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The making of a Dune boardgame


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[crosspost from BGG.com's Dune '79 forums]

Been lurking, been watching, been reading, been browsing.

I came to the conclusion I could do a Dune board myself. From scratch. And I mean everything, the art, the materials, I'm gonna make this production mine.

So being an absolute Dune geek to the point of practically being a Dune wikipedia (mentioning the Sardaukar will get you three paragraphs of text and that's the short explanation), I had the Dune game imported from the US. I immediately fell in love with the game mechanics and, as I was a fan of the novels to begin with, I wanted to marry it. Unfortunately, it wasn't all that purdy.

Thus my project, dubbed Dune21, was born.

Now I have to admit that this thing has been in production for a while. The board has been remade a buttload of times, because I either wasn't satisfied, or I found out I made the board on Photoshop's default 70 dpi setting. Silly me.

Designing the board:

I've been looking around on the geek. There's some awesome stuff on here, don't get me wrong, but they're not mine. I love things that are mine. I decided not to go abstract or make it look like the Honored Matres just got really ticked off (I'm looking at you, Donal), but just do an overview of the planet with a bit of a minimal HUD.

I also found that many boards didn't include some changes I found very important in a remake.

To show you what I mean I'll post up the board here. I've shrinked it a lot, since it's made to be huge once it's printed. (Read: 95x73 cm or 37x28.5 inches.)


Click on the image for larger view.

Some things I have changed:

- OH Gap renamed to Old Gap. (Duh.)

- Renamed the Habbanya Ridge Flat and Habbanya Ridge Sietch to the more canon names Habbanya Ridge and Cave of Birds.

- Increased the size of Basin and Sihaya Ridge. There was never enough space. Great hate.

- Added tanks for each side. I admit I stole this idea from Fidel's pretty awesome (and rightfully popular) board.

I figured, let's get banners on the tanks. Now I'm not a good artist, so I went to DeviantArt and I found this guy who goes by the name of Verreaux. Based on his Atreides Hawk banner I invited him to join me in my conquest for Dune awesomeness. He said yes. (Thanks man, I really appreciate it. I love the designs you did, and I want to carry your manbabies.)

Lo and behold, the man delivered. The logos he made are now adorning the banners. I'm proud of this man. Once I release the full package, you can see the art in its full size, but for now this will be the only glimpse you will get from it. :-)


I added markers for the strongholds. Green for the orni-strongholds, blue for the others. The effect in the markers was a complete accident, but I liked the marble/glass look, so I figured, what the hey, let's keep it.

Next up was designing the spice cards and finding proper material.

To be continued...


Feedback obviously appreciated.

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Designing the Spice cards:

The spice cards were quite a hassle, but that's because of the print. I'll talk more about that later on in this post. The design was actually very, very easy, mostly because it was so minimal.


"But Dan," you might ask. "Why so simple? Why spend hours upon hours on designing the board and putting so little effort in the spice card?"

For two reasons, my geeky friend. I will outline the first one right now and talk about the second one later.

First of all, though I like eye candy as much as the next Fantasy Flight Games artist, the spice card is not in play for long. Think about it. How long do you look at the spice card? You draw, place spice, discard. All in all you would only look at a card for what, half a minute?

To make this time even shorter I didn't just do a bit of text; instead I took the map of Dune and "lifted" the territory in question. Habbanya Ridge, in this case. I've colored the territories according to type, so you can easily see what is sand, what is rock, and what is a stronghold.

This allows for easy navigating, since you would, in this example, look for the territory next to that one very lonely and isolated stronghold, no matter what side of the board you are on.

Some would want to make it easier on themselves by turning the card, and they could tell when it would line up with the board since Carthag and Arrakeen are the two dark spots that are close together, both on the card and on the board. The goal was to make the card clear, easy, and especially quick to use.

There's another side to the card though, one you would be looking at most of the time. The back.


I could have just ripped a picture of Mars or whatever from Google Image Search, but where's the fun in that, right?

Instead, I started working in Photoshop to create a little scene of Dune from space. I used that as the main image, and threw a semi-opaque black layer over it. Then, inspired by some Dune covers, I cut out a rectangle so you could see the original image. This had the effect you see above. Mostly darkened, except that one rectangle. Last job was just sticking the word "SPICE" in there, and voila, the back was done. It looked sufficiently modern and stylish, I gathered.

And this is where my second reason for the simple cards came in: the difficulties in printing.

I bought a brand new shiny Canon printer. It's awesome, it eats your printer for lunch and my ePeen has grown by at least 7 inches just because I possess it.

I also bought photopaper, because if I print cards, they need to have those gorgeous deep colors. I printed.

Two problems:

1. Photopaper attracts dust and fingerprints even faster than my candy brings all the boys to the yard.

2. Photopaper isn't very strong and just doesn't feel right.

So I started looking for alternatives. Glossy cardboard? Nah. Still has the dust/fingerprint problem. Laminating? No, I don't want those ugly transparent edges around them. For long I have pondered what to do, until I ran into something so simple I totally missed it.


SELF-ADHESIVE PLASTIC. Joy filled me every in nook and cranny, even in the places I didn't know I had 'em.

I bought a paper cutter and started printing. I screwed up quite a lot of paper, because the paper would slip away and the blade in the paper cutter would go right through some other cards, but I managed to do it in the end.

Since I consistently failed to put the plastic tidy over three rows of cards, I started by cutting up the print into a single row and a double row of cards.


I then took the self-adhesive plastic and peeled a small edge of the paper cover off the plastic, exposing its glued part. I stuck the plastic on the desk, and put the cards next to it. Then, bit by bit, I would pull the plastic off of its cover and carefully stick it on the cards, making sure there were no bubbles. We can't have bumps and creases on cards.


Carefully I peeled the plastic off of the table taking the cards up with it, obviously. That plastic sticks to everything, so I needed to watch myself every move, or it would stick to the back of the cards. If I would try and peel it off, it would take the top layer of the card with it, along with the ink, thus ruining the card. So I cut off the excess plastic, and did the exact same thing, except now on the other side.

Then I cut all cards individually. Now plastic is quite slippery, so I messed up some cards. So I had to print, cover it in plastic and cut it up AGAIN. But in the end I got some nice cards.


When I applied the plastic, the room was quite hot. This is because I got a protip from someone: When it's warm, plastic expands slightly. When it's cold, it contracts. So to get that extra tight look and feel I needed it to be warm, and then cool it. Rapidly. Now I have an awesome machine that cools down things you put in it.

It is called the refrigerator.


The cards came out with a perfect feeling to the fingers, a nice gloss... everything I wanted, really. And it's easy to clean too!

Next time: A testprint and shopping for prefab materials.

To be continued...

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