Making a Game (of Thrones)

 originally posted August 17, 2015

Last year, a co-worker approached me about creating original board games to market our library. I had the materials and expertise to make a folding game board and game cards, but we both had little to no experience in graphic design and Adobe Photoshop/Illustrator type programs. However, I had been doing more and more creative things in Microsoft Publisher, which seemed like it would work. I decided to run with it and try using Publisher to create the game board image and cards. Since I didn’t want to waste work time on a time-consuming project that could ultimately fail, I decided to try to make a game for my own use at home first. I had a Game of Throne themed party coming up, so I decided to make a Game of Thrones Seasons 1 & 2 game based on the game of Clue.

who will win

Edit: HBO has recently released an official Game of Thrones Clue game you can get here. The game board, cards, and other items below I created myself for my personal use before that game was made available- I do not sell this game or these images.

The Rules

Classic Clue rules are simple, and were easily adaptable to Game of Thrones (and most other things you can think of). It is accurate for the first and second season/book of the series, so even a new Game of Thrones fan can play without it being ruined for them (although that responsibility lies mostly with the players).

Three cards from each category are chosen at random before the game and placed in an envelope- the objective is to figure out what those cards are. Then the remaining cards are shuffled and passed out face down to each player. Each player only knows their own cards; if there is an odd number of cards, those cards are revealed to all the players.

I have yet to make a game box ; this image would be beautiful as cover art.
I have yet to make a game box; this image would be beautiful as the cover art.

Unlike in regular Clue where you find out who killed Mr. Boddy, with what weapon, and where, you are a character from the show travelling to its different locations to find rumors and clues to discover:

  1. Who will win the Iron Throne?
  2. Using what weapon?
  3. With the support of which House?

The main difference in the game was that nothing is tied to a location on the board- you’re not finding out where. Instead, you have to visit every “room,” or location, on the map at least once before you can win the game, even if you figure out the answers beforehand (which is unlikely). You also cannot enter a location twice in a row. I made this game much bigger, so more people can play (3-10 players), and simply because Game of Thrones is epic. Instead of 6 suspects, 6 weapons, and 9 rooms, there are 10 characters, 8 weapons, and 12 Houses – plus 10 “rooms,” or places, to visit to ask your questions.

The Board

The Physical Board: I created the game board image with Microsoft Publisher, and glued it to a folding game board I made with bookbinding materials. I have used foam core for board prototypes, although it doesn’t look as professional and it will warp over time. If you do not know how to make a folding board, you can buy one on amazon for $7 + shipping, and just glue your printed board image onto it.

WM board
My game board. You will have to print this in pieces for your game board, or have the file printed on a plotter printer at a store like Staples.

The Digital Board: I found a cobblestone-type grid online in tan, and changed the color to this gray color for a more medieval feel in Publisher. Create a publisher page the size of the board you will be gluing it on, and simply copy and paste the grid image until it covers the whole “board”. Crop any over-handing squares out.

Then, I went searching for pictures to represent the places on the board. For many of them I was able to use scenes from the show: Vaes Dothrak, The Eyrie, Iron Islands, Winterfell, The Wall, and King’s Landing. None of the pictures for The Twins were imposing enough, so I found an image online that fans believed would have been a better location. Dorne was not featured in the show at that point, so I used a desert-like, realistic sci-fi sketch of another world that I found (ignore the second moon!). And finally, I believe Casterly Rock is a fan made image that fit well within the description of the location.

Cobblestone Grid
This is the cobblestone square after I changed it’s color to gray through tinting. Print out test pieces until the squares are the size you want for the game board (or use math).

The game’s characters are spread evenly along the perimeter of the board. At the beginning of the game, each player will decide which character they want to start as. The gray lines on the locations are the “doors” for players to enter and ask their questions. The Iron Throne image in the center is where the three answer cards of the game are kept. It is also where a player must go if they believe they figured out the answer, and wish to make their final prediction. I downloaded a free Game of Thrones font from online that I used for all the text to make it more authentic.

In regular Clue, there are secret passages between two sets of corners on the board. If I were to make this game again, I would design it so that Casterly Rock and King’s Landing were on opposite corners, and have a secret passage to reflect the Lannisters having a strong presence at both locations. The other two corner could be either Winterfell/The Wall, or The Wall/Beyond the Wall, for the second secret passage set.

