The Geeks guide to creating/finding player aides and other custom game components.
Alan Kaiser
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I was recently talking to a gamer friend of mine and he mentioned that the ultimate store in his mind would be a sort of wild amalgamation of a game store, a craft store, an office supply store with some nice food thrown in for good measure. As odd as it sounded I had to agree with him! I love browsing stores like Michaels or Office Depot. Of course I have one thing and only one thing on my mind when I’m in stores like that . . games! I wander the aisles looking for things to use as or make game components or tools that I might use to make it easier to make stuff for games.

I’ve had a large assortment of links to BGG articles and other web pages that talk about making game components and player aides as well as a bunch of links to companies where you can get gaming supplies jumbled together in a file for quite some time. Whenever I would come across something new I’d add it to that file. So now I’ve decided to get a little organized and spread the joy so to speak by creating this rather large GeekList (I’ve created a MONSTER!). It gives me a simple way to look up stuff from my disorganized collection of notes and it gives my fellow Geeks (that’d be you!) a bunch of information if you ever decide that this is something you’d like to try out. I’ve aimed much of my comments at beginners hoping for a more complete explanation of some of what I describe. I know many of you are familiar with much of what I have said but I needed a good place to start and the beginning is often the best of your options.

The games I’ve listed are for the most part those that I’ve modified in some way using these techniques, made player aides for or maybe think could use some updated components in some way. I’m far from being an expert on most of these ideas so if you have any additional tips, techniques or sources for materials I’d love to hear them. I’ve pulled a lot of these ideas from here and around the web as well as a bunch of my own but haven’t really kept much track of who I got the ideas from. I’ve mentioned specific people where I could remember who I got the idea from. Thanks to everyone who has contributed to my collection of notes in one way or another.

Here are a couple links to several articles talking about some of the ideas that are presented in the specific entries below. They are a little more general so I couldn’t decide where to put them so this is as good a place as any:

http://www.thegamesjournal.com/articles/HintsfromHell.shtml
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geekforum.php3?action=viewthrea...
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geekforum.php3?action=viewthrea...

I hope you have fun reading through this and please add your comments, suggestions and links to the list!
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1. Board Game: Europe Engulfed [Average Rating:7.57 Overall Rank:493]
Alan Kaiser
United States
Aurora
Colorado
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Simple Tools

We probably all have these basic tools around the house somewhere so many of these you probably already have. However, depending on how much of this type of work you plan on doing you might consider a couple of new ones. Here are some thoughts:

Scissors
Let's face it, that pair of scissors you picked up in the dollar bin several years ago is probably going to need replacing if you plan on doing any extensive cutting. If you are going to be cutting out a lot of player aids or counters etc. then I'd spring for at least one nice pair of scissors. Get something that feels comfortable in your hand with an edge that'll last longer than a weekend or so. Keep in mind that paper and cardboard have a tendency to really dull a sharp edge so the better quality you buy the longer it should last. If you plan on doing a lot of cutting the extra price will be well worth it. If you plan on cutting out small items then you might want to pick up a small pair of scissors. There's a reason they make the small pairs, it's much easier to cut out small pieces or items without straight edges. Another thing you might want to look into is a new type of scissors coated with a nonstick finish. Sounds like a joke but it works! Why would you need those? If you plan on cutting a lot of things out of adhesive labels for example, especially small items, these are great. The adhesive won't stick to the blade so the items you are cutting out don't end up sticking to the blades! Saves more time than you might imagine.

Razor Knife
I call this an Xacto knife out of habit but this could really be any sharp knife. A small razor knife for detail work or the big one out of your toolbox depending on what you need to do. If you're pealing the backs off adhesive labels then you want the small one with a fine point blade. If you're cutting a sheet of acrylic plastic then you'll want the one out of your toolbox. Just remember to get extra blades and change them when they loose their edge. This will happen more frequently than you might think, especially when you're cutting something like matte board or any other dense paper based material.

Forceps
A good pair of forceps will save you some time if you plan on applying lots of labels or working with small items and care about making the end result look nice. Sure you can do this with your fingers but you're going to end up with a lot of mangled corners. You'll also end up with corners or entire labels that don't stick very well since the oil and dirt from your fingers will get transferred to the label. While you can use a pair of tweezers out of your medicine cabinet there are fairly cheap alternatives that will make the job easier. Have a look at this page for a few examples:

http://www.hobbyplace.com/tools/twezer.html

Ruler
Sure you've got an old one sitting around somewhere but a good metal ruler is nice to have. In fact, get several. I have a 12", 18" and a yard (meter) stick as well. All metal so they keep a nice, straight edge and won’t get damaged by a razor blade. The nicer ones have a foam or cork backing to prevent slipping. They also come in handy for whacking your fellow gamers if you suspect them of cheating!
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2. Board Game: American Megafauna [Average Rating:6.98 Overall Rank:1966]
Alan Kaiser
United States
Aurora
Colorado
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Advanced Tools

So you've graduated from the kids stuff to more advanced projects. Now you're putting together a prototype or need to remake a set of counters from your favorite old hex and counter wargame. Sure you could do it with a good pair of scissors and a razor knife but save your fingers (and your sanity!). There are now high throughput methods of making these types of things.

