Make Your Own Board Games

It's a long time 'til summer. Nights are cold and seem to last forever. T.V. can get boring. Video games, likewise. Fortunately, there's a cure for the winter blahs. 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

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.

The Greatest Games of All Time by Matthew J. Costello.
Features dozens of games that can be played on simple boards or on sheets photocopied from the book. A must-have for all game enthusiasts and history buffs. For more advanced readers.

Make Your Own Chess Set by David Carroll.
Introduces the history of chess and chess pieces and gives instructions for making twenty-five different chess sets out of easily available materials.

Steven Caney's Play Book.
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.

The World's Best Indoor Games by Gyles Brandreth.
More than 300 games from around the world.

On the Web

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.

Peter Cottontail Game
Take a trip down the bunny trail this Easter.

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.

Word Game Boards
Download a game board template to make your own games in Microsoft Word and PowerPoint. Excellent for sports and movie trivia as well as test reviews.