Board-Building Process

Some of the Print & Play games from Mr. W Games use game boards and I thought I’d share the techniques I’ve worked out for making boards. This might be a little more elaborate than some people’s process but it works well for me.

This step-by-step covers making a six-panel board for a playtest prototype of The Abbey, our newest game… coming soon!

Step 0: The Supplies

Measuring the board piece size

You’ll need the printed pieces of the board, some cardstock or chipboard to make the board pieces out of and a steel straight edge and sharp knife to cut things with. As I said on another how-to… those adjectives are mandatory; you want a steel straightedge, not an aluminum or wood ruler and you need a sharp blade to stay safe (fighting against a dull blade is how slips that cut fingers happen). You’ll see a couple of different straight edges in these pictures. One is a standard ruler/straight edge that came with the kit that gave me triangles and a protractor as well. The other is a printer’s line gauge which I use more often… If it had been a newborn when I bought it, it’d be old enough to vote now.

You’ll also need some way of adhering the prints to the board and some sort of tape to make hinges with (you can buy special tape, but regular black duct tape works very well for me — don’t get Gorilla brand or super strength stuff, that tape is too thick to make good hinges).

Step 1: Measure and Cut Boards

Measuring the board piece size

You’ll need to know the size of the finished board piece. Hopefully the pieces are already set up for you. If you have a single image you’ll be breaking apart, remember that if you have more than four panels the middle panels will have more board image (and no border on the hinged sides) than the corner pieces.

Measuring the board piece size

Measuring the board piece size

Then transfer the measurements to the chipboard and mark it appropriately. Use a triangle if you’ve got one to help keep things square. If not, measure several times along the cutline… non-square boards will make the following steps pretty much impossible.

Then using the steel straightedge and your knife cut the chipboard. Remember several regular strength passes are better than trying to cut through the material in one go.

Of course, in reality I cheat. But you probably don’t have a powered guillotine cutter and that’s okay.

Step 2: Assembling the blank board

The ten-year-old (my cameraman) suggested this picture and it’s a real good idea. Compare the cut board to the board piece, using the cut lines on the setup. This is a good step to make sure that all your measurements were correct, and another check on the squareness of the boards.

Start with two boards. For a six-panel board, I prefer all of the printed pieces to be on the inside when the board is folded. This means this initial fold will be an inside fold, the perpendicular folds will be outside folds and the last set of panels will be an inside fold. I strongly encourage you to play around with the panels before commiting to putting a hinge down… I know I’ve messed it up before and gotten something I didn’t like.

As mentioned above, I use black duct tape (Duck Colors brand) for my hinges for prototypes and it seems to work well. Of course, you can get bookbinders tape and it will be a little nicer, but duct tape is easily accessible. Measure and cut the tape to length… I recommend shorting the tape a few millimeters to make up for the fact that you probably won’t get it perfectly straight on the fold.

Apply the tape to the hinge and the make the fold. Check to make sure that the board when folded line up and then apply some pressure to the hinge so that it will fold up as flat as possible.

I mentioned the next set of hinges a moment ago, and there’s something to consider about these… unless you’ve got a really weird setup all of the other hinges will come in pairs of two. I’ve found that cutting the duct tape in half works just fine for these hinges. So I make one cut for length and one cut down the middle to make two tapes.

I then use the flat side of the blade to lift the tape up and separate it.

No, that’s not me cutting the boards I just put together. That’s a bone folder. I use it to put creases in the outside folds on the bottom of the board and (gently) to put creases in the inside folds once the printed pieces are on the board.

The moment of truth… make sure the board folds up the way you expect.

Step 3: Adhering the Printed Pieces

A programming note: At this time, the ten-year-old declared he was done being my cameraman. I had to take the next set of pictures using the camera on my phone, so the quality is not as good and there are not as many pictures.

First cut the sheets to the appropriate size. I used to use the false leather contact paper and wrap the backs of the board with that material and then adhere the cut-down-to-size board pieces above that. Now for prototypes, I usually actually wrap the printed piece around the board. I actually like the look of that a little better, and it also for some neat designs where board elements can go to the very edge of the board.

To do it that way, determine which corner will be an inside corner that you will line up on. Then cut to exact size on that corner but carry your cuts all the way out on the outside edge(s).

There are many ways of adhering the printed sheet to the board. I usually use a Xyron Machine or full-sheet label material, but Elmer’s new Extreme Gluestick seems to work well and has a much lower investment cost. Do make sure you have plenty of paper to wrap around to the back, you’ll want lots of surface area for the glue to make contact with. Follow the directions and liberally apply the glue to the board and to the paper.

You’ll then put the printed piece onto the board, lining up that corner that you cut to the right size. Smooth out the printed paper and then flip over the board on your work surface.

Then cut a miter (a 45 degree angle like above), leaving a little bit of material so you can tuck the corner in, sort of like wrapping a holiday present. Note: in the above picture, it turns out I was a little too close to the board with my cut and I was not so happy with this corner.

Put some more glue on the back of the board and the part of the paper that will make contact with the back and wrap the paper over.

For a six panel board, your middle panels will not have a miter and will have a straight fold, making them a bit easier.

Do that each board piece and you’ll get something that looks a little bit like this:

(Except not so blurry)

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