of scatter on those junctions and the lines get lost in the build.

    That big Citadel mat of bright green might have a future as a base for farm/garden pieces… Wonder how it’d take to drybrushing?

    Liked by 1 person

    • The mat went off to some lucky person on eBay. The DF monster plants as well… but that eBay winner turned out to be a DooFer!

      Thanks for the kind words. It is nice when people like the paintwork.

      DF modularity and durability can not be praised enough.

      Like

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