This second installment of Rite Publishing's relatively new Lone Tree imprint focusing on glueless paper models is ambitious to say the least: This time, we don't get the tools to build a modular dungeon, but rather the tools to assemble a full-blown keep. Will it adhere to the first installments high quality standards or is this too broad a scope for such a product?
First of all, the pdf containing the paper-models themselves is a 32-page pdf, 1 page front cover as well as a 25-page pdf showing you how to assemble the models in easy steps accompanied by photographs in order to further illustrate the construction process. The assembly of the paper-models, once again, is almost glueless. If you already enjoyed the stellar first offering of the line, you'll know how to assemble the walls of the castle, as the same method is used herein. If you don't use iron fillings to weigh down a side of the wall, you won't need any glue. We get versions for 2'' and 2.5'' tall walls.
The 5-step assembly of the 2x2-tower is so simple that even a 6-year-old could easily handle the task and might even enjoy it! I know I would have loved assembling my own castle even then!
The same holds true for the 3x3-tower, but the true star to come is the gate-section with a portcullis. Wait, what? Yep, you heard me all right, we get a nice gate-section including a portcullis and while a bit of glue and dexterity is needed to assemble the portcullis, it is functional and not hard to assemble - quite a feat!
The Gate-design that works as complimentary/alternative to the portcullis comes a gate-section that is glueless apart from the back-to-back gluing of the doors. While approximately easy to medium in difficulty, it's still nice to see how easy functional gates can be created from paper.
The assembly of the easily modifiable parapets is simple to the extreme, enabling you to customize your castle via them and this modularity will be expanded upon in future products - nice! We get straight, angled, 2x2 and 3x3 parapets - options are always neat to have! The assembly of stairs, already something I commented on favorably in the first Fold-n-go-kit, is again among the easiest you could imagine for relatively complex items like stairs and glueless.
I was a huge fan of Jonathan Roberts offering of the Watchfire Keep in the Fantastic Map series, and with him providing the drawing for both this classic line of map packs and the fold-n-go-series, it should come as no surprise (but is a very pleasant addition) that we actually get a signal mound including stairs leading up to it and even wood to burn it. Before rolling your eyes and saying you don't need one, you should know that the design is modular enough that the mound might double for a classic sword & sorcery-style altar, or, if you're so inclined, a place for aerial knights (griffons, dragons, etc.) to mount their large mounts. The assembly of the mound is easy in the extreme and glueless.
But wait, you say, what about...well...houses? Yep, we also get a house (with an optional chimney) for the defenders that just about anyone could assemble, again, without using glue. It is here that my creativity has been challenged a bit: If you cut out e.g. the shuttered windows and put the shutter-graphic on the inside, you could easily create shutters and doors that open and close, making for a nice spot for crossbow-men or arcanists to hide. Just my personal recommendation, though. :) We also get an extremely easy to assemble storage house.
But what about the floor of the castle? The final page is devoted to the green ground that comes with 3 layers: You can turn the grid on and off and superimpose an angled path or a blocky path via a simple click in the pdf (yep, the pdf - no fussing around with adobe's preferences etc. just click in the boxes! - Now that's user-friendly!)- of course, the grid can be combined with both paths, facilitating play with miniatures even further.
It should be noted that the whole line comes with .studio-files for use with robo-cutters.
Jonathan Robert's cartography needs no introduction to most people so I'll refrain from singing his praises once again. Instead, I'll elaborate on his fruitful cooperation with Brian Bartlow: Once again their combined talents have created a prime example of useful, easy to assemble paper miniatures. my only, very minor gripe of the predecessor, has been taken care of via the great checkbox-mechanic of the floor: If that was the standard for all maps, I would be a happy man and short of one recurring point of annoyance/criticism. Point being: This above and beyond mentality, user-friendly to the extreme, is beyond pleasant and greatly appreciated. I only have ONE very minor gripe with this otherwise supremely useful kit: The stack of wood on the signal mound and the storage house don't get their own assembly-instructions. Mind you, I don't think instructions are necessary there, as assembly is approximately as difficult as folding a filter paper to make coffee, but for absolute novices and/or children (who should have a blast building castles like that!) they would have been nice. I'm still kind of stunned by the modularity of this kit. The amount of tools to build just about any keep is quite staggering and you get a lot of extremely easy to assemble, beautiful, full-color pieces to create your very own keep. My final verdict will be 5 stars.
[5 of 5 Stars!]