How to (Re)Make a Custom Board Game

comments (3) October 23rd, 2008     

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leethal Lee Meredith, contributor
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Create a playable game featuring your loved ones friends or favorite characters and watch them flip out with excitement!
If you want your game to be super-arty cool, you can paint all over the board, or add other pictures beyond the original spots.
Before adding to the old box, be sure to clean it of thrift store dust.
Create a playable game featuring your loved ones friends or favorite characters and watch them flip out with excitement!

Create a playable game featuring your loved one's friends or favorite characters and watch them flip out with excitement!

Photo: Lee Meredith

I love board games and am always checking out the game shelves when I go thrift store shopping, so I notice a lot of the old classics getting dusty on those shelves. I've always loved games—I even made up my own when I was a youngster—but even more than games, I love to take old things and turn them into something creative and new. A remade custom, personalized board game would be an amazing gift for the game-lover in your life, and probably pretty cool even for someone who's not a self-proclaimed board-game nerd!

I'm going about this tutorial in a vague manner, in an attempt to make it accessible for any board game you want to reconstruct—I chose Clue for my example because it seemed the most obvious game to personalize. My first vision was for the suspects to be my friends, the places to be our favorite Portland hangouts, and the weapons to be crafty items like knitting needles and scissors. However, for this how-to, I thought the project might be more appealing if more people could relate than me and my few buddies, so I chose to use one of my favorite TV shows, Arrested Development. The suspects became six of the show characters, and the places became locations from the show; I left the weapons the original six because I'm no expert at tiny clay sculpting, but I'd love to see someone make custom weapons!

I'm sure there are tons of other games that would work out great for remaking, and I think it would be awesome to add parts beyond the original game, make it a whole new thing, even write up a new instruction manual! I'm giving you plenty of time to work before gift-giving time is here, so really go crazy! If you want to keep the alterations to a minimum, how about gifting someone a stack of "old" board games that have all had custom work done? My nerdiness is showing, I know!

You'll need:

  • Old board game of your choice with good-for-remaking elements
  • Photos or digital pictures, photo-editing software, photo paper, and a printer
  • Scissors
  • Glue, clear packing tape, and/or decoupage stuff
  • Possibly tracing paper, regular paper, clay for mini-sculptures, or other materials specific to your game needs

So the basic concept is to create new images to tape/glue/decoupage over the game parts. You could use cut-up photos that you already have, magazine pages, etc., or you could use some photo-editing software to edit and size the pictures to fit perfectly in their spaces. I can't give you exact directions for photo editing, since each program handles it differently, but you'll just need to make the pictures the right size, I'd recommend 300 dpi, and then print them out at 100% size. I printed them on photo paper with my photo printer—if you don't have a photo printer, you can take the files somewhere like Kinko's to print them out high-quality.


Go through all the different parts of the game—board, cards, box, etc.—and make new pictures for everything.

I'll start with the board: First, cut out all the individual pictures.


Don't forget boxes with characters' names or other little spots you might miss—these details will really make a difference.

To seal the new pictures onto the game, I put packing tape over everything, like cheap and easy lamination, but you could also use decoupage or just plain glue. First, though, I glued everything in place with a spot of glue stick to get it all situated. I kept my place pictures within the walls of the original rooms on the board because of image quality (the larger you print out a low-resolution picture, the worse the quality will get). If you wanted to fill the whole room, you could cut out the pictures in exactly the room shapes; just be sure not to hide where the entrances are (the doorways).


If you want your game to be super-arty cool, you can paint all over the board, or add other pictures beyond the original spots.

I kept my redo basic, just covering original pictures and words with the new ones, but you could go much further! Just keep in mind how the game is played and be sure not to cover any elements essential to game play. When everything is positioned, I carefully put strips of clear packing tape across the whole board. Be super careful about getting the tape flat with minimal air bubbles (with my tape, some were unavoidable).


When sealing down the pictures, keep in mind where the board has to fold and make sure it still can do so.

Next step, the cards. I only had to change the people and place cards, but I chose to customize the backs, too, so that meant I had to do the weapon cards as well.


Remember that if you're changing card backs at all, you'll need to be careful to make them all as identical as possible.

I made a template for the people pictures using tissue as tracing paper (actual tracing paper would be easier!).


You could also choose to just cover up the entire card with a picture.

Then I traced the template outline onto the backs of the people pictures.


That's a soft colored pencil, easy for drawing on the back of photo paper.

Once everything was cut out, I glued it all down with a spot of glue stick, just as on the board.


For the circles on the backs, I used a big hole punch, one you'd find in the scrapbooking section of a craft store.

Then I "laminated" them with packing tape, around the front and back. Of course, you could get them laminated for real for a more professional card set.


With all that added photo paper, the cards are significantly thicker, but they do still shuffle with no problem.

If you want to redo the box, go about it the same way as with the board and the cards—cut the pictures to the desired size and shape, glue down, and tape over. Other options would be to make a completely new box, or to cover up the old one entirely, or to leave the original box intact so that when confused recipients open their old game gift they are happily surprised!


Before adding to the old box, be sure to clean it of thrift store dust.

Lastly, make any new game elements that are needed, like the Clue notebooks. To save paper, I made the new ones smaller than the originals and printed on both sides so each page can be used twice.


If you have bookbinding skills, you can turn the pages into a real notebook!

Of course this goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway—if you do make a game with TV/movie/etc. characters, it has to be for your own and the recipient's personal use only, no selling. After I finished making this game, I played a round with a fellow Arrested Development fan and it totally worked. It was awesome! Clue is much more fun when you can suspect Buster in the banana stand or Tobias on the stair car. Make it even more fun by coming up with whole stories about who they killed and why!


Create a playable game featuring your loved one's friends or favorite characters and watch them flip out with excitement!

 

posted in: paper, recycle, game, pictures, board game

Comments (3)

Average_Jane_Crafter writes: Heeeee! Brilliant! I love seeing the Arrested Development folks take over the game - so cool! And I love how detailed you were able t get using the templates for the cards. Wowza! :)
Posted: 8:17 am on October 24th
MrsEhorn writes: I am in love with this! My husbands birthday is coming up and he is solo getting this game... Who is "hermano"? Her? Hey, brother...

Posted: 11:33 pm on October 23rd
Jen1964 writes: Sounds like fun, and a good surprise. We always enjoyed homemade games the best. You can tweak the rules to really get people going, and enjoying the game is the whole point, isn't it? One warning: not all families have a sense of humor. I'll bet you could alter something as simple as a deck of cards, to make the solitaire crowd happy.
Posted: 10:15 am on October 23rd
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