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I'm currently helping my good friend N/A to assemble some custom expansion boards for Arkham Horror. I've come across some good tips for constructing the various cards etc (e.g. here), but a cursory search didn't turn up anything on constructing a realistic base-board which has the 'feel' of the originals... so here's my attempt to share a few tips.
I should mention at the start, the board I will be assembling in this guide is for the Vermont Horror Expansion; this is an excellent custom expansion for Arkham Horror, and the first to be given its own 'semi-official' page here on BGG! Let's hope it's the first of many to be given such recognition for the hard work that has been invested by dedicated fans like Hal.
We're actually creating a modified version of the board; Jacob has been putting the final touches on Lovecraft Country Horror; I don't want to steal Jacob's thunder but very soon we hope to release a slightly tweaked pair of expansions, allowing you to link together Vermont and Lovecraft Country, with special cards, encounters and locations which will allow the two fan-made expansions to interact (there is more, but I'll save that for Jacob to reveal in due course!).
So now you know what I'm assembling today. Without further ado, on with the guide.
The standard Arkham board model is composed of squares, of size 280x280mm per panel, with a textured black backing which feels somewhat plastic-y (possibly polypropylene?) and a dense cardboard construction approximately 2mm thickness. the actual print-area is slightly smaller than the board, with a border of about 3mm on all non-folding edges where the backing material is wrapped over onto the front face.
I spent a bit of time thinking about how this could be re-created without requiring anything too specialist. (Obviously, you could just buy another official Arkham expansion, and paste over the top, but I'm assuming most folks won't want to do that!)
Here in the UK, our A4 paper size is 210 x 297mm; which means that the long edge of A4 ring binders and lever arch files are a handy size for our purposes; I don't know how well this would translate for other countries, but let me share what I did anyway.
* * * * * * * * * * *
To make a 'standard' expansion board (Two tiles of 280x280mm), you will need:
- 1 A4 size ring-binder; this should be black, with a texture similar to the back-face of the Arkham board ideally (but beggars can't be choosers!)
- 1 A4 lever-arch file; these are slightly larger, and allow us to get a 280x280 chunk of card of about the right thickness. It doesn't matter what colour or design this is, as we'll be covering it over.
- Ideally, a good guillotine, but failing that, good scissors
- A hobby craft knife
- The adhesive method of your preference (I'm using glue sticks)
Take your A4 ring-binder, and guillotine/cut the front and back faces off; you can discard the middle piece with the rings on.
Using the hobby knife, run the blade along the top and bottom (NOT the outer long edge)to divide the plastic coating
Peel the plastic coating off the ring-binder. If you've done this right, the faces on both sides should come off as one continuous piece. Do this for both the front and back of the original ring binder; so at the end of this, you should have two pieces, each of size ~300mm x 400mm (or a little larger, depending on the original binder size). These will coat the front and back of our expansion board. Take these and put them under a pile of books, to flatten out the fold in the middle.
Now, take the A4 lever arch file, and measure out two 280x280mm squares, as accurately as you can - one on the front, one on the back. Cut this (ideally, do use a guillotine; the final result will be a lot better).
Annoyingly, a standard lever arch file has some cuts in the cardboard, where the metal components are fixed in place. I have carefully removed these, and then using some of the off-cuts from the original file, created some template pieces to insert to plug these holes (using a little glue). Remember, the entire thing will be coated, so although this might look messy now, it will be totally hidden. The only thing you should do is make sure it's relative 'flat' to the touch once you're done; if necessary, run a craft blade (or even a bit of sandpaper) over the surface to remove any nicks or bumps.
I've overlaid a thin strip cut from some scrap A4 paper, over the 'touch up' ares from Step 5. This just makes the feel of the final board slightly smoother.
Now, get another scrap piece of paper, of length 280mm exactly, and width somewhat greater than 100mm. Stick this in the middle, on the side you want the board to fold in on; this will serve as the hinge. If you're worried about strength, you may want to use two sheets, or use very (very) thin card. But remember that the actual printed sheet will also be overlaid on top, so your hinge will be at least two sheets of A4 thick. (If this seems a bit flimsy to you - sorry, but it's the way that the FFG boards seem to work. The original Arkham boards do have a bit of a problem with being susceptible to tearing due to this rather fragile hinge design).
Now, take you pressed-flat plastic sheeting, and glue it onto the BACK face (the side you didn't put the hinge on!) roughly in the centre, but offset away from the inner 'folding' edge so you have a couple of centimetres margin all the way around the 3 outer edges. Cut a series of folds around the edge - make sure these are at least 25mm or more, or else folding them will be a real hassle. Note a couple of things here: first, there is no overhang at all on the inner edge where the fold is; second, you should cut a 45° angle on the edges, so they will fold together seamlessly; third, this 45° cut should be offset by 2mm from the edge of the board, to all for 'wrapping' around the 2mm thickness of the actual cardboard, otherwise you'll end up with a gap. And fourthly, the cut on the 'inner' edge can be straight-down, because there is nothing folding in from the other side of the corner.
Fold those flaps over and stick them down on the FRONT face. Note, as usual, when doing any adhesive sticking job, press from the centre outwards to avoid (or at least reduce) any air-bubbles forming.
If necessary, run around the edges with a black marker pen; this allows you to just 'touch up' any bits where the coating got a bit mauled in the assembly process, or else to make the 'hinge' edge look a little bit neater.
Print out your custom expansion board; this will require three sheets of A4, or, if you are lucky enough to have access to an A3 colour printer, two sheets of A3. It is definitely nicer to use an A3 printer if possible, as you can put the joint right in the middle on the hinge if you want to; however, if you do a careful job with A4 paper, the joins shouldn't be too obvious. Tip: use thin (low-gsm) paper for this; you won't 'feel' the thickness because it is backed on 2mm thick board, which will dwarf the paper thickness; but with thinner paper, the overlap between sheets will be less pronounced. You may want to pre-fold the paper, to make sure the print doesn't buckle unintentionally when you stick it on the board and fold for the first time.
Stick that in place, and then fold the board up, get as many big flat heavy things as you can, and leave it being compressed for a while.
Finally, your new board is finished! Take it out and admire your handiwork, then enjoy using it for games of Arkham!
* * * * * * * * * * *
How did it work out? Overall, I'm very pleased with the result. It's difficult to convey in pictures here on BGG, but in your hand, the board feels very 'substantial', and in terms of weight/thickness is very similar to the official FFG boards. I think I rushed the sticking job a bit, as I didn't have the smoothest finish possible; doing this again, I would have taken a little more time over that. We're planning to make plenty more custom expansion boards up for some play-tests and session reports here on BGG, so hopefully when I make up a decent version of Lovecraft Country it will be even better!
So, that's how I did it. But what about other Arkham players? Have you made custom expansion boards up for play? If so, how did you do it? Did you aim for realism, or just make something up quickly for simplicity? Can you improve on this method or do you have any better ideas? I'd be interested to hear from you!
All the best for now,
What is dead may never die
So can I pay you to make one for me!? ;-)
So can I pay you to make one for me!? ;-)
Yes, please, me too! I would definitely love to have this, but the last time I tried to craft something, it ended in a state-wide manhunt...
- Last edited Wed Jul 25, 2012 12:37 am (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Wed Jul 25, 2012 12:37 am
I think you've played too much AH and lost all your sanity I seriously admire your dexterity though. This was amazing.
- Last edited Wed Jul 25, 2012 2:01 am (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Wed Jul 25, 2012 1:07 am