Chairman of the (Foam) Board

As any board game hobbyist knows, games generally don’t come with useful box inserts. The insert is designed to get the components from the factory to the gamer – via several legs of transportation – without damage. Once you’ve punched out the tokens, unwrapped the cards and sorted the wooden/plastic/ivory/whatever pieces into bags according to player colour, the insert is usually a hindrance to decent game storage and it gets hurled on the bonfire at the earliest opportunity.

With some games, that’s not really a problem, but when you’ve got a lot of delicate components that need to retain their ability to hold hidden information, you don’t want everything knocking around together and getting damaged. (“Ah yes, I recognise the back of that secret tile. It’s got a meeple-shaped dent along one side.”) And that’s where a bit of foamboard comes in.

Regardless of your feelings about Elder Sign as a game… this is a very, very cool foamboard insert by Maxime Verrette on BoardGameGeek (click the image to find out more).

Foamboard (a.k.a. foamcore – although I avoid that term largely because it sounds like a sub-genre of metal) is essentially a layer of plastic foam sandwiched between two sheets of thin card. It’s also the only material with which I’ve ever successfully carried out a DIY/craft project, so I’m a huge fan.

My immediate concern was Hegemonic. With all those lovely bits knocking around loose inside the box with metal coins, it would only be a matter of time before a card or sector tile got a telltale dent.

Here’s how things started.

I’d made some tuckboxes for the cards (bottom left), but they (a) were ugly; and (b) didn’t solve the problems for the rest of the components. I watched the Esoteric Order of Gamers’ videos on building foamboard inserts, ordered some A1 sheets of the stuff and got cracking. I laid the pieces out in the box and made a rough plan:

Look, I was raised by a doctor, OK? If no one else needs to read it, I'm not bothered how messy my writing is...

Look, I was raised by a doctor, OK? If no one else needs to read it, I’m not bothered how messy my writing is…

First step was the inner foamboard box. I decided to attempt to run before I could walk, making interlocking ends for the walls of the box. Not a great move, given that I ended up with worse piece-to-piece contact than I would have done with a straight glued corner.

This was probably the best joint of the four. Yuck.

This was probably the best joint of the four. Yuck.

I also learned the perils of cutting foamboard too quickly and at too steep an angle.

Choppy-choppy makes sloppy-sloppy.

Choppy-choppy makes sloppy-sloppy.

So that was two lessons learned within the first few minutes. But I had a functional box that fitted perfectly into the Hegemonic game box.

FILL ME WITH THINGS.

FILL ME WITH THINGS.

After that, it kind of just flowed naturally. I kept getting choppy edges if I wasn’t careful enough, but I generally got better at cutting the board. And I managed to fit in some nice little flourishes, like notches to make sure all the cards were fully accessible and easy to lift out.

So, from the bottom up, I present my custom foamboard insert for Hegemonic.

The empty insert. Notice the raised and shaped floor in the second compartment from the right along the top. You’ll see why it’s there in a second.

Galaxy board, sector hexes and cards in place. Technology cards are separated into two decks, for 2–3 player games and 4–6 player games. Same goes for the sector hexes (left- and right-hand piles respectively). Leader cards are under the action cards in the top-left well.

Remember that little notch under the middle hex well?

The cut-out neatly houses the Arbiter token and phase marker.

This lift-out tray holds the six sets of player pieces…

…and sits on top of the lower compartments when placed in the box.

The lid for the player pieces fits snugly into the top of that tray, while two separate lift-out trays of coins fit above the hex piles.

I deliberately chose to have two boxes of coins, so they could be lifted out and placed at opposite ends of a table for a large six-player game – less reaching means smoother gaming! I was also convinced that a single, large box had more potential to fall to bits under the weight of the metal coins it contained.

Snug lids fit into the tops of the coin boxes, while the player boards, scoreboard and player aids sit on top of the player-piece tray.

Another lid, including a small “buffer” piece to make the top of everything level.

The central galaxy board, rulebook and BGG printouts (teaching script and FAQ) sit on top.

And the lid goes on nearly all the way. Just a couple of mm in it.

So there you have it – a success! The main expense involved was that of time. The whole process took about five hours from start to finish, but time’s one thing I’m not really short of at the moment. I’m sure I’ll be making many more inserts over the coming weeks.

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