Rotary Knife/Self Healing Mat
This is just a circular razor blade mounted on a handle or a really sharp pizza cutter if that makes more sense. These work wonders if you're making long cuts in paper or light cardboard (matte board etc.). Used in conjunction with a metal ruler and a self healing mat these can make quick work of strips of double sided cardboard counters. Get a self healing mat that is at least 24” long. When used in conjunction with a metal yard stick you’ll be able to make long cuts in just about anything if needed. Rotary knives come in several sizes. Get the bigger size if you have a choice since it is easier to cut thicker materials with the larger wheels.

Mounted Rotary Cutter
This is the replacement for the old heavy paper cutters. Fiskars makes a nice 12" model that is only about $30 or so if you find a sale. It's the same thing as using the rotary knife but now it's mounted on an arm for perfect straight cuts every time (well, almost). It also has built-in rulers in inches and centimeters as well as a grid for aligning your work. Saves a lot of time for those big repetitive jobs.

Roller
I’ve included this in the advanced tools section since most people probably wouldn’t bother with a separate tool for something like this. The roller I have is a small 4” long by 1” in diameter roller with a metal handle. You find these here and there in craft and art supply stores. They are used for spreading paint and ink in some applications but I use it to roll out paste-ups over whatever adhesive I am using at the time. It’s a way to get a bubble free finish. Like I said, you don’t really need a special tool for this. A hand works fine most of the time, maybe the edge of a ruler or the side of a pencil.
 
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3. Board Game: Silberzwerg [Average Rating:6.42 Overall Rank:2634]
Alan Kaiser
United States
Aurora
Colorado
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Adhesives

So now you've managed to cut a bunch of things out of paper or cardboard and you need to stick them to something, a backing, a box, an existing player aid, a fellow gamer, whatever. If you are not using labels then how do you mount these? Glue, you might think. And you’d be right, but not just any glue. You probably have an old bottle of Elmer's Glue or maybe a partially dried up bottle of rubber cement sitting in a drawer somewhere but you won't get good results with these. Luckily there are better alternatives available now days.

Permanent adhesives
Lots of choices here. If you've never been in a craft store or even in your local WalMart school supplies aisle be prepared to be overwhelmed. There are spray on, rub on, roll on and paint on adhesives. Adhesives that come in different colors but dry clear. Adhesives for just about any type of surface you could come across in a game (paper, glass, wood, plastic of all kinds, painted surfaces, even stone). Choosing the appropriate one can make your life a lot easier so read the labels. Probably the most common type of adhesive used in a lot of this type of work is mounting paper to a backing of some sort. In that case, 3M Super 77 spray adhesive is a great choice. It gives a nice, thin adhesive for applying paper to any surface. Let me emphasize the 'thin' in that sentence! The thickness of your adhesive layer can be an issue is some cases. If you're just making a player aid mounted on cardboard of some type then it probably won't be an issue. However, if you are making paste-ups of cards and they will need to be shuffled then you can run into some problems with thicker layers of adhesive. If you're not as concerned about how the finished product will look but want it to stick well then maybe pick up a tube of Liquid Nails at your local Home Depot and get your caulk gun out!

Removable Adhesives
There are several but I don't recall the brand names at the moment. Essentially this is Post-It Note adhesive. Apply it to both things you want to stick together (usually) and smush them together. Well, maybe be a little more careful than 'smush' but hey with this type of adhesive it doesn't matter! If you don't get it right the first time just pull the things apart and start over. Great for applying paste-ups to existing player aids on games you might want to trade away in the future or valuable games you might want to keep in the original shape. Avoid using this type of adhesive on pieces that will get heavy wear or those that will have a tendency to get raised corners (cards).
 
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4. Board Game: War in the Pacific (first edition) [Average Rating:7.00 Overall Rank:6067]
Alan Kaiser
United States
Aurora
Colorado
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Cardboard, cardboard, cardboard and cardboard

Matte Board
Illustration Board
Black Board
Chip Board
Foam Core Board

I bet you didn't know there were so many types of ‘cardboard’! So what's wrong with the backing to a standard paper pad? Well, nothing actually, although your pieces might be a little ragged at the edges, if that matters. Fortunately there are more types of cardboard now days than some people have games in their collections! Check out the link below for the lowdown on finishes, thickness, color etc. etc. I won't go into the details on all the different types or we'll be here all day.

http://www.dickblick.com/categories/artboards/

Peel and Stick Linoleum (thanks gelatinous goo!)
A cool idea that avoids the adhesive part altogether! Just peal off the backing and apply whatever you want to the adhesive. Smooth it out and cut. I've never tried this but it sounds fast. A couple problems might be getting a good finish since the adhesive might not be very evenly applied and cutting the final product. A good razor knife should do the trick but this stuff has got to be harder to cut than most cardboard.
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5. Board Game: Magic Realm [Average Rating:7.11 Overall Rank:642]
Alan Kaiser
United States
Aurora
Colorado
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Counters and Bits

Cardboard
If making your own counters out of a sheet of cardboard seems like too much work or if you just need a couple to replace a few lost pieces then you can forgo all this nonsense and just buy a sheet of standard counters. Several places on the web sell them. They come in two sizes from what I have seen, 1/2" and 5/8". Noble Knight Games carries both sizes but they are only one of many. Most places that sell wargames will probably have these available but you'll most likely do a bit of searching since things like this tend to get lost in catalogs.

