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  • Writer's pictureMichael Ireland

B.Y.O.B. Build your own Board Game

Updated: Nov 15, 2022

It was a cold, rainy October day when Red began their invasion of Blue. Their advance was swift but poorly timed. Due to an unfortunate roll, the weather chart forecasted poor conditions for Red’s push. Their movement factor was limited, providing Blue with an opportunity to reposition and prepare for the next round. I quickly dispatched my pieces to choke points created by the natural terrain and prepared for my counter-assault. Red had to be stopped, even if their leader was my wife!

Perhaps the first few rounds of Tactics II were not quite that dramatic. But as we huddled around the board, eyes scanning the playing field, fingers fidgeting with pieces, and moves considered and discarded as fast as neurons can fire, it certainly felt that grand. Board games are a hobby of mine and depending on who you ask I own far too many. Yet, I am always on the lookout for new games filled with unique challenges and worlds to explore. Game design has always fascinated me. The creation of micro-environments, governed by well-defined rules, where we can explore creatively and competitively through structured play is truly remarkable.

Games can be expensive, sometimes prohibitively so. However, every board game need not be purchased. With this outlook in mind, this post will showcase some of the games and game-related materials the Caldwell Public Library offers. Then we will look at some crafty examples for creating your own game at home! Hopefully, by the end you’ll have a little more insight into what is available here at CPL and a deeper appreciation for the art of board gaming.

Your library has a significant selection of board games for check out. Many of the classics are here, like Operation, Connect 4, and Monopoly. But we also carry some lesser-known titles and more contemporary, less established games. I highly suggest Betrayal at House on the Hill for those who like macabre themes and are seeking a game with depth. For a more family-friendly experience suitable to all ages try Qwirkle, easy enough for young children to learn with enough complexity for adults to enjoy. For a great strategy game that is easy to pick up and play, you cannot go wrong with “Ticket to Ride”. While a worldwide pandemic has temporarily prevented us from lending our games, we look forward to providing these items when conditions allow. Check our website, Facebook, and phone messaging for updates to the library’s Covid-19 response.

Additionally, many games require few materials or have components that are simple enough to replicate at home. With a few of the resources available at your library, the breadth of games you can create is nearly limitless. Simple print out games with an educational slant may just be the thing to keep children engaged during the summer. The sprawling fantasy worlds of tabletop games like Dungeons and Dragons are great games to play with very few materials. The LYNX consortium carries many of the game’s modules, rule books, and character creation manuals. These books combined with a set of dice, pen, and paper are the foundation of the game. If you find yourself hooked on this style of play, swing into the library to print off character sheets to keep your stats organized and maybe submit a 3D print request for that monster your party is about to face.

If you have the time for a project, or just need some sort of craft to throw yourself into, there are plenty of complete “print and play” style games. These can vary widely, consisting of simple card-based games to complete “hex and counter” wargames. Many of these can be found for free on board game forums and directly from publishers. Some cutting, gluing, and assembly can produce a remarkably playable game given the proper attention. I have built two complete games from plans available online that have been played extensively in my home. These games, Outpost Gamma and Grav Armor are available free for personal use from Dwarfstar Games. I spent a few dollars on prints at the library and put it all together in an evening. The library also offers materials on game history and design for those that want to take constructing a game to the next level. The next game night could be a play test of your very own creation!

If the summer heat has you stuck inside and your eyes feel like they may melt from too much screen time, a board game might be the respite you are seeking. Playing something tactile and being present and engaged with close friends and family is an excellent method of relieving stress. Focusing on a project and building something fun can be a healthy escape from some of the world’s worries. And who couldn’t use a break, right?

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