About a year ago, when I was considering buying some sets of Dwarven Forge, I came across Sly Flourish’s Dwarven Forge Buyer’s Guide. In the article, Mike walks the new buyer through what to buy your first time around. It seems to me that it’s time to give Hirst Arts molds similar treatment.
First things first. Before buying, you need to decide that you are the type of person who will actually use the molds. If the thought of spending hours casting blocks from a mold does not appeal to you, Hirst Arts (HA) is not for you. There are several “middle of the road” 3D terrain options for people who aren’t willing to pay a premium for Dwarven Forge (DF), but are also unwilling (or unable) to cast their own blocks. Three such options that I know of are CastleKits, Showcase Terrain, and DungeonStone. CastleKits casts complete tile sets from HA molds, and sends them to you. For example, if you want seven castings of one of the floor tile molds, you simply order that from their store, and they will ship the pre-cast blocks to you, ready for assembly and painting. DungeonStone and Showcase Terrain go a step further and cast the blocks already “assembled,” and all you need to do is paint the pieces. These two manufacturers cast their pieces out of resin (which is what DF uses). CastleKits are more versatile, as you can make anything you would make with HA blocks. Just order the pieces you need. DungeonStone and Showcase Terrain require less work.
Still want to cast your own pieces? To get started in the addiction hobby of creating your own dungeons, you’ll need about $100 which is similar to the commitment when dipping one’s pinky toe into the DF pool. About half of that $100 will go towards casting material and other tools of the trade; future investment in HA will be substantially less than your initial cash outlay.
There are several “lines” of HA molds, so I will list two “starter” molds from some of the more popluar categories. I would definitely recommend choosing a single “line” to buy from at the start. You can eventually branch out to other lines, but if you don’t limit yourself, the mold choices can become overwhelming. Here is a link to the molds page. It will open in a separate window so you can browse the molds alongside this article.
Gothic (chipped) Stone
Mold 40 – Basic block mold. I like this mold because it’s all business. Yes, there are other Gothic molds that cast mostly blocks, but none of them have the same versatility that this one does. No frills, but your buildings will come together quickly with this mold.
Mold 201/202/206 (choose 1) – Basic floor mold. I like these three molds because they include triangular pieces that can be used for decorative floors, or in other surprising ways. Which mold you choose is personal preference, but I own mold 201.
Mold 701 – Fieldstone wall mold. This mold is just as “no nonsense” as the Gothic basic block mold.
Mold 203/206 (choose 1) – Since many people go with Fieldstone because of its similarity to Dwarven Forge, you’ll want floor tiles that also look similar. Either of these molds fits the bill.
Mold 95 – Basic block mold. Like its Gothic chipped stone cousin, this mold is just blocks. It’s got a great sand blasted texture; bear in mind you don’t have to paint it in a sandstone color. It would hold up just as well with stone greys that would make it look like granite blocks. Go with the Egyptian line if you like the look of blocks (vs. fieldstone), but the Gothic chipped stone texture doesn’t appeal to you.
Mold 290 – Egyptian floor tile mold. I’m recommending this because it will fit the best with the wall block texture, although either of the floor tile recommendations in the Fieldstone section above would work well too, if you’re going to be painting your models gray.
Mold 81/82 (choose 1) – Cavern Walls. In reality, you’ll probably want both of these molds if you’re doing caverns, but you can get away with just one for a while. It basically comes down to whether you want the one with the door, or the crates and barrels.
Mold 281 – Cavern floors. I like the non-symmetrical look of these tiles; if you’ve got Dwarven Forge cavern sets, these will fit in perfectly.
So, looking over these selections, you’ll notice that I’ve basically recommended plain vanilla wall blocks and floor tiles. To be honest, these two molds will go a long way, and let you build out about 95% of anything you can imagine. But eventually you’re going to want to accessorize, decorate, and personalize. Here are recommendations for one more mold in each category. If you have the money to start with three molds, go for one of these.
Gothic – Mold 45 – Gothic Dungeon Builder. Of all my molds, this one is probably my favorite. It’s far more versatile than it looks.
Fieldstone – Mold 71/80 (choose 1) – Fieldstone Accessories or Dragon’s Teeth. You’ll probably get more mileage out of the arches and other bits in the FA mold, though the pillars and dragon heads in the DT mold are pretty cool too.
Egyptian – Mold 96 – I like the coffin and mummy included as well as the pyramid pillars. Don’t be sucked in by the secret door piece, you won’t make enough secret doors to be worth it. (Hint: if you want a secret door in your dungeon, buying a Castle Kits casting of the appropriate secret door mold is more cost effective)
Caverns – The other wall mold.
Hopefully, I’ve given you a good starting point to dive into the immensly fun hobby of creating your own 3D terrain. Please ask questions in the comments below, or via Twitter. I know of several other RPG bloggers who use Hirst Arts, and if I can’t answer your question, I can point you to someone who can!