Introduction: Altoids Tin Travel Games - Pocket Size Fun

Picture of Altoids Tin Travel Games - Pocket Size Fun

Altoids tins are amazing things and here is yet another fun use for them. While this instructable includes a checker/chess board, tic-tac-toe, and backgammon the possibilities are really endless so feel free to add your own ideas.

Materials Needed:
Altoids 50g Tin (Rectangular)
Glue (Spray adhesive works well but a gluestick will also work)
Crazy Glue
Fimo (for making your own game pieces)
Rare Earth Magnets
Hammer (optional, you'll see why in step 5)
Safety Glasses (if you need to bust up your magnets into smaller pieces)

Remember to vote if you like it!

*Important Warnings:
Magnets: Though this game is pocket size you should take care what you already have in your pocket when placing this game inside as it makes use of some very strong magnets. Some things like sensitive electronics, cameras, and especially credit cards with magnetic stripes do not play well with rare-earth magnets.

Choking Hazard: If you're making this for your kids (or with them) keep in mind that the game pieces are small and could pose a choking hazard to small children.

Step 1: Cleaning the Tin

Eat all the mints or dump them into a ziplock bag for consumption later, it never hurts to have a bag of mints in your car or desk at work.

Mint dust, while tasty,  can impede the glueing portion later on. Run the tin under a tap and then dry thoroughly with paper towel. If you have a can of compressed air it wouldn't hurt to give it a quick blast just to make sure its all gone.

Step 2: Print & Cutout the Game Surfaces

Picture of Print & Cutout the Game Surfaces

The attached template sheet is made to be printed on 8.5x11 paper in order for the game surfaces to be sized correctly. If you are having problems getting it to print properly try setting your print size to 100% at a dpi of 300.

Using scissors carefully cut the game surfaces out. There is also a blank template included if you choose to make your own instead of using the supplied ones.

Step 3: Glue the Game Surfaces to Your Tin

Picture of Glue the Game Surfaces to Your Tin

Apply adhesive to the back of the paper game pieces and affix them to the desired surface of the tin. Be sure that your mint tin is clean (back at step 1) othewise any mint dust may cause the glue not to adhere properly. Leave it sit and dry while you do the next steps.

Step 4: Make Your Game Pieces Part 1

Picture of Make Your Game Pieces Part 1

You can get a little creative here, I chose to use some Fimo that I've had laying around for years and hadn't found a use for. The chess pieces can be difficult but since its your game you can make them look however you want. For the tic-tac-toe pieces I kept it simple with plain discs of different colors.

There are probably many ways to make the various game pieces you'll need so don't feel you have to follow this to the letter.

Below are the various pieces you'll need for each game:

Chess: One set for each side made of the following
8 Pawns, 2 Castles (Rooks), 2 Knights, 2 Bishops, 1 King, 1 Queen.

12 Checkers of one colour, 12 checkers of another colour

Two sets of 15 checkers, Two sets of two dice, one doubling cube with sides numbered 2,4,8,16, 32, and 64

It would be a good idea to just use the backgammon checkers for regular checkers instead of making seperate pieces for each game.

Step 5: Make Your Game Pieces Part 2

Picture of Make Your Game Pieces Part 2

Once your game pieces are all formed you'll need to affix a magnet to the bottom of them. Depending on the size of the rare-earth magnets you use you may have to break them up a little with a hammer to get smaller pieces ***WEAR SAFTEY GLASSES*** if you have to break them apart. [Edit] Alternately you could use two pairs of pliers and break them in have again and again until they are small enough, probably a safer method ;)

When I made mine I thought just fitting the magnets into the Fimo would be enough but as you can see in the attached image they'd fall out.

You can do it one of two ways:
1) You can do what I did and try to form-fit the magnets into your game pieces first, bake them, and then glue them.

2) Keep your game pieces flat on the bottom, bake them, then glue them in place.

Either way should work, my method was due to trial and error.

Step 6: Play

Picture of Play

Hopefully now all the glue is dry and your ready to test out your new portable 4 in 1 Altoids travel game!

*Important Warnings:
Magnets: Though this game is pocket size you should take care what you already have in your pocket when placing this game inside as it makes use of some very strong magnets. Some things like sensitive electronics, cameras, and especially credit cards with magnetic stripes do not play well with rare-earth magnets.

Choking Hazard: If you're making this for your kids (or with them) keep in mind that the game pieces are small and could pose a choking hazard to small children.


