3D Printing

Board Games Made Open Source with 3D Printing

There have been a number of Makers that have pursued the 3D printing of game pieces for such popular games as Warhammer 40k and Carcassonne, perhaps infringing on the IP of one major manufacturer or another. But, rather than pursue the works of a large manufacturer, why not invent your own board game? Or, better yet, create a platform for anyone to create and share their own tabletop game? That’s what Bryan Salt and his company ThinkerThing are working towards, via a new Indiegogo campaign.

3D printed game board for open board game

It’s called Open Board Game, an online platform and community for the easy design and construction of boards, pieces, and characters for tabletop gaming. The board has been designed with a hexagonal pattern that allows for the easy interlocking of pieces, but OBG has added some unique elements to the board pieces to allow for exciting new gameplay ideas.  The pieces are designed in such a way that they can be stacked, for vertical, 3D gameplay, and OBG has designed tiles that make room for servos and sensors to create interactive pieces.  All tiles are meant to be 3D printed without support structures, to minimize hassle.

3D printed open board game pieces from ultimaker and makerbot
R2D figures printed on MakerBot and Ultimaker 3D printers, demonstrating the ease of structureless prints.

OBG’s community serves as a venue for sharing further board game characters, cards, and ideas.  OBG members can upload their own creations for others to download, greatly expanding the gaming possibilities for all members.  I can imagine, eventually, the merging of worlds, with all games folding into the same universe.  And, through the community, members will be able to hack and modify each other’s pieces to extend gameplay even further – a genius idea!

3D printed rust to dust game from open board games

To kick things off, OBG created its own example game called Rust to Dust (R2D).  The strategy game sees clans of various robots, the surviving members of a dying civilization, fight with different movements, strengths, and weaknesses.  Like the tile pieces, the R2D pieces are meant to be 3D printed without any difficulties.  Though three of these robots are available for free download, backing OBG on Indiegogo earns funders access to more of the game’s printable files or, for a little bit more, the game pieces themselves, printed via a pro 3D printing service.  Backing the campaign also gets funders access to the OBG members site, where they’ll also have access to Miomon, a Pokemon-style card game.

miomon 3D printed board game

OBG isn’t Salt’s first 3D printing rodeo.  Salt’s company, ThinkerThing, is responsible for the Android App Mr. Fluff’s Robot Factory, covered on 3DPI last year.  Among the first approved MakerBot-Ready Apps, Robot Factory allows users to create fun robots whose designs evolve based on user preferences through the company’s “evolutionary algorithm based engine.” Both Robot Factory and OBG are the result of a larger goal for ThinkerThing, that of making the design of 3D printable models an easy and fun process for everyday individuals.  Salt tells me:

gold plated steels 3D prints of open board games
R2D bots printed in nickel- and gold-plated steel.

You may remember us from Dr. Fluff’s Robot Factory, an application that allowed kids build simple robots using a genetic algorithm. That’s our long term business focus, to build applications that allow anyone to construct their own models for 3D printing. We’ve been working on the next two applications that do that, and your seeing the current result of that work in the models you have in this campaign. Later this year, we will have an application that will allow you to construct completely unique new models of that quality yourself. So, our long term aim is not to make money from the models, but from empowering people to create for themselves.

It’s been difficult to convince investors and we need more funds to continue developing, so the crowd funding has several benefits beyond the money itself. It validates our idea, builds a community working with us and demonstrates to potential investors that their is a demand out there.

Salt and ThinkerThing’s intentions seem genuine, reflective of the open source, Maker ethos enabled by low-cost electronics and the Internet.  Funding, at the moment, is necessary to drive the project forward, but it seems that ThinkerThing would like to keep things affordable and hope that OBG players will want to support 3D artists in their community.  He tells me:

We’ve made the board pieces completely open, you can download them now, mod them hack them and share. We wanted people to create new interesting pieces and ideas around that. The 56 robot models we’re offering as perks will just be for our backers, but we will be releasing 3 models completely free, so anyone can play the first game. We’re hoping that people would prefer to have the full Clan of unique robots and that we can raise the money that way on the campaign. If we have a big success, one of our stretch goals is to build a complete new clan of 14 models free for all.

This is something new in 3D printing. We know that not many people would consider paying for models. But we’re hoping people would want to support us to make this happen. It’s a bit like the music industry: not many people want to pay for music, but most people want to support artists they like and who are making a difference. We hope were doing something special enough here that people will support us.

There have been a couple other 3D printing initiatives with similar plans establish DIY gaming platforms, but Open Board Game may have the experience and heart to push theirs to the forefront.  To support Open Board Game, head over to their Indiegogo campaign here.