Ah board games, the fun times. Back in the days without Internet and a zillion TV channels, the joy of a family game night was unparalleled. From Monopoly to Chutes and ladders, through Battleship to Stratego, board games were at the center of a family lifestyle.
The integration of mobile phones and tablets into our lives have taken us away from these, isolating us from each other. Where kids used to bug their elders to play with them, or complete the required number of players, now it’s the elders who tend to bug the kids to venture out of their iPads and iPods and be a part.
If you are looking to get into tabletop gaming, or get your kids into it, it can be a very cumbersome endeavor. For where the toy stores stacked their shelves with tabletop games, they have long been replaced with the latest gadgets and fancy toys.
Come to think of it, it’s not all bad. You can use a 3D printer to make the needed parts for your game and engage the whole family. Now that raises a whole slew of questions. Let’s answer them one by one.
Should you buy a 3D printer for tabletop gaming?
Definitely. Many people get into 3D printing by watching cool time lapses of Yodas and baby Groots being printed. After working on a project or two, their 3D printers are usually left covered in the garage, gathering dust. Buying a 3D printer for tabletop gaming would ensure continued use of the printer beyond one or two projects.
Board games come packaged with a hefty rulebook, many plastic pieces along with (at times more than one) dice and a printed board. As a result, it drove up the price of these games, making tabletop gaming a niche activity in the past two decades.
With the commercialization of 3D printing, tabletop gaming is making a comeback in the form of indie games. You can find a plethora of blueprint files with complete set of instructions for these games all over the Internet.
From the base tiles to the character units to complete landscapes, 3D printers allow dungeon masters to craft the whole landscape to picture perfect detail. 3D printing can be a very handy tool for the people who don’t like to craft the details for their games, rather they want to get into action right away.
Even if you are into crafting, with 3D printing, you don’t have to spend as much time with the designs as you would have previously. You don’t have to craft every intricate detail by hand (well you’d need to do that in the 3D modeling software, which gives you more room for mistakes), you just need to pull up the model, prep it for print and with a push of a button you can get started with printing.
Best 3d printer for board games
While there are many desktop 3D printers available on the market these days, not many are as versatile and easy to use as the LulzBot Mini Desktop 3D Printer. Why? Let’s take a look.
The LulzBot Mini is a high-performance 3D printer perfect for desktop use in homes for designers, engineers and architects. According to Computer World, “Any serious maker should consider this machine because of its flexibility, accuracy and speed”. Shipping fully assembled, the Mini can be set up and ready to go in a matter of minutes after opening the box. It comes loaded with features to allow the new users get their designs printed without much hassle. E.g. the auto-leveling bed adjusts itself throughout the whole printing process to print the design as required, without your involvement at all.
LulzBot Mini features with Open Source Hardware, which means that this printer was developed as a result of collaborative efforts of professionals. Allowing you to jump in and start with 3D printing without any prior experience. You can use a wide variety of filaments off the shelf with minor adjustment. The Mini is great for board games as it prints all your designs in immaculate detail with accuracy. While the platform size seems small, it’s perfect for personal use. Employing state of the art tech, the LulzBot Mini can be left running in the house without any much noise complaints.
Best 3d printed board games
As discussed, you can find blueprints for 3D printed board games across the Internet. Here are some of the most commonly printed ones.
In this 3D printed game, the players compete to build their cities from ground up. Additionally, extra care is needed for industry development, city planning and culture to amass victory points and ultimately win the game.
Tripp Yeoman has provided a detailed set of instructions, and the cards needed to play the game, you can download from MyMiniFactory.
Pokémon Go Board
When released, Pokémon Go became a sensation overnight (for a couple of months). While the mobile application craze has died down since, the passion for Pokémon carries on. So, it’s only fitting that it gets a new life in the form of this board game.
Based off the classic Fox and Geese game, the Pokémon Go Board is a hunting game. You can bring it out when your phone is out of juice, to keep the energy alive. Since the game isn’t that big, you can easily put it in a bag and take out with you when you go camping or on a Pokémon hunt.
You can download the instructions and the required files for the game from Pinshape.
Well, not really a board game, you can still have countless hours of fun with this tabletop game. It’s a must have along with any reading material for your coffee table. Appealing to all ages, this tiny game is like a Rubik’s Cube (you have to line up the columns having the same shape imprinted, to open it), but you don’t have to be a genius to solve it.
You can also color the sliding bits and pieces to liven things up.
Star Wars vs Star Trek has been a very long running debate. You can now settle the debate in style with this classic game. Featuring ships from the famous fleets of both movie universes, you can battle it out anywhere. Who would’ve thought that the game which was originally played with pen and paper could be modernized like this.
You can get the blueprint files for the ships from Thingiverse and a copy of the official rules from the website of Hasbro.
If you are a Game of Thrones fan, then you are probably already familiar with this game. This chess like game doesn’t come with a standard set of rules, rather George R. R. Martin urges his fans to make their own rules by combining Chess, Blitzkrieg and Stratego. Even if you aren’t following Game of Thrones, Cyvasse is a pretty fun and challenging game.
However, if you prefer to be given a set of rules, the game designer has included a set of rules along with the blueprints on Thingiverse.
How to 3D print a game?
3D printing a game can go either of two ways. If you decide to go with an already established game (as discussed), you can find the 3D design files in a design repository and download them to get started. You can also find their respective instructions online.
If you are creating a game completely from scratch, you’ll be required to put in a lot of effort with your game. If it’s a strategic game, you’ll need to design and print the pieces and the board carefully to make sure everything fits in well and makes sense. If you are designing a fantasy game, you can let your imagination run wild by creating lavish landscapes along with crazy characters. You are only bound by your imagination.
Board game accessories you can print
Along with creating your own games, if you have board games and you have lost a couple pieces, you can simply 3D print those pieces to complete your set. For simpler games, you can print dice, card holders, token holders and similar things specific to your games.
For more complex games, you can print 3D models of your characters, their accessories (armor and weapons) as well as complete landscapes. Of course, you’ll need to paint the whole thing afterwards.
There is a caveat, however, for some of the games, make sure that you check their licenses, because they prohibit you from creating your own pieces of copies of it. So make sure to keep out of trouble and check all the relevant details with the blueprint files when you download them.