Laser Cutting the Ultimate Game of Dungeon!

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Laser Cutting the Ultimate Game of Dungeon!

As a kid, one of Dace Campbell’s favorite games was “Dungeon!” which was from the makers of “Dungeons & Dragons.” It is a simpler version of it’s more involved older brother. As you might suspect, playing this game meant choosing a mythical character and traipsing around the game board to slay monsters and collect treasure.

He decided to pass his interest in the game to his kids, and purchased an updated version of the game. Unfortunately, though he describes the new design as “pretty,” the board has now been shrunk so that the cards no longer fit inside the board-dungeon. Players instead have to reference cards in a slot on the side of the board. Most people would likely move on, or perhaps try to find a suitable vintage board online, but Campbell instead decided to make something that would put even the original to shame, a beautiful wooden 3D Dungeon! game board.


The build started out by photographing the game board, as Campbell apparently has access to every digital fabrication tool besides a large-format flatbed scanner. This image was then imported into SketchUp and extruded into three dimensions. After adding a few details and going through a somewhat involved procedure to get it into the correct format, he was able to walk through this newly-created 3D dungeon with a VR headset!

The dungeon colors got lost in translation, but even as as simple gray polygons, Cambpell was very pleased with this experience. According to him:

Nothing compares to experiencing architectural design at full scale, in real time, in VR – such a fantastic tool for studying, critiquing, and communicating design intent!  And in this case, it proved an ideal tool for walking around and performing quality control of the model – less about critiquing the design (which was more-or-less locked in due to the original game board graphics) and more about “Is everything modeled correctly? Have I missed any doors or stairs? Etc.”  Plus, my kids thought it was pretty cool being able to experience a space that was meaningful to them, having played the 2D board game already.

After a few minor revisions, it was time to make the cuts. Campbell, as an Autodesk employee, has access to the Pier 9 facility in San Francisco, and during a trip there (he lives in Seattle, Washington) he used the laser cutter there to produce his masterpiece. The model was cut into 9 smaller models and after 12 hours of cutting ¼” plywood, his game board was done ready to be shipped home (over 500 pieces, or 40+ pounds of plywood) for more work.

Once he got the pieces, a massive gluing job took place. As you can see in one of the pictures below, he didn’t use a mere squeeze bottle, but instead used glue out of what looks like a gallon container of the substance! This took several days, but resulted in 9 chunks of wood/dungeon, with plywood stacked in different configurations to represent the dungeon’s 6 levels.

At this point, the dungeon was beginning to look like his VR model, but like his model, it was lacking in color (unless you count the laser-burned sides). He then color-coded the different dungeon levels with water color paints. Though this looks good in the pictures seen here, Campbell notes that his masking job didn’t work as well as he would have liked, and there was some bleed through.

He then stained the top of the dungeons to go along with the burned surfaces of the walls, and finally glued them to the floor piece. After months of work, Campbell and his kids will finally have a game where they can place various cards inside of the dungeon, and he suspects it “will enhance the game play tremendously.”

Plans for this board started to form inCampbell’s head about a year ago, and he started actually sketching ideas out around July. Once everything was said and done, Campbell estimates that he spent at least 100 hours, but says that it could possibly be more than 150. As you might suspect, it was a labor of love, so he didn’t exactly track his time.

Campbell notes this type of procedure could be applied to other games as well, and would love to know if anyone else has done something similar. You can find him on Twitter here, so perhaps we will see something new from him in the future, or maybe he could share a few design pointers. On the other hand, he noted that he’d be open to working with the makers of the “Dungeon!” game if they were interested in producing something like this. It seems like he’s not the only one that would find this interesting, though perhaps the only one interested in dedicating this sort of effort toward the project!

If “Dace Campbell” sounds slightly familiar, this isn’t his first build seen on Make:. His “Gonk” charger droid was featured here in 2015, and his gingerbread Star Destroyer was seen in this list.

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Jeremy is an engineer with 10 years experience at his full-time profession, and has a BSME from Clemson University. Outside of work he’s an avid maker and experimenter, building anything that comes into his mind!

View more articles by Jeremy S Cook
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