I love the board gaming hobby. You never know who you are going to run into, whether online or at conventions or a local group or store. In Issue 1 of the DIY Crafty Gamer Series, I put out a call for project submissions and who should reply but the designer of one of my favorite games!

[Note: I’m still accepting project submissions! Contact me if you have a DIY project. More info at the bottom of this post.]

Corey Young designed Gravwell, which was published in 2013 and was a Mensa Select Winner in 2014. We have Gravwell on our Space-themed Game Day menu because it’s a beautiful, elegantly designed space race where ships use the force of gravity to push or pull themselves toward the finish line after being transported into another dimension via a black hole.
This issue will feature several of Corey’s projects, one of which is for Gravwell, as well as some peeks at his upcoming projects (some fantastic dice towers)! We will start out with a few questions to get to know him and then dive into the projects.

Crafter Introduction

To Play Is Human: How did you get into gaming?
Corey Young: I played so many games with my family while growing up in Michigan back in the 70s. Mostly standard family games like Pay Day and Gnip Gnop. I probably liked the games more than my siblings.
Then a friend of mine introduced me to Dungeon, a board game version of some role playing game everyone was talking about. That same friend then introduced me to Shogun (a.k.a. Samurai Swords). Then in the early 80s, we discovered the RuneQuest RPG. I played that, other RPGs and board games like Talisman through college, but then drifted out of the hobby when I got married.
TPIH: What do you enjoy about designing and creating game projects?
Corey Young: I guess I always perked up when I or someone else said, “You know what would make this game even better?” I started out by making house rules or expansions for my favorite games. Later I spun off into game design and making physical accessories.
TPIH: What advice would you give to someone thinking about crafting their own gaming accessories? Pros/Cons/Lessons learned?
Corey Young: That’s easy: “DO IT!” Can you think of an activity with a lower risk for entry? There is no down side. It’s all reward with no punishment. What would happen if it turned out uglier than you’d imagined it? Then you used a skill, and got better at it. Win!
If you make something that brings you joy, either by enhancing the experience of a game, by simplifying play or by garnering compliments when others see it, then it will have been worth whatever time and effort you put into it.

With the exception of the dice towers, I never looked at any of the accessories that I created as potential products while I was making them. I wanted the thing. It wasn’t available to buy. So I made it. That would’ve been hard if the thing I wanted was a hydrofoil or a freeze ray, but game accessories are pretty easy to make.
As to lessons learned, it’s not my lesson, but I learned it – rapid, cheap iterations really work. Make it in cardboard first. Then remake it better. Continue until it’s worth making out of better stuff.
Also, wander through stores that sell art supplies, even when you’re not thinking about making anything. When I do, I discover tools for which I have no immediate need, but later remember when I need them. I also see different materials and types of art that I didn’t know existed.
TPIH: What games are you excited about right now?
Corey Young: The Overlight RPG from Renegade Games looks exciting.
TPIH: Where can people follow you around the web?
Corey Young: I’m on Twitter @c_m_young.

Gravwell Project

TPIH: What is the project and what game is it for?
Corey Young: Travwell (travel Gravwell). It’s a wooden box/board for Gravwell. The ships are replaced by pegs and the board has holes like a cribbage board. The pegs and the cards fit inside. The whole thing is only 6” in diameter. It packs nicely.
TPIH: What inspired you to create it?
Corey Young: A lot of people complained about how much empty space there was in the Gravwell box. They aren’t wrong. The original prototype for the game fit in a 5”x7” plastic zip bag.
TPIH: What materials/tools did you use and how long did it take?
Corey Young: I went through 5 or 6 designs on paper. The early versions were rectangular, like a cribbage board. I’m glad that I switched back to the circular spiral track. The board is made up of 6 layers of 0.25” plywood. It’s cut on a laser cutter. I make the laser pattern using CorelDraw. The hinge is a wooden dowel. It’s assembled with glue. It took about 2 months.

Macao Project

TPIH: What is the project and what game is it for?
Corey Young: Macao rose wheel trays. The trays keep the resource cubes from scattering around the table. The rose wheel for the game fits loosely in the top layer. Notches at the intersections stop the wheel from rotating. Small dimples around the edge of the center part of the tray allow you to easily lift and rotate the wheel.
TPIH: What inspired you to create it?
Corey Young: I love Macao and its rose wheel, but I didn’t like how players had to be careful not to nudge their cubes around. I saw a few other designs on BGG.
TPIH: What materials/tools did you use and how long did it take?
Corey Young: Again laser-cut plywood, but this time it’s a stack of four 3mm sheets. I wanted the trays to fit into the original box, so I kept the diameter and thickness down. I shared the cut files for this project on BGG. This project took about a week.

Fox in the Forest Project

TPIH: What is the project and what game is it for?
Corey Young: Fox in the Forest box. My wife and I are crazy about Fox in the Forest. I took the same design that I made for Travwell, and replaced the top with a thematic scoring track.

