Personal Projects

DIY Catan Board Game Replacement Pieces

If I had to pick my top 3 favorite board games, I would probably choose checkers, Clue, and Settlers of Catan. Every year for Christmas, my family gets a new board game that we learn how to play over the holiday break. While not every game has been a hit, Catan quickly became one of my favorites. Over the years, we’ve collected some of the expansion packs that add new twists to the game.

However, we never got the seafarers expansion pack. Which confuses my dad from time to time and leads to mid-game outbursts of “All I can build are ships! And they’re not even part of this game!!!” 

Then one day, my sister found the seafarers expansion pack at Goodwill for $3. Of course, we had to get it. 

When we brought it home, we unfortunately discovered that some of the pieces were missing. No worries, we thought; we have extra pieces from other expansion kits that we can use in their place. We had extra pieces for everything except some of the hexes. In particular, we did not have any gold hexes, since those tiles were introduced specifically in the seafarers expansion.

It didn’t make sense to toss the game or buy an entire new Seafarers expansion pack because of a couple missing pieces. So, I DIYed a couple gold hexes!

Before I show you how to make these replacement tiles, I do want to clarify that I’m not promoting making the entire game from scratch. This process is for situations where you’ve lost individual pieces or the dog chewed a crucial piece to shreds (rip one of my plastic cars from the Life board game).

The materials you will need for this project are:

First, open up your thin cardboard and trace the original Catan hex with a pencil.

If you have enough cardboard, I would recommend tracing only on flat surfaces of the cardboard. In my case, I wasn’t sure how many tiles I wanted to make, so I opted to trace over folds of the cardboard as well. You will need two cardboard pieces for every hex, so trace twice as many tiles as you want to make.

Once you’ve traced your hex, cut them out with sharp scissors. You want to be as precise as possible when cutting out your shapes so that they will fit neatly and snugly with the other Catan hexes.

Once you cut them out, you will end up with several cardboard hexes like the above picture. In my case, one hex was only half the thickness of an original Catan hex. To make my tiles the correct thickness, I used tacky glue to glue two together.

I used Aleene’s tacky glue to fasten my pieces together, but you could use hot glue or super glue. Personally, I like this method best because you have time to line up the two tiles and the bond itself is very thin.

When gluing the tiles together, I put the brown cardboard side facing out. Since I had some tiles with bends in the cardboard, I also tried to match up bended pieces with flat pieces for maximum strength.

Apply an even coat of tacky glue along one side of a tile, making sure you have enough glue near the edges and corners (those are the weakest spots and most likely to “snag” when removing tiles from the board).

As a side note, did anyone else inadvertently memorize that Puff’s commercial that goes, “Little Theo’s nose had cause for alarm… his ordinary tissues were causing him harm!” because I definitely did. (If you know what I’m talking about, you’re probably quoting the whole commercial right now. You’re welcome.)

Anyways, once I had glue on one side of one of my hexes, I attached a second hex right on top of it. Make sure to press firmly along the entire surface of your hexes so they can form a strong bond. Some glue may squeeze out the sides. If that happens, just wipe the excess off with a damp paper towel.

To make sure the cardboard pieces did not separate while drying, I used clothespins to hold them together.

The way I have the clothespins arranged in the following picture was the best method I found to keep all the edges and corners securely together. If those spots aren’t flat together, they might catch and pull apart over time when disassembling the board.

I let these sit overnight to dry (the glue doesn’t take that long to dry; I just got distracted with other projects 😉), and was ready to test them the next day!

As you can see, they fit really well! You may need to trim your hexes after they dry if any glue is sticking out the sides or if the two hexes shifted. I trimmed a couple of my hexes, but most of them fit well from the get go.

With the double-thick cardboard, these hexes feel just as durable as the original game tiles. I initially planned to decorate my hexes, but I decided to play Seafarers instead!

If you do want to decorate your hexes, I have a couple ideas I may try to make my tiles blend in better. The first idea is to glue craft paper (I snagged some that was used as filler in a delivered package) onto your hex and then decorate with sharpies, colored pencils, or whatever art materials you want to use.

I got as far as cutting pieces of paper for my hexes, but like I said, I decided to play the game instead of decorate my hexes! To attach, glue paper to one surface of your hex. Then, cut slits towards all six corners. Fold the newly-cut tabs to the other side of your hex and fasten with glue.

Another option is to photocopy an original Catan hex you already own and glue the photocopy to the surface of your hex. Of course, this only works if you have a matching hex tile from the original set. In my case, I didn’t have any original gold field hexes from the game (hence why I started this project), so I think I will cover them with paper and decorate with pencils.

Whether you decide to decorate your hexes fancy or simply write on it what type of tile it is, this is an easy, cost-effective way to salvage a game that’s missing a few pieces. I know I’m glad I was able to get a deal on Seafarers but still be able to play the game!

Happy Crafting!


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