Dungeon & Dragons Essentials – The Un-Review


October 1, 2010 by deadorcs

Greetings, Readers!

By now, I’m sure you been flooded with all sorts of blogs & media regarding the Dungeons & Dragons Essentials product line and what it means for the industry, the hobby, & your game.  Many folks far more knowledgeable about the subject than myself, have put out a lot of great information.  Maybe you decided to purchase it or maybe you haven’t.  

But I’m not going to talk about that.

I will tell you, that I have purchased the Essentials product line, and am enjoying the products.  For the record, here’s the items I have so far:

  • The Red Box Introductory Set
  • The Rules Compendium
  • Heroes of the Fallen Lands
  • The Basic Dungeon Tiles Set (x2)

Instead of regaling you with my opinion on what I think of the rules, the game play, or even the various components of the game, I want to speak instead about the aesthetics of the set.  Too often, reviewers gloss over what I think is an important part of any set of game rules.  That is, the physical attributes of the set.  As table top role-players, this is understandable; but I think it’s important to realize when a product has been cleverly designed.  For me, Essentials is a cleverly designed product.  For examp:

The Books are Table-Top Friendly:  This has probably been mentioned, but the “trade paperback” size of the main books (The Rules Compendium & Heroes of the Fallen Lands) are sized just right for the tabletop.  For the first time, I feel like I can keep a D&D tome on the actual table without it getting in the way, or being used as the backdrop for a dice roller.  The Rules Compendium, especially, will always have a place at the table.

The Books are HEAVY:  I was impressed with the “density” of both the Rules Compendium & Heroes of the Fallen Lands.  They feel like true digests, and not like textbooks.  When you open them, they seem jammed with rules, and for me, that’s a good thing.  An encyclopedia at my fingertips.

The Counters are Clever:  I liked the fact that different monsters were printed on both sides.  I plan to use the counters as minion pieces, and the utility of having more monster types as minions is really appealing to me.  The counter material is dense, and while not quite as sturdy as plastic, it’s probably more sturdy than anything I could print off at home.

The Tiles are Bountiful:  I’ve owned tile sets in the past, having purchased a couple each of the Harrowing Halls & Dark Sun sets.  Ten sheets of tiles in the Dungeon set, is quite generous for the cost (as far as I’m concerned).  Some folks have raised issue with the fact that the designs are recycled and not original ones.  That fact doesn’t really concern me too much, as I’ve never really seem them before myself.  Oh, I  have to award bonus points for the frames the tiles are set in.  My wife, Anna (@FELTit on Twitter), is using the stout frames (empty now that the tiles have been punched out of them), as templates for felting projects.  Go utilitarianism!

This S**t Stacks Together:  I discovered this by accident.  If you place the Rules Compendium & Heroes of the Fallen Lands side by side on the Dungeon Tile set box, they stack.  The friggen things actually stack!  I don’t know if it’s an accident of design; or if the product design gurus over at WotC were sitting around thinking, “You know?  D&D nerds are going to be carrying this stuff to conventions, Encounters sessions, and to distant games. I wonder if it would be helpful to be able to stack all that stuff neatly together?”. Well, whether they intended it to be like that, or not, it is a Cool Feature.   

Well, that’s my “Un-Review” of Essentials.  As additional products are released, I’ll see what I can do about identifying other unique properties of this Dungeons & Dragons product called, “Essentials”.

Until next time…

Game excellently with one another.


11 thoughts on “Dungeon & Dragons Essentials – The Un-Review

  1. R.M. Walker says:

    @Behemoth0089, Geek Gazette, & Ken Hart: Thanks, guys for all the great comments! For those still undecided about Essentials, let me know what you think if you end up picking them up. Thanks again for stopping by!

  2. Ken Hart says:

    Thanks for the un-review! I've been scanning a bunch of Essentials reviews lately, and I appreciate the alternate perspective. Still not sure if I'll pick them up, but I'm more likely to check 'em out after reading this.

  3. Geek Gazette says:

    Now if we could just get some Pathfinder books this size I'd be a happy, happy gamer.

  4. Geek Gazette says:

    "The Books are Table-Top Friendly: This has probably been mentioned, but the "trade paperback" size of the main books (The Rules "Compendium & Heroes of the Fallen Lands) are sized just right for the tabletop. For the first time, I feel like I can keep a D&D tome on the actual table without it getting in the way, or being used as the backdrop for a dice roller. The Rules Compendium, especially, will always have a place at the table."This is the number one thing that drew me to these books. If they had been released as standard sized books, I may well have just overlooked them. But once I saw the Rules Compendium I became intrigued. That's when I started searching out more info.Then when my little girl said she wanted to play D&D, it just gave me an excuse to try them. I have not been disappointed. The more I read them the more I like them.

  5. Geek Gazette says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Behemoth0089 says:

    Well really great unreview, man.I just ordered my copy of Rules Compendium, will arrive in a month or so, but really want to buy the other essential productsThansk!

  7. R.M. Walker says:

    @Grendelwulf: Glad I could help enable your OCD qualities. Enjoy!

  8. Grendelwulf says:

    Wow! A review (or un-review) that actually makes me want to purchase these items! I'm a hoarder, but I'm a hoarder that loves to stack things…Ciao!GW

  9. R.M. Walker says:

    @Stuart: I believe it was DMSamuel that told me that if you take out the "angled" insert from the Red Box, the two books would fit in there side by side. Stacking stuff, FTW!@Kato: Exactly! It's like reading a digest instead of a textbook. Much easier to read, IMO.Thanks for the comments, guys!

  10. Kato says:

    I also like that since the Essentials books have a smaller footprint, they didn't print the text inside them in columns like all the previous books (dating back through 3e). You get a lot of meat on one page without having to scan multiple columns.

  11. Stuart says:

    It's a nice set of products. I need to try getting things to fit a bit more neatly in the box though.

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