Also, below is a link to an excellent article about making cardboard counters. It deals with counters for wargames but a counter is a counter. It talks a bit about making double sided counters as well. Very detailed and well worth looking into if you plan on doing anything like this, highly recommended:

http://privatewars.kyth.org/making_your_own_counters.htm

Wooden Cubes/Pieces
Probably one of the most frequently asked questions on the Geek when it comes to board game parts is 'Where can I find those nice wooden cubes in such and such colors?'. If you're in the US it's not as easy as you might think. You can find 1/4", 5/16", 3/8" and up without much problem but they all tend to be unfinished. The best source I have found in the US for painted cubes the size found in many games is Eagle Games. You can get replacement cubes for Age of Mythology. These are roughly 6mm cubes and come in yellow, green, blue, red and brown. They come 150 to a bag, 30 of each color for $8. Not bad. The link is in the list below.

There are literally hundreds of different types of wooden bits you can get your hands on. Below are a few links. Most are unfinished but for things like prototypes you can probably find what you want without a problem.

As an alternative to cardboard counters I have used wooden discs in a couple projects and the final results were quite good. You can get these in 1/2", 5/8", 3/4", 1" and larger sizes. They make nice counters that stack well and have a nice feel to them. Self adhesive labels stick very well to them. The process will probably take longer than making cardboard square counters but the final result is very nice. It works especially well for those who have a problem picking up standard cardboard counters.

http://www.woodnshop.com/
http://www.coeytech.com/secure/eaglegames/store/index.cfm?pg...
http://www.bearwood.com/default.htm (wooden discs)
http://www.bayerwood.com/index.php
http://www.craftparts.com/
http://bgdf.com/catalog/
http://www.spielmaterial.de
http://www.muecke-hotelberatung.de/english/
http://www.woodcraftssupplies.com/blocks.html
http://www.meeplepeople.com/index.php

Meeple People has wooden cubes in 12 colors in addition to several different types of meeples.

Plastic Bits
Do you need trains, bikes, houses, cars etc. etc. etc.? The links below should get you started. You can find almost anything you want if you look hard enough. School supply stores are great sources for bits and they tend to be pretty cheap. You can get plastic cubes, dinosaurs, airplanes, ladybugs and almost anything else through eNasco, Primary Concepts or other teacher supply stores. They also have alternatives to wooden cubes if you can handle their standard 1cm sizes. You can get buckets full of the things for dirt cheap and they come in lots of colors. Another great source of plastic bits (or wood for that matter) is game publishers. Not really much of a surprise when you think about it. If you see some nice bits in a game and would like to use them in another game you can generally buy just the bits themselves. I know Hasbro does this (Risk pieces and others) as well as Eagle Games, Rio Grande Games, Mayfair and others. I used to have a bunch of links for things like plastic soldiers and military units as well. I was going to add them here but lost my list. If you have any links like that I’d love to see them.

http://www.dice.co.uk/fs_gamcom.htm
http://www.enasco.com/math/
http://www.primaryconcepts.com/c_categories.asp?cID=50
http://www.rolcogames.com/
http://www.thegamesjournal.com/articles/Upgrading.shtml
http://www.greathallgames.com/aacc/atokbags/atokens.htm
http://www.gameparts.net/page13.html
http://www.mrchips.com/
http://www.koplowgames.com/

Glass Stones
These are a really nice thing to add to a game. Essentially they are drops of colored glass. You can use them as player pieces or markers, etc.. They are pretty cheap and come in a wide range of colors as well as several sizes. Another advantage is that you can see through some of them which might be an advantage if you are using them for a marker of some sort and you occasionally have to see what is under the marker. You can pick these up at any craft store in addition to many other places.
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6. Board Game: Roads & Boats [Average Rating:7.73 Overall Rank:182]
Alan Kaiser
United States
Aurora
Colorado
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Modeling Clay

Polymer Clay
Polymer clay is a synthetic clay that stays flexible in all but the driest environments and hardens after baking in your oven. You can get this stuff in just about any color imaginable and it's pretty easy to work with and is fairly cheap. The great thing about this material is that it is easy to make almost any shape you want in almost any color imaginable quickly and without a lot of special tools. Need a dozen 1/2" yellow discs? Not a problem! Just roll out yellow clay and cut to the desired thickness with a wire. Clean up the pieces a bit and bake in the oven for about 10-15 minutes and you're done. If you wanted to do this in wood you'd need a dowel and a saw and then you'd have to paint each piece. I've heard of people making copies of Roads & Boats out of wood. These people must have LOTS of time on their hands. Make a copy of that game with polymer clay and you'd save yourself enough time that you might actually get to play the game! You can get polymer clay from most craft stores along with a few simple tools to make working with it easier. About the only drawback I can see concerning this material would be that the pieces may be heavier than wood or plastic but that has to be a very minor issue if any at all.
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7. Board Game: Industria [Average Rating:6.55 Overall Rank:1223]
Alan Kaiser
United States
Aurora
Colorado
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Paper, Cardstock and Labels

Paper
Not much to say about this really. Paper is paper, right? Well, maybe. You might want to try a paper with a different texture or thickness for different projects but I'd say for most of us paper is paper. One thing you might want to look into is thin paper, especially if you are making paste-ups for cards. A thin paper with a light coat of a good spray adhesive doesn't alter the thickness of cards the way some other approaches might.

Cardstock
I list this separately since I usually use it in different situations than standard paper. Cardstock is generally in the range of 80-110 lb. while standard printer/copier paper is usually 20 lb. Sure standard paper works fine for things like player aides and the like but the extra heaviness adds an element I like. It also allows the item to stand up to a more handling than a standard piece of paper would so it works great for player aides. Stuff like this isn't any different to work with than standard paper when it comes to printing on it. Most printers will handle cardstock of this thickness with excellent results.

