Hello fellow board game lovers! I am here to share with you, a project my father and I have been working on for over almost a year now. There have been a lot of ups and downs, and some times when we thought it wouldn’t happen, but we are now live on Kickstarter! I have the video
(just needs to be finished with editing) finished, pictures, a completed board, and lots of beer.
I am here, however, to share with you our journey from start, to near completion, of a one-of-a-kind, collectible laser-cut and engraved board, that can be used for games like Catan and made from 100% hard wood, absolutely no plywood junk. So please, read on and if you like what we have, please look back often for our Kickstarter and share us with your friends!
Links for Project:
Facebook (Like us and share to help out with stretch goals!)
Kickstarter (Now live through March 22nd!)
Instagram (Follow us and click that awesome heart button to help out with stretch goals!)
Hi-res photos of board near bottom of page!
Updates on Board are at bottom.
Is this legal? I get asked this question by a lot of people.
The easiest answer is yes, it is legal. Since I am not here to explain the law, however, please refer to “Nominative Fair Use”, and the pertinent laws surrounding it. This does a better job of explaining than I could. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask.
I had just moved back from living Taipei, Taiwan for 2 years. English had become more like Chinglish, and I got used to talking to people like they were a 5 year old due to my lack of fluently speaking Mandarin, and their lack of fluently speaking English. The sweet spot for communication norms for me landed somewhere in the middle. But boy was it fun. I digress.
There I am, visiting my parents, and my father wanted to show me the laser cutting machine at the University of Louisville in Kentucky. So we loaded up the car with some wood, and we set off towards what would become the start to the project of making the best board we could fathom up from our human brains. We both fell in love with laser cut. We are both designers of a sort at heart, my father is more the engineering type (having been an engineering dam near his whole adult life), and me, more of the art design type. Together, we both knew we could come up with a business that creates both function and beauty at the same time. Something we felt is lacking in the world of laser cutting today. Since we were both lovers of the game Settlers of Catan, we decided to start our own board. It started off as a simple project just for ourselves. We didn’t like any of the current boards that we had seen other’s make on the market, for one reason or another, so that can only mean making our own… logically.
NOTE: I will be uploading some of the old files soon! Prototypes we started with, etc. Check back to see the changes.
Cut to… I am a bit of a perfectionist… by the time I got done with the first prototype of the first resource (wheat), a week had gone by. But, we went back to the college, cut it out, and were super happy with it. Except at the time, the design I had come up with was in the middle of the hexagon, and when you cut out the hole for the pips. BAM! There goes half your image, ergo, half the work you put into the resource for nothing…
Yeah that wasn’t going to work. That was something I hated about the original game hexes. While they do look good, the pips take up the whole image.
So… I went back to the drawing board… for the wheat.
Day 15-60. By this point, i started working part time for my Aunt Cindy, and designing in my free time when I could. Since I didn’t have a place to set up my beefy desktop (and I have the worlds oldest clunk of an excuse as a laptop), I was not able to get done as much as I would have liked in this time. The key importance of this time-frame, was that we decided that we should try to see if we could come up with all 6 resources, and begin a Kickstarter for it when we finished, whenever that would be. So, I think by the time day 60 rolled around, I had a prototype for all of the resources, even water.
Now by day 61, I was living in New Zealand. I went there to start an Engineering degree and, mostly, to see New Zealand for 6 months. Another country off my bucket list.
When I first moved to New Zealand, it was without my girlfriend as she was still waiting for her visa, so when I wasn’t studying, I was working on our board. I would go to school, come home, study for 4 hours (math, bleh), and then work on the designs for 4-8 hours, sleep, repeat. That was my life for 3 months. By the end of day 160, I had over 5 prototypes for each resources, with various changes, and over 200 hours of design time in total on them.
