The Case Study: Material Science

One benefit of playtesting a game is that it points out issues, not just with the design, but also with the implementation–how the game physically works on a table. I’ve run into one such problem with Over the Next Dune, and I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts on how to solve it.

As a print-and-play game, all the pieces of OtND are simply paper. That’s great for ease of construction, but during play such a light material can be difficult to work with. In particular, it’s easy for terrain to get knocked out of position. The searchers have a similar issue, especially when they overlap. Getting everything back in its appointed place is inconvenient at best.

I’d like to make future prototypes out of something with a little more weight. However, more weight generally means more thickness–and if the terrain pieces are thick they can’t overlap and still lay flat on the board. Allowing the terrain to overlap adds some interesting possibilities to the game, so I’m not willing to opt for solutions that prevent it.

I’ve considered breaking the terrain into individual squares, and then using each terrain piece as a template. Under that system, one would put the terrain piece over the appropriate spot on the map, and then drop squares anywhere that doesn’t already have one. That could be interesting (and might allow for elevation . . . ), but it’s fiddly.

Much to my dismay, I’m a bit stumped on this. Are the individual squares actually perfectly fine, and I’m just being unreasonable? Is there a material I could use for the terrain that I haven’t thought of? Let me know what you think.

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