Could 3D printed tabletop games, manufactured at low cost at home, soon make board game stores obsolete? Let’s check it out.
Board game manufacturing is not easy and cheap, especially when one box contains a hefty rulebook, printed board and many plastic pieces like dice, coins, and figures. As a result, analog games are a quite expensive hobby and became a niche in recent two decades with the expansion of video and mobile games. Some people say that 3D printing may change things up.
3D printing Warhammer pieces
Rising since H.G Wells introduced the first war game for the masses in 1913, tabletop gaming reached its golden age in the 80’s and early 90’s thanks to the Games Workshop. The British company came up with the worlds of Warhammer Fantasy Battle and Warhammer 40,000 tabletop games. They both require completing an entire army of beautifully detailed figures in order to play. These are often very expensive, so some players resort to non-official models and using 3D printing. Unfortunately, it’s not legal.
If you were thinking that you can easily and cheaply build an army to play Warhammer or other tabletop games, then you were mistaken. Unless you want to break the law and bring a rain of hatred from the hardcore fans!
Stepping up your game (in a legal way)
Instead of 3D printing illegal pieces for Warhammer, you can expand your existing collection and impress your gaming buddies with a stunning diorama – a unique scenery for your combats. Companies like Printable Scenery offer various buildings, chapels, ruins, trenches, bunkers, cemeteries, pipelines, roads, and many, many more 3D printable models which you may use to build and populate your diorama with.
You can 3D print these objects an unlimited number of times in a scale that suits your needs. Once printed with ABS or PLA, they’re ready for painting and more advanced post-production every Warhammer fan is familiar with.
We tested some of Printable Sceneries models on ZMorph multitool 3D printer and the results were very good. Highly detailed models printed well without any support and looked really nice. Using 3D printing every tabletop player gets a chance to build his own unique battlefields. You can even design and manufacture your own buildings and decorations with easy-to-use and free 3D modeling software.
3D printed dice and spare pieces
Board games tend to wear down as you play them – that’s a natural thing. Houses in Monopoly break, pawns get lost, and your Magic: The Gathering cards get all bent at the corners or crumpled in transport. Now you can use 3D printing to replace broken and missing parts or manufacture various holders and cups to help you maintain your favorite games in a peak condition for years.
Members of BoardGameGeek community collect useful game-related 3D printing models on their forum. Every player can easily find new card holders for Arkham Horror and MtG, various tokens, buildings and other spare pieces for the most popular titles there.
And there’s the entire topic of dice for board games. It’s easy to find Instructables on how to make custom dice from plastic or wood. 3D printing repositories are also full of various designer dice for specific tabletop and role-playing games. There’s no better way to impress your friends than with a fantastic set of steampunk, dragon or thorn-shaped d20s. You could design and 3D print them yourself or buy from hardcore players who already launched their dice-making 3D printing businesses.
Tons of legal 3D printed tabletop games
Visit any of the popular 3D printing repositories to find dozens of 3D printed tabletop games reimagining cult classics everybody knows and loves. Chess sets with biomech pieces or with Minions for your kids, easy-to-print Battleship travel set and even analog versions of Tetris. Some people even recreate fictional games from literature, like Cyvasse based on the novels of George R. R. Martin.
3D printing gives game designers a set of powerful tools too. They can materialize their ideas in much better and more professional way than with only pen and paper prototypes. In fact, many designers already create their own 3D printed tabletop games and distribute them online – in printed and self-printing versions. Kickstarter-funded fantasy game Rough-and-Tumble and amazing Pocket Tactics are prime examples showing that 3D printing opens completely new possibilities for players and creators alike.
3D printed tabletop games won’t replace traditional board games, but they sure add some color to the mix. 3D printing opens completely new opportunities for this scene, making it more inclusive and affordable with easily available spare pieces and fan-made upgrades. It can get more people to play board games too. The more, the merrier!