The biggest problem was not coming up with a design. Anyone with some art abilities and a know how to use some computer software can do that. The trick was getting it to look good on paper AND on a piece of wood after being cut. The laser machine is not like a printer, where you click a button and it figures out how to make it look perfect all on its own. You have to program every line to cut at a different speed, or temperature (voltage), to get that line to look right. And since I was living in New Zealand, my father took on that role very well. While communicating long distance was rather frustrating, we were able to come up with the board and tweak all the lines needed to be tweaked, and figure out expenses, how we wanted them to be stained, etc. etc.
At this point, this is what you see before you. The (nearly 100% finished) board we designed. There is not a single image that is not 100% our own, nothing was copied and pasted. We have spent a lot of time and effort ensuring this board is something that we would love, and hope that you will too. I just recently moved back from New Zealand, and visited my folks again, and made all the necessary final adjustments to get the board where it needed to be. We were doing most of the prototype cutting on plywood, but by the end of the day it’s safe to say that plywood is not a very good quality product for doing this type of work. It warps easily, it’s brittle. Some of the details when etched into plywood make the wood chip away because, again, it’s just garbage. It works great for some things, but a highly detailed board is not one of them. We would never make a plywood board for ourselves and be happy, so why would we give other people a board that’s mediocre? We wouldn’t. So we decided we will only be making our board out of solid wood. Right now, that wood is the hardwood known as Ash. It’s great for laser engraving and cutting, and if properly stored you will have an amazing piece to show your gaming buddies for years to come.
We are now live on Kickstarter, and we want to share our journey and experiences with you. At the end of the day, all we want is a board that is of the best quality and looks amazing. We just hope that you will too!
Our plan for now, is to finish our Kickstarter for the current board, then move on to more board games.
Currently I am already working on a Risk board in my free time. I am also going to look into making a board and other pieces for Tokaido and a few other games. Ultimately, we will be taking suggestions from you and other board game lovers on which games to make into a wood board next. So if you help us on our Kickstarter, you are investing in the future of many, many more board games of the likes to come.
A lot of people have come forward trying to do wooden board games for more than their initial game. Ultimately, a lot of them fail, or stop their project(s) for one reason or another. Myself, personally, from researching what I could, found that a lot of these projects put a lot of time into their first, initial project, then expected the next one to sell itself without much effort put into art design. That is not our plan. At all. Our plan is to make an amazing and beautiful product every time, and let the artwork, time and effort, show for itself rather than 1 successful Kickstarter. Also, I love designing. If I could simply design board games for the rest of my life, that would be awesome. If I can only do it in my free time while working a real adult job, that would be awesome (albeit a bit slower). We even want to get into making our own board games, and helping others bring their board games to life.
- Check out our –> Facebook and like us to receive updates on this and other projects we are working on, and to help out with stretch goals for our Kickstarter!
- Click to view our –> Kickstarter! We will be launching on the 21st of February 2017!
- Instagram? Yes we do! To help out with stretch goals be sure to follow us!
I would like to thank everyone that has been a tremendous help in this process, and to anyone willing to help us share our board with the world. Even just sharing us on your Facebook is more help than you could ever imagine, and we thank you greatly for it.
Below are the hi-res photo’s of the game pieces. They are rather big, so some scrolling skills will be required.
Below is a closeup of the edge pieces. I am still going to adjust a few more settings on the laser cutter to get a smoother more consistent cut line in some areas. Also, I may end up adding some shade lines for the area where the water meets the land, or even recess that down (by just adding a thin piece of wood cutout to that shape over top). More to come on that later.
We also went with blue for the 6 and 8 pips. I think, however, we will be changing that. The next plan is to reverse the scan so that you are leaving the number a lighter color than the surrounding areas.
Below is a close-up of the ratio-trade tokens. They both function the same in my opinion, but some people like one style over the other, and it’s not that much harder to convert the images over to a little different size token.
This is the current robber. Our robber is currently… a prototype of prototypes. But still he functions fine. Update! March 7th, 2017: The robber is now going to be our logo (Thinking Monk). So that way you have a little monk guy running around stealing everyone’s resources! The way the robber works, is that the underside of the robber has a pocket in it so that he fits perfecting over the pips, without sliding around.
