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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Make Your Own Elevation or Depth Game Board

Hey Everyone!  Now that my connection to the "series of tubes" is working again here is one of the articles I've been working on.  Its an article on how you can create your very own Elevation or Depth Game Board out of acrylic pieces on the cheap.  The game boards I made are similar to the commercial product from the nice people over at http://battletier.com/ called Combat Tier.  I believe their basic set is about $29.99 and they have expansions you can use to expand your set.    It appears to be a worth while accessory, however with my budget and my DIY attitude, I figured I could make something similar for a bit cheaper and  more custom for my gaming needs.  If you don't want to spend the time making this yourself then the Combat Tier is right up your ally.

The game boards I created were actually used this past weekend along with my other elevation depth markers.  My players were in a demi-plane of air and were traveling around via fly spells looking for anything that wasn't blue sky and clouds! To make a long story short, pteranodon's were encountered and turned into undead mounts, then griffon's were encountered and they too were turned into undead mounts, then there was a brief battle with one of the "Wizard's Three" (a recent set of villains), a chase through the air, an escape of the Wizard through a portal to yet another demi-plane and the chasing party members almost running head on into an invisible wall of force that was in their flight path.  The boards worked pretty good even if the rules were somewhat clumsy.  I think Gabe from Penny Arcade had it right to make up his own ruleset for his battling free fall into the abyss. (which btw you could use these boards for!)  So if you want to see how to make your own boards, some of the things I did for "expansions", photos and a video on "solvent welding" after the jump!



First off let me say that if you don't have a tap plastics or similar product store near you, you can certainly order from them online, this may push up your initial costs but they do good work. Here is the materials list you'll need for a basic set up.

From Tap Plastics Site:
Clear Box - B. 751: 1 3/16 x 1 3/16 x 1 15/16 They come in sets of 10.  They are $1.05 each. In store they sell them individually.

Clear Extruded Acrylic Square Tubing It sells in a 6ft section which is $1.19 each ft.  You want it cut into various sizes.  In store they sell em cut already into 12 in sections and I further cut some down. I ended up with 2 @ 12 in, 4 @ 6 in(2 12in cut in half), and 3 @ 4 in(1 12 cut in thirds).
Acrylic Sheet - Clear - Platforms You can have them cut to order.  I had them cut 8 squares of 5in x 5in and 1/4 thick and cost $1.34 ea. 
Acrylic Sheet - Clear : Bases You can also have them cut to order, but this is where having a local store pays.  They usually have a "ends bin" where scraps are placed from other jobs.  They sell em at $1 or $2 bucks per "end" I was able to snag a 8in x 9in 1/2 thick clear sheet for my base which would run you $10.  1/2 for the base is a good thickness as its nice an heavy and will keep the base in check with miniatures on the above platforms.
Acrylic Cement - You can either get this "gel" cement which acts like gel super glue, or go with the water like acrylic cement and use a hypo applicator.  Using both will actually "weld" acrylic together at a molecular level not just "glue" or adhere the pieces together. (see the video below)
Now all you need to do is figure out how you want to arrange your pieces.  I'll show you an example setup here(you can click on the pics for a full size pic):
Base with acrylic box "welded" in center.  The texture is
my cloud texture and is just taped onto the bottom
of the base so I can remove it easily if I need to change
the texture to a water, fire, space, or any other texture.
The base now has the 6in (just for this pic), usually use
the 12 in square tube.  The fit is a little loose but stable.
If it bothers you you can use a binder clip to stabilize
on the acrylic box edges.
Now just add your "topper".  Which this is just a inverted
square box "welded" onto a 1/4 acrylic sheet.
Thats the "basics" of it.  Now you understand how to put it together you can customize to your hearts content.  Here are some examples of some of the various "tiers" I've made along with a few accessories:
The basic "topper" with box "welded" in the center.
To the right is a 6in riser.  I have 2 risers @ 12 in, 4 @ 6 in
and 3 @ 4 in.  This allows for me to create multiple levels
on multiple bases then put them all together and
you've got a huge game board!  The riser's "lines" are just
etched with a utility knife.
This is a spacer.  Its a little rough at the top but it does
the job.  Its just one of those acrylic boxes with the bottom
cut out of it which you can do using a hack saw or a
dremel tool.
This just shows how a spacer fits over the square
acrylic tubing.  I have about 4 spacers that I can
use together to place the different platforms
at various heights from each other.  I actually
need to make more i think 8 would be ideal
as when using with the 12 in risers you can use up
two easily for just one half of the tier since the spacers are
just under 2in in height.
A three piece platform with a "spacer" so you can place this into the
center of your set up.  the drips you see on the edges
is from the solvent used to weld the pieces together if
your not careful with your application.  This is one of
of the first pieces so a bit "sloppy".
A four piece platform again with a spacer so you can
put this on the middle of a 12in riser.  This is one of
of the pieces I was better at welding the pieces.
A simple "topper" with the acrylic box in the corner edge.

Another "topper" the box is not a spacer so will only
sit on top of the riser and is just welded to the bottom of
three sheets welded together.
Single platform with a riser welded to it.
Another "topper" just a two piece platform.
Another of my bases this one has two connect
points so that i can have two tiers on the same base.


Another of my bases, this one has the connect point
on the edge instead of the center.  I have 4 such bases
which when pushed together makes a huge
game board!
So that's about it.  Overall I think I spent about $45 in materials, but ended up with about 4x the amount of "game space" than the commercial product and I can continue to add and customize to my gaming specifications for any genre we're playing!


  • 4 bases roughly 8in x 9 in(some are larger as they are "ends") @ $8.00 ($2 ea)
  • 2 12 in risers @ $2.00 ($1 ea)
  • 4 6in risers @ $2.00 ($.50 ea/ or 2 12in cut in two)
  • 3 4in risers @ $1.00 ($.33 ea/or 1 12 in cut in thirds)
  • 16 5in x 5in 1/4 Clear Sheets @ $22.00 ($1.34 ea)
  • 10 Acrylic Boxes @ $10.50 ($1.05 each)

  • Total Roughly $45.00
I have another article showing you a quick and fast way to whip up some "cloud" markers for use as LOS obstacles, to hide miniatures in, or just for show/decoration to spice up your sky boards! When I post it I'll put a link here as well.


If you have any questions or suggestions please add them to the comments selection below.  I'd love to hear your thoughts on the project, if you've attempted to copy my results, or if you use an alternative method to use elevation or depth in your gaming group.

Hope you enjoyed this post and thanks for stopping by!