Guestwriter: John Enfield
Elderwood Academy is an online boutique with many interesting bits of gaming gear, some of which are customizable – letting you choose from many different colors, types of materials, engraving designs, etc. In this three-part review, we’ll be looking at three of them: the Elderwood Winged Dice, Hex Chest Dice Box and Spellbook Game Box. The website itself is well designed, making finding products, choosing your options and checking out easy. The product info adequately described the items that we received and amused us with its quirky wording.
The Hex Chest is a great idea, but what if you want to take more than just your Elderwood Winged Dice with you to a game day? Those crafty Academics have thought of that too and conjured up this handy wooden storage box that looks like a thick, leather-bound book, especially when it is nestled between RPG books on a shelf.
When you pull the box from the shelf, you can see that the ‘pages’ sides of the ‘book’ are not of paper but of wood. The one we received appears to be made of mahogany, but you can also choose walnut (which costs $20 extra) or cherry for the main wood. The website says that box is carved from one piece of wood that shows in how seamless the sides are and how durable the box feels. Before you can open the lid, you have to unhook the brass latch. This takes a bit of doing, especially in dim light where the little latch-locking pin is a bit hard to see. Once you’ve swung the hinged pin out to the side, you can lift the main flap of the latch. The leather on our box is lapis (a really dark blue), but also comes in six other colors like onyx, amethyst (which looks purple to us on the website) and sandstone. For an extra $15, you can have it in ‘dragonscale’ texture in red, gold or green. Dragonscale looks like a coarser grain of leather than the smoother leather ours is bound in. Our lid came with a very striking Chinese dragon looking ‘Serpent’ design in holographic foil with a silver paint framework around it. There’s 21 other designs to choose from like a Winged Dragon, Yggdrasil tree and rows of cool runes. These can be embossed into the leather in seven other foils as well including gold, silver and bronze. For an extra $15, you can have an icon and any text you’d like embossed on the spine.
The leather cover hides the way the hinge is attached to the lid, but it seems solid. The brass loop that the pin goes through is secured to be box by two brass screws. The latch seems sturdy enough to survive a lot of use. That’s a good thing too, because the first few times we lifted the lid, it was so snugly fit into the base that it took more tugging than we thought we’d need. Now, the lid trim has worn just enough to make opening the box easy. The lid’s hinge is the single piece of thick leather that covers the back, spine and front of the ‘book’. The leather is bound to the wood with some strong stuff thank goodness because we were a bit worried that we’d pull the leather from the wood on the lid edges trying to get it open the first few times. The lid trim on our box seems to be cherry wood though you can choose from walnut, cherry, mahogany, maple and purpleheart (which is a real wood also known as Amaranth or the Peltogyne species in scientific terms – we looked it up).
The trim frames a mysterious, dully shiny metallic surface. Frankly, until we visited the website, we weren’t certain what it was for. The first thing we discovered while messing about with it, was that magnets are attracted to it. So, it’s a handy place to put the lid of your Hex Chest Dice Box, for one thing. The website calls it a ‘reflecting pool’ and says that it can be used as a board for dry erase markers. It’s a bit small for taking detailed notes, but we did find that you can write on it with just about any color of such markers and it shows nicely. The marking also wipe off well, even after being on the surface all day.
The bottom of the box is lined with a firm, good quality felt. Ours came with silver, but there’s also green, burgundy, brown, blue and black. There isn’t any padding under the felt and the sides of the inside of the box aren’t lined, so we’d not recommend rolling metal dice in it, but it works fine for plastic dice as a dice rolling tray as long as you don’t get too crazy with your throws. Some of our harder dice throws made the dice bounce out of the box.
When not using the box as a dice roller, you can put two of the seven foam inserts, available on the website, or one foam insert and the Hex Chest. There’s an insert with a hole for the standard size Hex Chest and another with two holes for two Hex Chest Minis. All inserts have a place for a pen or pencil, but different inserts have other features. For example, the ‘4 Set’ has holes for 28 dice while the ‘Rolling’ holds 13 dice with the other half a square hole for rolling dice. There’s also one that holds a deck of playing cards, another that’ll hold six minis and the ‘Base’ insert that holds three minis and 20 dice. We were sent the Base and what’s probably an earlier design for the Hex Standard as it has token slots rather than dice holes and two spaces for minis. The slots held minis and the hex shaped hole held the Hex Chest very well, but our two minis fell out of their spots when we carried the box around with the lid shut. The dice holes in the Base insert were great for the D20 and D12, but were an ill fit for the others in the Elderwood Winged Dice set. The D4 and D10s fell out of their holes when carrying the box around.
So, is the Elderwood Academy Spellbook Game Box spellbinding enough for $105? It’s certainly more impressive to show up to game day with than the fishing tacklebox or sewing kit cases we often use, though depending on your choice in box the Spellbook might not hold as much. It’s certainly worth the money in terms of construction with real leather, brass fittings, solid wood and customizable designs. All three of the items we reviewed, the Winged Dice, Hex Box and Game Box can be combined together to make one very special gift for yourself or a gamer you care about.