Self Adhesive Labels
Where would we be without products like this. Printing paste-ups to full page labels greatly simplifies most types of paste-up work. Just feed them into the printer just like regular paper, peal off the back and apply to whatever surface you're working with. Simple. However, do keep in mind some of the things I said under the Simple Tools section at the top. A good pair of scissors is a must, and the nonstick ones work great. Also, some brands of full page labels (Avery is one) don't have the crack and peal grooves on the backing so be prepared with an Xacto knife to split the backing from the label. It takes a few tries but you'll soon get the process down and the rest of your project should go smoothly. One of the drawbacks of this type of product is that it tends to be quite expensive compared to standard paper. I generally buy these is packs of 100 sheets and they tend to be around $30. As with the adhesives I’ve mentioned above, the Avery labels also have a removable adhesive product that comes in a full page size.

Another interesting type of label is clear plastic. You can find full page labels like this or most of the other standard label sizes as well. These might be just the thing you’re looking for if you need to label something but don’t want to obscure the background.

Labels also come in a variety of shapes but most aren't as useful as the full page labels. One I came across did seem interesting however, 3/4" round labels in sheets. These would work great with 3/4" wooden or plastic disks if you wanted to make some nice counters. Here's the link:

http://www.onlinelabels.com/ol5275.htm (3/4" round labels on sheets)

Photo Paper
Here’s a neat idea from boneroller here on BGG. If you are printing any quality high resolution graphics and you want to get good results with a standard ink jet printer you can print to photo paper. A matte finish paper with some good quality ink will give excellent results and you won’t have to worry about smudging the ink or water causing the ink to run (if you are using the appropriate inks). Then just treat the picture like regular paper and use a good adhesive to mount it. It is thicker than regular paper so that might be something to consider.
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8. Board Game: Antiquity [Average Rating:7.84 Overall Rank:150]
Alan Kaiser
United States
Aurora
Colorado
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Plexiglass

You can pick up sheets of this type of material, also known as acrylic, at your local home supply store pretty cheap. A 2'x3' size might run you $8 or so. Wargamers typically have large sheets of this in their game rooms. They use them to cover up (i.e. protect) and flatten out the folded paper maps that typically come in many wargames. They provide a nice surface that keeps the dirt off you maps. Try to keep the thickness small since you can get that odd 'looking through water' feel with thicker material. You can also use the thin plastic sheets that come in poster frames although these are harder to clean when they get dirty and are more prone to scratching. The flip side of using the thin stuff however is that it may move on the table easier than the thicker material. If you play with people who tend to lay on the table to get right in on the action this might be something to consider.

So now you're scratching your head saying 'yea, that's interesting but I'm not a wargamer. How is this stuff useful for me.' Well, you might still want to keep things like player aids flat and clean although I'll admit that's hardly something many of us have a problem with. Besides using these for my wargame boards I have found this material useful to flatten out the player aids that come with my copy of Antiquity. These are large folded sheets so you have a valley down the middle. You are supposed to place your people and buildings on them. I found putting a sheet of plastic over the paper to be helpful. You can also use sheets of this to cover games where you write on the board (crayon rail games). Just cover the game board with a sheet of plastic and then write on that with overhead markers (wash off with water). Saves some wear and tear on your gameboard and keeps it looking brand new.
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9. Board Game: Age of Steam [Average Rating:7.73 Overall Rank:61]
Alan Kaiser
United States
Aurora
Colorado
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Ink Stamping

This is something I stumbled upon recently at a craft store. I was looking for something to label my money in Industria and Age of Steam. I started out looking for numerical adhesive labels with a clear backing. Couldn't find that. Then I looked for dry transfer labels. These are the old rub off labels. Couldn't find those. Then I saw the offerings in the stamping aisle. Hmmm, nooowww we're getting somewhere. If your only exposure to stamping is from something your kid brought home from a birthday party you owe it to yourself to look into this. With a good stamp (important), the right ink (important) and a good stamp pad (most important) you can get some nice results.

The inks come in a wide variety of colors and there are different types of ink for different surfaces. Obviously many of the inks work well on paper but there are other inks which are for printing on plastic and other surfaces. Be sure to get the appropriate type for best results. So that's the actual ink but what about the stamp pad the ink comes in? This is probably the most important part of getting nice results! Stay away from pads that have a spongy surface to absorb the ink. These are awful since they allow ink to get on areas of the stamp besides the raised regions which can give you a ugly print. The best surfaces for stamp pads are cloth of some sort and the pads should be pretty firm. This lets you get ink on the part of the stamp where you want it to be and keep it off the parts where you don't want it. Now the stamp. There are tons of stamps but most are completely worthless for most gamers outside of maybe making some nice card backs or something. The most useful are sets of individual letters and numbers. You can usually get them in several different fonts.
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10. Board Game: Pirate's Cove [Average Rating:6.62 Overall Rank:768]
Alan Kaiser
United States
Aurora
Colorado
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Money

