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Equipment for cutting out hexagonal tiles and other parts

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bottercot
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Hello all,

Several years ago, I began to look into board game design as a hobby. Now, after having spent years designing games and learning about game design, I have began to create working prototypes for my games and I have quickly realized just how tedious it is to cut out all these pieces.

One of the main games I've been working on uses oddly shaped hexagon grid tiles which are grueling to cut out. My current process involves me printing out the pattern on paper, stick-gluing it onto cardboard from cereal boxes, and giving myself arthritis trying to cut the complex shape out with an exacto knife.

After doing some research, it seems that there are definitely ways to make this process easier.

I don't want to have to make a custom order to a company every time I need something for a prototype. I want to be able to design everything I need at home without spending hours and hours and giving my hands cramps.

So, I am wondering if anyone knows the best equipment for making this easier. I'm looking for the following:

-Cutting implement (could be knife, could be machine, could be anything that saves me time and effort)

-Cardboard for tiles (thick material that won't be blown around by the wind)

-Sticky adhesive for sticking paper to cardboard (spray glue? Sticker paper?)

What is the cheapest/best way to do all of these?

By the way, I live in Canada so if you post any links there's not a 100% chance I will be able to find them, but just knowing about the product may help me find an alternative.

Thank you!

larienna
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I read your post in

I read your post in diagonal.

There is a ways to position your hex so that you only need to cut using straight lines. I don have a picture, make sure the hexagons leaves and empty triangle area between each other.

Else, you can use a Cricut, die cutting machines. Much more expensive.

nand
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Use a Trihexagonal
let-off studios
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Laser Cutter

If you can find yourself a programmable laser cutter, then you may be able to save yourself some time. For me personally, I use a Glowforge. It may have some technical limitations (though were I honest I'd admit this comment really comes from me not spending nearly as much time maximizing my use of it), but when it comes to developing prototype components like tiles of various types, it's very useful.

With a laser cutter, you can also engrave/cut artwork into the flat surfaces of the things you create, so affixing artwork isn't always necessary. Anything you can devise in a computer graphics program - from shapes to illustrations - you likely can apply to most prototype materials with a laser cutter.

Speaking of materials: as long as you have a strong enough fan to blow away exhaust, then you should be able to cut through wood, paper (including card stock, which I recommend for game components), mat board, leather, and acrylic. You can not typically cut through glass or metal, but you can most definitely engrave into both.

Through trial and error, I learned that corrugated cardboard is surprisingly difficult to laser-cut so I don't recommend it.

Fri
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Quilting pattern hexagons

Would precut quilting hexagons work?

https://www.joann.com/dritz-1-1%2F2in-hexagon-paper-piecing-shapes-100-p...

I am sure the game crafter also has some thing similar.

Also depending on your level of prototyping a brick pattern can be topological equivalent.

Rick-Holzgrafe
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Stiff, sticky-backed felt

I have used stiff, sticky-backed felt for this. You can buy it in 9x12" sheets in your choice of colors, from Amazon and elsewhere. Print your artwork onto paper (I'd recommend card stock), stick it onto the felt, and then cut with scissors. The felt cuts quite easily, but is stiff enough not to be floppy.

When I did this, I was cutting fairly large hexes. If your game has a lot of (say) 1" hexes it's going to be more tedious, but it's still a lot easier than cutting cardboard.

P.S. This is only good for one-sided tiles. If you need double-sided, it won't help.

bottercot
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Not just single hexagons

My main issue in trying to cut hexagonal shapes is that I'm not just cutting individual hexagons - I'm cutting large tiles made up of multiple hexagons. For this reason I can't use any of the normal techniques to make hexagons easier to cut. I have to manually trace along the sides with a knife.

A laser cutter or die cutting machine certainly seems like the best option, but the price is a large turnoff. A normal Cricut seems to cost $400 CND which is no pushover. Laser cutter machines seem to be even more expensive.

questccg
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Ah the sacrifices we make for our games...

I realize that I am due for another round of printing and cutting cards too! I use plastic sleeves with standard cardbacks for the moment. So it is just paper. But I understand your frustration. I can read it off the OP. Cramping your hands is definitely not pleasing. A Cricut Maker 3 (Not the base crap) would sound like your best bet. But it's like $550 CAD + Taxes (since they have a Canadian website).

The other option is to figure out HOW MANY times you need to buy these hexes and price this with The Game Crafter to see if an investment into a Cricut is worth it. Like if you are going to be doing 1x or 2x more... Probably not worth it as TGC may cost you like $30-40 USD.

But if you are doing it like 10x or have multiple games for this use... Then that's $300-400 USD and the Cricut Maker 3 will be the best alternative in terms of investing in something worthwhile and good for your hands.

