Introduction: Custom Light Up Game Board for BattleCON
This is a project I did as a final for one of my classes this semester. It's a game board that lights up when you put pieces on it, and the light is different depending on what color piece is on it. This board is specifically built for a board game called BattleCON. BattleCON is (mainly) a two-player fighting card game that's really fun. The game is basically played by putting together a unique style card and a generic base card to make an attack.
Now, I'm a super amateur at making these kinds of projects, so it's not as great as I'd like (I had ideas to add life bars and a beat tracker, but maybe I can add that in the future?). Also, I did a lot of probably dumb things when I built it, therefore; this instructable will be peppered with "Lessons Learned" boxes for your enjoyment.
I hope you guys enjoy it, and feel free to try to make your own and make it better!
Step 1: Gather Materials
Here's a full list of everything I ended up using for this projects:
These are the main items:
1 Arduino Uno
30 Rare Earth Magnets (28 are 1/2" in diameter, two are 1/4")
7 little perfboards
planks of plywood (I used one 36" x 8" and three 36" by 2")
a sheet of plexiglass
56 1/4" zinc nuts
A roll of 1/4" plastic piping (although I would suggest you get thinner if you can find it)
A roll of copper tape (I used 1" wide copper tape, meant for making snails cry)
2 plastic stands (I got mine here)
14 RGB leds (although with the colors I chose, I probably could have gotten away with seven red and seven blue)
14 220 Ohm resistors (maybe only applicable to the kind of leds I have?)
1 9v battery + power adapter
1 sheet of foamcore/poster board
These are just secondary items, mainly used for attaching things to other things or separating things from other things:
Glue gun + glue sticks
Wood glue + nails + a hammer
Soldering iron + iron
Wire clippers and wire strippers
#1 Plan/write out all your materials! Don't just buy stuff as you need it because that will slow you down so much. Also don't buy a bunch of stuff without thinking/researching/testing stuff out first. Look at this list of unnecessary things I bought for this project:
- A box of large metal binder clips: These were originally going to take the place of plastic stands because magnets love metal, but then I realized that metal doesn't recognize polarity (a little too late, I might add). It would work great if the spaces are just one color though! It just doesn't look as pretty as the solution I ended up with.
- Silver epoxy: Meant to glue a magnet to the wire contact point. The wire was just too thin and unruly to stay on the magnet while this dried.
- A box of resistors: This part is somewhat justifiable, as the pack of 50 RGB leds I ordered from Amazon would take a while to arrive from China, I didn't know how much resistance I needed, so I just bought a box full of different kinds.
- A large perfboard: I forgot about how each space would contain a separate-ish circuit. Then again, I didn't know what a perfboard was until after I bought it, so maybe I could be forgiven?
Step 2: Coding
The code I used was pretty simple, and partially cobbled together from a few Arduino led tutorials. Basically, the code makes the light pulse slowly. It's a pretty cool effect and is way more interesting than a static color. Additionally, there's also a part of the code that you can use to adjust the color of the light, if you so desire. I preferred the red and blue to match the two main colors, but feel free to adjust the colors to whatever you desire. Just note that the circuitry will have to account for each pin of each RGB led instead of just one like in mine.
Step 3: Build the Box
I've never worked with wood before, so I had no idea what I was doing. I aimed for cutting as little as possible, so the big plank and two of the little planks I left as is. The little planks I nailed and wood glued along the length of the large. The third I cut for the remaining two sides and the little inserts that would support the plexiglass that would lay on top. I made the insert pieces that would be on the ends of the box a little shorter to support two layers of plexiglass. Also, it would be a great idea to spray paint your box right now. I only thought to paint mine black after I was already working on the circuitry. Yeah, I'm dumb.
