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Sometimes the Best Board Game Is the One You Make Yourself

Geek WeekAs we build up our anticipation for the first-ever International TableTop Day (ITD) this Saturday, we may get a bit overwhelmed. Like being suddenly placed in the middle of a bustling foreign city, the variety of new game concepts and settings may be more confusing than anything else. What's the best type of game to buy? RPG? German-style board game? Combat card game? There are so many!

Hopefully between my blog entries this week and the awesome events happening at Powell's this Saturday, you'll be able to find a few great new games to play with your family. But today I'm going to pitch you a different way to experience gaming with your family: with a DIY game project.

I developed "Buildrz" for my first book as a way for families to make the perfect game for themselves, and on the cheap. The idea is that, at least with many of the familiar American board games, there is a generic theme: a journey along a path to reach a destination. So I took some butcher paper, covered our pool table with it, and created a giant generic game board (printable PDF here).

Then I worked out a series of generic game cards — the kind that you draw and that let you move forward or back, or take an extra turn.

I came up with a generic set of rules for how to play the game to use as a baseline.

Then, I encouraged families to take the basic framework and make it their own. Want a sci-fi game? A fantasy game? A medieval game? Well, add the art you want all over your homemade game board. When you create the cards (out of cheap 3x5-inch index cards), add themed explanations for each card based on the setting of your game. Use your favorite toys and action figures as your game pieces, and LEGO bricks or Lincoln Logs for building structures. Need a simpler or more complex game? Then go ahead and modify the rules to suit yourself. MAKE THE GAME YOUR OWN.

Now, I'm not saying that it's easy to make a great board game on your own. The games you'll play on ITD and at home with your family have been painstakingly developed, playtested, tweaked, and adjusted to offer balance and challenge play after play. But the point of Buildrz isn't to make a perfect game, at least not the first time around. The point is for you and your family to make a game together, with art and "flavor text" (did you know that's what the words on game cards are called?) and rules created by every member of the family. Your game can evolve over time as everyone gets used to it and learns more about what works and what doesn't. You can even bring in elements from other games you discover. The game will grow with your family and maybe even get handed down to new generations. But it'll be unique and awesome and yours.

And that is the stuff that family traditions are made of.

Buildrz Illustration
Buildrz illustration by Ken Denmead

[Editor's note: Powell's Books at Cedar Hills Crossing is an official host of International TableTop Day. Join us on March 30 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. for a full day of gaming, new game demos, giveaways, and other surprises.]

More from Ken Denmead on PowellsBooks.Blog:

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Ken Denmead is the editor of GeekDad, a blog on Wired magazine's website. A professional civil engineer, he lives near San Francisco with his wife and their two sons, who are both geeks in training. He is the author of three books, including Geek Dad: Awesomely Geeky Projects and Activities for Dads and Kids to Share.

Books mentioned in this post

  1. Geek Dad: Awesomely Geeky Projects... Used Trade Paper $6.50

Ken Denmead is the author of Geek Dad: Awesomely Geeky Projects and Activities for Dads and Kids to Share

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