Pimp My Board Game

a pursuit of fruitless endeavors and endless refinements

Month: April 2016

Pitchcar Transitions

I’m a huge fan of dexterity based games so it likely comes as no surprise that I’m really into the disc racing game, Pitchcar.  This game features finished MDF boards cut to slot car racetrack pieces that you freely assemble into a race course and flick your “race car” disc around, simulating an F1-style race.

Like a lot of high-end dexterity games, Pitchcar is pretty pricey.  I was able to find the sister game, Pitchcar Mini, on clearance and snagged it and a few expansions.  While the mini version is great, especially for little kids, I’d still hoped to find the full-size version available. A year later I was able to find the main game on sale as well and promptly picked it up.

At this point, I had both versions and it seemed a shame to only ever use half the pieces I had so I wanted to make some sort of transition piece to be able to race on both sizes.  I had a few options on how I would approach it but my decision was made for me when Boardgamegeek user flashhawk posted a Pitchcar-to-Pitchcar-mini conversion template.

With some old laminated pressboard in the garage, I printed out the template and got to work.

pitchcar cutout

First thing was I attached the printed sheet to the board with a glue stick and then Dremelled the pattern out.  This was the first time I’d used the Dremel for this kind of work and it was pretty sloppy.  By the end of the piece, I was able to get a handle on it. It will be rough but still serve its purpose.

pitchcar sanding

The Dremel leaves a lot of rough edging so over to the belt sander I go.  This also helped smooth out some of the lines and contours. After things were more or less clean, I went down to test fit.  Of course it was way off but overlapping the correct jigsaw piece and marking the adjustments with a pencil is easy enough.  Back to the sander for some adjustments and back down for another fitting.  I think I had to do this about two more times before everything was where I needed it to be.  Next time I’ll keep the pieces by the sander to limit the back-and-forth trips.

pitchcar fitting

As you can see, it’s not pretty, especially the smaller connection on the right, but it’ll do for a first pass.  The piece still isn’t complete as the thickness of the pressboard is a quarter inch and the Pitchcar tracks are less than that creating a horrible “lip” that will ruin the play experience.  Back to the belt sander again to round out those lips and get rid of the glued paper still stuck to the piece (the white bits you see in the picture).

pitchcar final fit

This completes the piece from the gameplay perspective.  I’ll still need to paint it black and seal it but I’ll wait until I finish up the other side.  I also have some ideas on some other custom options so hopefully more to come!

Showcase: Ponte del Diavolo

I’d been working on a way to pimp out a favorite abstract game, Ponte del Diavolo, on and off for a year or two but a friend of mine was coming back into town in the summer of 2015 so I rushed to finish it up.

original game photo from geoman on boardgamegeek

My goal was to increase the board size to a 12×12 board (which could always drop back down to the regular 10×10 size), have interlocking tiles, and be portable. I found an old travel scrabble set at a thrift store and thought it would be perfect.

I used a dremel to grind down the scrabble logo on the top of the case, and the tile divides I wouldn’t need on the inner board. I then printed some art and titling to fill-in the ugly grind marks.

The Scrabble set doesn’t come with nearly enough tiles so I bought another set on eBay and sanded off the scrabble lettering from each tile. I threw half of them in a bag of minwax stain to get them all in the color I wanted. Finally, I sprayed them down with a poly spray to seal them and went looking for bridge ideas.

I found the perfect size and style bridge on Shapeways by user Freedlun.

I picked up a sample and did some tests, then ordered the rest that I needed. I didn’t want to keep the bare white so I painted them up simply and sealed them.

I didn’t want everything to just rattle around in the storage tray side so I made little custom cardstock trays to hold everything. It was all finished in time and my friend and I had a blast playing through the game again. It was a tight game and he squeaked out a win after a very poor opening.

Printing Resources part 2

In part 1 of my review on print resources I discussed Artscow/Cowcow as a good general printing resource. This time I’m going to talk about a few alternative print options that I’ve used.

First up is Walmart Photo Center. It is really only useful for posters 20×30 or under.  I used this service once to make my Thunder Road boards:

WM poster

close up

close up

It’s one of the cheapest options out there for a 20×30 print (under $20) and quality is definitely good enough to print custom boards on.

