DIY PROJECT: MAKING A MAGIC: THE GATHERING CUSTOM PLAY-BOARD

mtg-logo.pngFirstly, what is “MAGIC: The Gathering”

Magic is a turn based strategic trading card game developed in 1993 by “Wizards of The Coast”. It revolves around mages called “Planeswalkers” (represented by you, the player) casting spells against each other in order to reduce the other Planeswalker’s health points(your opponent) to 0, thus winning the match. A standard game usually consists of each player constructing a 60 card deck, with no more than 4 of each card in the deck (excluding basic land cards, used to generate mana in order to cast spells), barring the “Commander” format of playing.

This format consists of a 99 card deck with only one of each card being in the deck, (again not including any land cards, as this is the only way to generate spells in Magic) and a Legendary creature which is essentially the commander of the deck. This format is quite extravagant and sees massive monsters and insane plays that just don’t exist within the realm of Standard magic play.
While the concept is simple in nature, the intricacies and complexity that can go into these games is immense, and utterly consuming. I would suggest it to anyone who is open to strategic gameplay that requires quick thinking and extremely analytical skills in deck construction and synergetic playing.

What got me into Magic?

Earlier this year, a close friend had brought over a few of his magic decks, in an attempt to teach my little brother and I how to play it. Already having quite a decent amount of Yu-Gi-Oh experience under our belts allowed for a quick and easy transition into the world of Magic, as Yu-Gi-Oh was (in my eyes) a very watered down version of Magic. After a couple of interesting matches, I was hooked. Several months down the line and I can say that I’ve gathered a rather decent amount of information about the game.
Understanding the lore behind several of the main characters, the stories, timelines and different sets and blocks which are constantly being released every year in order to keep the story and game progressing further each time is an endlessly fun experience. Magic is one of the most enticing games I have ever played, and to say the least, one of the geekiest investments of time and money I have ever made. Do I regret any of it? Not even in the slightest.

There are endless possibilities when it comes to deck construction and playing styles in Magic. A player can have multiple decks and strategies on hand, and learn something new in every battle that they undertake against a friend or a player they have just met for the first time. Understanding how to tweak and craft decks after bad battles allows for players to really grow into their playing style, and I strongly believe that it opens up a whole new level of creative and analytical thinking within oneself. Magic is probably the best interactive card game on the market, and it holds a special place in my heart despite my short duration of involvement with it.

Why a custom play-board?

One thing I have noticed about Magic merchandise and paraphernalia, is of course the outrageous prices for certain items. One that really throws me off is the price of MTG play-mats, On average they range from R350 to R450. This is slightly out of range for many of us who just can’t afford to invest that much money into well, a piece of cloth. There is no rule that players are required to own a play- mat in order to participate in matches, however it is quite an awesome tag along when playing matches. A well designed play-mat can allow for easier battling and card placement without feeling

lost about where to place them. However, I have noticed that even though these play-mats are attractive in appearance, they lack a solid structure in order to place cards.
Many are very simple in layout and have little to offer to the user. Another key flaw I picked up on is the relatively small size of these mats. Certain players could find this problematic, as they could be running a “Spawner” Deck, which as the name suggests, relies heavily on getting as many units as possible onto the field at a time. With These issues in mind, and the desire to own a functional gaming mat of my own, I decided that the best idea would be to simply just make one. How could I create a functional and visually appealing Magic play-mat.

What was the process?

There were several steps that were tackled in the process of this design, I’ll highlight the most important aspects of the design process and hopefully it will leave you with a clearer view on how to take on your own DIY play-board project.

Step 1 : Measurements

What we have to of course take into account, is the size of a sleeved Magic card, These dimensions will work as the building blocks for each of the following constructions regarding the layout, as well as the components that every magic games play field consists of.
Understanding that I would need ample space that will hold a large amount of: creatures;enchantments and artifacts; and land cards. It must also include zones for the deck and graveyard, as well as an exile zone, Commander/Planeswalker zone, and possible “suspend” zone.

Once all of these dimensions have been taken into account, I work out an overall board dimension that will cater to all of these needs and still be able to stretch it’s length and width to dimensions which allow for easy placement onto tables, while not suffocating the rival players space.

What we have so far is a board with a length of 75cm and a width of 45cm. The dimensions of the average sleeved card are ofcourse taken into account.dimensions.jpg

Step 2: Finding a theme

Now moving onto the fun part. Setting up a theme for the board. My first deck created was an Izzet Burn/counter deck. This essentially is a red and blue colour combination deck, which works off of chaining many instant and sorcery spells in order to damage the opponent quickly and counter any plays they have throughout the game.

