Monday, 4 March 2019

Cities of the Black Scroll Tiles Review

Review copy courtesy of Black Scroll Games.

  • There are three sets, giving a wide variety of tiles. From fortresses, to the internals of a castle, to city streets, everything is here.
  • Day and night tiles provided. This was one of my few complaints with their inn set, so seeing night tiles provided is absolutely great to see. It’s even more useful in this case because night time changes the appearance of a city more than the inside of an inn.
  • Want to add some additional features to your map like stalls and doors? Well, they have cut outs for those.
  • Want to use 3D printed items for some custom rooms? Well, they also provides empty versions for you too.
  • Their are tiles provided for the roofs of buildings as well. This lets you take them off as your players entered, and recover when they leave. It’s about as close to a Divinity: Original Sin (that’s a video game) map as you can get in the real world.
  • Planning tiles are provided too. So you can go ahead and plot your maps ahead of time. Rooms change? Quickly re-arrange your tiles based on your layout page. I personally use them as a planning tool when designing maps. I don’t usually re-arrange a map since I try to have them all laid out and taped to a backing page.
  • Oh? What’s this? You usually play online? Well, Black Scroll Games saw you coming and already has everything prepared for a Virtual Table Top application.
  • Don’t like lines on your map? No problem! They provide multiple layers on the PDF document for you to toggle.
  • There’s even transition tiles to allow you to combine your tile sets. And the transition tiles are available for free.
  • There are PDF instructions for every set.

Could Go Either Way:
  • The beautiful 3D style Black Scroll Games is known for. Since this depends heavily on taste I recommend looking at the samples provided. However, I absolutely adore them.
  • Uhhh. Sorry, I’m really trying here. I think that if you like the art style and like to use tiles, the only thing that might dissuade you is the price or if you already got a set you like to use, and aren’t in the market for another one. Otherwise, there might be some tiles felt were missed? I think he has provided almost everything you could want, and you can read the full tile listing on their page. The only thing I feel is really missing, is that if you want to build a large undercroft dungeon, you’ll need a different dungeon set. The undercroft tile provided, while nice, isn’t very flexible.

* Denotes nitpicking.

Fortress Cities of the Black Scroll
Fortress set without the grid lines. Image courtesy of BSG.


This review will be a little different than usually. I typically look at one product at a time. However, today I’ll look at the 3 sets (plus transition set) that were part of Black Scroll Games’ Kickstarter campaign. This included a city set, a fortress set, a castle set, a transition set, and there was an arena thrown in for good measure. If the pros and cons above weren’t a clear indication, I love these sets. It feels like just about every complaint I ever had with previous sets has been addressed, and they were rather minor to begin with. However, let’s jump into the specifics.

The Art

I think you should just take a look at it to truly understand, and get a feel for it. Honestly, it’s the sort of thing I like. It’s done in a 3D perspective with fine details and lighting coming from torches and windows. I was impressed with the art style when I first reviewed their inn set (link to my review), but they continue to impress. This use of lighting is even more impressive in the night versions of the tiles. Yes, there are night versions of the outdoor tiles. Indoor tiles have one version. It’s hard to describe aesthetics and art styles, but I think one look will tell you all you need to know. For me, this hits the notes I like to see. If you prefer tiles that look more like paintings or sketches, it may not hit every note for you. However, I think most people would agree that they look great, even if it doesn’t perfectly match their preferred style.

The Tile Sets

There are 4 sets here. They are a castle set, a fortress set, a city set, and a free transition set. I’ll layout what’s present before going further. They all share an art style and can be nicely blended using the transition tiles. However, some have more night tiles than others, as well as bonus items.

Transition Set

The transition set is free, and is meant to allow you to combine the other 3 sets. This means that the tiles really amount to corridor pieces that when used make things blend together seamlessly. Honestly, I’d recommend taking a look at them to get a feel for the style of tiles.

Streets Set

The city tiles allow you to create city layouts, and even provide roofs for the buildings. This means you can reveal the interiors in a fashion similar to a video game such as Divinity: Origin Sin. I unfortunately find myself having to run more games online recently, but even in a Virtual Table Top the tiles work amazingly well.

The great thing about this set is that the interiors have a night version, as well as the roof tiles. These night versions are far darker in appearance, but have light sources such as candles and torches. They really look good.

They’ve also included cutouts. Want a gallows in your city? Or to add more cargo boxes? Or maybe a bush or two? They’ve got them. Outside of what I just listed, there are also additional cutouts for tables and stalls. There’s even burning roofs for the tavern and a random house.

Oh, and this one has tiles for making custom combat arenas. Think gladiators and coliseum style stuff. I wasn’t expecting this to be here, so it’s a very nice surprise.

