Better Boxes through Foam Core

I have made over fifty inserts for games I love, and some I don't. I think I have learned a little bit on working with it and thought I would write a little blog about the journeys I take with it. Follow me as we play Reverse Tetris and make some Boxes Better.
 Thumb up

Foam Core 102 - Designing the Insert.

Chris Whitpan
United States
flag msg tools
FoamCore 102

Designing the insert.

I now have about 50 inserts under my belt and my design process has not really changed much from the beginning. I find that a good design helps aid the game’s play, setup, and storage. If one can increase the speed at which we set up a game, it will be more likely to get to the table. We can even back load some of the set up work as we break down the game from the last play at times. In any event a well thought out insert can mean the difference between a bit-laden game getting played or not in many cases.

Two Schools

On one hand there are people who set out to measure and rule every cut, level and piece, then design the insert to fit. They may even use fancy programs to help in the process like Google Sketchup or even CAD programs. This is all well and good, and honestly if you are this person, chances are my style is either going to drive you nuts, or prove unnecessary, both of which are fine. The benefits of having a plan like that are great, and it is awesome to be able to share your plans with others easily, providing a great resource to the core community. (see what I did there?)

My train of thought stems from how I began this hobby. I found some photos and would reverse engineer them, and alter them to fit what I wanted out of the insert. Eventually I was designing them from scratch, and using other’s work for influence. I realized there was some creativity and even artistic influences to be had and I hope that comes through in my designs. Basically, I wing it. I create an overall plan, but that is fluid and can change to meet the needs of the box. You will see from my example project, Seven Wonders, that I changed my mind and direction a few times, and I will try to call that out.

The Basic Plan

I first start with a core plan. I pull everything out of the box and sort it on my table. I will then use the lid and the box to map out where I want things to go. In the examples below I try a few things out. I stand the Babel tiles on end, and see they are too tall. I like cards on their side, as opposed to flat since it makes filing them a lot easier. I also will out rigid dividers in there to separate the decks. I was working on finding a solution for the Babel tiles specifically, and even in this example, I wasn’t happy with how tight it was going to be.

You should note I am doing 7 Wonders with Leaders and Babel expansions. No Cities, although as you will see I try and leave room for it.

I knew the card cut out was going to stay though, so I finalized that. I also knew from other builders that three levels would be required. I have adapted a new style of just making the bottom out of firm Black paper, like they use for scrapbooking. It comes in sheets big enough and matches the Black/black foam core perfectly. I cut the piece out that will become the bottom of the card box, and made the three bottoms out of Foam Core and paper, removing the notch from each. I also built into the card box room for about 40 more cards that would be from Cities. (see image below)

The Card boxes are built next. I use the piece I cut out and remove about 1/8” from it so it will slide in and out freely. I make the sides tall enough that they will come up to the top of the box, then trim off about 1/8” off that because of the Babel base board and instruction books. I make the sides of the box and lay it out. This is when I see the opportunity to cut the deep circles to allow easy access to the cards. I have a template, I find the center and cut a half circle on each side. I then glue it up and pin the box.

A Change of Plans

At this point, I turn my sites on the bottom again. I notice that the Babel tiles are too tight against the Wonder tiles. And if I stack them in two stacks as opposed to three, they become too tall. This is a problem. I saw someone else do this and I am not getting a result I like, so time to shift gears. I try stacking the tiles flat and notice its about as tall as my card box I just made. Then it hits me that I can make a removable tray for the quarter tiles as well.

So I decide the other corner of the box will be dedicated to that and proceed to cut it out just like I did with the card box and cut the other levels as well. I then glue it up the same way, but I also add in the slanted pieces to help hold them in vertical alignment.

Now back on track I look at the bottom and size up the remaining T-shaped piece. I see the place for the Wonder boards easily, now I just plan the depth, which I do, but leave room for the two Wonders that come with Cities. I don’t think I will get cities, but why not leave room for it now? I then see the extra this space holds a lot of bits from the Babel expansion so I make some compartments for them there. I also decide the tokens need to have a try in the handle of the T-Shape so I make a short box for a few of the smaller bits. The lower level here isn’t designed to come out of the box, with the paper bottom, so having this be removable should help.

