Ultra-Polished, Handmade Settlers of Catan Redux


[Fuzzy Wobble] and [Amy Wang]’s Deep Space Settlers project is a one-of-a-kind re-invention of the popular board game Settlers of Catan, and showcases the polished results that are possible with the fabrication tools and methods available in many workshops and hackerspaces today. We reached out to the makers for some of the fabrication details, which they were happy to share.

(For those of you who are familiar with the game, technically this is a remake and slight evolution of the Seafarers expansion to the base Settlers of Catan game. A few rule changes were made, but it is mostly a total remodel and redesign.)

The project page doesn’t talk much about the fabrication process, but laser-cut plastic is a major component. The tiles are black acrylic hexagons with circular pieces attached. The circular pieces are made from different translucent colors (which vendors often call ‘fluorescent’ colors) except for the gold, which is a gold-mirrored acrylic. They are engraved on the bottom, which gives the patterns their frosty white etched appearance. Mounted with the etched side downward onto the black hexagons, the contrast really makes the design pop. The cities are two-piece acrylic assemblies made in a variety of translucent colors, and the larger trophies are laser-engraved on both sides; text on front, pattern on back.

[Fuzzy Wobble] kindly provided Hackaday with some additional details on the methods and materials used:

  • Hex pieces were all laser cut and etched on acrylics. They were attached using a double-sided tape.
  • The resource cards were made with layers of premium paper. Gloss ink was used to print on the matte paper for the text and textured backs.
  • The patterns on the backs of the development cards were created using silver foiling. “A tricky process that produces astonishing results given how simple it is.”
  • The numbered markers were created using acrylic hemispheres, and again, silver foiling. “The numbers were without a doubt the most tedious part of the project and had to be done by hand in a way that there were no imperfections, otherwise they would be magnified by the lens effect of the hemisphere.”
  • The player pieces were made with the laser cutter with various colors of tint acrylic.
  • The box was internally partitioned with laser-cut acrylic.
  • The perimeter pieces are 1/4″ acrylic, and backed with high friction material to ensure the board cannot slide out of alignment.

It’s clear that the builders of this project know what they’re doing. Using a tool well only gets you part way. It’s one thing to etch a pattern or cut some acrylic, but it’s another thing to etch or cut that plastic then attach it onto something else without showing a single glue smudge, fingerprint, or scratch on the end result. Even if you start with quality parts, experience and attention to detail (and the patience and willingness to apply both) is what will separate a hack job from a polished end product. We certainly know there are plenty of ways to fail at laser cutting.

As for the other methods mentioned (like silver foiling), do any of you have experience using those processes to get sharp-looking end results? Any tips to share? Let us know in the comments!



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