The Cards

Backs: I made a simple black back for all the cards from a cropped promotional image. It is important all the backs are the same in a Clue game, because no one should know what type of card you are dealt at the beginning of the game (House, Character, or Weapon).

WM card back
All the card backs were the same.

House Cards: These cards are based on banners I found online, that are already the perfect shape and design for the game. I simply chose which ones I wanted and cropped accordingly, saving each as a separate image and then putting them all on the same page for printing.

House Cards 1

house cards 2
The House Cards for the game.

Character Cards: For the weapon and character cards, I took the House stark card, upped the contrast to make the edges darker, and used it as a background for all the cards. I then searched for clear images of the characters and images I wanted, and tried to find ones that looked like they fit together as a set. Other characters that would be good are Petyr Baulish (Littlefinger), Lord Varys (The Spider), Ned Stark, Jofrrey Lannister, Melisandre, Robert Stark, etc., depending on what seasons/books you’re basing the game on.

WM characters1

WM characters2

WM characters3
The character cards for the game.

Weapon Cards: The weapons cards were a little more difficult. First, I had to come up with feasible weapons that were specific to a Game of Thrones fantasy story. Some didn’t have images from the TV series, so I had to search for my own that would make sense. For example, the poison image is an ordinary pair of amethyst earrings. But this alludes the the poison “the strangler,” famous in the Game of Thrones world as resembling an amethyst crystal when in solid form, and how it can be hidden in plain sight as jewelry. Other useful weapons could be the Faceless Men, the Iron Bank of Bravos, gold/wealth in general, or assassins.

The weapon cards for the game.
The weapon cards for the game.

There are a lot of cards in this game. To make them double sided, I glued the front and back images to card stock pieces I had pre-cut to the correct size. While time consuming, I hand trimmed any excess paper off the edges with an exacto blade. The cards came out very thick, but that was fine for a game like this in which the cards are not fanned out and shuffled, just held by each player the whole game. I then used a metallic paint silver leafing marker on all the edges of the cards, to hide the seams and make the cards look more professional.

For something easier, you could print the card fronts on one side of cardstock, and then print a generic design on the back of the paper. Once the cards were cut out, they would be done and require no gluing. However, they will tear and bend easier, so determine how often your game will be used when making this choice.

The Game Pieces

wood-diceDice: A game needs game pieces for the players to play. I found a set of wooden dice on eBay that fit in well with the medieval theme, and weren’t very expensive. Because the board is so large, I used two for this game to give each player the possibility of twelve steps a turn.

Player Tokens: The player tokens posed a problem though, because game pawns typically come in six colors, not ten. I also didn’t like the look of plastic pawns on the game; I wanted something more elegant. I decided to use glass mancala stones for the pieces. My family’s mancala set included many different colors- dark red, black, clear, orange, light green, dark green, yellow, pink, light blue, and dark blue. These looked beautiful on the board, were simple, and everyone could pick which color they were at the start of the game.

mancala stones
Glass mancala stones can be purchased online and in craft stores, and come in many different colors.

Clue Sheet: The last thing to make was the clue taking grid sheet for everyone playing to cross off the wrong answers as they played. This can be made using Microsoft Word or Publisher, or any word processing software. Using a parchment paper background image, I made a table for each category and listed the options for each question. You also need to leave a large space for people to take notes, and provide something for everyone to write with.

WM clue sheet
Using a letter size paper (8 1/2 x 11) in landscape orientation, I was able to fit two of these per page.

Rules Sheet: I didn’t create a rules sheet for this game because I was going to be playing it with friends who already understood Clue, and the variances weren’t so great that it confused people. However, a rules sheet would be helpful if the game is very different from a traditional game, or if you are describing the rules to a large group of people. I would use the same parchment background if I created a rules sheet, and the same font generator for sections such as “objective” and “rules.” You could also add a wax seal image to make it look more medieval.

ice sword

Tutorials?

Fancy computer programs aren’t necessary to make something beautiful and professional. A solid knowledge of Microsoft Suite, some creativity, and enough patience will yield something unique and special you can enjoy for years.

If you would like more technical details on how I created the images in the program, including step-by-step instructions, please let me know in the comment section below or by emailing me at arielle@ashandelmpress.com. I would be more than happy to create video tutorials on making these game components- you won’t believe how easy it is.

Let me know in the comments what game you would like me to make next. Harry Potter, Archer, Lord of the Rings? Anything!

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