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During unexpected times of confinement, people will find all kinds of ways to entertain  and keep busy in isolation. In some ways, there’s never been a better time to have an abiding interest in board games. Of course there are far more serious concerns on all of our minds — but escaping into a good game project can make for an excellent way to cope.

That said, it’s understandable if boredom starts to set in. Maybe solo gaming has lost its luster, and playing with friends over Zoom isn’t cutting it. Or maybe you’ve dived so deeply into your board game collection in these first few weeks of isolation that even your old go-tos aren’t quite doing it for you.

Whatever the case may be, we came up with some ways to handle boredom when it starts to set in. And rather than just recommending board games you already have (or at least know about), we decided to suggest some gaming-related projects that might keep you busy. We hope these help a bit!

Adapt a Video Game With Things you Have Around the House

Rampage made a killer transition to the table.

If you’ve never tried it before, it’s actually a lot of fun to take a favorite video game and turn it into your own board game. Whether you take a simple approach using stuff you already have around the house (plain cardboard, sharpie sketches of squares and labels, etc.) or you go all out with the design, you’ll essentially be creating something based on an established game, yet wholly unique to you.

There are of course some examples of this kind of adaptation being made more officially. The best might be a fairly intricate redesign of Sid Meier’s Civilization series. PC Gamer previewed the game before it was released and essentially made it sound like any great tabletop strategy game — in this case, one in which two to four players try to conquer the world. It’s an excellent look at what this idea can lead to, and one we’d actually recommend trying your own version of.

Then again, the possibilities here are virtually limitless. If you’re a Smash Bros. fan, you can set up a simple progression of card and dice based battles; if Pokémon is your thing you can recreate aspects of the original titles as a fairly standard (if long and winding) board game. There are all sorts of fun options.

Super-Size a Favorite Board Game

Make your own giant version of Rhino Hero, photo from Sapphire City Board Game Parlor.

You can also focus your efforts on simply making a fun version of a favorite board game. Here, you have a lot of options as well. Maybe you can personalize a game board to your liking, such as by recreating RISK with a fantasy land you designed yourself. Perhaps you want to recreate Clue based on a favorite fictional location and the relevant characters. You could even simply focus on something more permanent; Country Living demonstrated a table transformation that resulted in a gorgeous, permanent Monopoly board, for example.

What we’d recommend though is simply super-sizing a game. Sticking with the Monopoly example, think about recreating the game but doubling the board size, the number of cards, and so on. Use whatever locations you like, and make a version you can be proud of — and which will keep you busy for hours.

Make Your Own Board Game App

Right now there are actually a lot of great board game apps out there. We wrote about the ‘Top 6 Board Game Apps for Android’ and there are many more that didn’t make the list. In some cases, in fact, these might even be better options than real board games, if you’re looking for some multiplayer interaction during your isolation. Then again, you can also design your own.

If you’re reading this article on a desktop or laptop computer, then you most likely have everything you need to get started building your own mobile game. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination and your free time.

Clearly, this is a suggestion meant for the tech-savvy readers, perhaps with a bit of coding experience. Even if that doesn’t describe you though, you may be surprised at how (relatively) easy it’s become to develop an app. That doesn’t mean you can whip up a professional-caliber video game in a week’s time. But it’s worth a shot, and you might enjoy the process as much as the results.

Build an Electronic Game Board

This is a little bit trickier. But if you really want a project, or you just happen to have a bit of technical know-how, building an electronic version of your favorite game board can be a great way to pass the time (not to mention it’ll leave you with a really fun game when you’re done).

The actual construction of the board can happen any which way. But the main task here is to perfect your printed circuit board design, which is what will direct the actual electric functions of the board. Easier said than done, we’ll grant, but PCB assembly is a more accessible practice than it was once upon a time. Altium’s thorough write-up on getting started with PCB design can get you going with the basics, taking you through the process from the initial sketch of a circuit to the actual board fabrication. Naturally, building in all of the functionality you want is complicated, but once you understand the design basics it’ll be within your grasp.

From that point forward it comes down to a combination of creativity and mechanical design. You’ll need to order some parts and tools, and probably watch a few relevant tutorials, and so on. But again, this is meant to be a project! Within another week or two of isolation you might just have an electric version of your favorite gaming board.

Closing Thoughts

Hopefully one or two of these ideas can help you to pass the time while we all keep our distance from one another for a bit. You never know what you might create with all this time at home!

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Dietrich Stogner

Dietrich Stogner

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