There is one empty house, but otherwise the interiors are populated. If you had gotten used to basically all of the tiles having an empty version, be aware that this set doesn’t have that.

Castle Cities of the Black Scroll
Castle set example of a door cutout. Image courtesy of BSG.

Castle Set

This set is all about creating the interiors of a castle. Bedrooms, undercrofts, theatres, throne rooms and more are here. They are made in the same style as the rest of the sets. There are no outdoor related tiles in this set. However, for what it does it does a really good job.

Again, night versions are provided. This time they are only for the balconies. The interior tiles are lit by fire. Again, we have draft tiles and everything is ready out-of-the-box for use with Virtual Table Tops. I wish they had a night version with no lights for use with abandoned castles, but it’s a minor complaint.

This set also has empty versions of the rooms provided. I have always loved this option, since it lets you use your 3D/3D printed props on the map as well. It also lets you have empty rooms in your castle for story reasons.

They seem to hit all of the tiles I’d think of when talking about a castle. From bedroom, to bathroom, to prison, they are included. I suggest giving the Castle set page a read over just in case it’s missing something you expect, but it seems to be complete.

Fortress Set

Remember how I said the castle set didn’t have external views? Well, this set is where the walls and towers are. And I find this one impressive. It has walls, it has ruined and caved in sections, it has siege machines such as ballista and catapult, and it has multiple level tower tiles (both square and round).

Oh yeah, it also has many other extras. Besides the ballista, and catapult tiles I mentioned it also has barrels, targets, stair cases, doors, and gates. The defenses you can make with these with low effort on your part are amazing.

And as expected, there are night versions of the tiles too. In this case this is really saying something, since unlike the castle set, there are a lot of outdoor tiles and as such a lot of night tiles. And we also have draft tiles. And everything is again broken up for use with Virtual Table Top programs. Need to build a fortress for your players to assault with their army? I can’t even thing of a set in this niche to rival it.


Each set is priced for $10 USD on for the digital versions. Getting pre-printed tiles varies from set to set. Find the City Modular Map-Tilesset here, the Castle Modular Map-Tiles here, and the Fortress Modular Map-Tileshere. I’ve honestly never bought one of the printed sets since I like to be able to print as many as I need, and tape them together into throwaway maps for one-shots.

Cities of the Black Scroll
City set tile examples. Image courtesy of BSG.

What I felt was Missing

These sets are as complete as I can recall seeing. They have draft tiles, they’ve broken the tiles up into files for use with Virtual Table Top applications, they provide night versions, they provide extras such as doors and street stalls for the city maps. They provide just about everything I can reasonably expect from them.

What’s left in the realm of unreasonable? Well, the buildings in the city set are stone and as such give an impression of a more affluent city. Someone who is setting their game in a poorer village may want something that looks more like wattle and daub. Well, that’s what I would’ve said, but Black Scroll Games have made a new set for such a situation. It’s like they saw my complaint coming. Just be aware you’ll need to pay for that separately.

When I used these tiles, my players were exploring an abandoned and weathered castle, with the spirits of the slain still haunting the grounds, and events of the past being replayed like echoes. In such a situation, I would’ve liked there to be a night version of the tiles without the light sources like torches. These would probably make the most sense in the digital version only.

Tiles such as the throne room can’t be extended or expanded to be even more grand. Instead, you get the standard but impressive 2 tile layouts.

Free Stuff

As mentioned above, the transition set is free. You probably won’t get much use for it without the other sets, but I’ve always felt that it is far easier to make the right choice when you have a sample. If you’re interested but still find yourself on the fence, look at that set to see if you like the tiles.


Black Scroll Games have really made a great series of sets here. If you like their 3D style, I think you’ll like them. They provide daytime and night time tiles, draft tiles, 3D rendered visual aids, cut outs for stalls and similar details, and instructions. In terms of what’s provided, I find Black Scroll Games gives the most complete sets. There aren’t many artists that provide night versions of their maps as well. Having everything ready to go for Virtual Table Tops is greatly convenient. I’d imagine if you see these tiles and thought they looked good, you’d be happy with them.

If you don’t like the art style, aren’t in the market for tiles because you have your a favourite set already, or prefer to use 3D tiles, the tiles won’t be nearly as tempting. However, even if any of those are true I think there cases where you’ll find these sets tempting. If you find yourself running a game using a Virtual Table Top, these sorts of tiles are a great convenience and help bring the action to life. Even if you use 3D tiles, such sets can be very convenient. Instead of needing to carry a city worth of miniature buildings, all you need are the tiles. I also don’t know about you, but I lack 3D tiles for arenas. If it isn’t clear by now, I think these are a great series of tiles.