John's DIY Corner


Making your own boardgame boards and counters

A subject that crops up periodically on the group is how do gamers who want to spice up their games with their own counters, whether from internet downloads, magazines or even their own fertile imaginations. I've seen there is a lot of mysticism about making boards and counters so I thought I'd write this as a way of diseminating some of the skills I have picked up over the last 8 years.

When you download counters obviously the graphic design element has already been done for you, while those who wish to design their own are blessed indeed if you have access to such programs as Quark Express or Macromedia Freehand. Yet even something as basic as Microsoft Word in it's newer incarnations has enough picture and drawing commands to allow the design of simple counters.

Go for the best quality you can. Ink jet or Deskjet glossy papers are very good and give excellent results. However a caveat, inkjet prints are naturally 'tacky' and some sort of protective covering will be needed. Also some colour inks seem to have a certain reluctance to take the adhesive of the heat laminate. This may have been due to the printer settings which specified heavy ink best quality. Make sure you dont go to close to the edges of the print area.

I am lucky enough to have access to a heat laminator. Those not so blessed could take your work to a print shop. Another option is to visit an artist supply store for a can of cellulose spray varnish to give the counters a protective coat (this gave good resistive qualities to the variant Illuminati cards I created). In this instance I would cut out the counters before spraying them.

STOP PRESS Just used some acrylic spray coating on counters that wouldn't take the laminate and it worked wonderfully. Given the high cost of laminating unless you are doing hundreds of counters use a coating aerosol spray, following manufacturers instructions. Counters smaller than 2.5cm square should be done in groups of 4 prior to cutting or so as they blow about too much!

Choose your poison really. I used to use 1mm 'greyboard' that is used to make books and should be available from artist suppliers. Nowerdays I'm using photo frame off-cuts from work. Do you have a Framing Shop near you?

I used to use specialist pva-type glue but my supplies have dried up, so currently I am using one of the preparatory 'spraymount'-type adhesive, a necessity if you have not laminated your work. Coat both surfaces evenly and join. When sticking down start at one edge and make contact. Keep the opposite side away from the surface and slowly work your way toward that side pressing down. For sheets larger than A4 this is a two person job, one holder and one smoother/presser. Don't laugh but a rolling pin is very useful for this operation giving steady even pressure as you press.
If you have used a pva type glue you will need to keep continuous pressure on your work, a nice flat board and a few big books evenly spread should suffice. Leave overnight or 24 hours if possible.

Cutting Min. age 12 recommended
After all your hard work you don't want to mess up this bit.
Basic tools
Box cutter and spare blades. Cheap and cheerful these are the top tool for the job, and you will be preparing new blades quite often. Safety steel cutting edge. You are doing something that could take a finger off so don t use any old steel ruler and expect to count to ten afterwards! BUY ONE!! Check it also has a rubber foot to aid in a good grip of your work
Safety cutting mat as big as you can get/afford. My preference is for A3 size.

Practice on some of cuts first. Start your blade off the work and stand to one side away from the direction of travel of the blade. Exert steady, NOT maximum pressure and draw the blade toward you. three or four passes will be enough to cut through completely. Press to hard and your straight edge will start yawing, the blade could snap or you put the blade in your thigh.
©2003 John Cudmore

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