Board games are an enjoyable pastime. However, it can be an expensive hobby, particularly if you have a predilection for the more 'premium' titles. Many of these are shipped with elaborate game boards and pieces that can send costs soaring into the £50+ region. However, there is a burgeoning technology that has the potential change the tabletop board game world.
Print Your Own Game
3D printing has revolutionised the design and engineering sectors in recent years. In the past, creating a prototype was a costly process that involved a great deal of effort. The advent of affordable 3D printing means that designers can now print their own prototypes at home as long as they are willing to make an initial investment on a printer. The implications this has for tabletop gaming should be obvious.
Not only can ambitious hobbyists now potentially design and print their own boards, they can even design and print their own game pieces. The level of detail possible with modern 3D printers also means that professional models, which would traditionally only be possible via industrial machinery, can be printed with relative ease at home.
3D printing works by feeding a CAD (computer-aided design) file into the printer, which then replicates the file on a layer-by-layer basis. Most basic home 3D printers use a filament that is melted into molten plastic. This plastic is passed through the printer nozzle before it hardens into layers. These layers are then fused together to create the finished object. This process allows for very precise details to be included on your models, giving you the flexibility to create comparable game pieces to those produced by Games Workshop.
Open Board Game
Whilst it is perfectly feasible to print your own games at home as long as you have a 3D printer with filament on hand, you'll still need a certain level of design expertise in order to bring your models to life. 3D printing software is generally free and simple to get to grips with, but mastering it can take time and effort, not to mention a keen eye for detail and art design. One company, however, has circumvented much of the blood, sweat, and tears that goes into designing and 3D printing a board game.
Open Board Game is an Indiegogo project that sadly didn't reach its backing. The potential behind the idea, however, still remains. The concept would allow gamers at home to 3D print professional-standard games tailored to their exact specifications. The ThinkerThing company would provide the requisite files for a number of games that users could tinker with to create the game of their dreams, without much of the initial groundwork that goes into designing such a game.
This open-source board game platform might have been a little ahead of its time. If it were to launch again today, with the expanded audience board games now have, it could broaden the appeal of the hobby even further and would give even those of us not blessed with artistic genes the ability to print our own games at home.
Ahead of the Curve
Whilst Open Board Game might have failed with their crowdsourced concept, the CAD files for many 3D printed board games are already readily available online. Simple concepts such as Megalopolis and Balancing Boulders provide templates that won't require much filament and can be printed, assembled, and played in the space of an afternoon. There are also a number of more complicated designs, such as the tower defence game Hallway Seej and the Doctor Who-themed Tardis Run, which offer a more involved gameplay experience.
The concept of 3D printing your own board games even impressed Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin so much that he decided to throw his own hat in the ring with the wildly ambitious Cyvasse.
This is just the tip of the iceberg though. As 3D printing technology continues to get more affordable and presses further into mainstream culture, there's no telling the kind of strange wonders this growing community will come up with.