I think this D&D terrain is painted with Polish space magic

There’s a new brand of pre-painted gaming terrain on the market, and no one I’ve talked to seems to know how it’s made. As far as I can figure, it’s Polish space magic.

In February this year Archon Studio (Wolfenstein The board game, Masters of the Universe: Battlefield) announced PrismaCast, the new line of pre-painted tabletop terrain. But the pitch – that these pieces would come out of the box, on a plastic sprue, but with “details usually reserved for the industry’s elite painters” – simply sounded too good to be true. Now that I’m holding the first of the retail releases, fresh out of a box from the Polish factory, I’m quite shocked. This Dwarven Mine has pre-painted half-height walls looks great, with multiple shades to build a highlight and a nice, evenly applied wash to bring out those little details. There’s even an attempt at object source lighting, with lanterns and torches casting colorful hues and shadows along the walls.

Photo: Charlie Hall/Polygon

Simply put, Archon’s grounds look excellent – not as good as I could do myself here at home, but far better than anything I’ve ever seen fresh out of the box. And I have absolutely no idea how they did it, nor how they managed to make it so cheaply. The set here costs $89.99 and covers quite a bit of the table. For a good layout you probably need at least a few.

A full set of Dwarven Mine terrain formed in a rough semicircle on a white background.  Some puddles are brown, others blue.

Photo: Archon Studio

I’d say they did it by hand, but the pieces are just too consistent. There is a machine involved in the process somewhere, that much is certain. The problem is that none of the professionals in the industrial printing world that I’ve been quietly talking to this week have seen anything that can do this kind of work here in the United States. They too are bewildered.

“It is completely our own technology and we develop it consistently,” said project and marketing manager Kamil Grochowski in an email to Polygon. “The product you are holding is the first in a series. So you can rest assured that the quality will only get better!”

A close-up of the light effects from the object source on the Archon Prismacast site.

Photo: Charlie Hall/Polygon

The broken pieces of terrain show that it is held together by friction and special clips.

Photo: Charlie Hall/Polygon

A door in a mine, with what appears to be a green tint in the wood grain.

Photo: Charlie Hall/Polygon

Note the marks along the top of the wall where the pieces were cut from the sprue. The color of the plastic matches the paint color in an attempt to hide these marks during assembly.

So while we don’t know what kind of equipment they use, Archon has given the broad strokes. According to the initial press release, the site is first painted by hand by a professional artist. This box lists Kuba Sawicki as the painter of the Dwarf Mines, and they are even credited on the back of the box. Sawicki’s work was then converted into a digital model using photogrammetry, a technique that has been around in the video game world for at least a decade. But then… somehow… they then placed it on the very irregular surface of the miniature.

How remains a mystery. But I’ll tell you what: the finish is incredibly strong. Scratching with a metal drill, even with considerable pressure, makes almost no difference. If you want to repaint it or improve it in some other way, Grochowski says you don’t have to bother stripping it. Instead, he says to just paint over the top.

In addition to these Dwarven Mines, an Archon set will also be released soon. Designed in collaboration with Paizo, the Pathfinder Terrain: Abomination Vaults pre-paintedwith all its mind-boggling horrors, will be shipping soon.

Dwarven Mine: Pre-painted Half-height Walls was viewed using a retail copy provided by Archon Studio. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, although Vox Media may earn commissions on products purchased through affiliate links. You can find Additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy can be found here.