Pro:

  • Cheap poster printing

Con:

  • Options are limited to poster prints
  • Poster size limit is 20×30

A friend of mine has been talking a lot recently about Printer’s Studio and so I tried them out on some card and poster options.  Printer’s Studio offers a lot of the same options as Artscow and Cowcow but has some interesting alternative sizes that aren’t available elsewhere.

One of the main uses I see for them is they offer every board and card game card size available for complete custom printing. It is really incredible to be able to print custom cards in any size (Artscow decks are limited to Poker, Circle, or Heart shaped/sized cards). The quality of the cards (300 gsm, 310 gsm, or plastic!) can also be selected as well as the finish (smooth or linen).

Another great aspect is in some card sizes, the minimum print amount is under the standard 54 cards.  Poker sized cards, for instance, can be bought in sets of 18 cards. Card packs can be either shrink-wrapped or in a card tuck box with a clear window.  This box is a bit more useful than the designed box that comes from Artscow.

PS box

Here are some samples of the card printing.

PS good cards

These cards were special POD options for Plaid Hat GamesTail Feathers game (printed with permission from their site).  The card download from the site was set up with proper print specs and Printer’s Studio did very well printing them within the designed specs.  This yielded a very good set of cards that were cropped very well.

PS bad cards1

I tried making my own custom set for small-sized version of Rum & Bones that I’m making and the prints didn’t come out as clean.  It seems the cropping of the single image card back was inconsistent and left some slight white edging on some of the cards (notice the top of the 3rd card from the top and the left side of the 2nd card from the top).  This wouldn’t be so bad if it was the front of the card but technically the inconsistent card backs make the decks “marked.” We aren’t that competitive with games (especially not my homebrewed custom creations) so it won’t be so bad but still slightly disappointing.

It could be user error that created the inconsistency but when I set up the files, the bleed areas were good and so it should have worked out.  Like Artscow, it may take a test print to see how best to set up your cards.  If you know how to create proper print specs, that is likely the ideal set up for this company.

Printer’s Studio also has good poster options as well.

PS hoth poster

close up

close up

I needed a poster size larger than 20×30 that didn’t cost $60+ (like FedEx wanted to charge) and Printer’s Studio has options up to 24×36 for under $20.  The quality of the poster came out great and is a great alternative to Walmart for roughly the same cost (Walmart won’t charge you shipping if you do an in-store pick up so Printer’s Studio’s total will be a little more due to their shipping charge).

Similar to Artscow, Printer’s Studio does offer coupons though they are not as frequent as Artscow nor do they get prices down as low- currently Artscow has one of its typical “4 for $20” sales which get you complete 54 cards for $5 each (shipped). Still, their coupons can be great for the quality and prices you find on their site.

Pro:

  • Best card printing options with every size available
  • Great poster size options
  • Competitive pricing
  • Great quantity/quality options (cards)
  • Cheap shipping

Con:

  • some inconsistency in print cropping
  • layout system not precise and takes some time to get used to

Printing Resources part 1

After searching for a good printer that will do a cheap 24×36 poster for a game board (jury is still out on if I made the best choice), I decided to cover the current printing options I use.

First up is Artscow and Cowcow.  These two companies are very similar and may even be owned by the same parent company.  They are my number 1 printing site.  I only use them when I have a coupon for 20+% off and free shipping otherwise they are just too expensive but when those coupons come around, they create amazing deals on everything from printed cards, gaming mats, canvas boards, or gaming bags.  You can find these coupons by either checking out the “hotdeals” thread on Boardgamegeek or subscribing to Artscow’s newsletter.

I first was introduced to Artscow through their card printing services.  They really only have one option to use standard poker (bridge) sized playing cards but the option is flexible enough to have unique front and back printing for every card.  Custom card purchases come in sets of 54 cards so you will need to use that minimum or risk paying for cards you don’t need.