#2a. Don't use the wood from Hobby Lobby, or at least don't use it unless you are experienced with wood cutting and stuff. I only bought it because it was convenient for me at the moment. I was walking around the store getting the foamcore and a jewelry box for my Dice Masters sets when I saw wood! "Whoa neat!" I thought, "This wood is about the size I wanted to use for my project! How convenient!" Nope. This wood was tough to work with, and I only had a handsaw and a guide. Each cut took around five minutes, and got worse as my arm got tired. At first I thought maybe this was normal and maybe I was a baby and a weakling, but after about two cuts and having to rush off to work and back, I took my project to my girlfriend's family's house for help and her dad had a little trouble cutting it too. So I don't feel too bad.
#2b. Don't listen to the guy at Home Depot when he tells your dad that super glue is the best way to put a box together. I had my dad take the wood I got to Home Depot to get it cut, but they wouldn't do it. Apparently the wood is too thin and because of the way it was made, the saw would completely destroy the plank. Makes sense. But then he apparently said that drills would also be bad on that wood and super glue would be best. I decided to follow that idea. It was a bad idea. Frustratingly, the box would keep falling apart. Also, it was super annoying and time consuming to stand there holding a plank upright for ten minutes, only to have it fall off when you step back to see if it holds for five seconds only to have the wind blow it off the table and break it into pieces. After giving up and taking it to my girlfriend's, we used baby nails, a baby hammer, and a bunch of wood glue to hold it together.
Step 4: Create the Circuit
The circuit I used is pictured above. All the little perfboards are identical, except the two end boards only have one connect-to-the-other-board wires and the middle board has an extra wire to connect to the pins in the Arduino. Oh, in case you're wondering, the blue wire plugs into pin 3 and the red into pin 11. Also, you should probably trim the excess board on the sides of each circuit. It would have helped me a lot had I done that for mine at this step.
#3. Know the size of the space you're going to be working with beforehand. I don't know if you can tell, but I actually did this step far before I did the last step. I made the circuit before I even had the materials to make a box. Because of that, I made all the wires extra long just in case. I ended up having to deal with fitting excess wire in each space and it made gluing down the supports for the magnets a pain.
Step 5: Create the Foamcore Insert
This insert is meant to keep the circuit stable and to keep the light in one space from flooding into another. The spaces for my board were roughly 3" x 3." I would suggest making them bigger if you can. I cut out two long pieces for the sides and glued eight 3" pieces between them to make the spaces. The long sides of the insert are as tall as the normal wooden side support piece from earlier. The little 3" pieces are the size of the shorter end supports. These things are meant to help support the plexiglass, in case you haven't noticed! Also, make little groovers on the bottom of the walls between the spaces and on one side of the middle space to make room for the wires.
#4. Think before you act! I learned this lesson a lot. The night before I started cutting everything, I spent two hours measuring everything I was going to cut, and a good portion of that time was measuring the pieces for the foamcore. Originally I meant to make separate boxes instead of one long one. It wasn't until the next day after I cut a wooden support that my measurements were off. Yuck. It was then, when I started remeasuring everything, that I decided that it would be best for each space to be made into one big box, since they were all going to be right next to each other anyway.
Step 6: Solder Ground Wires Onto Nuts
You may have been wondering about those wires sticking out of each circuit. Those are meant to have nuts on them! Solder each of those wires onto a nut. In order to get a good bond between the wire and the nut, make sure you keep the iron on the nut for at least five minutes. Otherwise, the wire will pop off the nut with very little effort and you'll have to do it again. And it really stinks when that happens. Believe me, it happened to me like five times. Anyway, be super careful about that. The nut gets really hot, so let it sit for a good while before you touch it.
#5 Plan ahead! Yay, a lesson that wasn't learned through a stupid mistake! Originally I was going to connect magnets to these wires in a different way that didn't work out. It wasn't until later when my teacher would suggest this better way to keep the magnets on the wire and away from each other. So in this case, I guess it was good that I made the wires extra long!
Step 7: Secure the Circuit
I centered the foam core inside the box, and then marked its position. I then taped down the circuit and placed the foamcore on top. While the circuit is taped, the foamcore is superglued in. Yeah, you can definitely see how crowded the wires make everything. Also, it would be nice if you could get something to hold down the Arduino and battery, unlike what I did. I suppose it isn't necessary since the board isn't really made to be moved a lot, but hey, things happen!
