Make Your Own Board Games

Gather your family together for an hour or two of face-to-face gaming with a twist: you can make the games yourselves to match your family's interests.

Create a trivia game for the sports nuts or a dinosaur trek for Land Before Time fans. You can also make your own boards for checkers, chess, or a Monopoly-style game, perhaps with a different theme. There are no limits to what kinds of games you can make. You can model the rules on games you know or create something totally different.

Homemade games can get you good grades, too. A trivia game or a bingo game can be adapted for SOL study. Social studies bonus points: board games have been used around the world for generations. If you have a project due on a particular country or time period, there was probably a popular board game you can recreate for fun in the classroom. Colonial Williamsburg had its English draughts (checkers), the Vikings had a chess-like game called Hnefatafl, and the ancient Egyptians had Senet.

These supplies can help you get started making your own games and are available at most craft stores:

  • White foam board
  • Pencils
  • Colored marking pens
  • Construction paper
  • Dice
  • Large glass beads, novelty erasers (dinosaurs, cars, spaceships, etc.), or other good placeholders
  • Index cards
  • Laminate sheets (to make your game more permanent)

If you have access to a computer, you can use it to print photos or text instead of drawing and lettering them by hand.

These books and Web sites have ideas for board games and other tabletop games. Some are old; some are not. Whatever you choose, remember that the most important rule of any game is to have fun.

In the Library

At Play in the Past, Present and Future by Linda Bozzo
Learn about all kinds of games kids played in the past, including board games, and think about what games might be like in the future.

Dominoes around the World by Mary D. Lankford
A collection of rules for domino games found around the world, including versions from Cuba, Malta, the Netherlands, Vietnam, and France.

A Gallery of Games by Catherine Marchon-Arnaud
Gives step-by-step instructions for making beautiful, funny, or unusual versions of familiar games, including ring toss games and checkers.

Steven Caney's Playbook.
Many, many fun things to do in this classic. Table games are made from easy to find materials and include Kalah, Spider in the Web, Finger Maze Cards, Round Checkers, the Game Kit, and Tic-Tac-Trouble.

On the Web

Board Game Maker from Tools for Educators
Need a class project? Offers free worksheets, a free board game maker, board game creator, and ready to print board games to use as resources for lessons, lesson plans and printable materials for English classes.

Board Games
BBC's parenting section has simple games to make that have a lot of appeal for young kids: Run, Rabbit, Run; Beetle; Lotto; and Pairs.

Crossing Pawns
A game to print out that is something of a cross between checkers and Connect Four.

The Last Slice Roman Board Games
World history students may enjoy making their own versions of eleven games that were played thousands of years ago. Includes rules and diagrams when known and photos of ancient relics.

Viking Board Game
Hnefatafl simulates a Viking raid and was something the Vikings could play indoors on bitter Scandinavian nights. Well-diagrammed with clear instructions. From the Smithsonian Institution.