Using their Silverlight system can be frustrating but having used it for several years now, I like the options you have and rarely get bad results anymore.  The key is to leave yourself enough bleed edge on the cards. I typically make my image size a quarter of an inch bigger than needed all around and that usually works well.  Alternatively, you can reduce the image size in Silverlight to fit the proper printing zone and back fill a color to match your border.  This is riskier since you’re trusting that you background color (usually black or white) will match whatever color options they have since they don’t give you the CMYK or RGB codes.

artscow cards good

In this example, we had plenty of bleed and the cards are cropped pretty uniform across the set.

artscow cards bad

Here, I didn’t leave enough bleed and the printing comes almost out to the edge making for a somewhat sloppy design.  It also emphasizes the inconsistent cutting/cropping that is evident in more card printing manufactures.

I don’t have specs on what core the cards are (grey, blue, purple, etc) but the cards have a general flat/smooth finish and come in a cardstock tuck box that has a general design on it that I typically don’t keep.

artscow card box

Game mats are basically Artscow’s “bar mats” or “plate mats.”  They are a standard mousepad-like mat that has a printed “durable heat-resistant polyester fabric top, backed with a neoprene rubber non-slip backing.”  As expected, the color saturation on these mats aren’t as strong as a standard print and the resolution may be too soft for fine print but it remains a great option for personal player mats or even small game boards.

artscow mat 1

A close up reveals the “softness” of the printing resolution.

artscow mat cu

The process is the same as designing cards in that you likely want more bleed than necessary and if you are familiar with their Silverlight layout for card printing, it will work the same for all of their custom items.

Game coasters are another option for the game-pimper and they work like smaller, thinner versions of their game mats but are still the fabric top with neoprene rubber backing.  I’ve used these as gifts for friends, accents in my gaming room, or even game accessories.

artscow coaster

Canvas options come in a variety of sizes and are a good option for flexible gaming board replacements.  I’ve seen them used for large boards like 20×30 inch standard game boards or smaller square ones like my custom Duke play mat.

artscow canvas

Canvas gives you a durable surface that has a matte finish and is flexible (though I still roll mine and won’t fold them up).  The resolution is better for text print than the neoprene mat options but can still be too soft for very fine text.

Gaming bags are a high-end way to hold your gaming bits but also can be nice options to use for games that require a blind draw mechanic.  Artscow bags come in a few different sizes and offer full printing around the outside of the bag.  I’ve used them for dice, meeples, chits, and cards.

artscow bag 1

If you look at the detail, you can see that the printing quality is pretty strong for the material.

artscow bag cu

Pro:

  • one-stop shopping as they carry almost anything a game-pimper would need to pimp their games
  • cheapest printing options (when using coupons)
  • can print other user’s contributions

Con:

  • printing interface takes getting used to and uses the older MS Silverlight plug-in that isn’t the easiest to get working and may no longer be supported
  • shipping and manufacturing is from China so expect 3-4 weeks or more turnaround time.

Pimping Tokens redux

Back in January, I talked about tinting tokens for a couple of projects and finally had time to finish them up.  When I finished the tokens for my Rum & Bones tokens, they looked a little bland with the bright white sides.

tokens2

Grabbing some different colored permanent sharpies from a hobby store, I was able to dress up the tokens a bit better.

tokensRB3web

tokensRB2web

tokensRB1web

I also am starting to finish up my Assault on Hoth project after finally sourcing a good printer for a 24×36 poster- needed for the game board.  After checking some of my usual print sources, I found Artscow only has canvas in that size, Walmart only goes to 20×30, and FedEx Office (formerly Kinkos) wanted over $60.  I went back to Printer Studio who I used for some custom cards for Rum & Bones with mixed results.  We’ll see how the print comes out but I’m hopeful it will do fine.

Having secured that board print, I decided to start finishing up the other components and that starts with finalizing the tokens.  I’d already designed the token images and punched them out but the final images didn’t come out with the resolution I had hoped for and they all look very similar.

token close

To help differentiate them, I decided to tint them to help limit confusion while playing the game.

tokensHoth1web

tokensHoth2web

I’m satisfied that the different shaped tokens and colors (black for the Imperial and red for the Rebellion) will keep the two factions apart but the slight differences between the two units within the factions (light troopers vs heavy troopers) might still be hard to tell apart.  I’ll know better when I put them on the board (when that arrives in a couple of weeks).

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