Foam Core Insert for Agricola

Thursday, December 4, 2014

As it happens all too often, I found inspiration on reddit a couple of weeks ago to create a foam core insert for our Agricola box. The good people at /r/boardgames posted a link to an album for an insert that snuggly fits all game pieces and cards while also providing a detachable tray for the resource pieces. Once I followed the chain of links and pics and posts around reddit and BGG for a while, I ran into a lovely schematic for the insert. This could only mean one thing, of course: a trip to Staples to acquire some precious foam core! Several dollars later, I was the proud owner of about $$0.5 m^2$$ of cardboard and foam and was ready to begin my task. Sadly, Fortune had other plans for me. I had failed to realize that I was not in possession of either a ruler or an X-Acto knife...

For reasons of brevity, let us skip to a week later in our story. I had somehow managed to get my hands on a mint-condition crafting knife, so nothing could stop me any more. After several hours of measuring and poorly executed slicing (as will be illustrated by the photographic evidence below), the project was complete. I made several minor modifications to the original design. Most notably, I opted to making the separator for the narrow partition (measuring $$39mm$$ in width on the BGG schematic) holding the house/field tiles a little lower in order to provide easier access to the tiles without use of a ribbon. This way you can easily grab them all together or one by one with your hands.

Secondly, the removable box for the resources called for having 10 compartments (1 for each resource). However, we decided to only make 5, as it seemed to provide a little more space for accessing the resources during play (foam core is about $$5mm$$ thick, so by that last stage of the project, we had already lost several centimeters of space from the original box). This choice might not be satisfactory for some but seems to have worked out fine for us. Plus, adding the little separators in the future is easy enough, if we so decide.

All in all, I consider the project to be quite successful. The insert provided some desperately needed ease of access to all components of the game, especially the resources. We now no longer need to spend 10 minutes pre- and post-play for sorting things in their little baggies. What is more, the removable tray looks like it'll be very handy during play as well. In the past, any efforts to have neatly stacked piles of resources have ended in utter disaster (please, do not question why they have to be neatly stacked; it just seems like they should be). So, if you too feel the compulsive need to sort all resources in little towers throughout a game so that they don't spread all over the place, this design should be of help.

The only slight problem we ran into was consistently making neat cuts from the foam core. As in, we were not consistent in any way, as you can clearly see from the images of the finished insert. If you are not careful while cutting, the foam breaks unevenly which results in a visually unappealing end product. It is also crucial to make your cuts perpendicularly or you will run into trouble when trying to attach pieces together (they won't (or at least not nicely (how many levels of brackets could I realistically need?))).

Lastly, this little foam-board-cutting adventure timed very nicely with a more long-term Agricola project of ours. We recently began creating custom resource and animeeple (that is their official name, I kid you not) pieces from polymer clay. And I must say, the results have been quite cool. I was genuinely shocked that I could make cool-looking carrots out of clay (the keyword here being "I"). You can see some of our prototype designs below. We should be able to finish replacing all resource pieces soon, which would naturally warrant a blog post of its own. Until then, bask in the glory of the clay vegetables!