Pre Production

History of 3 Boda Games Meeples – Part I

Meeples: as part of our artwork guidelines, this time we will explain the process behind making wooden meeples. Without a doubt the most iconic piece for board games, meeples are a staple of the board game industry. So how to best explain making wooden meeples? This time we are changing it up a bit. Instead of just describing every step in a boring way, we will show it! For our latest version of the sample box, we also had a number of meeples made just for us. So we will take 3 of the meeples that we created for our sample box, and explain the entire process we went through when designing these meeples. The things to pay attention to design wise, the different ways we can produce meeples and how it changes the way they look when finished: we’ll tell you everything.

The Painter meeple – a laser engraved meeple.

The first meeple we will introduce is our Painter meeple. Keeping with our ancient China theme, we planned for this meeple to look like a traditional Chinese Painter. We took the classic meeple shape that everyone knows and loves, and started to modify it to make it look more traditional Chinese as well as show the painter nature of the character. For the head, we modified the traditional soft pointed shape and instead created a small dome on top to create a hair bun. We then added a brush to the left hand of the meeple, to show his artistic craftsmanship.

Shape

To understand the shapes you can give to meeple, you need to understand how the wood gets processed. For a machine cut meeple, first we begin with a long piece of wood that is larger than the meeple we are planning to make. This piece of wood goes through an extrusion machine that has a shaping tool inside it. You can see this in figure one. Once it passes through the machine, the outline of the meeple shape can be seen. After this, we take the long meeple stick and cut them to a desired thickness. It’s quite similar to cutting a loaf of bread! You can see this in figure 2. After all of that is said and done, the meeples have a shape according to your design. And cut individually to the thickness you specified.

Shape of the meeple

There are a few things to keep in mind when designing the overall shape of a meeple. The first one is that due to the cutting process, it’s better to avoid very thin elements. The force behind the cutting machine might not be able to cut super thin 1mm elements, especially if they stick out and are relatively far from the main body. This is also why you will normally see meeples with more rounded features than sharp, pointy ones. Although the Painter meeple we used in this example had a fairly basic shape, of course you can also design more complex shapes. But always try to balance it so that no parts of the meeple get too thin, with the risk of breaking off during the cutting process. As a rule of thumb, try to make sure that parts that stick out from the main body are at least 1.5mm-2mm thick, especially on the connecting part.

You can see another example here from Barrage on Boardgamegeek a game that we manufactured lately, that has a more complex shape with various parts sticking out.

Color

Next the meeple is normally painted in 1 base color that covers the entire body of the meeple. In our case we went with a deep red, a traditional color in China. The exact color we used was pantone P46-8 C. By using pantone colors, you can make sure that the color you have in mind and the color of the final product matches up exactly. If you’re unsure about how pantone colors work, your account manager can help you figure it out. So feel free to contact them if you need assistance with that.

Engraving

Another reason we went with red, which is a darker color, is because we wanted to do engraving on our Painter meeple. Previously we already explained the thought process behind the shape of our painter meeple. And for many meeples, the alone is enough to instantly understand what kind of meeple it is. But to really make sure our painter is instantly recognizable, we wanted to add more details to him. One option for adding these details is through laser engraving.

The way laser engraving works is by removing a thin layer of the by now painted wood from the meeple. By doing this, you expose the bare wood’s natural color that is hidden below the layer of paint. It also creates a difference on the surface of the meeple’s body, similar to the embossing effect often found on game boxes and game boards.

For the laser engraving on top of the meeple, you need to create a pattern. The laser will then cut out the parts according to that pattern. More importantly, it won’t cut the parts that should remain covered in paint.

Things to pay attention to

There are 2 things to pay attention to when creating this pattern:

  1. Similar to paper components, you need to maintain a “bleed” in the design. The meeples can move slightly when they are placed into the laser engraving machine. Thus, without a bleed the design can shift to the point that it extends beyond the body of the meeple. To make sure that the entire design gets lasered into the body of the meeple, make sure that the laser engraving pattern is 1-1.5mm smaller than the outline of the meeple itself. That way, even if the meeple is not 100% centered the entire design will still be lasered into the meeple correctly. This space should be kept on all sides of the meeple.
  2. Although laser engraving machines can create lines thinner than you can imagine, it is better for the details to not be too fine. When the lines of the design are too thin, they might be hard to see once the meeple is produced. This is also because the natural wood that you are exposing through the laser engraving has a patina with lines running through it. If a very thin line is cut out, but below it is a darker grain of the of the wood, you might find it is hard to see.

Design files

The preferred format to prepare the design files for a meeple is in vector form. Both .ai and .pdf format is good for this. If you’re unsure about the file format to use, please ask your account manager for advice and guidance. Two more tips to avoid any mistakes arising during the manufacturing process:

    1. Try to design your file using real measurements. This means that if your meeple is going to be 3 centimeters tall, the design file is also 3cm tall. That way, the size of the design equals the final size of the meeple. Also make sure to include clear instructions for the desired measurements, so that our time can double check the files.
    2. When making an engraved meeple like our Painter, make the file so that it has two layers in it. That way, one layer is for the shape of the meeple. The other layer for the engraving pattern of the front of the meeple.

