Making a board game from scratch: Hive
A friend recently introduced me to Hive, a board game with no board. It is made up of 22 hexagonal tiles that you can place onto any surface without worrying about carrying a board, dice, or any other pieces. I like to do creative projects over Christmas and the simplicity of the game made me start considering what I would need to make it myself. I own the game already, so this is mainly for the challenge of it.
Hive falls into the category of ‘abstract strategy’, which means:
- Theme-less (without a storyline)
- Built on simple and/or straightforward design and mechanics
- Perfect information (both players can see everything at the same time)
- Promotes one player overtaking the opponent
- Little to no elements of luck, chance, or random occurrence
It can loosely be compared to Chess, you have different pieces, with different moves, and the aim of the game is to capture the enemy Queen. Hive is simpler and lacks the same depth of breathtaking strategy as Chess, but is also quicker to play and easier to pick up.
I realised I could make it with a pyrography pen, hexagon wood tiles, paint and some varnish. You could do the same without the pyrography pen, and just using paint instead.
- Pyrography Pen (£124) – I did some research and discovered that America has a large market for highly rated Pyrography pens available for quite low prices. Unfortunately the UK is different, we have either Amazon or Ebay options which are probably manufactured cheaply in China, or Peter Childs, an expensive (£124) UK made pen. I went for Peter Childs as I wanted high quality which would last a long time, and being made in the UK is a bonus.
- Hexagon tiles (£6.87) – I spent hours and hours looking for natural wood tiles that met the dimensions required (38mm, 12mm deep) on Etsy, then looking for laser cutting companies on Google. I found a Greek person on Etsy who could do the tiles for a reasonable price but then delivery was £15. I spent many hours emailing and contacting laser cutting companies but they always charged a huge amount, or could not work with the thickness required. In the end I went with buying a bag of Milisten 100 plywood hexagons from Amazon. Cheap but makes sense for a first attempt and I can invest more later. The Hexagons are 30mm wide, 3mm deep, so I will glue three together to get 9mm deep.
- Paint (£9.99) – I have Acrylic paint already. I also have a few tins of Revell enamel paint which I could use for the sides.
- Varnish – There are a few tins of Cuprinol in the garage which should do the job.
I only thought to write this whilst creating the last set of tiles, so the below images show the process for creating the grasshopper. I left it until last as it looked the most complicated, though in the end I found a simpler design than the original.
Step 1: Draw a frame to help with drawing the insect
Draw a horizontal line across the top. The top is where the head of the insect is facing the same way as the grain of the wood. And then draw a vertical line to divide the tile roughly in half. This is to help with getting the proportions right and the insect centered. And make sure you don’t go too near the edge and interfer with the coloured border.
Step 2: Draw the insect.
There is not much else to say here as its best to dive in and see how it goes. You can play with the design, I ended up changing design half way through this guide.
Step 4: Use a white pen to mark which areas will be left unburnt.
The white tile (left) has the insect mostly burnt, the black tile (right) has the background burnt and only parts of the insect. This was the most challenging step.
Step 5: Start burning.
Step 6: Use white paint to increase the contract between instect and tile.
I used white acrylic paint to reinforce the colour over the white pen you did earlier. You can do it carefully, though I didn’t worry too much as I decided to use a black brush pen to tidy up the lines.
Step 7: Tidy up edges
Wait for the acrylic to dry, then use a black fineliner brush pen to tidy up the edges.
Step 8: Increase tile height.
Use wood glue to glue spare hexagons to the bottom to make the tile thicker. I used failed burnt tiles first as the mistakes would be hidden anyway. This is only necessary if you want thicker tiles, three tiles total make it about 8mm high which is about right to be in proportion with the width.
Step 9: Sand the tiles.
I used P400 to sand the top and bottom edges to make them rounded. And also on the the sides to flatten out any ridges from gluing. I found that the sanding created dust which degraded the quality of the illustration on the top of the tile so be careful to protect it.
Step 10: Varnish the tiles.
Its important to do this before using the paint. I made a mistake with the first couple of ants by painting the edges before varnishing. I found that this caused the paint to run into the wood and create smudges of colour. Mainly a problem with the white tiles, as it is not as noticeable on the dark.
Step 11: Paint the borders & sides.
I used the enamel paint as it is more vibrant, and I felt it was important to have bright colours to help distinguish which tiles are which. The plywood edges absorbed the paint so it took 3 coats of paint to get a uniform finish.
Step 12: Paint the bottom.
I decided to do white and black so the set could double up as draughts/checkers and make it easier to sort the tiles at the beginning of the game.
Step 13: Final tidy-up.
The last step is to tidy up anything which has become damaged during creating the tiles. I added some more white paint to the illustrations, tidied up some of the lines and patched a few blemishes with a bit more enamel paint.
Step 14: Play the game.