Friday, January 18, 2013

Game Board Tutorial

I recently discovered a wonderful prototype construction tutorial by Ted Alspach. While game designers and crafters can definitely benefit from reading it, I feel like some people might come away with the idea that success can only be achieved through the use of fancy, expensive equipment. And Ted does acknowledge this point in his post, saying it took many years for him to assemble such a nice collection of gadgets and to perfect his technique.

In this tutorial, I'm going to walk you through how I make a professional-looking game board. See my previous box tutorial if you want to make a nice box for the board. You might also enjoy my Dominion box tutorial. This board is for a preview copy of Family Vacation, soon to be on Kickstarter.

Step 1: Cut out cardboard sections for the board. As mentioned before, I use coverstock from Gane Brothers. If your sections are not too big, you may be able to find left over cardboard from packaging or the backs of notepads. This will be a 6-fold board. You can make a 4-fold or even an 8-fold (I've done this when using some smaller, pre-cut sections). Just divide your total board size into the desired number of sections.

Step 2: Cut a strip of duct tape for the first hinge. Yes, I use duct tape--it works amazingly well. It's durable and easy to manipulate. The strip should be just shorter than the cardboard side. Then, cut the strip length-wise to make two equally-long pieces (one for the front and one for the back).

Step 3: Apply one of the pieces to the first hinge, folding it over the outside of the two board sections. This will allow the tape to fill the inside of the hinge.

Step 4: Flip the sections over and apply the second piece of tape. Be sure to squeeze the sections together snugly before applying the tape flat over the hinge.

Turn the section over and smooth out the tape on the back. Make sure it's in the groove. This will put all the weight of the hinge on two pieces of duct tape--not too shabby!

Step 5: Repeat this process for all the remaining hinges. If you're having trouble visualizing which way the hinges should bend, spend some time examining other boards and drawing a few diagrams.

Step 6: Lay the assembled board flat and trim your printed art. Okay, so I've cheated again. Besides having access to top-quality coverstock, I can also get color laser copies on 13x19 paper. If you don't have access to a nice laser printer (or $$$ for Kinkos), use what you have. Many of my boards are printed on my inkjet on regular 8.5x11. If you go this route, you might want to apply a layer of protective spray when you are finished, as any drops of liquid can be quite disastrous.

Because I'm using such large sheets of paper, I'll be adjusting things after they are applied. If you are using six individual sheets, simply trim them to size and follow along as applicable.

Step 7: Mark the midpoint of the board, if necessary. You'll want some kind of guide for placing the sheet after the glue has been applied.

Once you've figured out where your sheet will go (and verified that it fits correctly), apply some spray adhesive. This is a little messy and stinky, but it's effective and cheaper than Ted's fancy adhesive machine. I do this in the basement with plenty of allowance for overspray. I prefer 3M Super 77. It's got a nice hold but is also tacky enough to handle without it getting stuck to your fingers too badly.

Step 8: Apply the sheet to your board. Good thing you lined everything up beforehand! Smooth it out and flip it over. Make some cuts by the hinges as necessary. Make some cuts for the corners leaving enough to cover the tip of the corner. Add some extra glue, if necessary, and fold the sides onto the back of the board.

Step 9: You will probably need to make a few cuts to allow the board to fold properly. If so, be sure to use the sharpest blade possible--otherwise you'll have a ripped-up mess on your hands. Cut over the seam and gently fold the board to separate the paper. Use something to smooth the cut edges down into the seam. I also had to make a cut where the sections should not be connected. Again, smooth the cut edges into the seam.

Step 10: Repeat this process for all other sheets.

That's it! You're done. You might also want to apply a backing material to the back of the board. I only do this for special occasions, but it is nice. Make sure the board folds up and fits in your box. That wasn't so bad, was it?

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