A simple, easy-to-make, portable board game

January 10 | Guest post by Cyndie Ackerman

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy husband and I both love playing games, especially board games. We have a games bookcase that's full of our favorites, but the one we play the most is Go.

The game of Go originated in ancient China, and the rules are fairly simple — players take turns placing colored stones on the board, attempting to capture their opponents stones by surrounding them with their own. However, the game itself becomes pretty complex. I won't get into all the intricacies, but there's a great tutorial that will quickly and easily teach you how to play here.

One of the reasons why we love Go so much is because we made our own game set. We wanted to be able to toss the set in our pockets or my purse and go to coffee shops or the park to play. It was one of the easiest projects we've ever done, and also one of the most useful. Here's how we did it.

All you need to make your set is some glass stones, sometimes called vase filler gems, fray check to apply to the cut edges of your boards, and sturdy (canvas or similar) polka dot fabric. The only catch here is that the dots on the fabric have to line up exactly in both rows and columns for the fabric to be usable.

collage

Once you have your fabric, use the dots as your guide to cut it. A standard go board would be 19 dots, by 19 dots, but you can also play on a 13×13 or 9×9 board. We cut boards of all three sizes, and use them all regularly, depending on how much time we have to play.

Use the leftover fabric to sew two drawstring bags for the florist beads to go in. (Or just toss the beads into ziplocks, if you're not the sewing type.) And that's it!

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This would make a great last-second gift — it only takes a few minutes to make. Swing by the bookstore and pick up a book on how to play Go, or just refer them to this website in your card, and you're all set!

Do you have any games that you've made? I just made a tabletop shuffle board set as well, and I'd love to hear about what other people are making and playing.

  1. This is so genius, why haven't I thought of this?!
    I suddenly have visions of checkerboards and chess(?) on the go

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      • We did a chess/checkers/Othello set that used pennies as pieces. We spray painted one side black and one side white, then drew on chess symbols with sharpies. Totally simple!

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  2. Thank you very much for the link on how to play Go. I have a very nice set, but the instructions that came with it are useless.

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    • I know – a lot of the instructions for Go are really difficult to understand! I love that website, since it really helps you learn as you play.

      Hope you have fun with it!

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    • Indeed! I've never played Go but have always wanted to learn. Thank you!!!

      On the subject of portable games, a note that at least once a year I'm glad I keep a deck of cards in my glove compartment. You never know when you'll have to kill some time. :)

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      • My grandad used to tell me that the Mounties carried a deck of cards in their survival gear. When you got lost in the wilderness you were supposed to sit down and start a game of solitaire. Because in ten minutes some jackass will come up and say "You can put that black nine on the red ten."
        XD

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  3. When I saw the picture of the game at first I thought it was on a wall. Would this work as a magnetic board as a game you play a turn when you pass by?

    (Sorry I'm a lazy reader and may very well never read instructional links)

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    • I'm not a very good Go player, but I feel like it wouldn't be a terribly good magnetic board game. Single moves can quickly change a huge amount of the board (Which I could see leading to cheating allegations) and the game itself can be quite long if you aren't familiar with it.

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      • Hmm… That's ok. The fabric/board is just so much fun to look at.

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  4. I haven't made any game boards, but there's a merchant that I see at historical reenactment events that sells portable fabric games. Some of them are played on boards with a pattern of circles or squares that you might be able to find printed on fabric, some of them one would have to draw if they were going to make it. I'm not sure of the name, but this looks like the same work as my Glukhaus board, to give everybody an idea of what might be done and what it would look like:

    http://www.historicgames.com/RPgames.html

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  5. Tafl or "Viking chess" is easy enough to improvise too and a brilliant strategy game(similar to chess but one side is outnumbered and has to get the king to a "safe point" on the board), well worth having a look for in my opinion- a board can be drawn up easily enough on paper/card and you just need 2 sets of pieces (we've used small change before – heads as one set and tails as the other but glass stones like the ones in the piece above are a great idea) and one unique piece (different coloured counter/stone or similar).

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  6. 9 Men's Morris, and Dukes and Kings are also games that can easily be sewn on simple fabric and played with the same glass counters.

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  7. I love this suggestion! One project I could probably actually finish. ;-) You can also do as much or as little sewing as you'd like (if you want to do more, you could always add edging, make the pouch somehow "fancier" etc.).

    Speaking of finishing projects, I haven't actually done these, but I always intended to make:
    – a backgammon board (either felt, or quilting/appliqué style) – maybe so that it could be rolled up to contain the pieces or something
    – I would think a Parcheesi board would be fairly do-able
    – I also like the style where the edges of the fabric board are gathered together to make the pouch for the pieces (though these are usually leather)
    – Since you can buy the Yahtzee score pads, it might also be fun to just cover a cup with pretty fabric and use another piece for an area to throw the dice (so it won't be so loud) to make your own little Yahtzee set.

    Also: my husband made a really pretty chess/checkers board with wood veneer and it was actually easier than I thought it would be because he just cut the strips of wood using our paper cutter, attached the strips of wood in rows, then cut them vertically and slid every second one out. Voila: checkered pattern. I'm sure this is obvious for many, but I was pretty amazed. ;-) I guess my point is that it's probably not that hard, even if you wanted to do it with decoupage or something else instead of entering the daunting world of woodworking, ha! Actually a decoupage one could be really pretty….

    I was also just thinking that I could make fun game pieces using my button machine. (Yes, I'm the luckiest girl in the world!) You could probably make cool ones using glass too that's dropped on paper. I've never done it before, but a friend of mine makes little magnets that way…

    Sorry, but I guess I had a lot to say about this. ;-) Thanks for the inspiration!

    @Ariel & Megan: maybe this would be a cool weekend challenge sometime since I bet everyone will come up with different stuff!

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  8. Oo oo! Picnic blanket with integrated game boards! :-D

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    • My grandparents' basement had carpet patterned with different games (hopscotch, Chinese checkers, chess, and some other ones). I thought it was so cool.

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  9. If you really want to get crazy–you could make cloth pieces with velcro backs (or buttons, etc.) and color a piece of felt or something to look like a gameboard. No blowing away in a wind then!

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