Pimp My Board Game

a pursuit of fruitless endeavors and endless refinements

Month: February 2016

Meeple mania

I first encountered them in Klaus Teuber’s Carcassonne well after the term “meeple” was coined.  These iconic pawn figures have been a mainstay in the board gaming world since their classic design in that equally classic game.


image from wikipedia

There have been some great histories of the meeple written around the net, including my favorite from Game Inquirer: History: Rise of the Meeple, so I won’t go into detail on the actual story behind the name and creation but it is worth the read.  Instead I’ll focus more on my use of meeples and some of my favorite variations.

I don’t play a lot of games with meeples as I prefer miniatures games a lot more but on the games that got me back to playing meeple games was Wizard of the Coast’s Lords of Waterdeep.  A nice entry to the worker-placement game genre mainly due to it’s tight rules and quick gameplay.  The game features lords of the city of Waterdeep vying for control as they hire different adventurers to complete critical quests.

These adventurers are represented by regular cubes but that wasn’t very thematic so Boardgamegeek user Danny Perello crafted a simple variation on the regular meeples to create iconic adventurer “DnDeeples.”

Perello’s DnDeeples

These variant pawns help to drive home the unique RPG theme Wizards of the Coast put on the game.

I’m a big fan of dexterity games and when Rampage (AKA Terror in Meeple City) came out from Repos Production, I found it a very novel take on what to do with the classic meeple.  In this game of monsters rampaging a city and eating the inhabitants, meeples are used to support the building structures and act as collateral damage as you use dexterity mechanics to destroy everything.

The game even pimps out the meeples by offering art stickers to put on them, helping to define their role and match the stickered monster pawns.  In my version, I didn’t like the “naked” wood monster pawns so I painted them to match closer to the meeples.

Staying with dexterity games, a new game came out in 2015 by Pretzel Games hit the scene: Flick ’em Up.  Flick ’em Up is a cowboy-themed dexterity game that plays a lot like a simplified miniatures game.  In the game, you have teams of cowboys or outlaws that flick around the play area and shoot discs (bullets) at each other to deal damage.

flick em up_blog

They even expand these pawns to include horse pawns in the expansion Stallion Canyon.  The physical nature of the pawns combined with abstracted cowboy shape makes for a very fun, light flicking game.

In a juxtaposition of form, I’ve been working on what I call a “travel” version of Cool Mini or Not’s crazy blinged out game Rum & Bones. In Rum & Bones, CMON has introduced the board game industry to MOBA-style video game mechanics in which hordes of minion characters race toward the enemy in a simple AI-fashion while major heroes try to turn the tide of battle in your favor.  Typical of CMON productions, this game features a ton of highly detailed miniatures, great art, and quality card, token, and gameboard components.  Playing the game can take up a ton of room and I almost find myself overwhelmed by all the over-the-top production.

With that in mind, I was looking at simplifying the production down a bit and went with some nice pirate meeples I found from Minion Games’ Dead Men Tell No Tales board game.  I contacted Minion Games and they were great, selling me a set of their meeples for this pimp project of mine.


There are a few other iconic components that Rum & Bones needed: the Kraken and Sea Monster.  I didn’t want to stick with just the card versions that the game offered so I made my own meeple-esque pawns.  The first one is based on the sea monster in Survive: Escape from Atlantis.


The last one, the mighty Kraken, I drew using Adobe Illustrator and based it off the great Games Workshop Dwarf mechanical Kraken miniature from Dreadfleet.  I printed out both images of the Sea Monster (also made in Illustrator) and the Kraken, cut them out and traced them on the wood block I’d cut them from.  I set up my scroll saw and cut the outlines out, sanded them smooth, and painted them up.


I’d like to make more of these types of stylized meeples but hand-cutting them on a scroll saw isn’t really efficient.  A laser cutter would be the best option but I’ll have to wait until they come down in price a bit more.


Showcase: Sails of Glory

As I’ve discussed previously, I’ve wanted the old out-of-print Broadsides and Boarding Parties for a while so when my friend decided to sell his copy, I jumped at the chance. It just happen to be about the same time that Ares Games’ Sails of Glory was hitting the shelves. I ended up with both games in my collection at the same time and was playing around with both when it hit me: why not make a giant-sized version of Sails of Glory using components from both games?!? (the why not is actually pretty obvious as my living room picture below can attest but whatever. Paying attention to “details” kills too many otherwise fun and absurd ideas).

After getting the sizing scale differences down, I looked at the optimal card sizes and went from there. I found some cheap 11×14 frames that worked great as a ship card holder and base and then borrowed a friend’s art projector to map the maneuver decks to large scale “cards” (just cut up blue poster board).