And voila, now you know the process behind making engraved meeples. Of course, there are other manufacturing methods for creating meeples. In part 2 we will also explain how to produce silkscreened meeples. Stay tuned!

Read more...

Dice design guidelines

Dice are one of the most ubiquitous items in the board game industry. You can use them for almost anything, design them in every shape, colour and size you like. Because a dice is not just limited to numbers, you can put (almost) any image on there. And on top of that, it’s just fun to roll dice. When you’re designing dice for your game, it is important to keep a few things in mind. First of all, check what type of dice (material) you will be using. There are some minor yet not insignificant differences between the different types of dice. The different types will be explained in detail below, as well as in this article. The vast majority of dice are made from resin, acrylic or wood. The differences between resin and acrylic dice mostly stem from different production methods, as they are similar in appearance for the most part. The choice between resin and acrylic dice depends on the quantity needed. Besides the choice for dice material, there are different methods to put the design on the dice. Laser engraved  A laser engraved dice has layers of the surface burned off with a laser. The laser is extremely precise...

Read more...

Pin-badge artwork guidelines

So you’ve seen them around at conventions. Those kick ass pins-badges adorning lanyards, bags, bright and shining. And now you want to make your own pin-badge! To promote your game, your company, or just because you have an awesome design in mind. But how? Artwork for pin-badges First things first, the artwork. When designing a pin-badge, keep in mind that there is a limit to how detailed it can be. The fewer lines and “parts” you use, the more effective the design tends to get. Although there is no fixed size for a pin-badge, most of them are between 2-5 centimeters in diameter, meaning they are pretty small.  Therefore, bright and bold colors tend to work best. Every part of the pin design can only have 1 color. So shading or gradual colors should be avoided when designing the pin. Because each part of the pin is separated by a thin silver line, having offsetting colors next to each other works very well.  The file itself can be a pdf or a single layer photoshop file. When making the artwork, you don’t have to “draw” the separation lines, we will do that for you at the factory when converting the artwork into the actual...

Read more...

Get your game box up to sniff

A game box is the business card of your game. It is the first thing you see. You pick it up, you turn it around. You study it from all sides, wondering what will be inside that plastic shrinkwrap. The most important thing with a game box is to remember the main purpose of the box: to hold the items from your game.  People get so swept up  in trying to decide what type of box they want. That they forget that first and foremost, all the components should fit. This actually sounds easier than it is in reality. Particularly when you have sized and larger components. You need to account for the total volume they take up. As a general rule of thumb, your box should be at least 15mm bigger than the largest component in the game. 15 mm bigger in every single possible direction. But also keep in mind how the items will fit into the box. And how to do that in such a way that they are easy to take out of the box. At Boda Games we have a lot of experience with this after doing it countless times. So normally our customers let...

Read more...

A game board for every game

When you think about board games, you think about game boards. Even more than cards, you think of the foldable, big game board that greets you when you open the box. When opening a game for the first time, what is the first thing you check? Not the rules or the meeples, no you go for the thing sitting on top of everything. The game board that gives you a sneak preview of what you can expect from the game. You fold it out, put it down flat on the table and the gaming session is underway!  However, this article is not about the fun you can have with a game board, but about the way to prepare the necessary files to make one in the first place. Even though it seems like one of the more straightforward and easy items to design and prepare, there are a few things to pay attention to in order to ensure a smooth and trouble free manufacturing process. As always, this may be the first time for you to handle these type of things but it definitely isn't for us! So make sure to get in contact with your account manager if you run...

Read more...

Great punchboards – how to create them?

No game is complete without punchboards. As such, punchboards play a central role most modern board games. They make up a wide array of components in a game and can be used for almost any purpose. The game board, the tokens, the player boards and anything else that you can think of, can be made from punchboard. These punchboards themselves can be made from multiple layers with cutouts, different thicknesses and so on. The fact that punchboards can be used in so many ways and take so many different shapes, is also what can make it a bit more difficult to prepare the files for. Similar to cards, one must take care to leave enough bleed and margin. But unlike cards, you also have to consider things such as folding lines (for game boards) or optimal token placement. Then there are special margin requirements, dielines, thickness of the material to keep in mind.. All in all, quite a bit!  Fortunately these are all things that we at Boda Games have a lot of experience with and will gladly help you with . By optimising token layout, we can reduce the amount of cardboard and space needed in the game box, which is...

Read more...

Getting cards ready for printing

Card games, cards in board games. There is a fairly good chance that you have designed a card game at some point. For many, their first steps into designing games start with a card game. Easy to prototype, easy to carry around, endless possibilities. Now, there is a lot of information out there about the intricate details of designing a (card) game. In fact here are entire discussion groups dedicated to it. Lots of ways to let your creativity run wild and create something amazing. But there is one thing that a lot of those articles tend to leave out. The practical aspect of it: getting them transformed from an idea, from artwork, from a rough draft.. Into a file ready to be send off to the printer. Let's get into the other side of board game manufacturing! So even though it is not as thrilling and creatively satisfying, this article will discuss getting your cards ready for printing. Files that are not ready end up needing a lot of back and forth between the designer and the printer, which is a huge waste of time and effort for everyone involved. But more importantly, it could mean the difference between getting...

Read more...