A cheapskate prototypes a board game: finding textured hexgrids
July 28, 2016 10:08 AM   Subscribe

I'm designing a boardgame whose main play area consists of a hexagonal grid, 7 hexes on a side, for a total of 127 hexagons. Tiles will be coming onto and off of this play area during the game and I'd like a board with inset hexagons to hold the hex tiles in place. The tiles in question are 1 inch across. How do I do this on the cheap?

Thus far I've managed to source elements for this game with enough ingenuity to get substantial if small components cheaply. It's an area-control game, so what I've needed so far are the tiles to represent the different types of areas on the hexgrid representing a "city" (which can change over time as districts are razed, rebuilt, or repurposed), cards to represent players' powers, and little individual "claim" counters for the players to place on the board to indicate which regions they control.

Thus far I've acquired the following parts for this project:
* a sheet of one-inch hexagonal tiles.
* a number of dye and solvent ink pads to stain the tiles different colors (pigment ink is no good, and washes right off).
* several easily repurposed playing cards from assorted sources
* a bag of 3/8-inch glass squares to serve as claim counters.

These are all kind of nice, substantial components, if small, and a bit more durable than the cardboard counters I'd originally envisioned using. But what I feel I really need is a board with 127 hexagonal recesses in it --- yes, the tiles could be laid out freely, as in Hey, That's My Fish, but with all the picking up and setting down of new tiles and of the claim tokens I'd like something where all the elements will stay firmly in place once set down, akin to the textured grid on the play area in Acquire. Is there either a straightforwardly gaming-oriented component, or, alternatively, an alternative use for a different product (which is totally in line with what I've done so far), which would serve to hold hexagons 1 inch in width in place? I attempted to cut hexagonal holes in a sheet of corrugated cardboard with an intent to glue it on top of another sheet of cardboard, but it's phenomenally slow and imprecise work, and awfully prone to breakage unless I leave a lot of space in between hexes, although it might be more effective if I were to try it on heavy cardstock instead.

Basically, anyone have a clever, cheap way for me to get an inexpensive 1-inch grid of hexagons with either recessed depressions or raised edges (which would amount to much the same thing)?
posted by jackbishop to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (12 answers total)
Know anybody with a router or (better yet) a laser cutter? This sounds like a job for 1/8th inch MDF (two sheets, stacked, with the upper layer punched.) Maybe there's a friendly hackerspace in your area that could help out.
posted by fifthrider at 10:12 AM on July 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

Heroscape tiles are about an inch across, they link together; you should be able to get them cheap on Ebay,
posted by Akke at 10:25 AM on July 28, 2016

laser cutter is definitely the way to go.

Otherwise, find an appropriately sized metal cookie cutter. Sharpen the edges with a file. Place on a piece of cardboard with a wooden piece on top of the cutter to protect it. Hit with hammer. You can either use an exacto knife to cut through the now indented cardboard or maybe keep hitting until the cutter chops through. That would be my 5 dollar solution, but ymmv...
posted by Chrischris at 10:28 AM on July 28, 2016

You could roll out a thin sheet of sculpey or fimo and press tiles into it, trim up the edges and bake it. I don't think that stuff shrinks enough to be a fit problem.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 10:52 AM on July 28, 2016

By sheer coincidence, I met someone this weekend who had a problem almost identical to yours. His prototyping solution was, just as fifthrider suggested, to use a laser cutter on one sheet of plastic and then glue it to a solid sheet. VoilĂ , inset game board.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:14 AM on July 28, 2016

Does your library have a 3D printer you can use? You could print 1/8" tall hexagon outlines (think cookie cutters) and attach them to a board. Perhaps there is a local maker space with a 3D printer?
posted by stompadour at 11:21 AM on July 28, 2016

Quilt some hexes from scraps then use a base with Velcro tabs? Lots of work but can be done cheaply if you have old clothes for scrap.
posted by chapps at 11:26 AM on July 28, 2016

Also my son as a kid used to do crafts with fusible beads and there was a hex plate for this. You could make outlines for the hexes using fusible beads, then glue those on hard surface to make a grid where tiles fit inside; easy way to make a consistent size.
posted by chapps at 11:29 AM on July 28, 2016

I would use 2 sheets of 'standard game board cardboard' with recesses cut on the top sheet, then bind the two together.
For a prototype, you can probably accomplish this with an x-acto knife (be careful and always use a sharp blade)
For production, you would need to look into die-cutting (basically they would make a hex grid of strong 'cookie cutters' that go into a press) the set-up costs for this (making the cookie cutter grid) is definitely an expensive proposition (~$1000+) but the cost per unit is usually very low.
posted by sexyrobot at 12:31 PM on July 28, 2016

If you can get access to a craft-store-level diecut machine (I have a Cricut, but there are others like Silhouette), you could probably lay out the cuts on a piece or two of heavy cardstock and then glue them to a solid piece. Libraries or local maker spaces are likely to have something like it. Most will take materials up to 12x24 inches. Since your diameter is 14 hexes plus the space between them, you'll probably need to do half the board at a time.
posted by soelo at 12:46 PM on July 28, 2016

Some wargames/RPGs/miniatures games are played on 1"hexes. I have usually seen them laid out on printed hex grids on something like a sheet of vinyl, but there may be some kind of existing board.

There was a board for Settlers of Catan on Kickstarter a few years ago that was solving this exact problem, only for the Catan hex pieces, which are bigger. That might give you some insight as well.
posted by oblique red at 1:04 PM on July 28, 2016

If it was me I'd make up a form out of MDF (with the assistance of a CNC machine of some sort or just by gluing short rectangles in the correct pattern to a sheet of MDF) and then vacuum form the board. You can make up a serviceable vacuum former using a shop vac and a regular household range or other heat source.

One advantage of this method over laser cutting is you can use varied depth and non-contiguous segments to make it easier to remove tiles from the board. And once you have the mold developed it is going to be quicker than laser cutting and much, much quicker than CNC routing.
posted by Mitheral at 2:19 PM on July 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

« Older Tabletop RPG management software   |   Canadian pediatrician moving to USA Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.