Metal Coins
I came across these a while back and have seen them mentioned several times here on the Geek. These copies of antique coins look great and give you the feel of real coins. Great for your favorite pirate game and at about 30 cents each for the cheap ones they are not that expensive. Check them out:

http://www.deadmentellnotales.com/page/DM/CTGY/CT

Poker Chips
This is a great alternative to standard money in games, especially paper money which can be a pain to handle. There are a variety of ways you can go with something like this. You can pick up standard 11.5gm clay 300-500 chip sets with cases for under $100. One problem with these is that you don't often get enough colors to make a good distribution of money for a lot of games. In the several discussions I have seen on this issue, people that use chips for money commonly say you need 5-7 different colors to have a set that you can then use for most of your games. Alternatively, you can also get individual packs of 50 chips for $5-10 each. Most online places that carry chips offer 5 standard colors. If you’re looking for more than that you might have to look around a bit. The easiest method of incorporating these into a game is to set aside one of each type of money that comes in the game and place a chip from each color on each type of money. Then everyone can easily see at a glance what each chip is worth. The chips look great and add a nice touch to any game. They also are great for keeping antsy players’ fingers busy although the clicking of the chips might drive you crazy after a while! The chips also make sense from a another point of view. I've seen several comments that using this approach can speed up game play over games that use paper money or even games that use other types of money but require a lot of time spent making change. There’s nothing to say that you can’t add different denominations to a game if you think it’d speed things up a bit. I’ve always thought Age of Steam could have used a $2 coin, with a set of chips like this it’s not a problem.

OK, so you're sold and what to give this a try, what next? With the rise in popularity of poker, luckily you can get decent chips cheap from lots of sources. Just Googling 'Poker Chips' will give you more links that you could check in a day! Most of the types available are clay or clay with a metal core. Neither are probably distinguishable for our purposes. They come in 8.5gm, 9gm, 11.5gm and 13.5gm sizes although any given site will probably only carry two or possibly three of these types. The 8.5gm and 11.5gm are the most common. Pick a style (there are lots) that appeals to you and a series of colors that are easy to tell apart. This last point is key! You want to be able to tell the chips apart from across the table. Common designs on the chips are cards and dice with various patterns but really you can't go wrong with a set in solid colors.
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11. Board Game: Um Reifenbreite [Average Rating:6.88 Overall Rank:783]
Alan Kaiser
United States
Aurora
Colorado
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Cards

Paste-ups
This involves printing a translation of a card (usually) or something else to full page labels and then applying that to cards either before or after cutting depending on what you are doing. This is fairly easy to do and gives good results but there are drawbacks. The problem with cards is they frequently need to be shuffled. Applying a self adhesive label to a card creates a thick card. When shuffled, the cards can catch on the edges of the labels and lift up the edge, pulling the label away from the card it is mounted on. The other drawback of this is that the labels tend to be fairly thick. With a large stack of cards you can increase the thickness of the stack by 50-75%. This might cause some issues if you have a box insert made to hold the original stack of cards. Using labels to do card paste-ups generally is a good idea if the number of cards is limited and you don’t have to shuffle the cards a lot. Keep in mind that you wouldn’t have to apply the paste-ups to the original cards. An old set of M:TG cards or standard playing cards would work just fine if not better. You have the added advantage of still having your original cards.

If you really want to apply a paste-up to your cards but you need to shuffle them then a better approach would be to print to a thin paper (something less than 20 lb.) and then apply the paste-ups to the card with a good spray adhesive. This will result in a thinner card that you should be able to shuffle without worrying about the adhesive loosening or the cards being too thick to shuffle easily. To apply the adhesive you should probably mask the card in some way to prevent the adhesive from getting on regions of the card where you won’t be applying any paper.

Print/Design Your Own
Another option is to print out your own cards. There are a variety of ways to do this. Some of the links below are dedicated to this approach. There are sites devoted to making custom cards with your artwork. There are perforated card sheets that let you print your cards out. You can also just print to cardstock although be prepared to replace cards like this frequently if the cards get a lot of use. For occasional handling, and very limited shuffling, this approach might work just fine. You could even laminate the cards although this will make the cards thick and difficult to shuffle.

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/76658
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/83696
http://www.plaincards.com/
http://www.spielmaterial.de
http://bgdf.com/catalog/
http://www.newtscards.com/default.asp

Card Sleeves
If you want to make some quick and dirty cards just print to standard paper and put this into a card sleeve with another card as backing to give it some structure. These make perfectly fine cards. Card sleeves can also be used to prolong the life of the original deck of cards in a game. Cards that get a lot of use or are frequently shuffled/handled are perfect candidates for this treatment. Unlike some of the other approaches card sleeves are designed to have thin edges so that shuffling them isn’t a problem. Luckily it seems several companies are hearing the calls of boardgamers for alternative sized sleeves. Standard M:TG card sleeves are too big for many boardgame size cards. Card sleeves made for Pokemon cards and other narrow CCG cards work good for some games with larger cards. Dragonshields is the most common brand of this size found in many game stores in the US. I also recall recently seeing a post here on BGG where someone found a Korean retailer who was selling card sleeves for Settlers or Pirate’s Cove size cards. There was no word on whether they shipped overseas but it’s good to know someone has a product like this.