To save on time/cost, I choose the B and D decks and their corresponding ships since they have the fewest maneuver cards. Since I wasn’t giant-sizing everything, I was able to save some time by only making one giant copy of the same card (since the regular board and maneuver cards would function normally).

There were still other components that needed to be in scale so I found some small pvc piping and cut them down to the appropriate range ruler size and use the art projector to trace out an island. Finally, I picked up a big general purpose tarp (blue!) for a nice gaming “mat.” I was ready to test.

My first test went pretty well. I had to mover around most my the furniture in the living room and it still wasn’t quite enough but it played quite well. I was confident enough that everything worked that I decided to host a game at a local convention (Genghis Con) and it went quite well.

The convention floor space was definitely big enough and I added a little island castle (via Heroscape pieces) to bling out the game a little more. I’m looking forward to hopefully snagging another copy of B&BP for more ships so I can throw a full 2 vs 2 game on the floor (or maybe the backyard…)

Big Pimpin’

One thing that has fascinated me in board games is the concept of taking a standard game and blowing the whole thing out to a larger size.  These “super-sized” or “Giant/Mega” versions of games are usually seen at game conventions or public spaces. I suspect this is mostly due to the cost involved in creating giant versions of the game and the space needed to play/store it but it also creates a spectacle and attracts a lot of attention.

It’s the spectacle that drives us to make giant versions of these games. It’s this unique aspect of play that engages the players and the audience in a way that takes something very familiar and maybe even boring and makes it into a memorable experience. For me, playing a giant version of the game brings me back to a child-like state where the pieces barely fit in my hands.  My movements are awkward and clumsy and I become fully immersed in the game itself.  It occupies a wide field of my vision and I am in the game as completely as I can ever be.

Giant games are also more engaging for an audience since the playing pieces and board components are large enough to see the game progress from a comfortable distance away.  The audience almost becomes the parent, watching their children at play.  The event takes on amusement as the audience watches these “children” play, even when that “child” might be your own father or an old friend.

All these thoughts were going through my head when I decided to try to make my own giant version of a game.  I had a dream to make a giant version of Fantasy Flight’s X-wing miniatures game but the cost to acquire large versions of the models prevented it from going anywhere. I still would like to try it some day as I’ve seen WizKids’ Star Trek Attack Wing in giant form and it looks great.

Giant Attack Wing

I was able to buy an old copy of Milton Bradley’s Broadsides and Boarding Parties from a friend and soon after, Ares Games released an Age of Sail miniatures game, Sails of Glory. This game utilized a lot of the movement rules of their famous World War I bi-plane dogfighting game, Wings of Glory.  I’d known that system well and with the Broadsides game in hand knew I had a good opportunity to make my own giant game.

Giant Sails of Glory

I’ll feature the full giant-sizing process for Sails of Glory in a Showcase but the experiences playing and seeing giant versions of games at conventions inspired me to strike out and make my own giant game.

Showcase: X-wing Miniatures case

I was trying to figure out how best to carry my X-wing miniatures models as I started traveling to tournaments both locally and farther away like Indianapolis’ GenCon and Fantasy Flight’s Worlds competition held Minnesota.  I randomly stopped at a garage sale (something I do maybe once every few years) and happened to find an old Star Wars action figure case for $3 (Power of the Force Millennium Falcon edition from Kenner produced around 1996).  Once I saw it, I knew it would work perfect as a case for my X-wing minis.

Falcon Case blog

Inside, the case had these perfect dividers and I was showed it off to a friend as I tried to figure out how to make the models work (knowing I would have to cut some of the dividers out to fit the larger ones).  After seeing it, he had the brilliant idea to cut it all out and get some custom foam to fit and hold the models.

falcon case

Gutting it out with a dremel tool was a ton of work but eventually I had everything cut out and smoothed down enough to use the entire inside to support model storage.

falcon ex1

For the top, I didn’t cut the dividers out as deep as I’d use them to store all the tokens and bits required for the game.

falcon ex2

The dremel basically melted the plastic out which left everything pretty rough.  I ended up using steel wool and sandpaper to smooth things out to finish the main areas.  I didn’t like the idea of the open cockpit so I hotglued in a piece of black plastic to cover it up.  The clips that held the case closed were shot so I went low tech and grabbed some of my girls’ white hair bands and they worked great.  The case itself was complete, now I needed to figure out the foam.

Battlefoam has a custom foam creation tool and I started messing around with it.  It was actually pretty easy to use but I couldn’t make it cut a circle like I needed.  I contacted them and they figured out what I needed.  I drew up some specs and it turned out perfect.

falcon ex4

When complete, it fit all the models I needed and I could make different foam inserts later as more models came out. The case holds everything securely and is now pretty recognizable as my personal carrying case when I go to tournaments.

Falcon Case 2 blog

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