Step 8: Cut the Plexiglass
A pretty straightforward step. Cut out two pieces of plexiglass: One should be the same size as the board, that way, it could just sit right on those wooden supports, just inside the box. The other should be the same length, but narrow. My piece was 1" wide, I believe. This smaller piece is meant to hold the ground for the circuit.
Step 9: Complete the Circuit
With the narrow plexiglass piece sitting where it would, mark the center of each space on it. Flip it over and place a piece of copper tape on each of these points. Solder wire to connect these points along with an additional wire to the middle piece to connect to the Arduino.
Step 10: Magnets: the Gathering
Now would be a good time to put a magnet inside each plastic stand. The polarity doesn't matter as long as it's opposite of the opposing color. Keep the magnet inside the stand by using electric tape. I had tape to match my pieces so it doesn't look noticeable. These pieces will be extremely helpful in sorting out the magnets between the colors, so might as well do that now also. I used two magnets for each light. I placed them on a stack of three nuts. Here's a quick tip that I noticed, in case you already have your magnet stacks ready before you've made the plastic stands magnetic: Magnets with the same side up will repel each other, magnets with opposite sides will stick to each other! Yeah, the sides of a magnet are still magnetic. Isn't that cool?
Step 11: Create Magnet Supports
Here's where trimming the circuit boards will come in handy. I cut out 1 1/4" pieces of pipe, enough to leave a gap between it and the narrow plexiglass piece above it. These will support the magnet stacks and keep them from moving around too much. Arrange each space so the circuit board is diagonal and glue gun the pipe pieces in place. Be careful not to put them too close to each other or the magnet stacks will be attracted to each other, and not too far apart that the magnet doesn't touch the copper tape above it when the plastic stand is placed above it.
Then place the soldered nut in the magnetic stack. It doesn't matter too much where, unless you're struggling with getting the stack to move the way you want it to: Sometimes it's best on the bottom, other times I found it was better up top near the magnet. You want the magnet to come up to touch the copper when the stand is above it, but move back down into position when the stand is removed.
This part was really frustrating for me, because while it did work somewhat, the nut was a little too snug on the pipe. They didn't have any narrower pipe at Home Depot, and I didn't have time to find a good substitute, so I managed to deal with it. But after this, you're almost done!
Step 12: Place the Plexiglass
Put the plexiglass in position and you're done! I spray painted white on the bottom of the large plexiglass to get a frosted effect for mine. I'm sure there's frosting spray paint out there, but I didn't use it because I didn't know it existed.
Step 13: You're Done! Play a Game of BattleCON!
Yay! It should be functional! Not too bad.
Here are some critiques my teacher gave me when I presented this to him:
Show the spaces on the top of the board.
- I'll probably score and mark 8 lines on top for that, although a subtle white light underneath would be the coolest plan
Clean up the paint job
- Definitely going to do that. I'd also like to add the BattleCON logo on the long sides of the board.
Find a more rigid and slimmer material for the supports
- Shish-ka-bob sticks were the first thing that came to mind when I started, but I was afraid they would have been too skinny and hard to glue down. They actually might work better. Chopsticks would be nice too.
Fix the box and plexiglass
- This is mainly from my lack of experience, but the box and the plexiglass isn't cut perfectly. Some of the wood is sticking out in some corners and the plexiglass doesn't fit perfectly in the box.
In the future, should I continue this project, I want to add a life bar and a beat tracker on each side of the board. The life bar would use the rest of the RGB leds I have, or maybe I'll just pick up some green and red ones. Anyway, the life bar would slowly pulse all green (if I don't stick with RGB here it'll be 7 red, 13 green) until health goes to seven or below. At that point the bar will turn red and pulse faster. The beat tracker would be a simple double-digit LED display placed in the middle of the board on either side of the actual track. All of these would be controlled by buttons on either end of the board. Would be super nice!
Anyway, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below!
Now if you would excuse me, I'm off to play BattleCON on my new game board!