Make a Game for Pals

It's now November, which means it's time to really start thinking about cool and fun gifts for your friends. Whether it's Christmas or Hannukah or Kwanza, you should get them something fun. It takes time, which is why we're writing this now, and not later. Something I've done a few times now is to create a custom game for my friends. I don't mean design a game, though that is possible, but create a custom, unique experience for friends. 

My group loves Cockroach Poker. We play it almost daily. A few months ago, I had the idea to make a version of the game using our faces. The game requires no UI or icons, so I hired John Ariosa to draw stylized portraits of 7 of my friends (and myself). I then used DriveThruCards.com to print 8 decks of the game. Now, this wasn't cheap, and I don't expect folks to spend the money on eight illustrations to do a similar thing. But, it's super within the realm of possibility. 

There are so many ways you can customize a favorite game. For example, let's say your group loves Secret Hitler. Fantastic, great starting point! Perhaps you want to change the theme to one of Caesar taking over the power from the Roman Senate. There are thousands of illustrations to borrow, especially if you aren't selling the game (though try to use Creative Commons work where possible).

Perhaps you love Modern Art, but don't love the art choices in the current versions. No worries. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has you covered, and yes, it's under Creative Commons (but you shouldln't sell another designer's work). 

If you play Magic? Or Ascension? It's not difficult to create your own cards for these games. Swap in a picture of your friend and use a Photoshop filter. 

Do you play RPGs? Purchase and paint miniatures for your friends to use for their characters. Or, do it just to give your friends a special Score Character (to use instead of a pawn) for any game. 

One of my favorite creators is Chris Urinko of Daft Concepts (and his team). They can create boards to track plays, custom wooden score tokens, card frames for your favorite games, unique meeples...literally anything. You can make a custom score token for each of your friends based on a symbol or icon that's special to them. Use Game-Icons.net to get the symbols! Something I've wanted to do with them for years is make a wooden version of Carcassonne. I just haven't taken the time to trace all of the tiles. 

As I get older, I find that Christmas loses it's special sauce because I know I'm going to get socks, or exactly what I asked for. You have a unique opportunity, which is that you and your friends love games. All games have score tokens, card holders, and other weird shared tokens. You can customize this experience, which will be something none of them expect, and you can do so without breaking the bank. On your walk tonight, think about how you can customize a game and surprise your friends. Start planning now. Christmas is just 50 days away.

How and Where

You can print cards and components in so many places.