Based on the templates on Thingiverse, I decided to make two Settlers of Catan games while my membership at TechShop is still active. One for me, and one for my parents who are very fond of Settlers, and play it a lot.
Nota Bene: The game of Settlers of Catan was created by Klaus Teuber. Both me and my parents already own game sets, and we recommend everyone to buy the actual game.
In order to make the multi-coloured set — where the tiles are all actually transparent, even if they look kinda opaque against the homogenous background in the pictures — I had to modify the original tile-set a little bit. My modifications — mainly meant to pull different tile types apart — can be found on Thingiverse.
Step 1: Etch and Cut Acrylic
When etching, I tried to etch through the protective paper around the acrylic sheets I bought for this. To get this done nicely, a very high power setting (for acrylic) is needed. On the 60W Epilog laser cutters I have been using, 600dpi, 100% speed and 60% power worked fine.
With both the original template (for monochromatic sheets of acrylic) and my own template (for different colours), the templates are best handled in two steps:
First, etch the raster layer with raster settings only. You can do this in CorelDraw X5 by making sure only that layer is printable. If you worry about alignment, especially for the polychromatic version, you should do a very low power run first. I ran one on 75 dpi, 100% speed, 20% power that just barely grazed the paper surface.
After this, cut the acrylic by running a vector job with your favourite standard settings for cutting acrylic. I used 20% speed and 90% power.
Step 2: Paint on High-contrast Paint
Inspired by this instructable, I decided to try and use the covering paper as a paint mask to add contrast-raising paint in the etched areas. To make it really work well, I needed to dilute the paint with a few splashes of water for each dab of paint I used. This decreased the viscosity of the paint to the point where it would actually sink down into the recesses from the etching process, and not stick to the paper too hard to remove the mask afterwards.
I did try some experiments with my colourful tileset that worked less than perfectly. White paint on off-white transparent tiles for the sheep was nice, but best on a dark table. Black paint on dark gray tiles for the ore tiles was not convincing. Much better would be to invert the artwork before etching, and then paint with white on the highlights of the picture instead of black in the shadows.
Step 3: Remove Protective Paper
Once the paint has dried, the paper comes off. Having tried with a pointy piece of plastic, a scalpel, and a few other tools, I ended up using my fingernails for most of the work. They are pointy enough to get hold of the paper, but not hard enough to scratch the acrylic. Most of the paper peels of cleanly and nicely — however, for most of the artwork, there are many fiddly small bits disconnected from the rest of the paper. These need to be scraped off — something that after the paint really has dried can be very well done by running a fingernail over the surface and pulling off anything that sticks to the fingernail. Doing this too early will smudge the still moist paint.
Step 4: Play a Game of Catan
The game is finished. Some of the tiles might be tricky to push in together — but I haven't broken any tiles yet.
Remember: buy the game to get hold of
2. actual game pieces
3. reward the developers of an awesome board game. They deserve the revenue.