Sapper (author)2015-07-08

You could use those tiny earth magnets in each piece. I got a bunch in a sample pack from Lee Valley Tools that I've been wondering what to use them for. I think that I'll use some Sugru and those magnets and make something similar to this

BatchDesigner (author)2015-04-01

I made mine with an altoids tin, the printable game mats, Buckycubes, those neodymium discs, and finally, hot glue to keep it all in place. Oh yeah, don't froget fimo! xD

BatchDesigner (author)2015-04-01

I have a question: Why couldn't you just buy one of those cheap $5 quality portable chess sets and steal the pieces from dat?

Nightauel (author)2014-03-03

* sells a similar tin for $0.88 ea. Down side, you have to buy them in lots of 24. Up side, you don't have to pay for or eat two dozen tins of mints and there is no imprint in the lid or mint dust to deal with. They do have many sizes, shapes and configurations of tins, and thousands of other fun things, but there's no mixing and matching for quanitity. Pretty sure they ship worldwide, so that should basically solve all the previous supply questions.

Nate230 (author)2013-06-13

Where can i get magnets?

jphphotography (author)Nate2302013-06-13

I got mine from Dealextreme ( but nowadays they're quite common, if you have a Lee Valley store in your area/country they sell them there I believe. Ebay or Dealextreme will be the cheapest by far though, any extras are handy to have around as fridge magnets etc. I've superglued some to random things so they'd hang on my fridge (scissors for example).

Frederbee (author)2012-08-18

For the magnets, when I was in elementary school we had earrings that were no-pierce. They would be shaped like the stud, about a 1/8" round cylinder, and would magnetically cling through the ear. These would be roughly the size you need

Frederbee (author)Frederbee2012-08-18

Or these if you go with the colour coding

jeditanker72 (author)2012-05-03

Nice to see Altoids used for something other than freshening your breath, or surviving the collapse of society. Great job!

xavec (author)2011-07-12

This is totally outstanding work. Nice job! now I just need to find a similar sized tin in the UK...

awsomeegan (author)2011-06-04

can you tell me how you guys get the top of the tins to smooth, all the tins i see have ALTOIDS raised and i dont know if you have to find a smooth one or if you flatten them some how

chilll2009 (author)2010-12-21

awesome idea.

I am Silas. (author)2009-09-02

You did an awesome job.

Archive555 (author)I am Silas.2010-11-19

Comment spam!
Seriously though, is this a double post gone terribly wrong, or did you intend to make four separate consecutive posts? :P

highvoltageev (author)2009-07-03

Pretty awesome idea, however I'd suggest picking a game other than tic-tac-toe considering it's such a flawed game (as long as the two people playing truly know how to play, it will always end in a tie).

Yeah, that's always bugged me. One of the things they teach you in a computer science course is making a simple tic-tac-toe algorithm. I made one in two days:).

Now, if you want a real challenge, try Quantum tic-tac-toe. It was a game designed to help students understand quantum mechanics, so you can pretty much guess the level of strategy involved.


That Quantum Tic-Tac-Toe just blew my mind.
Thank you good sir.

superMacaroni (author)2010-09-09

How about using allergy pills?

Archive555 (author)superMacaroni2010-10-05

I'm not sure I understand.
Care to elaborate?

haugenka (author)2010-06-24

Great idea, well designed instructable – love the quality photos. The only thing I'd change is how to do the game boards. Printables are quick, for sure, but how do you make the paper durable/waterproof/etc.? I suppose you could shellac it on, or I think you could spray the tin white, then mask on the black bits, or burnish off the original paint, mask it and just spray the black parts. A bit more work, but then it'd last for camping, etc.

haugenka (author)2010-06-24

I'm thinking you could use the letters from an old typewriter to press into the fimo – Q for queen, etc. The only issue is the knights & king, but the king is usually designated with a cross, so you could use the plus or X. I'd still probably try to shape them a bit, but this would help and give it a nice industrial look...

klingonprins (author)2010-02-02

i used the kiln oven in my school to make the pieces for chess out of clay.
but i didnt want to make the actual figures (i tried the first time and the cracked in me pocket), i just made black and white checkers with K, Q, B, H (horse), R, and P, and i play every weekend on the train to the nyc with my friends.

Right on! Glad to hear it worked for you and that you're getting some good use out of it. Nice idea marking the simple pieces instead.


thanks.  i will send some pics of the kit i made when i get my camera fixed, but you can probably guess.  it was a waste of time to make all of the figures like real.  i make chess peices as a hobby and sell them on the street markets in my city, and i can get around $500 for something like them and an easy wood board.

depotdevoid (author)2009-08-15

Great idea, I just made one, and it rocks!

Glad you liked it, you should post a few pictures I'd love to see it!

