Last year during Dungeons & Dragons‘ Stream of Many Eyes, the company Beadle & Grimm’s Pandemonium Warehouse had something special for D&D players. The company, co-founded by actor and D&D fanatic Matthew Lillard (Scream, Hackers, SLC Punk!, Scooby-Doo), introduced fans to a Platinum Edition of the Waterdeep: Dragon Heist adventure that Wizards of the Coast released in late summer of 2018. The entire concept of it harkens back to the old TSR days of D&D where for a few extra bucks than what you would spend on a Player’s Guide and some dice, you could actually buy a complete adventure set in a box. It would come with maps, a guide, info for the DM including pictures of monsters, and if you were lucky, a figure or two to use in the game. This set was created to relive that experience with the adventure they created, and we were fortunate enough to receive one for review. Now that they’ve introduced a new set on the way for Baldur’s Gate: Descent Into Avernus at D&D Live 2019: The Descent, we thought we’d revisit the set and share our thoughts.
First off, let’s just discuss this box that it comes in. This is, by far, one of the best-looking sets I have ever seen for ANY game on the planet. The entire box is made to look like a leather-bound tome and is even held closed by a strap on the front. The sides are designed to look like pages The Beadle & Grimm logo imprinted on the front along with a sticker letting you know what number your was in the set. That’s some fun dedication to one’s craft that you don’t see in a lot of sets like this.
The company partnered with a few people to make this box worthwhile, including the awesome folks at WizKids! who provided them several unpainted figures for you to use in the game. This includes an amazing Beholder figure for you to have Xanathar in the game. All of them are primed and ready for painting right out of the box, each one serving a purpose in the four different storylines and parts of the main plot, whichever way you decide to go. This is a nice addition to the set that enhances the quality because back in the day you’d be lucky to get one or two figures in a set. SO seeing all these figures for specific encounters made me smile.
The figures all came with the book on the side as part of your purchase but were not a part of the main box. Once we gave those a look we opened up the box to see this. On your left is a packet introducing you to the set and letting you know everything that’s included with it. This is a nice handy-dandy guide to making sure you have everything before you take it somewhere or if you’re setting up a session and wondering if there’s a particular item you need in the box or you need to go get.
The top part of the box is this wooden storage shelf. The four boxes at the top are four special metal shot glasses (see below), while the bottom part contains materials specific to the story of the game, which we’ll examine in a second. The shelf is pretty handy and removable, as you can see when you empty it out it had a hole to pull it from the resting spot on top. I love designs like this as you’re getting the most use out of a tiny space while also organizing the box so everything has a place when you pack it back up.
The top section’s handout includes the first book of Waterdeep: Dragon Heist, with every chapter divided into sections. That way the DM can specifically look over a particular section for whatever part of the adventure you’re in without having to hold the entire book up. This includes some imagery to show players exactly what they’re looking at when they enter certain sections of town, the appendix to the game highlighting the monsters, magical items, and NPCs, and Volo’s Waterdeep Enchiridion which in laymen’s terms is a D&D tourist’s guide to the city for those who have never run a campaign in Waterdeep in their lives. For a real-world example, if you were visiting Chicago, this guide would give you a map of Chicago and complete details about each suburb, festivals, events, figureheads, pretty much everything shy of where to eat.
The shot glasses are probably one of my favorite items in the whole box. There are four of them for a four-person party, each of them marked with the Trollskull Tavern logo on top of the casing. You pop off the top, throw a little force behind the base, and it unravels into a shot glass. This is one of those items in the box that you actually give to the players as a keepsake once they reach a certain point in the game where the party gets their own base of operations. It’s a nice thing to have a memento from the game that you can call your own and show off to the other three players as a reminder of the adventure you had.
The bottom of the box comes with an entire second set of goodies for the campaign. First, there’s a ton of paperwork that plays a vital role in the game depending on what point you are in the adventure. This includes a deed to your new location, the laws of Waterdeep, notices, announcements, and other fun information that adds flavor to the game as you’re going. The next set of papers are creatures and stat information. These are page-sized posters of different big baddies you’ll run into in the game, as the complete stats of that monster or NPC are on the back of the sheet. This gives the DM a go-to sheet with info while the players have a visual of what they’re dealing with if you have no figures for these encounters, which is awesome!
The next layer was these grid maps that were drawn up for a couple of specific encounters. They’re on a full board setup that you fold out, and they’re double-sided for two encounters per board. This takes you right into the center of Waterdeep city streets at what appears to be dusk, which your characters and creatures can easily navigate. Yeah, I’m sure someone out there is screaming that it’s not a full 3D model, but you know what, this looks FAR better than fighting on grid paper or a rollout mat.
The next set of papers fall more into the flavor category as this will give you more of a feeling for the setting you in. You get some artwork to show off that features key places or events you’ll encounter no matter what path you take. A DM’s map of Waterdeep because it wouldn’t be D&D unless the DM had full knowledge of everything around to mess with you. Some additional one-off encounters to give the adventure a little more beef to it in case your adventurers happen to blow through something, and some additional materials that are what I would call “decoration” to the story. Not all of them are essential, but they can certainly add a little more when you need it.
Next up we got a small black pouch with the Beadle & Gimm’s logo across the side containing a number of trinkets for the game. This includes badges to specific guilds, a ring to show your allegiance to a certain order, a necklace for someone to wear with a hand holding a sword. You even get your own set of dragon coins, which is the currency of Waterdeep (hence, Dragon Heist), and your own mini Stone of Golorr (the three-eyed rock). Which, by the way, that stone is magnetized and can be stuck to the front of the book if you see fit. All of these tokens were amazing to have as we pined them on ourselves during the test campaign and wore them around to show we belong somewhere.
The second to last item in the box was a DM’s screen specific to the Waterdeep adventure, which shows off the city in all of its glory. While the artwork is stunning, those curious should know it has the same stats and info as the standard DM’s screen you can get from D&D. So while it’s super cool to have, there’s no Waterdeep-specific info on the other side. But man, does it look beautiful to look at when you’re nearly getting killed by something.
The last items in the box were a couple of fabric maps. These are absolute pieces of art as you get one that shows off the map of Waterdeep as a whole, which includes the docks, the main city, the walls, and the surrounding farmland. The second is your base of operations you get later in the game, as you get a full look at all of the rooms and different areas you can occupy and utilize to your advantage. These are amazing, and honestly, whenever the day comes we’re done playing this campaign, I’m hanging that Waterdeep map up on my wall!
Just for a point of reference below, we were able to mix all of the items from this box in with some Dwarven Forge gear, as this photo is from us playing a part of the campaign early on. Everything can be integrated with other sets of material, which is one of the best things about the box because it can be a stand-alone item and it can be added to others to make things feel more in-depth. This was an awesome fandom thing to see come to life as we mixed painted figures from the set, all coming together for a good couple days of gaming.
Beadle & Grimm did an absolutely amazing job with this set. Over the years whenever I came across D&D box sets from the past, they were beaten to hell and missing info and figures, so I never really got the full experience like they were meant to be back in the ’80s and ’90s. When I opened this set, I found D&D Valhalla! This was one of the greatest gaming experiences I have ever had with this franchise as they were able to take a specific adventure and give it an extra breath of life beyond just our imaginations. There’s not a lot of sets that can do that these days as you rely a lot on pretending certain things exist, and often whatever you come up with will never meet the expectations of what you imagine. This felt like they plucked what I was thinking about when I first read through Waterdeep: Dragon Heist out of my head, stuffed it in a box and gave it to me to play with. If you can get your hands on one and have a group looking for one hell of a Dungeons & Dragons experience, I highly recommend getting one.