It was finally time to stand up to my words. For a few years I have been planning and brain storming around the idea of making a gaming board. This spring, for instance, I actually tried to pep one other in my gaming group to do it as a summer project with me. He would have had a nice balcony and a large living room to use as an ex tempore workspace. But he also has a wife. Jokes aside, he did not catch on the idea (I doubt it was the wife who contributed to this).

Instead I decided to take the idea with me home. It would be a very good father-son bonding project I thought, if I would get the communication going with my old man – it is not as easy as it sounds. So after sharing my ideas, the plan picked up speed. Sometime in July when I went for a visit it was time.

The Plan

What I wanted was for an easy to store (or hide) and easy to move game board to use in ordinary 1 on 1 or smaller two player games. The ideal size would be 6′ x 4′. I wanted it to be rather sturdy, so it that it would not get shabby soon. I also wanted it to look good in the room enough to be on a table without making the whole apartment look too shabby. I now live in a 1 room apartment, so when playing it would take up much space. Between games I wanted to be able to tuck it under the bed.

Also, when having it on the table it should not be too wobbly, so that the minis would drop. Ideally there should be a way to get it fastened to the table I would place it on, as then someone accidentally leaning on it would not have all the minis crashing to the floor. (That’s a real mood killer. I even now feel sick when my super-awesomely painted Dragon Prince ~:subjective opinion:~, the first of ten, fell to the floor bending and chipping the helm and falling into as many pieces as one can imagine. It happens, sure, and it is not the end of the world.)

My father seemed to have given this more thought than I would have expected, and unfortunately left me out of it. But he then presented a very functional idea. A veneer board is suitably enough 8′ x 4′. The wood store would cut it into suitable pieces. Around the edges we would place lathes – 3-4 cm wide. The different board sections would be held together by a couple of bolts and wing nuts.

The Execution

Amazingly it did not take long to build at all. Between the two of us I would estimate only a couple of hours. To ensure maximum support an additional lathe was placed just closer to each other than the  maximum width of the table. See below:
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The intraboard attachments were done by attaching the corresponding lathe to an already fastened lathe and carefully drilling through. It will be interesting to see how this system takes the wear of time. The person is good ol’ pops, not me. 🙂
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The board pieces are at least stackable. The full board length, which was later cut down by a foot and a half to ensure enough space in the apartment to move around, is quite impressive. Note the basset hound work leader in the last picture:
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The Finish
After assembling all the pieces, I carefully sanded down any rough corners and protruding sticks. Then all parts were lacquered two times to protect the veneer from moisture. Finally the gaming surface was sanded using PVE glue and natural sand. One of the big boards I also lacquered after the glue had dried. This seemed to be the winning combination. I did some testing, just out of curiosity, for future reference.

After the lacquer had dried, I painted the sanded surface using black acrylic paint. Any water based black colour would do equally well to the cheap painter’s colours I used. My choice of colour was simply done with availability in mind. Other water based colours would probably be cheaper. Realizing that painting the board would require a quite big volume of paint, I decided to water it down almost 1:3, maybe even 1:4. This way the natural brown of the sand and the wood could be seen through the black in some areas. Also, planning to dry brush the boards with grey, I mostly needed colour in the recesses.

Hint: Some guides to making game boards suggested mixing some lacquer into the water/paint mixture.

A helpful tool in this part was the hair dryer. I use this often when painting on canvas with acrylic colours to make the paint dry faster. Now, with the board almost soaking wet, this reduced the drying time by two thirds. If not even more.

To get a suitably dark appearance I added more layers to some parts of the board. Here is where the lacquering of the sand paid off. Being soaked in so much water made the PVE glue dissolve a bit, thus some sand on the non-lacquered board came off. After the layers had dried properly I drybrushed the surface with a 50/50 black and grey mixture, and then again with a grey only. This last part required very little paint. For the undercoat I used black paint I used 3-4 dl, and could easily have used the double amount. For the grey I used maybe a tenth of this.

Hint: When dry brushing paint onto your gaming board use strokes in many directions. This creates a more natural look. Making strokes in only one direction causes the board to look striped.

These are the best pictures of the painted surface:
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I also tried to take some colour comparison shots between the boards, but the lighting is a bit off. Anyways, they look quite the same.
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Also, cat inspectors were consulted thoroughly through the project:

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The cat committee losing interest. This is only one part of the board, not some huge cats, nor a living room for giants:


Now I still have to decide whether or not I should grass and flock the boards. The colour scheme was finally decided my girlfriend (who also was kind enough to help with the lacquering). I was a bit torn between a brownish, more Fantasy board, and a greyish, more Sci-Fi board. This solution was also perhaps more neutral.

The Price:

The Citadel game board costs around 230 €. That is a lot of money I would rather put on minis! Still, you do get a modular gaming board that you only need to paint. It is also light I can imagine, and you get a handy carrying case.

The wood to make this gaming board cost 40 €. A few more euros gave the screws and bolts. The lacquer was on sale and only cost 1 euro. For 8 euros I got the paint needed. The sand I just took from mother nature. Giving a total of about 55 €.

I can’t wait to get to play on this!


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