Build Foam-Core Inserts
There are several methods of creating foam-core inserts. We learned primarily from the videos of one of our personal heroes, Universal Head, from The Esoteric Order of Gamers. Be sure to visit his website and check out his hundreds of rules summaries and other custom tabletop gaming materials. If you like what you see, subscribe to his YouTube channel! On his channel you can find excellent tutorials, unboxing videos, and sometimes even "war report" gameplay footage. For building inserts, he has created these wonderful tutorials that will really help you get started. We have tried a few methods and really prefer his practices over any other. Pro tip: Although it is tempting to skip gluing when building inserts to save time, we really REALLY recommend that you don't. We have built a couple inserts using only dress pins to hold them together and they don't last very long.
As with the foam-core videos, Universal Head has also created some excellent tutorials about painting miniatures, included in the vast amount of content he has generated for the community. We have largely adopted all of these methods in our own craft. Additionally, we like to remove the miniatures' bases and rubber cement them to clear acrylic bases (as can be seen on our game pages with painted miniatures). Pro tip: Be sure to prime your miniatures with a very light coat so that you don't accidently fill in the details. If necessary, several light coats are better than one heavy coat.
Fix Malformed Miniatures
Sometimes when you buy board games a few of your miniatures will get warped and malformed during the shipping process. Luckily, this is surprisingly easy to remedy if you're careful! We prefer the method presented in this video by Chaz Marler of PairOfDiceParadise.com. Pro tip: place a water-filled bowl inside your bowl of ice water so that your minis don't collide with ice while dunking them.
Build a Gaming Table
Here we will give you the step-by-step process by which we created our own custom gaming table.
Fun Fact: We've actually created 2, but we'll only tell you how to make the best one. This was the first table we built. Do NOT use felt to build a gaming table. It is a nightmare to clean and clings to everything. Bad choices. Live and learn heh. In our second version, pictured at the end of this tutorial, you can see that we opted to start with the largest version of this table. We found that the medium one just didn't quite offer enough surface area for our larger games.
First, we purchased an IKEA Bjursta table. This table is very easy to mod and works as an excellent starting point if you don't want to build from scratch. Simply build this table without adding the top boards or leaf support beams in the frame. Basically, this ends up being 4 legs with the outer walls attached. Do not attach anything to the table tops. It is not required, but we find it best to flip the two shorter frame ends upside down so that the slider guides will be facing down. This is to make using your final gaming table more comfortable.
Next, you're going to need a large sheet of chip board. We found this easy to pick up and have "ripped" to the exact width and length of the table from our local hardware store. After you get your sheet of chip board all you need to do is cut out the corner spaces where the legs will be; roughly 2" x 2" squares out of each corner.
Next, pick what kind of fabric and padding and such that you'd like. After trying a couple things and building 2 of these tables, we decided that we like to have a neoprene base covered in faux suede. It's easy to clean and the neoprene is fantastic for cards, dice, etc. The faux suede is soft, but resilient, and will have just enough friction to hold all your modular tiles in place.
Once you've decided what type of padding and fabric you want, apply them to the chip board. We found it is best to do this by using upholstery adhesive. Research your product well, as many perform very differently. It's a bit pricey usually, but we prefer upholstery tack that sprays a "webbing" out of a can. You can easily coat the chip board with the webbing tack and adhere your padding. Once you do, do the same for the fabric on top. We found it best to only adhere the padding and fabric to the top of the chip board, then stretch it around and staple it to the bottom.
Once all of that is complete, the next step is a bit tricky. The best method we found was to cut our fabric to size, and staple one end of it under each rail of the table. Do not stretch this around and staple it. Instead, just drape it over the rail for the time being. Now, using some good cabinet screws or something similar, screw the chip board onto the bottom of the rails. You should be able to just flip your table upside down, place the chip board on it, and screw it into the rails. Despite popular belief, we've found this to be very sturdy. You may find that many people online will place the board inside of the rails, or even on top of the original support beams, making their inset gaming area quite shallow. We have found absolutely no issue with our own method, even with people leaning on the inset surface.
After you've screwed on the chip board, stretch your fabric that you stapled into the rails around and staple them to the bottom of the chip board. You should now have an almost completed gaming table, but with exposed corner brackets.
Our method for covering these up is actually quite simple. We just built foam core covers that slip onto the exposed leg bolts, and used upholstery tack to adhere some fabric to them. They look very nice, but aren't very sturdy. We may replace these with wooden covers or some such down the road.
If you find that you need your table to still be able to have a hard surface from time to time, we found this quite easy to accomplish by just setting the tabletop surfaces on top of the gaming table. To make sure they don't slide around, just screw some small boards near the edges where you want the top to stop. These will hit against the inside of your rails and prevent the top from sliding around if positioned carefully.
We hope this helps anyone trying out a project like this. Game on, friends!
What card sleeves do you use?
Fantasy Flight Supply sleeves are no longer available. Their replacement, literally, are Game Genic sleeves. These come in gloss (like the originals) and matte, and fit even a bit better than their predecessors.
We use Fantasy Flight Supply sleeves, exclusively. We've tried most sleeves, and are happiest with FFG sleeves by a considerable margin. They're thick, sleek, high quality sleeves.
What foam core/board do you use?
We don't typically use foam core at all anymore, as we're now making our game inserts via 3D printing. However, we still sometimes look to foam core for a simple custom box and other things like that.
We use 3/16" (~5mm) black Elmer's foam board.