UPDATE, Feb 1, 2017: We played around with making the edge pieces blue, but it just doesn’t work as well as we want it too. The color itself is not terrible, but the design work does not show up very well at all on the blue, and if we tone down the amount of blue that goes into the wood, the color no longer looks good. UPDATE, Fed 16, 2017: We WILL in fact be making the edges blue. It will look a little different than the picture below, as that is from about 2 months ago, but we are determined now to make it happen, thanks to support from a lot of people telling us that they loved the blue so much it had to happen (over 95% of people like the blue out of over 100 votes!) I had to adjust some of the water details to make a little more room for land, so the land to water ratio (blue to non blue) will be a little different. Also, I got rid of some of the wave “splashes” and just added some more standard waves. I felt like the splashes I originally had were a little off balance with the rest of the water. My father as of the 16th of February, is rather sick, and since he is the one doing the laser cutting at the moment (I am 10 hours away), we will have to wait for him to get better. Hopefully he powers through it, chugs some nyquil and is better soon so you guys can see the difference! We will still be making BOTH the blue and non blue versions.
The edge peices are, in fact, laser engraved on this picture. But you can’t make it out. I have tried many, many ways to get it to show up better, but I am just not happy with it. I will keep attempting, as it really does liven up the board, but no promises. The other issue is that where the blue fades into the non-stained areas, it bleeds past the line. We tried to get around this by pre-cutting a deep line first, where the two colors offset, then staining, letting it dry, THEN laser cutting again. It still bled over. Even with tape. #tears.
Update, March 7th, 2017: Here is the pictures for the pieces with the slots engraved out for the roads. This is an option on our Kickstarter! The end idea is to have an area for the settlements and cities to fit nicely into as well. These tests were done on plywood… so the end result would end up looking much nicer!
Update, March 7th, 2017: Here is the design of the sea hexagons for seafarers. YES we are doing seafarers now. I have been posting it all over our Facebook, haven’t had a chance to update my blog as I was in CO for business. Anyways, here is what we have so far. I am working on the gold hexagon today (hopefully I can finish), and I will post pictures once I have it done! Also, these hexagons have not been cleaned or had any shellac put on them (hence the dark areas in certain spots).
Update, March 10th, 2017: We decided we are going to be making boxes today. They will not be laser cut, but hand made, to insure that they are well made. Like everything else, we decided on hardwood, none of that crumby plywood. We are also going to make the 6 different colored cloth bags to hold the different players tokens in. *picture to come later*
Update, March 11th, 2017: We decided to continue pursuing this project, after our Kickstarter. Meaning, I am going to design the hexagons for all of the expansions, as well as other pieces that would be needed for the game. I will post the pictures of those as they get finished, of course, on this blog and my Facebook page. To give you an idea of how many pieces that is… currently we have designed a total of 8 hexagons, 4 edges pieces, 6 different harbor tokens, and the pips. From what I understand (and I know I am missing a lot still), there are at least 10 more hexagons to design, some fish pieces, a merchant… the barbarian tracker thingy… with the barbarian horde!… ship. So, I am excited! Because I love designing! I also am going to keep growing my hair longer. Not sure how this is relevant… but… I am technically a Marine with long hair, which makes me kind of like a bad-ass viking… which means I need an awesome axe… and one of those helmets with the horns sticking out of it, with a wooden shield with the Marine Corps logo painted on the front… yeah…
Where was I? Ah yes… hexagons and such. I will be designing lots of hexagons.
Update, March 23rd, 2017: We were successfully funded for our Kickstarter! We ended with a little over $18,000 in funding. Now on to production!
March 27th, 2017: We are still waiting for wood to arrive at this point. Theres over 500 lb’s a wood needed for this entire project, but it’s definitely a good feeling. We really can’t wait to start creating all these boards and boxes!
