I recently got some custom pieces cut for my copy of XCOM The Board Game and posted them on my Twitter. The response was amazing! The XCOM Twitter account picked up on it first, before a bunch of regional 2K accounts started posting about it. 2K is the publisher for the video game XCOM, so... that was cool.
Here's how I made them, for those who might be interested.
It all started when I had learned of a place in Vancouver that offered laser cutting to the public. The Laser Cafe is part of MakerLabs Vancouver, and you can just bring them your file, tell them what you want done and they'll cut it for you for a very reasonable price. I immediately thought it would be perfect for the Elite Tokens from XCOM.
Unfortunately, I had no idea how to even begin. Fortunately, I have a genius wife who walked me through everything and taught me exactly what needed to be done.
I took the original cardboard Elite Tokens and the role cards for the role logos and scanned them in with my home flatbed scanner. Later I realised I could get a much cleaner version of the logos from the XCOM The Board Game app on my iPad by simply screen-capping the logos.
I took the file into Paint on Windows 7 and with a bit of tweeking I made black and white versions of the scanned components. I saved each individual component as a .png file, and then imported that into the free vector graphics software, Inkscape.
In Inscape I selected the component and created a vector map, deleting the original rough bitmap. Then I went around the image, cleaning up the vectors, deleting extra points, adjusting others and trying to bring the finished product to a higher quality. It was much easier the second time around with the versions from the iPad app. You live and learn.
At first, I thought what I had was fine until I realised that the black parts of the vector image would be where the laser would etch, and that translated to the coloured aspects of the compents rather than the black aspects. So I had to flip the black parts with the white parts, which, for me just learning to use Inkscape, was a difficult thing to do. Thankfully, as with everything, Claire jumped in to help, making the flip look easy.
The Elite Tokens took a bit more to do due to their unusual shape. I used the cicle tool and square tool to make the basic shape, laying it over the scanned image to keep the same dimensions. The icon in the center was all Claire's doing. She did some voodoo magic and a star was born.
With all the pieces drawn out in Inkscape, I took the PDF file to the MakerLabs. MakerLabs is a makerspace, a collective designed to allow people easy access to large or expensive tools and machines, such as CNC machines, 3D printers or, most intriguing to me, laser cutters, allowing you to bring ideas to life.
The wonderful staff in MakerLabs took my file and walked through what they offered. I wanted the parts cut in acrylic, and while they had a range of colours, they didn't have the matching colours for each of the roles, so I went with a transparent blue for everything. I thought it would make the parts look kinda... techie.
After making sure they knew what size each of the pieces needed to be, I left the file with MakerLabs, and came back to pick them up a few days later. As you can see from the photos, they came out looking amazing! I did learn one thing that I need to change from this first batch. If I continue to use transparent acrylic, I want to get the images burned in mirror image, so that the etched side will be face down and the smooth, clean side will be face up.
I'm so happy with these. The cuts are crisp and clean, and the etched parts are sharp with great definition, even on the small details. I'm already planning more. Namely, I want to make the XCOM role badges bigger to turn them into drinks coasters. I also have some plans for other custom components for other games, but that... that's a story for another post.
XCOM The Board Game