Tuck Boxes
I stumbled across this link in a thread on BGG a while back. The site allows you to make custom sized boxes to store your cards:

http://www.cpforbes.net/tuckbox/tuckbox.cgi
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12. Board Game: War of the Ring (first edition) [Average Rating:7.85 Overall Rank:34]
Alan Kaiser
United States
Aurora
Colorado
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Painting Plastic Miniatures

With more and more games coming out with nice plastic minis I thought I’d throw this entry in here as well. Most of these come unpainted but there is usually a picture or two in the game entry page showing what they would look like if they were painted. Certainly this draws some into trying to do this. I recall several excellent articles on painting plastic minis that came out back when War of the Ring hit the shelves. I’ve never attempted anything like this and would like to hear more about it from those in the know. It sure sounds more complicated than it looks! Here is a link to one of those very detailed articles (the link is in the thread) so you’ll know what you’re getting yourself into:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/37419
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13. Board Game: Lost Cities [Average Rating:7.12 Overall Rank:261]
Alan Kaiser
United States
Aurora
Colorado
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Lamination and other finishes

In general, lamination is a good idea if you have paper based player aides, like those printed out from BGG, that you would like to last a while. If you play with a bunch of sloppy, sweaty guys and you have a thing about getting your games dirty then maybe it’s time to find a new group . . . . errr I mean then maybe lamination would be something worth looking into. You will first have to decide how much material you will want to laminate. If you have a large number of items then having this done by someone might be more economical. If you just want to do a page or two then there are relatively cheap products you can buy at any office store that will do the job. If you decide that everything you own needs to be laminated then maybe picking up a cheap pouch laminator or cheap tape laminator would be your best bet.

I like to laminate paper player aides to prolong their life and give them a little more weight and thickness. Other things that are great to laminate are home made score sheets. You can then use water based overhead markers to keep track of your score and when you are done just whip them off with a wet towel. If you’re brave and don’t mind destroying them, you could even laminate some types of cards which get heavy use but you wouldn’t have to shuffle them. I will admit that this last one is a bit extreme and card sleeves are almost always a better option but I have heard of people laminating cards.

Hot lamination
This process fuses a layer of plastic film to your item with an adhesive resin that is liquefied by hot rollers. This creates a permanently bonded layer of plastic covering your item. It has also been known to occasionally alter images on paper especially something printed with a wax based ink. This process can be done with both glossy and matte finish plastic. If you’re lucky, you might be able to find someone with a laminator that will handle thick items (cardboard etc). These would be great for player aides that will get a large amount of use. You could just laminate the top of the item and then trim to the edge for a nice, durable covering.

Cold lamination
This process still requires an adhesive film but no heat. The film is fused to the object with adhesive and rollers. This type of lamination tends to result in a thicker layer of adhesive + plastic than the hot process if that makes a difference. It will not harm items that might be heat sensitive.

http://www.thegamesjournal.com/articles/HintsfromHell2.shtml
http://www.machineadvantage.com/buyers_guide_17.html

The 2nd link is more of a reference to large volume lamination in office or industrial applications but is a very nice reference for the lamination process.

Other Finishes
If you’d like to add a protective finish to some of your game pieces or boards but want something a little less intrusive then a good spray-on finish might be just the thing for you. There are several good products available. Essentially this is clear spray paint or more specifically spray paint without any pigment. I’ve seen some people say that they have used hair spray as well but I’m not sure how well that would hold up on different types of surfaces or if it will yellow over time. These types of products usually come in a gloss and a matte finish. In most instances the matte finish will work best to cut down on glare. I’ve used a clear acrylic finish on some counters for self published games and the result was very nice. You get a nice protective coating over the uncoated paper of the counters and it’s almost impossible to tell it’s there. It’s a good way to add some durability to your playing pieces.
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14. Board Game: Die Magier von Pangea [Average Rating:6.25 Overall Rank:2469]
Alan Kaiser
United States
Aurora
Colorado
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Scanner

OK, so you’ve read the title of this GeekList and are wondering if you’re looking at the right list. I’ve talked a lot about various tools and techniques but very little about how you actually make good player aides and paste-ups. Well, here’s the first part, and the easiest part, of how to do this.

But before I get into any specifics about this I’d like to point out one use of a scanner that many gamers probably haven’t experienced. Many gamers know about using scanners to make great looking paste-ups that look exactly like the originals but relatively few gamers probably use their scanner to archive their games. This is probably most applicable to wargamers but it might apply to a few other games, especially rare or expensive ones. So what do I mean by archive a game? With most of my wargames I usually scan the counter sheets before I punch the counters out. This gives me a record of every counter. If I loose one or dump a drink over the board then I can easily make a new one or a whole set that looks very similar to the original. It’s a simple process that doesn’t take long and it may save you a bunch of aggravation in the long run.

A scanner is also a must if you want to create player aides or other documents that are true to the original game material. If you want your gamer friends to say ‘I didn’t know this game was available in English’ then a scanner is just the tool you need! Most people used scanned images for player aides in two ways; translating game components to a different language or using images of game components to make player aides. As far as using a scanner is concerned, the process is the same for both these situations since all you are doing at this step is making a digital image which you can then manipulate to your hearts desire with the right tools. In most cases we are simply interested in transferring what is on a game component into a digital format that we can manipulate and keeping it the same or roughly the same size. Luckily, doing this is about as easy as can be.

I am far from being an expert on scanning and digital images. The link I have provided below is a link to a site that contains more information about this type of thing than I ever knew was necessary or even available! If you are at all interested in this sort of thing then I’d urge you to check out this site. It has tons of information and tips on how to make your digital scans and images look better. Fortunately, scanning an item doesn’t require much in the way of detailed knowledge beyond clicking or pressing a few buttons! One of my cats, who likes to sit on my desk when I’m working, has actually made several good scans of items I had sitting in the scanner so how hard could it be!

http://www.scantips.com/
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15. Board Game: The Scepter of Zavandor [Average Rating:7.07 Overall Rank:532]
Alan Kaiser
United States
Aurora
Colorado
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Software

So now we get to the heart of the whole process of making player aides. You’ve got a digital image from your scanner (see above), now what? That sort of depends on what software you have available to you and what you are trying to do. For things like translations of cards, player aids, etc you’ll want to work with the image in an image editing program. If you want to use your image to create a player aid new then you might want to work in a page payout program of some sort. You can do a lot of this type of work in Word or PowerPoint or some other similar software sometimes but it’ll generally be more difficult or you won’t get the results you’d like from the final product. As with many of the other techniques in this list, using the right tool will make your job much easier. Of course, if that tool ends up costing you hundreds of dollars then it’s easy to see cutting some corners!