A Change of Plans Part II

So now I am looking where to put the project boards, as you can see in the photo in the series above. I hadn’t really planned a home for them since they are thin, but I think that could be a shortcoming. So I think there is enough room on the top of the Wonder boards, and I could cut them in to fit flush, but I am not happy with how it is going to hold, and look. I bailed on that plan and decided to make the middle level the level for the project pieces. In fact I like this so that everything you need will be in one space. I go ahead and cut off the handle since I want to make a small box there and lay things out. I also see an opportunity to put the score pads in since I will have about ¼” of height extra on this level. I go ahead and design that in as well.

Last Level

The first picture is how I figure out my remaining height. One of the benefits or drawbacks in working to the height of each layer is that to get the final measurement right can be tricky, but to make everything flush so bits don’t side around and jump compartments, it’s a must. I cut a scrap to the height of the remaining box and check it against the middle layer walls I made to see if I am good on room, and as it turns out I am. I don’t like walls lower than ½” as a rule, so I am happy. This picture shows the piece that covers the total height of the middle layer and the top layer. I put in two pieces to represent the floors for each and the wall height and see what remains.

The plan is coming together; I see the bits I have left out, the money, and the military tokens. I know I want to leave room for the cities tokens, so I will build a little big here. Then I notice the Cleopatra token and think the art should be showcased so I plan that.

Artistic Showcase

So let’s look at the token and how to showcase it. I would like it to be flat, visible, and held in place. The best way to do this is a recessed insert. I start by tracing the circle, and using my circle template I cut another, smaller circle to allow a finger in the side. Then, I slice the removed large circle in half, through the foam itself, so it is half the height of the Foam. I then place this back in the hole, which gives me anough height to fit the token in! Then I put another piece behind it to create the back. When I glue it up, I added another piece to help bring it up higher in the box.

So we are down to the final tray now. I think that we can comfortably fit the remaining money and military tokens, but I want to see the compartment size. I will sometimes lay scraps on top of a piece so I can see visually what I am shooting for and the rough size of the compartments. Sometimes you can run out of room very quickly. I decide to make the 4 compartments for military boxes. But the three trays for money can be weird. I use a triangle method on Suburbia so I thought it could work here. It just creates a nice shape and breaks up the blocks. I also like it for making three sections.

Pro Tip – Sweeps and Alignment

So here is a good place for two quick tips. One is alignment and why I swear by my cutting mat. I used to measure every placement, and sometimes still do on some projects, but when it comes to just simply placing a piece on center, I use the guide on the mat. By placing the X on the center of my board it allows me to quickly line up bits (like the first picture below)

The next is sweeps. When you are in and out of trays a lot sweeps can really help. Especially with cardboard chits like the military. How I Create them is with the same paper I used for the bottom and then size one up like in the middle picture and cut them all the same length. Then glue in place and you have great sweeps!

We are Done!

Now it is time to load the components and remove pins after a few hours of dry time. As you can see we now have a great way to sort and organize a very busy game with lots of little bits and chits!

I hope this helps walk you through my design process and how it can evolve over the course of the build. I work better this way, and sure I have made mistakes and had to throw out portions, but for me, it just works. In the end, it’s the method that you will use the most, and yields the best success that will dictate your style and execution.

Foam Core 103 will feature a collection of tips and build in features you can add into any of your creations to make them a little more special. Be sure to follow my Geeklistand Blog for any projects in t future!

Good luck in all your future projects!

Basics Series:
Foam Core 101 The Basics, Cuts and Tools
Foam Core 102 Designing an Insert on the Fly

Advanced Series:
Foam Core 201 Token and Dice Displays
Twitter Facebook
Subscribe sub options Fri Mar 13, 2015 7:05 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}