The Epic Game Board

Everybody has to play on a table in todays D&D.  What do you play on?

If you’re still using that ugly beige matt, you might want to pay attention.

This is my Home Board*, I call it that for two reasons.  First, the specs.

At 24″ x 36″ it nearly fills my kitchen table, leaving only enough room for my DM stuff and the initiative tracker.  It sports a sleek, black frame (to hold in the dice) and a plexiglass top so it won’t crack and is wet or dry erase safe.  A thin 1″ grid drawn on the bottom of the plexiglass keeps order.   Under that, rests a fine layer of roadside sediment, glued in place, sealed, and spray painted a nice generic grey.  The floating glass adds a nice shadow effect to all the dice and minis, as you can see.

Second reason I call it my Home Board… I made a Travel Board.

Here’s how I did it, for about $10.

The first thing you have to do is scour the thrift stores and hope for a good find.  You’re literally treasure hunting here.  What you’re looking for depends on your use.  If its a home board you need, then you want three things.  A frame holds the dice in, size according to your table, and get plexiglass if possible.  I didn’t even think about the glass at first, and it lasted for a year plus.  All it took was one player to lean on it and crack, I saw the error of my ways.  You can buy plexiglass at Home Depot, Lowes, etc… but it’ll cost you about $10 on its own.

As I said before, I was looking for a Travel Board, so I was looking for something a little smaller.  I scored on my first stop, and got this acrylic box frame for $5.  The bonus is the top easily comes off so I can switch grids, place dungeon tiles or maps underneath, and draw in zones and such on top.  It also makes a nice sturdy surface for props and minis.  The good news is they sell all sorts of these things at Michael’s and Hobby Lobby, and both quite often have half-off sales.

Next comes the tedious part, drawing in the grid.

There are two ways to do this.  Drawing it on the glass itself, or on something else, in which case you’re just framing a picture of a grid.  If you draw it on the glass itself, you’ll have a hard time placing maps underneath and lining it all up.  If you’re just framing a picture of a grid, it’s not going to look as cool as the alternative, but it’ll be more versatile.

Either way you do it, you want to use a Metallic Silver Sharpie, trust me.  It looks awesome (it’s shiny), it stands out against all the dark colors used in Dungeon Tiles, and watercolor paints run off it like it was a crayon.  I got mine at Wal-Mart.

The easiest first, drawing a picture of a 1″ grid.

If you’re handy with a ruler, this isn’t too tough.  Most pictures are white on the back, so you’ll probably be able to use whatever came with your new frame.  If not, poster board is cheap, or… they make this stuff called Ghost Line (their link is down, tryKmart), it’s poster board with a very faint grid pre-drawn on it, I got mine at Wal-Mart for about $3.  With this, all you have to do is align your ruler and trace.

This is a lot easier to do if you have a yardstick, the wooden ones are only about $1 at craft stores.  Even if you’re using the Ghost Line, start by making little dots at every inch around the border of your paper.  Make sure you marks are level across the page (this is where Ghost Line really helps), line up your yardstick and trace, slowly for a thicker line, faster for thinner.

New Tip:  Sometimes a yardstick just won’t work for you.  In those cases, foam posterboard is cheap, has straight, thick edges, and can easily be cut to size for you to trace against.

Now, you’ll want to paint it.  Here’s where you get creative.  I ended up making two sheets with the grid on it, made one a nice light green for outdoors stuff, and the other a dark grey for caverns and night usage.  I can switch out the two sheets depending on the encounters lighting!

Use watercolor, you don’t want to cover that beautiful grid.  As I said before, the watercolor magically runs off the Silver Sharpie.

Here are some fun techniques I used on mine.  On the green board, I scratched it while still wet, lightly with a fork, a brush, and other various edges to simulate grass.  On the dark one, I sprinkled water droplets of the paint, either by flicking or dropping from a straw, to make round dots that simulate rocks.

So there it is, but if you want to get really creative and get a 3D board, like my home board, you need to do things a little differently.

Making a 3D Board

Using the same tedious method as above, draw your grid on the bottom of your glass.  I’ve found that permanent marker isn’t all that permanent when drawn on glass, so be careful not to smudge it.

You’ll need some cardboard to fit your frame and about 4 bottles of white (Elmer’s) glue.  I got mine at the dollar store.  Then, find some sand, dirt, wood chips, whatever you want your board to look like.  I used sediment from a curbside because it was full of tiny pebbles.

Coat your cardboard thickly with the glue, then sprinkle it with your terrain from at least 12″ up so it plops into the glue. Cover it completely with your debris, wait for it to dry, then lightly tap off the excess.  Repeat the process about three times until you’re satisfied.  It should look decent enough now for use, but if you’re concerned about it’s stability, you can quickly seal it with either more glue at a 1/2 water ratio, or a spray finishing coat.  I actually spray painted mine a nice generic flat grey, to make it lighter and add definition.  I suppose you could go all out with washes and dry brushes and such, but that’s a later post.

Place your frame and you’re set.

*This is truly my home board, notice the silver lines?

How do you like it?  What do you think?  What do you use?

11 Responses to The Epic Game Board

  1. slickshotdogg22 says:

    Hey, I love the game boards described here. A friend and I are heading out in about an hour to aquire the materials and make one for our session. Thanks for the excellent idea! I’m stoked to see it.

  2. markse4444 says:

    That is both creative and shows ingenuity.

  3. Pingback: Epic Game Board Giveaway! | Standard Action

  4. Dungeon Maestro says:

    Awesome job! You can check out my table at http://www.ultimategamingtable.org . I too love using plexiglass. I like your cemet idea, that’s a really cool idea, something I may use here in the near future! Thanks for sharing!

  5. j0nny_5 says:

    Hey Dungeon Maestro, thanks for the comment. You’r gaming table is huge (that’s what she said)! I’ve imagined turning a glass top dining table into a giant gaming table… looks like youe beat me to it. Those pull out drawers for each player are super nice, good work.

  6. slickshotdogg22 says:

    I recently won the Epic Game Board from this blog. Tonight was the first time we played with it and it was amazing. The board is PERFECT for our D&D campaign and it really adds a lot to the gameplay. It’s a great concept that delivers when put to use. Well done j0nny_5 and thanks again for the great opportunity and prize!

    “This board is fantastic. Every home campaign needs to get their hands on one.” – One of my players

    10 out of 10. 5 stars. Excellent review. Go and build it. It’s well worth your time.

    • j0nny_5 says:

      Wow, thanks for the great review. I’m glad the board is going to good use and getting the appreciation it deserves. This was the first board I used playground sand to build and was really pleased how well it came out. Not to mention the $3 bag of sand could make 20 more game boards. Once again, thanks for entering the contest and congratulations!

  7. Pingback: Epic (Nature) Game Board | Standard Action

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