The Army Painter’s new Gamemaster Dungeons & Caverns Core Set contains everything to start scratch-building terrain: tools, paints, XPS foam, sand, tufts, and more. But the set is actually not limited to dungeon settings, only your imagination will be the limit. If you would like to start making your own terrain just like in the old days, then you need to take a look at this decent value boxed set.
The Gamemaster Dungeons & Caverns core set will be released on February 27 2021 and has an RRP of 89,99 Euro. The large box contains:
- six small boards of 11 mm XPS hard foam (DIN A4 sized)
- two large boards of 11mm XPS hard foam (DIN A3 sized)
- a hot-wire cutter
- a knife
- a palette
- a 12 inch / 30 cm steel ruler
- sanding paper
- 75 ml of PVA glue
- three synthetic drybrushes
- a container of scenery sand
- a set of static grass tufts (“Scorched Tuft”)
- a 300 ml can of waterbased primer that won’t corrode hard foam
- seven 18 ml acrylic Warpaints and two 50 ml acrylic Warpaints in various greys and browns
- a 24 pages tutorial booklet with QR Codes for various video tutorials
The first thing to notice is that the box is big, like Indomitus big, and packed full of stuff. The Army Painter put a lot of thought into the contents, and (apart from matt varnish and batteries for the hot-wire cutter) the set really has everything you need to start scratch-building terrain.
The accompanying guide booklet is very nicely presented and has a lot of depth. The photography is top-notch, all tutorials are easy to understand and well photographed. There are lots of little QR codes scattered through the book that link to tutorial videos, showing how much effort The Army Painter put into the design of this product. Here is one for example:
Obviously, the core set and tutorial booklet have been designed for the Dungeons & Dragons crowd, for which The Army Painter also produces a branded range of Warpaints, which we reviewed a while ago. However, all the materials you find in the box are universal, and foam board is perfect for creating ruins, hills, and rocky platforms to fill a gaming table for just any wargame, just like in the old days when Games Workshop didn’t have plastic scenery kits yet. The contents of the box should be enough to fill 25% of a board with ruins or build a set of hills and platforms to add more three-dimensionality to your games. Here is some inspiration of what you can do with XPS foam:
Let’s take a closer look at the individual components. The Gamemaster Dungeons & Caverns Core Set comes with a unique primer that is meant for basecoating terrain. Unlike other spray paints, the water-based formula will ensure that the spray won’t corrode or damage the foam. The included “Dungeons & Caverns” primer is a dark greyish brown (matching Hardened Carapace from the Warpaints range very closely). Note that this spray is not designed for priming miniatures, though you can use it as a basecoat over a primed model. I recommend applying multiple thin coats as the spray goes on quite heavy. More spray colours, including a water-based terrain sealer/varnish, will be available from May 15.
The paints come in 18 ml dropper bottles. You’ll get three shades of grey, three shades of brown, black, white, a muted dark green wash for moss effects (Military Shade from the Warpaints range), and a glossy slime green effect paint. Dungeon Base, a medium grey (Dungeon Base from the Warpaints range), and Cavern Base, a medium brown (Werewolf Fur from the Warpaints range), even come in larger 50 ml bottles meant for basecoating. The paints are renamed Warpaints, which we reviewed a while ago. I’m not a fan of The Army Painter coming up with new paint names for each of their paint ranges, but at least you will find the corresponding paint from the Warpaints range on each label when you need a replacement.
The foam board is made of a dense but light-weight XPS foam and has a thickness of 11 mm, which lends to a good stability for dungeon tiles or ruin walls. It can be cut with a knife or the included hot-wire cutter, and also sanded and glued with PVA glue. As you can see, the foam comes with minor imperfections, so it’s more like the cheaper insulation type of foam you will find in hardware or building supplies stores, not the higher quality and more expensive version usually found in stores that carry architect supplies. An expansion pack with seven more boards of foam will be released on March 20.
I have some mixed feelings about the included hot-wire cutter. It does its job, heats up instantly when you press the button, and the handheld design is handy indeed. It can cut foam up to a thickness of 4 cm, but it feels cheap and flimsy with the open battery compartment and exposed wires and contacts. Batteries are not included, and the two needed C-block batteries are not as common as AA or AAA, so I had to purchase two batteries specifically for this review. The foam cutter will also be available separately from March 20, at an RRP of 17,50 Euro, which I think is a bit of a stretch for such a basic build quality.
At the first glance, the RRP of 89,99 Euro doesn’t seem cheap and quite an investment. However, the box is really huge and packed. When adding up all the components and comparing them to corresponding The Army Painter products, I estimate a value of about 110 to 115 Euro (not counting “extra” stuff like the knife, palette, sandpaper, and ruler). I feel the set makes an ideal purchase for a gaming group or even mature hobbyists with kids, as scratch-building terrain makes a fantastic group activity. It’d also be perfect to decorate a scratch-build Armies on Parade board.
So overall, even with the flimsy hot-wire cutter the value is there, and the set is also available from our partner stores Wayland Games, Element Games, and Taschengelddieb, with a 10% discount.
Also, let’s not forget that high-density foam can often be hard to find as not all hardware stores have it, and not everyone has an architect or artist supplies store nearby. Thanks to The Army Painter, foam boards will become readily available at your local gaming store and easily available online, which I think is very convenient.
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