As I’ve mentioned several times, I am not an expert in a lot of the techniques presented in this list. With this entry in particular that statement is very accurate! I don’t use a photo editing program every day, well actually, I’m lucky if I use one once a month!! Same goes for page layout software. About the only thing I’d use this type of software for would be games. I’d love to hear some advice on this topic especially since I know only a little about it. What software do you use? Any particular tips that you especially like? What do you do to make this process easier? I say all this to point out that this type of thing isn’t rocket science! It’s actually much easier than you might imagine. All you really need, outside of a computer (which I’ll assume you have) and the software, is some attention to detail and a desire to try. I have managed to put together several nice English paste-ups which are virtually indistinguishable from the original German language versions without much effort at all.

So let’s start with trying to make a translation of a player aid for a particular game. Luckily this is getting to be less of an issue for those English speakers among us since more and more games are available in English. But there are plenty of people who don’t speak English, German or any of the other languages that games are commonly printed in so I’m sure this’ll help someone out. For this type of work, you’ll need software that will let you edit an image right down to the pixel. I use Photoshop Elements. It’s simpler than standard Photoshop and tends to have all the features I’d like to have to do what I want to do. It’s also much cheaper as well! So just what are those features you ask? Well, you need to be able to copy a portion (often a very specific portion) of an image and paste it to a different part of the image or a different document. Being able to work with layers and occasionally filters is also nice. Luckily, many image editing programs will handle this type of work and you won’t have to shell out lots of money, which would be much better spent on games! Essentially, all you are doing in this process is cutting out the text that you want to change and then filling in the space with the text you want to include. Sounds easy enough except for a tiny detail, when you cut the text out you also cut out the background as well! Now what do you do?

You can generally copy an area of background and paste that into the space created when you cut the text out. In most cases you will be able to find a region nearby with a large enough section of background to fill in the space. Hopefully you have an adjacent space available so that the background looks as similar to the region around it as possible. Why wouldn’t the background be similar, you are now asking yourself? Printed color material is rarely a single uniform color. Each pixel in a region if almost always slightly different in color and there is often shadow effects and patterns that make up the background color you see. However, programs like Photoshop have tools to deal with these types of problems. Smudge tools and color pickers help you out in these instances to smooth out blocks of color that you paste into regions to make them look like they belong there. In addition, you can also zoom in on the image so that you can see every pixel and edit the regions this way. It’s more work but often fixing up problem areas in this manner will give you the best final result. Play around a bit with the tools in your tool menu so you’re familiar with what they do before working on the real thing. What you learn could really help you out!

So now you have a nice background. Congratulations, the hard part is over! Now all you need to do is add the translated text. Choose a font that will fit with any other text that might be present and enter away. You’ll have a professional looking paste-up in no time!

Now let’s try making a new player aid. In this case you are usually not altering what is in an image but rather creating a document using multiple images as well as text. For this type of work it’s good to have some type of page layout software. You could do this type of work in a word processor that is capable of handling graphics but page layout software is specifically designed to allow you to combine text and graphics in a more free-form fashion to create documents of any type. This type of software typically gives you far more control over your text/graphics and how it should look than a word processor will ever allow you. Examples of this type of software are Adobe InDesign and Illustrator, QuarkXPress, Macromedia Freehand etc. These tend to be pricy software packages but there are cheaper alternatives if you don’t have something like this already.

So what kind of things can you make? Well lets see, say you have a game that has many different buildings and each building does a different thing and/or costs a different amount (Puerto Rico or Antiquity for instance). You want to make a player aid so that each player has all of this information right in front of them. You can scan in each of the buildings to get your digital image and then add each of these to your page layout software. Adjust the size so they all fit nicely. Add text to describe each building, maybe some nice text to indicate the cost as well. Maybe you’d like to add in a column of text so each player has a description of each phase of a turn. Or perhaps a nice grayed out image from the box cover in the background to add a nice professional look to your creation. This is of course just one example of the type of thing you could throw together. Sounds like a lot of work but it really isn’t, especially compared to some of the other things on this list. Once you’re familiar with the software and know what you can and can’t do with a scanner then this type of project is really pretty easy.
 
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16. Board Game: Kings & Things [Average Rating:6.59 Overall Rank:1234]
Alan Kaiser
United States
Aurora
Colorado
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Submitting paste-ups, player aids and other files to BGG

If you are going to take the time to create good paste-ups or other files for submission to BGG then you should really spend some time thinking about a couple of things related to how people will receive your creations.

Format
This is important since if people don’t have the software to view your creation then they won’t be able to use it. This isn’t a huge deal since most of us do have the software to view most standard file types. Obviously the most accessible file format is a PDF file. Very few, if any, won’t have the ability to view a PDF file. If you have the means to save your file in this format then by all means this is the way to go. If not, maybe look into it a bit. It might be easier than you think.

