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How to Make Your Own DIY Board Game Inserts and Organizers

How to make your own DIY board game inserts and organizers

If you’ve made your way to this page, you might be getting a bit annoyed with some of the board games in your collection, specifically the ones without inserts.  Whether it’s the long setup and cleanup time, your aversion to plastic baggies, or you just hate how disorganized a game is without an insert, there is a solution.

If you have the patience, time, and a little creativity, you can solve this problem by making your own DIY board game inserts and organizers.  Hopefully, this guide will give you everything you need to know to start tidying up those messes on your shelf.

Foam Core Inserts

Foam Core Inserts are the most popular DIY method for organizing your board games.  The supplies are cheap and you probably already have most of the tools you need to make them.  They are time-consuming, and some may not think they look polished enough, but they work.

Below are the supplies you need to get started, you can find most of these at your local craft store if you don’t already have them:

ImageSuppliesNotesBuy
Foam Board, Black-on-Black

Foam Board, Black-on-Black

This is what you will make your custom inserts out of.  You can find this pretty easily at any of your local craft supply stores such as Hobby Lobby, Michaels, Joann, etc.  You can also find foam core in white if you like that look better.

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Self Healing Cutting Mat

Self Healing Cutting Mat

This makes it easier to make cuts without worrying about the surface underneath

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X-ACTO Precision Utility Knife

X-ACTO Precision Utility Knife

Any sharp knife will do but the cleaner the cuts, the easier assembly will be.  A utility knife works too, but you'll likely want something with cheap replaceable blades.

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Elmer's Glue-All Multi-Purpose Liquid Glue, Extra Strong

Elmer's Glue-All Multi-Purpose Liquid Glue, Extra Strong

You can use any glue but I've found this one works well enough.  Hot glue and super glue work too but are messier and more work than needed.

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Sewing Pins

Sewing Pins

These pins are great for holding everything together during construction and after gluing.

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Metal Craft Safety Ruler

Metal Craft Safety Ruler

All you need is a good ruler or straight edge as a cutting guide, but this ruler protects your fingers which is pretty nice.  

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Planning

Robinson Crusoe Removable Tray

Once you have everything you need, all you need to do is come up with a plan for the game you are creating in an insert for or find inspiration from someone else’s design.  Think about how the particular game is played, which components would benefit from its own box, and which could be grouped.

If you’re not the most creative or the best at planning you can find examples of DIY inserts made for almost every board game imaginable online.  The first and most comprehensive list of DIY insert examples is probably here: DIY Foam core insert master list | BoardGameGeek. Not all of these have plans but can get you going in the right direction.

If you need even more inspiration or guidance there is even a Reddit dedicated to this subject, /r/foamcore (reddit.com).  You can usually have good luck just searching online for the specific game you’re trying to create an insert for too.

I typically just wing the design after looking at some inspiration, as measuring everything adds a lot of time to the project, one which already takes a while, but do whatever you prefer.  If going this route, you can use the components themselves to rough out the boxes and compartment sizes.

Custom DIY Board Game Inserts

The more inserts you make the better you’ll get at making them. You’ll quickly learn some tricks and be able to create more intricate and elegant systems with ease.

Terraforming Mars Special Tile

Construction

Now that you have a rough or very precise plan figured out you can begin making your insert.  You’ll want to have the game and its components near you for reference and rough fitting.

Now it’s just a matter of cutting the foam core and putting the pieces together.  When making them I like to cut out the part I’m making, fully assemble it temporarily with pins, and make sure it’s how I want it.  Sometimes I do this with entire layers of the insert to make sure everything fits in the box the way I want it.

Putting together your own custom board game inserts

The more square and clean the cuts are the easier the box is to assemble, so you’ll want to make sure you have a good knife, large cutting mat, and durable ruler or other straight edge.  For the cutting tool, I use a scalpel with replaceable blades, but a nice utility knife works well too.

Once you’re confident about what you’ve cut and it’s temporarily assembled you can put it together for real.  All you need to do now is put a little Elmer glue on the appropriate sides of foam, squish them together and then use pins to hold them in place while they dry.

You wouldn’t think white craft glue would be strong enough for this task but once the DIY inserts are dry they are shockingly durable.  The foam core must just be an excellent surface to glue to itself.  If you plan on making a large insert, you’ll want to have a lot of pins, otherwise, you’ll need to wait for stuff to dry before continuing.

The white glue also has the added benefit of drying almost clear so there will be very little residue visible on your insert once it’s finished.

As I said earlier I like to wing it, and for this type of project it works quite well because you can check things and make adjustments throughout the process.  You can make a card holder, place it in the box, and then measure off of that for the dice holder next to it.   If you measured everything at once, and just built it as is, you might get to the end and realize not everything fits. 

Bonus Tips

  • You can squish the foam core to make pieces fit if your measurements weren’t exact or save on space.
  • When cutting experiment with techniques to get smoother cuts. Try repetitive lighter cuts for straight and clean lines
  • Make sure the blade is straight, even slight angles will make gluing pieces together more difficult
  • The pins may leave holes but you can reduce the amount if you put them in through the top and don’t push hard enough for them to come out the bottom.

Using your New Board Game Insert

It’s probably best to let everything dry for at least 24 hours before putting everything in its place in the game box.  You either now have a work of art that you put a lot of love and care into and will make you smile a little every time you pull the game out, or a rough mess that doesn’t look pretty but does what it’s supposed to, organize your game.

Hopefully, this guide helped you learn the most common way to make your own DIY board game inserts.  

Buying Premade Board Game Inserts

If this all sounds like too much work and time though you could always just buy inserts for those games that desperately need them from a company like this: Amazon.com: The Broken Token: Game Organization.  Of course the cost is a lot more than the DIY ones but they’ll definitely save you some time.

You can often find a lot of custom inserts and storage solutions on Etsy too, Board Game Inserts – Etsy, but they can be a bit more costly than some of the more mass-produced inserts.

Other Options

Below are some additional options for those who may have other tools at their disposal. These require costly and expensive tools and some knowledge but they can also produce some excellent results

3D Printing

If you have a 3D printer, this gives you another way to make your own board game inserts.  Depending on the filament you use the cost might be a little higher than foam core but if you have your technique dialed in, it will save you a lot of time on construction.

Honestly if your planning on making or buying a lot of inserts a 3D printer might pay for itself pretty quickly, especially if you can find other uses for it.

You can find a lot of files free here: Board Game Insert best 3D printing files – Cults (cults3d.com) and here: Board Game Inserts – Thingiverse

Official Creality Ender 3 3D Printer Fully Open Source with Resume Printing Function DIY 3D Printers Printing Size 8.66x8.66x9.84 inch

Laser Cutting

If you’re lucky enough to have a laser cutter available, this will give you the most flexibility in terms of materials when it comes to creating your custom board game inserts.  You can use wood for a very nice and polished insert that looks extremely professional.

Of course, you’ll still have to assemble all the pieces together but this method can produce inserts that are potentially much nicer than any you can buy.  You can find a list of cutting files for games here: Laser-Cut Stuff for Board Games | BoardGameGeek

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