custom laser engraved wood catan board made by Thinking Monk Studios

Catan Board Project

My journey. My story, my… destiny!

Maybe scratch out destiny.

So first, what IS Catan? Well, it’s arguably one of the best board games ever. Why? Because it’s challenging, entertaining, and the game cannot last past a certain length (usually the longest I have seen is an hour and half on a BAD game).

That all being said. I started this journey months ago, around February of 2016, with my dearest father. We wanted our own, awesome wooden Catan board. There are some out there currently, but they are all, in our not so humble opinion, not that awesome. Even the fanciest of them seemed to be lacking. Usually it’s the art. You are looking at it and you’re thinking “Oh that’s neat, what is it?”. Next thing you know, you’re playing a game of Catan and arguing which tile was the wheat and which one was the sheep. Then the board surrounding the hexagon tiles is usually the worlds most basic piece of wood with holes cut into it. So we did what any sane, or insane, man would do, created our own.

It started slow at first. My father is wonderful at making anything function correctly, given his engineering background, and has a keen eye for design as well. Though at times I imagine his version of wheat would have been taking the picture off a box of Wheaties and turning it black and white and slapping in on a piece of wood and then sitting back with a beer and smiling. Me… not so much. I like designing things to look nice. In fact, if it doesn’t look good, I don’t want it. It can be the coolest thing ever, but unless it’s a light saber, it needs to have a certain visual appeal.

So there are 5 resources in Catan, plus water and the desert. So I was tasked to make all 7 of these.

The first one I started with was wheat, and after a few hours of designing, I came up with this…

original-wheat

This is the vector file for it, surrounded by the hexagon. I was happy with this, at first. It was still better than anything I have seen out there, but there was an issue… The number token (pip) would cover the image. And if I made a hole in the middle of the hexagon to place the pip in, it would be worse. So… the design had to be changed. I kept some elements of the wheat, but ultimately it had to have that hole in the center.

Thus the following was born

original-wheat-2

And I hated it. Still better than what I had seen from most people, but still not happy. So it was back to the drawing board, again. After much more tweaking and tossing out of prototypes, I finally came up with what is now, the wheat…

catan-wheat-piece

This is it, cut and all, with the hole in the center. It took be well over 12 hours just to design this one piece. That was discouraging. With a full time college degree I was trying to focus on, that left me little time to really put into these designs in my free time. It felt like they would never be done. I would come home from school, and spend 4 hours doing homework (3 math courses, hence the homework), plus the commute to school is 2 hours 1 way right now. Which is horrendous.

My next tile I jumped into was the trees, or wood resource. The first version of it took significantly less time than the wheat, maybe 2 hours to get the first prototype done. Then the ore came, followed by the brick and sheep. Oh… the sheep. Thankfully, the first version of the sheep turned out absolutely amazing, because it took me longer than any of the other pieces.

sheep

Fast forward even further, to now, and the journey is almost over. We have all the hex’s done, the pips, and the board edges, for both the original size and the expansion size, completed. After much hard work from my father on getting all these designs cut and tested, then cut and tested again and again and again… and after feedback from him on what design elements should change, we are finally getting to the climax of our project.

I would like to say, that it has definitely been a joint effort. While most of the design work I did myself, without my father giving his input and spending countless hours testing these designs, we would be no where.

So my personal favorites for these? The edge pieces and the wood resource hex.

How long did all these take me to design? Over 70 hours of design work. Plus likely a lot more to come.

We finally have it now, a board we can, say is awesome. We also decided to stain each resource a different color, and that turned out amazing as well. Then we decided… why stop there? We wanted an awesome board, I am sure other people do to.

So we are starting a Kickstarter for our project.

What will we offer? Hopefully everything you could ever want in a Catan board. We are also going to make a few shot glasses, beer mugs and coasters because, what’s a good game of Catan without a few brews?

I am sure you are wondering, where the hell is the picture of this thing? Well. It’s not “100%” yet. We have everything cut out, but a few changes that need to be made for various reasons. Either cut lines are coming out wrong, or not showing up because they are too close together, etc. We also don’t have the whole thing stained yet. We have a few, but need to change the ore as it is coming out a tad blue. And the water stain is too much blue. But, here is the best representation we have so far, of a finished board… Apologies for the photo quality. These are more for back and forth between my father and I, as we are living 4000 miles apart right now.

full-board-prototype

The brick was changed already a bit, as the lines were not showing up well when cut. The sheep is also not stained in this picture. The edge pieces will be stained as well, and the transition into land on them will be a different color. There is also no blue stain on this. The “blue-ish” one is the ore, which needs to be changed a bit.

So we have made a few improvements to the board. The board will likely be made on either ash of maple (likely maple), as we just don’t like the plywood quality and we want to give people the best for their money. The nice thing is, the cost will not be affected hardly at all by switching to hardwood.

I hope you enjoyed this brief journey, and I will be posting updates as we get closer to our kickstarter campaign, hopefully within the next month.

~Thinking Monk

My board and contents are in no way associated with Settlers of Catan or Mayfair games, the people who make Settlers of Catan.