Name
The name you give your file probably makes more of a difference than you might imagine. The name has to simple enough that it isn’t going to take up a huge amount of space but complete enough that whoever sees the name will understand what the file is for. Probably the most important part of the name is something only a few people actually use, a version number. Ahhh you say, what do I need a version number for?! I just want to post a simple score sheet or turn order or whatever! No doubt, as soon as you post it someone, maybe yourself even, will find an error. Or maybe you want to add a few more details. Or maybe a rules clarification comes along that changes things slightly. It certainly is easier for everyone involved to see which is the latest version if you give your files a version number. It also makes it easier for the administrators if you need to submit a correction and have them delete a previous version of the file.
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17. Board Game: Ambush! [Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:488]
Lea Hudson
United Kingdom
Halifax
West Yorkshire
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Poster frame - A lot of the cheap book shops and places like Ikea sell very large wooden frames containing thin, clear perspex and a decent backing board for poster size prints. They often cost very little too.

They are perfect for "framing" a game map. Once in the frame, the map is protected and raised from the table by the depth of the fram. If you fix something to the back of the frame in the centre, it won't bow in the middle when laid on a table. The framed map is rigid enough to move out of the way when the game has to be put away half played. The frame's ridge also stops the counters from falling on the floor if you keep it flat when moving.
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18. Board Game: The 6 Pack of Paper & Pencil Games [Average Rating:8.00 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.00 Unranked]
Manuel Pombeiro
Portugal
Sao Joao do Estoril
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Free Online Graph Paper / Grid Paper PDFs: http://www.incompetech.com/beta/plainGraphPaper/

If you're in need of:

Square Graph Papers
Multi-Width
Dots
Lined Paper with Light Verticals
Axonometric Perspective
Equilateral Triangle (Isometric)
Hexagonal
Hex Dot
Semi-bisected Trapezoid
Iso-Dots
Tumbling Block - Trapezoid
etc, etc

This site is amazing!!!
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19. Board Game: Light Speed [Average Rating:6.36 Overall Rank:1730]
David Fair
United States
Damascus
MD
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One of the best things I got to help make player aids was a device called a light table. It basically is a box witha light in it, and a sheet of white plexiglass over it.

Place the item you are sticking on the box, sticky side up, and the light allows you to see through to the printed side. I am much better at lining up player aids and translated card text now...

One cheap way to get one of these is to look for an X-Ray viewer at a medical/dental supply office. i got mine used at one of these places and paid less than $5.00! New ones at the photography store were over $50.00.
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20. Board Game: Machina [Average Rating:5.47 Overall Rank:9277]
Val K
United States
Bowie
Maryland
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I think that any person who is really serious about making their own games, bits or pieces has got to have a fabber.

http://www.popsci.com/popsci/technology/19ad302897772110vgnv...
or
http://www.fabathome.org/

The article says you can make one [with the free plans] for about $2300. Good investment!

I'm considering only making proto-type games out of chocolate or cheese from here on out. But not frosting, that just seems silly.
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21. Board Game: Priceless [Average Rating:5.96 Overall Rank:6944]
G. Gomez
United States
Chula Vista
California
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Here's a tip. It should probably be its own item. Or maybe not even in this list. But it's the best list I can think of for it.

I have thrifted some card games that miss one or two cards. It is a snap to replace them if you have a nice color copier, and (preferably) if you have a duplicate game.

I you don't have a duplicate game, remember that duplicate cards are probably available in the deck.

We have a Konica C351, and using glossy brochure paper copy both sides of the card or cards you want. Use 3M spray cement, glue both sides and cut to size. This thickness works very well for standard cards, though you might need to go thinner or thicker, depending on what you are trying to duplicate.

For thinner cards use one side Bright White paper the other Brochure paper. For thicker cards sandwich a thin paper between the two layers of Brochure paper. It has worked for me.

I've used this to replace Star Wars: Epic Duels, Titan, The Powerpuff Girls: Villains at Large Game, Fat Cats, Venture, Priceless and Sum-Up components.

Some have been near perfect, some are merely close enough for regular play.

Ideally you should scan the art in high resolution and adjust the image on Photoshop to get exact shades right, but a straight copy is just so much quicker and easier. Small variations probably do not matter in most cases.

In the case of Priceless, I actually shot a photo of the board (since I did not have an extra card to copy) and transferred the photo image to recreate a card I was missing. I used Photoshop to manipulate the photo image to get what I needed.

This is a cropped photo of the board:

This is the recreated card alongside an original for comparison:
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22. Board Game: Toystore Chess [Average Rating:6.00 Unranked]
G. Gomez
United States
Chula Vista
California
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Wholesale novelty toy stores such as:

www.orientaltrading.com

Or vending machine stores:

www.aaglobalind.com
www.AllStarVending.com
www.BrandVendingProducts.com
www.KippBro.com
www.Redemption-plus.com
www.Sau.sega.com/merchandise/disney
www.SureGlow.com
www.Startrackinc.com
www.TeamGKheroes.com
www.TheToyFactory.biz
www.ToyConnection.com
www.ToynJoy,com
www.Actionmatic.com
www.BeaverVending.com
www.CardinalDist.com
www.TJking.com
www.ToysandCandy.com

can be a source for miniature figures, spaceships, coins, etc.
(Some of these links will likely stop working after a while)



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23. Board Game: Miscellaneous Game Accessory [Average Rating:6.93 Overall Rank:2618]
G. Gomez
United States
Chula Vista
California
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Custom dice or open source dice making:

http://www.dicecreator.com/2010/05/20/open-source-dice-makin...
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