Introduction: Laser Cut Board Games
There are a vast number of German Style board games on the market now a days. We have a growing collection and devote many hours to playing them with our friends. Some of these games require additional functional parts, fancy accessories or even just deluxe versions. This instructable will offer ideas about what can be done to improve your own games, tips for how to make some of these thing and just outright links to some of the projects I've made for my games.
Along side this I'm hoping to release my files for a laser cut version of the tile game Carcassonne. So if you want your own deluxe set of tiles for your existing Carcassonne game, head over to my blog to find out how you can get those.
With Lasercutters regularly found in schools, tech shops, hackspaces, online and even in coffee shops I feel these kinds of laser cutting projects are well within reach of the average maker, and I'm always more than happy to recreate any of my projects now that the files have been drawn (drawing is 90% of the effort)
Step 1: Interlocking Tiles
Tile games are ripe for recreating with deluxe versions. There are many tile games and there are so many improvements that can be made to them.
A lot of tiles are placed down next to each other, they have a tendency to slip when someone accidentally leans on the board in the wrong place. Tiles can be made to interlock with each other to prevent this from happening. A mechanical interlock can be made by changing the edge of each tile. I prefer to create a magnetic interlock by placing magnets around the edge of the tile. With the correct arrangement of north and south poles the tiles can be made to align at any angle. The magnets can be affixed under the original tiles and don't protrude around the edges of the tiles.
Settlers of catan uses Hexagonal tiles to represent the different resources on the island, 2 magnets on each side of the tile (one north and one south) allows the tiles to interlock at any angle but the orientation of each tile is not actually important so a much better configuration is to have 1 magnet on each side alternating between north and south.
Step 2: Plain Tiles
Plain doesn't have to mean boring, when you are laser cutting wood it's very easy to get 2 distinct coloured areas from a single material. The engraving operation burns the surface of the material and gives a second darker colour. It is also possible to create line accents by having a very low power cut. This produces a very dark and well defined line which can add detail to each tile or to outline a shape and make it really stand out.
My Carcassonne tile set was created by scanning each tile and then tracing the shapes of the roads and buildings. By adding a definition line to most of the features I was able to really make the towns pop out from the tile. I was also able to put all the tufts of grass onto the farm lands, if I was just using an etch operation these little details would not be possible.
Step 3: Coloured Tiles
My favourite way of creating coloured tiles is to use different woods, each wood has it's own unique colour and once the tiles are oiled or varnished they really stand apart from each other. In a game like settlers of catan this can be used to great effect by having one colour for each of the different resources. Applying wood veneers to each tile can be time consuming so it is great for one off custom work but there are easier ways to create coloured tiles.
Coloured tiles can be made easily using paints. I tend to use a very watered down acrylic paint to give good, even coverage, but by leaving the paint thin you can still see the grain of the wood underneath it. It is still possible to create a two tone effect by painting the entire tile one colour and then etching areas of the paint off to expose the wood underneath.
Coloured tiles can be slightly trickier when you require 2 colours on a single tile, something that is required for the Heredox tile game. To get round this problem I created a lasercut stencil for the tiles which allows me to paint only the specific areas in the right colours. Once the tile blank was painted I put it back into the machine and then cut the tiles out.
Step 4: Resource Trays
Settlers of catan comes with a deck of cards to represent the resources player receive during the game. This deck is shared amongst all the players and it often gets jumbled with people throwing cards back onto the pile. A custom resource holder can keep the card decks aligned during play and makes for a faster set up because they can be put away in the box separately.
Agricola has a lot of resource tokens that are usually stored in bags. These are taken out and piled on the table during play and often thrown back into the same bag when packing away. A handy row of storage trays can keep everything separate and stored while the game is not being played
Step 5: Tokens to Go in the Resource Trays
Once you've got a set of nice resource trays you might want to improve upon the tokens that go into the tray. Some games need counters to represent things during play. Consider making these in custom colours and even personalised with peoples names if you have a regular group that play together.
Agricola has a whole farmyard of animals represented by round tokens that could easily be made animal shaped.
Step 6: Boxes to Store Your Expanded Game In
If you've gone the whole hog and upgraded tiles, storage trays and tokens you may find that your original game no longer fits in the box. You could just buy a whole new box and add some fancy engraving to the top and some dividers on the inside or you could remake a whole new box.
There are a lot of tabbed box generators online where you can specify the size of the box you want and it will produce the files required to cut it out. I prefer this online version which gives you 3 different fixing types and a real time 3D preview of the box you're designing.
Step 7: Enjoy Your Revamped Game
Hopefully some of these ideas will inspire you to improve your own versions of your loved board games. The drawing process can be time consuming but the end results are often worth it because you'll have the coolest set out of all your buddies.
Don't forget to check out my blog for more of my gaming creations, and if you would like to save yourself 200 hours of drawing effort on your own lasercut Carcassonne tile set then please support my file release attempts