TPIH: What inspired you to create it?
Corey Young: I’m very used to keeping score with pegs instead of tokens, so I started thinking about how I could get that experience.
TPIH: What materials/tools did you use and how long did it take?
Corey Young: The design and components are identical to Travwell, so the only work on this design was the art and layout for the board on the top layer. I hand drew the thematic elements, then digitally traced them for laser etching. The trickiest part was coming up with a smooth spiral with adjacent holes that lined up nicely along the spiral.

Mahjong Trays

TPIH: What is the project and what game is it for?
Corey Young: These Mahjong trays are made of milled wood. They present the tiles at a nice angle, without exposing your hand. The front contains room for the tiles you’ve revealed.
DCF 1.0
TPIH: What inspired you to create it?
Corey Young: This design is about comfort and convenience. The tiles rest at just the right angle to keep them hidden from others, while still being clear to the player. The coolest feature is that the tiles are exactly the length of a wall; 18 tiles. It speeds up making the walls because you don’t have to count; just stack tiles the full length, then push the wall into place.
TPIH: What materials/tools did you use and how long did it take?
Corey Young: These are made up much nicer wood and finished with a satin lacquer.

7 Wonders Duel Insert

TPIH: What is the project and what game is it for?
Corey Young: I designed the first version of the 7 Wonders Duel insert sold by The Broken Token. The design borrows some of the best features from their insert for 7 Wonders. The brilliant designers at The Broken Token improved on the design that I sent them, allowing the expansion to fit in the box as well.

Image from The Broken Token

TPIH: What inspired you to create it?
Corey Young: 7 Wonders and 7 Wonders Duel are in my top 10 games. The Broken Token folks designed an outstanding insert for 7 Wonders. I emailed them, asking whether they were considering making a similar design for 7 Wonders Duel. They said that they’d like to, but that there was likely not enough demand to warrant designing one. I responded that I’d be interested in designing one. I was delighted when they said that they would look at whatever I came up with.
TPIH: What materials/tools did you use and how long did it take?
Corey Young: I used CorelDraw again to make the file. Once it was done, I printed a copy to adhesive-back paper and stuck that to balsa wood. I then cut that out with an X-Acto blade so that I could check the fit of everything. Once I was happy with that, I sent the file to the geniuses at The Broken Token.

Carcassonne Bag Upgrade

Carcassonne Bags
TPIH: What is the project and what game is it for?
Corey Young: This one is pretty minor, but I found some nice bags in each of the 6 colors used for meeples in Carcassonne.
TPIH: What inspired you to create it?
Corey Young: To save time setting up Carcassonne, I wanted to keep all of each players parts in separate bags. I was able to find nice drawstring bags in each color.
TPIH: What materials/tools did you use and how long did it take?
Corey Young: I found this at a booth at Gen Con several years ago. They were being sold as dice bags. When I picked the 6 specific colors, the man running the booth said, “Oh! For Carcassonne!”

Upcoming Projects

dice tumbler parts
TPIH: Are there any upcoming projects you have ideas for?
Corey Young: I’m working with The Broken Token again on a line of dice towers. That’s eating up most of my design attention right now. You can see videos of the prototypes in action here, here, here, here, here, and here.
TPIH: I’m particularly fond of the “dice shaming” tower!

Corey Young: I designed a game about Santorini several years ago. It uses hexagonal tiles played on inclined playing board. The board and tiles for the prototype are laser cut wood. The faces of the tiles are printed on adhesive-backed paper. I then apply the stickers to the tiles.
Santorini (changing name to Fira)
The game was considered by a few publishers, but was turned down for being too abstract and for only supporting 2 players. Last year, I partnered with Ben Rosset and Matthew O’Malley (designers of Between Two Cities) on a redesign that solved those problems. The game is currently under consideration with a publisher.
I’ve also been thinking about an RPG-related project; some reusable terrain objects that have story threads associated with them so that they can be woven into existing RPG campaigns. Nobody wants to buy a piece of terrain that only works for one evening, right?

Thank You

And that wraps up Issue 2 of the DIY Crafty Gamers Series! What a great group of projects from Corey. I’m in love with the Gravwell/Travwell and Fox in the Forest designs he made — so gorgeous! I’m also looking forward to his dice tower collection coming out with The Broken Token… those are going on the wishlist immediately.
Thank you so much for sharing your projects with us, Corey! You have definitely given me some ideas for my own projects. We recently got a laser cutter and the project wishlist keeps growing, haha!
Readers, what is your favorite of Corey’s projects? If you have any questions, leave them in the comments below or post them here on Twitter.

Call for Submissions

Do you have a tabletop gaming project that you’ve created? Contact me with some information and photos. No project is too big/small — as long as you made it yourself and you use it when you game, it is eligible for submission! I would love to see projects for board game upgrades and accessories, RPGs, miniatures (I would love to see mini paint jobs!), terrain, dice towers, custom playmats, custom dice, or anything else you have made.

One Thought on “DIY Crafty Gamer, Issue 2”

Leave a Reply