April 3rd-5th, 2017: The first shipment of wood arrived! We started by hand sanding the boards to a finishing feel (Drum sander still isn’t here yet). This took about 2 days worth of work, and a very, sore arm and hand 😀 After that we cleaned all the saw dust off the boards.
April 6th, 2017: We sorted all the boards by grain and color. Each resource hexagon is assigned a certain type of grain and color of wood. It’s all ash, but you get some dark, light, medium, mixed, and a medium dark color. We sorted into 6 total categories of wood, and a 7th “reject” pile. This rejects are perfectly fine, just not the grain pattern we are looking for, or there’s too much going on with it for the hexagons. The sheep is assigned the lightest wood as it’s being stained white, ore the medium, wood and brick are the dark and dark medium, the medium light color is going to wheat, and the mixed grain to the desert. We also started staining the boards this day, and got through all 50 boards for the brick that needed stained.
April 7th, 2017: We finished stained all the boards for wood, wheat, ore, sheep, and brick. Now we have to let them dry for 3 days to make sure the stain is set properly. This also helps normalize the wood so that they won’t warp. Too much change of humidity all at once can cause warping we don’t want. They are left in an inside environment (relative house temperature and humidity). This also helps them normalize to a household environment so that, again, they won’t warp once you receive them as they are already adjusted to a house. Once everything is done, the hexagons are then put back into a house environment for 2 weeks for the same reason.
April 8th, 2017: I was bored waiting for wood to dry. So I made adjustments needed for the edge pieces, and started working on the sea monster for the seafarers edge piece. Yes… there will be a sea monster on the edge piece that comes with seafarers. 🙂 The edge pieces now get cut into 3 pieces, the middle stained blue, then put back together using wood glue and a cam clamp my father, and partner in this venture, designed up. It works amazing!
April 9th, 2017: I started cutting all the brick (this was all stained on the 6th, where everything else was the 7th). I started cutting with the laser at 0830 and stopped at 2300. In between the laser time I cleaned the hexagons with denatured alcohol, put them in a clamp mechanism we created, and back into the house environment to await shellacing.
April 10th-17th, 2017: Next was the wood, then sheep, and we are currently finishing up cutting the ore hexagons. Last will be the wheat and desert, and we should be completely done with the normal board hexagons by Thursday! Which is way ahead of schedule.
April 18th, 2017: Finishing up the ore and starting the wheat tonight. All the other hexagons are cleaned up to this point. Once I finish the hexagons, I will be starting the edge pieces. They will take a long… time. We are estimating just under 2 weeks for those to all be finished. In between drying for those, we will be shellacing all the hexagons and normalizing them. I also design up a dice tray on Easter. We are going to be creating the tower to go with it, and those will be sold at a later date.
April 19th, 2017: The ore was finished last night around 2330. Started the wheat today. Should be done by late tonight or early tomorrow morning. Desert hexagon will be next, and should only take a few hours to finish them all, as there is not nearly as many to cut out. Also finished my dice tray. I lined it with leather, and raised the bottom up so it’s easier to see the dice. I started on the tower and got the frame done as well, and I am hoping to finish putting the little wooden bricks and walnut inlay on today. Also going to start putting shellac on the hexagons today. This process will take about a week total for all the hexagons and edge pieces since we are going to be doing it in small batches (about 200 at a time), then rotate them out of the clamping and drying process every day. After that, they stay in an inside environment till they ship out.
Professional Photos (by the_review_board, on Instagram)
Disclaimer: We want to make wood boards for a lot of popular games out there right now. It’s important to note that we are not trying to take sales from these games. In fact, if anything, we hope to help sales of those board games. We do not plan on selling the full games, meaning you will still have to purchase the original board game, then you can buy our products. For anyone wondering about legality issues, we are doing nothing illegal. Again, if anything, what we are doing would only help sales for board game makers, not hinder them.