Step 1: So, What's SQR?
If you take a look at the picture below, you'll see that the cells have different colours. Colour is crucial to SQR, since the SQRs need to be placed on a cell of their own colour to do anything other than move. There's a SQR, the painter, which turns cells to the player's colour(1). Black cells don't count: they could be removed from the board. As you see in the picture, each cell is a cube, a woodblock, with the faces painted in different colours. Therefore, changing the colour of a cell is simply done by lifting the cube, choosing the appropriate colour, and putting it back in place.
We - UCGames - are developing SQR as a free cell phone game, but some months ago we realized that it could also be played as a "physical" game. Since then we have developed two prototypes to try different board configurations and test gameplay -this is the second prototype. At present time it is one of a kind, so we'll show how we made it in case someone else wants to try building another :)
(1)for a full explanation of the rules, take a look here.
Step 2: Components of a SQR Set
-Cells-- We decided on using an 8x8 cell layout, so that adds up to 64 cubes.
-Board-- The board holds the cubes in place while you play.
-SQRs-- The game pieces.
-Others-- Pucks and Blocks (they are made the same as the pieces).
Step 3: The Cells
Each cube needs to be painted with one side white, one side black, one red and one blue. One of the cubes should have the red side marked with a white spot, and another cube should have the blue side marked in the same manner: those cubes will be the Bases.
Step 4: The Board- Made of Polystyrene
There's a straightforward way to make the board:
-design a grid with the size you want here,
-print it in a piece of paper,
-make several copies of it,
-attach each one to a thin piece of polystyrene (depron-s),
-use a x-acto knife to cut the the grid,
-glue several grids on top of another to make the Board as high as you need.
The picture below show the first prototype we made: note that we used the cutouts from the grid to make the cells too :)
This technique is easy, cheap and allows you to use any cube size you want; however, it takes lots of time to cut all those grids and it is not very precise if you do it by hand (a laser cutter would be perfect for this task). We wanted to have a SQR set that looked as nice as possible and that we could replicate quickly and easily in case we needed several of them -for instance, if we organize a tournament-. Therefore, we moved on to...
Step 5: The Board- Made of Lego!
-would look more professional than the polystyrene grid,
-would be easy and fast to make,
-would be as sturdy and durable as possible,
-would be as cheap as possible.
The answer to these questions came after a short while: we would make a rubber mold from a first "master" board, then make copies of it using the sturdiest and cheapest material available.
There was a problem, though: How could we make a master board in one piece with no seams, or gaps? ...
*several weeks of ... ... later*
And so I gathered all the Lego blocks I had at home and built a first grid (see below). I was extremely lucky that the cubes fit perfectly inside, and I even made some fake lego blocks too. As you can see I ran out of flat cover pieces pretty soon, so I used the Lego digital designerLego digital designer application to make a 3D model of the Grid, and then I ordered only the top flat pieces.
The second picture shows the finished Lego Grid. Note that it has no base (you can see the table). All that there's needed to make a Lego Board is to add flat panels to cover the base.
The Lego Board looks really nice, but the blocks for a single board cost around 90 euros -I only needed the top flat blocks, and still I paid 20 euros for them-. Too expensive for "mass production", so we kept on with the plan and moved on to...
Step 6: The Board- Making a Mold From the Lego Master
In order to make a mold it is necessary to encase the master:
-first, I cut a polystyrene square to make the base of the board. since I was using thin depron-s sheets that I had form the first prototype, I cut two and glued them together to make the base thick.
-I put the base under the grid; then I cut a slightly bigger polystyrene square, put it below both the grid and base, and "attached" everything with duct tape. I also covered the sides with duct tape to cover all the exterior seams between blocks and give it a smooth look (see pictures below).
-I then "painted" all the grid and board with alkyl (two layers). This step is ESSENTIAL, otherwise the rubber will get in the seams between the Lego Blocks and also between the lego grid and the polystyrene base, thus ruining the mold (and the grid too, since the only way to remove the rubber is by undoing the grid). After this step the blocks will stay glued forever, alas!
-Finally, I cut some walls of the same polystyrene board I used for the base and made a frame to contain the rubber.
Now comes the most delicate part of the process: preparing and pouring the rubber in the frame.
-Mold Max comes in two parts that must be mixed 10 to 1 in weight for it to become active. The main part is white and the catalyzed red, so the mix results in a characteristic pink colour. It is extremely important to mix both components thoroughly, or the parts that didn't mix well may not cure properly.
-Before we poured the rubber, we sprayed the board with a release agent to ensure that we could remove the mold from the master with minimal effort later on.
-Pouring the rubber must be done in a proper manner so that no air gets entrapped. "A proper manner" actually involves degassing the mold, but in this case we poured the rubber slowly from the sides to the center and then prayed.
-In order to make the rubber mold for the board, we used some 4.5 kilos of rubber. Mold Max is expensive, but it is better to order more than it is needed than not ordering enough, believe me :P Same applies when pouring: prepare more rubber than you think you'll need, or you risk having to prepare more afterwards on the fly, which is not a good idea.
-The last pictures show the rubber in the frame, and the finished mold. If you take a close look a the pictures you'll see some small defects. Releasing the mold from the master took some time and some strenght, but the rubber showed up its properties and came off on one piece :)
-Now that we had the mold ready, we moved on to...
Step 7: The Board- Making a Copy From the Mold
-Working with crystacal is fairly easy: measure the water you need, then pour the plaster, little by little, mixing thoroughly. In this case I wanted the plaster to remain liquid so that I could pour it easily on the mold, but not that much that it wouldnÃÂ´t dry up, of course :P
-After the plaster had hardened, removing it from the mold puts the rubber to a test, and everything worked out fine. I donÃÂ´t know how many copies will the mold resist without tearing, but it went through the first copy in perfect condition.
The pictures below show the finished piece before and after painting. I used a first layer of arabic gum to seal the plaster, then I painted it with two layers of black acrylic. Later on I made some experiments and it seems that I could actually have mixed the plaster with the black paint to get directly a shade of gray... anyways, I think that it looks pretty cool, and the layer of alkyl gave it a nice texture too.
Making a plaster board from the mold -safe the hahaharesearchhahaha costs- takes two days -most of the time waiting for the plaster and paint to dry- and around $10 in plaster.
By the way, the board is big, heavy and hard as a rock. _
Step 8: The Pieces
-The first two pictures show some pieces made of polymer clay. We got some small cookie shapes, then cut them off a block of clay (three layers of the thickest setting in the pasta machine, stacked together), put them in the oven and finally add some gloss.
-The second two pictures show a CNC machine, a small Roland Modela MDX-3 that I got in ebay, machining the pieces out from a block of yellow polystyrene foam, and the machined pieces. This machine is incredible! In a similar fashion, when I made the first prototype I printed out the shapes, then I cut them from a polystyrene board. Actually you could just print and cut them from a piece of cardboard.
-The last two pictures show the finished set. Take a look to see the pieces you need, and if you like, visit us at UCGames! :)