Well, I found a little time to get this done, so here are the pictures. The last one has my own little addition, a deck of mini playing cards. Thanks for the idea, I intend to use this as a sub-component to an upcoming instructable, and I'll make sure to attribute it to you and link back to this 'ible. Thanks, Ian

lorewheelock (author)depotdevoid2009-12-24

awwwww i love it!!

Will do, the Fimo is baking and will be done soon, I'll probably post a few pictures tonight.

I am Silas. (author)2009-09-02

Thank you jphphotography!

I am Silas. (author)2009-09-02

What would be an alternative for Fimo?

Fimo is a "polymer clay", I believe an alternative would be a product called "sculpey"

You can also try googling Polymer Clay and see if anything else comes up.

I am Silas. (author)2009-09-02

Excuse me but what is Fimo?

CrazyRainChild (author)2009-08-13

For chess pieces you could have each piece be a different color rather than shape. Then one team could have circle pieces and one team could have square pieces. That way you would not have to try to shape the pieces.

At first when I read your comment I thought that would take way too many colours but after thinking more about it you're right. Unfortunately I only had 2 colours so I was stuck. You'd need 6 colours but if you were mixing them you could probably do it with less, say if you just picked up Red, Yellow, Blue for example. Thanks for the suggestion.

thegreatash (author)2009-07-29

u r gr8 at photography

jphphotography (author)2009-07-20

Thanks for all the positive feedback guys, remember if you really like this project I'd appreciate a vote for the "pocket size" contest. Voting buttons are up at the top of the screen. Thanks again James PS If any of you make this project feel free to post a picture of how it turned out!

amakerguy (author)2009-07-18

hey thanks I like it. I'm going to make it! (I have 2 big tins and 2 smalls tins)

MLB Baseball Guy (author)2009-07-07

Wow.. looks cool. It's always nice to have several games in one box. Thanks for the instructable!

skatelong (author)2009-07-03

Does anyone know were to get altoids in NZ???

jphphotography (author)skatelong2009-07-05

I wish I could help you out but I have no idea. You may however be able to order a case of them off ebay or a similar site. The tins are great for projects so you'll probably use all the tins up eventually ;)

pinsNneedles (author)2009-07-03

It looks very professional. That sheet magnet can be very strong,i have it for fridge magnets and they are solidly fixed,you have to pull pretty hard to release them. I think for chess,you could print out the chess pieces and then stick them to it,it would make for more compact counters for the games. Snakes and ladders and Ludo would be good .

The sheet magnet as a whole is pretty strong yes, however when cut down into small circles the strength is vastly reduced. I tried it and it just didn't work, however maybe others will have better luck with different sheet magnets. I agree with some of the other comments that it could work quite well for being able to swap out game boards. Thanks for all the comments everyone, I'm glad this one was a hit!

gnomedriver (author)2009-06-28

Nice stuff. Five games in one tin. Perfect to fill in time when waiting for the plane or train. I havent found many instuctables using Fimo Its sort of has an arts and crafts association to it which some people cant get passed. Its like small scale fibreglass or a plastic for home use. Ivd used Fimo for a tuning knob on a radio I built and got the look I want.

You're right about how Fimo often gets overlooked, it is a very versatile and handy material. Another good one is Shapelock aka thermosetting plastic aka polymorph aka friendly plastic. I found it first as Shapelock and got their free sample so I always refer to it as Shapelock ;)

Tweeks_tx (author)jphphotography2009-07-02

Fimo is too tough to shape... Shapelock is interesting, but Magic-Sculpt 2 part epoxy putty (or JB Weld Putty) are MUCH easier to work with, and are as strong as steel (can even be drilled or ground) once cured. Tweeks

NatureGeek24 (author)2009-07-02

Cool Instructable! Do you think the magnetic strip stuff in a roll would be strong enough? It can be cut to shape and glued on easily. I've got several yards of it still floating around from my Girl Scout leader/ small children wanting to make refrigerator magnet days.

srilyk (author)NatureGeek242009-07-02

It might - but it's not very good. Mainly that stuff is rubber with a bit of iron/ferrous material thrown in. How It's Made is a wonderful show _

At $6 for 50 of these (which are plenty strong and should be small enough, and more than enough for this project!) I'd go with rare-earth.

It's rather dangerous work breaking the larger ones. Magnetic shards can travel FAST... so if you do, wear goggles!

jphphotography (author)srilyk2009-07-02

I was originally thinking of using those business card fridge magnets for the instructable but found they just weren't strong enouch. As srilyk mentions you can get the rare earth magnets pretty cheap online, I got mine from (great site by the way, tons of cool cheap stuff and free shipping). I should add a safety step if breaking the magnets too, thanks for the heads up.

About This Instructable




Bio: Those who know me know that I've always got some project on the go at all times. My interests are varied enough that I ... More »
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