The game is modular and uses the tried-and-true hex sytem with varying types of land areas, for example grasslands, forests, hills, and mountains. Players will flip hexes from a predefined distribution and place them on the table, and this way the game will always have a certain degree of variability, and hence, replayability.
To make the hexes, I bought a few cheap plastic place-mats for your dining table. The material is thin and stiff, but fairly easy to cut, and I chose a black color. Then I drew a simple hexagonal grid in MSPaint (oh yes), which fills an A4 page, and printed out a few dozen copies. For each land-type, I played around with color pencils trying out different designs which would convey the imagery, while sticking with an overhead view as best as possible (the mountains were tough but I think I got a good solution). The pencils turned out to be time consuming, so for the 'final' product, I switched to my kids' crayons. With these, I colored in the desired pattern on an entire A4 page over the hex-grid outline. Then I took a glue-stick, and glued the A4 page onto the place mat. Turned out, I needed to coat the place-mat first, coat the A4 page next, then press them together. For the most part, it worked but there are a few pieces that have started to peel as Ive playtested: a quick swipe with the glue stick fixes that. After ten minutes the glue was pretty much dry, so I started to cut the hexes out with a pair of scissors.
OK. I would have made the hexes a bit larger in hind-sight, I kept them small then because I was expecting to change things a lot and didnt want to waste material. I also wanted a lot of them. They are about 3 cm from one face to the opposing face, but it is getting crowded on the board and 4 cm would have been better. It also took all night to cut them all. I will definitely draw the grid with the hexes in a star pattern next time, which allows you to use only straight cuts instead of turning the scissors. It wastes some material, but wow it's definitely worth the time saved and you probably get slightly more regular hexagons that way.
But it worked, I had a ton of hexes and it really opened up the development side of things, as now I had plenty of real estate on which to try out different ideas and mechanics.
I made extra blanks for random ideas, and saved plenty of material for major changes, but for now the hexes are done. The next step was the flip-tiles. I decided I wanted some kind of tokens or tiles which would be placed face down on the hexes, and the player would have to use actions to explore and flip them over, to see what was hidden there.
Now here I was less concrete with my ideas, so I was a lot more cautious in my expenditures. I also wanted something that was easy to flip without a lot of fuss. I settled for good old cardboard. I chose a flatscreen television box, the cardboard has a decent thickness, about 0.5 cm, and is pretty stiff. I want circles or smaller hexes for the final product, but screw that now. I cut small squares, making sure the hexes could fully inscribe them. First I glue-sticked paper with the square grid onto the cardboard, then I cut them out. The scissors split the paper a bit, it looks ugly so I will definitely use an exacto (razor) knife next time. Now I just quickly drew on rough sketches of the monsters I wanted, or failing that, simply wrote the name on each tile. Like I said, fast and ugly, and I was right; I ended up changing these a lot and am still not done.
For some other information in the game, a deck of normal cards was more suitable than homemade tiles, so I just bought some A4 printer-stickers (dont buy small stickers they are horribly expensive), cut them to playing card size, and covered over the faces. Now I can quickly scribble on different ideas, and the better ones I have inked in with some nice colored drawing pens.
Next, I needed playing pieces. Here I used a bit more money. I want to be comfortable using them, I want to get a good feel of things and it should look a little bit nice and be easy to recognise. So I went down to the local game shop, and they have bulk-bins of plastic and wooden pieces, and I chose some wooden items for houses and army units and the like, in various team-colors. I think I spent a good 40 dollars (a bit expensive but I got a bag of 200+) and I am sure I could have saved some money shopping online, but I wanted them ASAP and felt like it was a good investment. Besides, they are durable and I can use them in my next game-design project as well.
Finally, I needed a player's card. Here I just drew up a basic design in MSPaint, printed it out, and added some art by hand. Dice I have lying around of various sorts, though I am trying to stick with d6's for marketing purposes, and I robbed some plastic chips from my old Axis n Allies game for stacking units.
So there it is, and it worked! My gf actually enjoys playtesting with me (she has never played anything like this before, I had to explain what hitpoints were), so I take that as a good sign. My experience so far has been very positive. I would definitely recommend getting a physical prototype in your hands sooner than later, and it can be rewarding to spend a little time/money on the parts that you are more certain will be in your game, or which at least can be re-used in future projects.