My 2nd deck is an extremely powerful Simic (blue and green) deck, which focuses on Energy and ramp (slow but steady build up of strength throughout the game, shining brightest towards mid and late game phases).

Understanding that these are my two current play styles in Magic, I will accommodate both play styles and elements into the board. A reoccurring theme between both decks is the “Blue” element, which resembles water and control. I decided that the card which best displays energy, strength, and ability that I frequently use, is a card called the “Aethersquall Ancient”.

Setting this as my current theme for the board now meant that I would need to have an artwork that resembles the theme, and what better to represent the Aethersquall than an artwork of the creature itself? A leviathan of biblical proportions was imprinted into my mind whenever I summoned this beast, and I decided that this would be the artwork used for the general theme of my board.

After sifting through the world wide web, I was able to find a high resolution official artwork of the creature by artist Sam Burley. Now that everything is set in terms of dimensions and theme, it is time for step 3.cardart_Aethersquall-Ancient.jpeg

 

Step 3: Working out a layout

This step was relatively easy to complete. Having already set up my dimensions for the board and understanding the different zones while playing a standard magic game, I quickly put together a functional layout on Photoshop. The initial layout was barely changed, and the cards were placed onto the layout in order to test the field size. Conclusion : Perfect fit.

Step 4: Additional finishing touches

For this step I searched the web for MTG symbols and icons that represented the game and placed them onto each card zone, as well as adding a life count bar on the left hand side of the board, placing it vertically from 0 to 50, in order to accommodate for any Commander games I will eventually play in the future.
This step also saw me cleaning up any mistakes I may have missed out on in the previous step, and all round adding any æsthetic add-ons I believed were needed.MTG board print-Recovered.jpg

Step 5: Printing

Now that all the digital designs are complete, it’s time to convert it into a physical format. This required for me to find a printing store which could print high quality stickers barring my required dimensions. The reason for a sticker print-out is due to the fact that I would be placing it onto a board, which would obviously require for an application that can stick easily and still look great.

It didn’t take long to get my sticker printed at a local printing store, and I have to preach this: The printing quality was simply outstanding. The colours were vibrant and the dimensions were spot on. Conclusion: A+ ratingIMG_9665.jpg

Step 6: Purchasing a board

Heading down to my local hardware store was the next step, and finding a board was extremely easy. The board I found was thick, durable, and heavy. Extremely heavy to say the least. The dimensions of the board were 180cm by 45cm. Considering that I would only have to cut this board at the 75cm mark made this an easy and relatively cheap buy. This is where the hard labour began.IMG_9669.jpg

Step 7: Cutting the board

After having the hardware store employees cut the board wrong the first time, I had to take the remaining length of the heavy was home and measure it off myself before sawing for what seemed like an eternity. Eventually the board was cut to near perfect dimensions, and the following step could begin. With aching hands, I carried on and jumped right into the next step.IMG_9672.jpg

Step 8: Sanding

Just as the step suggests, I really just dug my palms and elbows deep into the wood with a few sheets of sandpaper in order to get everything as smooth as possible and reduce any splinter damage in the future. Altogether I sanded for about an hour, making sure that every corner and face of the board was sanded out profusely. After wiping down the board with a wet cloth to remove any residue, it was time for the most stressful part of the job.IMG_9673.jpg

Step 9: Wet application

This was 5 minutes of hell… For my little brother. Wet application is not a hard way of applying a sticker, unless it is on a surface that isn’t normally meant to take it, and also taking into account that this sticker was quite big however, made this especially challenging for me. Wet application is a process of applying water and soap to a surface before placing the sticker onto it. this allows for a perfect fit while being able to re-adjust the sticker if it was placed wrongly. Once it is placed it then needs to have all

the water pushed out from underneath the sticker and the surface the board it is applied to. Do do tis I used a standard banking card, as it is firm enough to push out all the bubbles of air and leftover traces of water beneath the sticker.

After this step, I glued along the edges of the sticker with children’s craft glue so that no curvature of the sticker would occur at the ends. Several hours of drying later and it is done!IMG_9677.jpgIMG_9678.jpg

Step 10: Game time

that’s about it for this one. A fully functional play-board to cater to my geek-ish desires while playing my new found game of choice.

I hope you found this informative and may even dive into the world of Magic on your own.

Keep Creating, Keep it Magical, and Keep Chasing Dragons, -Souro-

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