Just remember that Cricut has a Canadian site... And the pricing is different than the USA website. So make sure you navigate to the RIGHT page. the Cricut Maker 3 is slightly more expensive in Canada and they offer packages with material and accessories too.

My big FIND this week was my ex-boss contacting me to tell me that "Squarespace" Canada is offering a FREE Online Sales portal once you past the credit check given your SIN and company information. I passed ... So now I have a Squarespace online shop to work on.

Why is it worth it??? Same cost like PayPal: 2.9% + $0.30 CAD per transaction. No additional fees. This is GREAT ATM. And there is no LIMIT on the amount of products you can have. While StoreEnvy was good ... They have a whopping 6% commission rate. If I can SAVE 6% ... On each transaction... That's quite a bit of savings. Just an ASIDE...

Best of luck(!?) figuring out if TGC or Cricut is the better avenue. Cheers!

Juzek
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I like to buy blank cards.

I like to buy blank cards. They come in hex shapes, and you would just have to miniaturize your concept.

https://www.amazon.com/Apostrophe-Games-Hexagon-Playing-Finish/dp/B07TK1...

I think craft foam is a great alternative if you don't mind it looking crummy. Great for marker pens and easy to cut and lays flat

pelle
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I was going to mention

I was going to mention aligning the hexes to make fewer cuts like everyone else said, but having a more complex shape made up of many hexes makes it much worse.

For cardboard components in general I use label paper and various thickness cardboard. For complex shapes like that I would use the thinnest and easiest to cut cardboard I could possible get away with, to make cutting less difficult. Maybe even just print to the thickest regular paper my printer could handle.

Do you have to handle those hexes much during play, or are they just set up at the beginning to form a game board? If it is the latter than I would just print to regular paper (maybe slightly thicker) and put under a sheet of plexi for playtests. Regular paper and plexi is how I prototype all game boards, and how I print'n'play almost all games I want to play (makes no sense to make mounted game boards anyway when plexi makes for such a nice game surface). But if you have to move the shapes around during play plexi is not a good solution obviously.

let-off studios
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Brick Patterns & Offset Grids

Fri wrote:
Also depending on your level of prototyping a brick pattern can be topological equivalent.
The value of this technique really can't be overstated. With the blank cards mentioned by Juzek, some tape on the backs to hold them together in the configurations you want, even the strangest hex-configuration shapes can be constructed on the cheap with a minimum of cutting. Even those with "rings" of hexes, with holes in the middle areas - where more tiles can be added - are possible.

If you use square or hexagon cards I reckon that would be ideal, however typical blank playing cards can be cut into squares quite quickly and no intricate process is required.

Juzek
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@let-off You just blew my

@let-off
You just blew my mind. Bricks are just hexes pretending to be rectangles. I never knew!

Fri
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@let off - I am pretty sure

@let off - I am pretty sure that you are the one that clued me into this fact

bottercot
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pelle wrote: Do you have to

pelle wrote:

Do you have to handle those hexes much during play, or are they just set up at the beginning to form a game board? If it is the latter than I would just print to regular paper (maybe slightly thicker) and put under a sheet of plexi for playtests.

I have been experimenting between a presetup board or a board that is slowly revealed during play. It's a modular setup for a board but it doesn't necessarily have to be built during play.

I don't have any plexiglass currently but that's an interesting idea. if I don't make the board "explorable" and instead set it up ahead of time this is a good idea, at least for playtesting.

bottercot
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let-off studios wrote:Fri

let-off studios wrote:
Fri wrote:
Also depending on your level of prototyping a brick pattern can be topological equivalent.
The value of this technique really can't be overstated. With the blank cards mentioned by Juzek, some tape on the backs to hold them together in the configurations you want, even the strangest hex-configuration shapes can be constructed on the cheap with a minimum of cutting. Even those with "rings" of hexes, with holes in the middle areas - where more tiles can be added - are possible.

If you use square or hexagon cards I reckon that would be ideal, however typical blank playing cards can be cut into squares quite quickly and no intricate process is required.

In my game, the hexagons are used as spaces for structures and the intersections between three hexagons are used as spaces for Units. The edges between the hexagons are both points of adjacency between two hexagons (allowing for expansion of developments) as well as connection points for movement between Unit spaces. I would need to experiment to see how difficult it would be to read these two "planes" of the larger grid if it's a big brick.

The other difficulty is that a brick pattern limits the ways that I can interlock my modular hex tiles (if you're curious on their exact shape, it's like a 12-hexagon triangle). I'm not sure how exactly this would affect my playtesting. Perhaps it would give me more control over things? I'm not entirely sure.

I'll consider hex cards as well. Those seem a little easier to mass produce using a paper cutter rather than my hands.

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