Making an Insert (Lords of Waterdeep as example)

“SHOW YOUR PROGRESS” – every math teacher ever. Alright then; this my progress making a board game insert in detail and explaining some of my decisions along the way.

Taking Proper Measurements

The very first thing that I start with is always measuring all of the components and the box. The most important part about this is to never get the box bigger than what it actually is, and to always measure on the inside. For this, I use a ruler that measures from its edge (as opposed to most regular rulers) to get the correct measurements, mainly the height. I should mention that I always measure in metric milimeter for accuracy, and because imperial is inferior in every way.

Once the box is done, each component is measured. With cubes and such, I usually take an estimate measurement with all of the cubes together in a pile to know how to make a box/compartment that the cubes fits in. Note that for cubes, you shouldn’t make a compartment that snuggly lines them up because that makes it harder to get them out.

Know the Game

This can’t be stressed enough – Know the game you are making an insert for! Inserts are so much more than simply storing the game. A good insert makes the game easier to setup and put away, and can even heighten the overall game experience with for example boxes for components.

So how do you do this? Just play it! Take part in the setup and take down of the game, and see which components are used in the game and how they are stored and used when playing it.

Deciding based on Knowledge a “this would be nice”

You should always strive to make the best insert you can that enhances the game and your experience with it. To do this, use what you’ve learned about the setup, the game, and the take down to decide what you want to make.

For example;

Lords of Waterdeep takes time to setup and take down. This is because the default insert is made to look good – almost each single component has its own place and you need to take them out and hand them out to each player, all while choosing player colors, selecting lords, shuffling cards and buildings, etc.

This setup becomes even more tideous with the expansion, Scoundrels of Skullport, where you should take out a number of cards from the base game in order to shift how much of each cards comes up in play.

To remove this setup element I didn’t use an insert per say – I just took out cards and building tiles based on suggestions from BoardGameGeeks forums along with my own analysis. So now I have cards and tiles that needs seperate storage, perfect! They are never used so they could be taken out of the game completely (since we will always play with the expansion), but I prefer not having to store any components outside of its own box so they have to be kept in. This speeds the setup up and take down by removing that element completely.

So lets look at the problems with the setup, starting with Player Color; A simple solution is to just make compartments for each color and keep everything needed for the color there. The problem with only making a compartment is that this doesn’t help the person who is mainly setting up (main setuper) the game because that player needs to fish out every single color and hand the pile to the players one by one.

That’s where boxes makes the game better. If each Color gets its own box, the main setuper can simply take out each box and hand it to the player whom can take out the components themselves.

Another thing to think about is the cubes. In Lords of Waterdeep, we usually store the cubes (and coins) on the board by their main action. This becomes slightly problematic with the expansion that allows you to add cubes directly onto any action that players can then later use to get that cube.

So this becomes pretty easy actually – just make boxes that goes onto the board. There are a few things you need to consider when making this – for one, the boxes can’t be too big. I measured the free areas on the board and found that I can create one box for each cube that’s 6x6cm in size. Something I however had to think about was to not make the boxes too high as it would interfer with the players ability to see their agent pieces when placed on the board.

I found that the box can be up to 3cm high. This was because I found two acrylic orbs that I could cut into 2 and use as cups, similar to the original insert, and I used regular cardboard for the bottom to keep the height to a minimum.

These boxes could now be filled with cubes and be used during the game, enhancing the experience we have when we play.

For cards and buildings, I figured three compartments each would work – one compartment each for the tiles or cards that would not be used. The rest of the tokens could be stored in simple compartments as well. I could possibly make a box for coins but I decided against it for now.


Once I have all measurements and some goals in mind – its time to bring it all in to Illustrator and make it.

I always start with a standard A3 format with the unit set to Milimeter. Since I use 5mm thick foamboard, I know all of my walls and such are going to be that thick, and I can build a design using that and with it build the main insert box.

There really aren’t any proper rules on making an insert. Usually, you want to create a main insert box. That way you’ll always have something you can rely on when doing all of your other measurements. It will also protect your box and usually foamcore to foamcore is much better when making boxes within boxes – the cardboard of your board game box will easily bend and tear without a main box.

Outside of this, there are a few techniques you might want to employ during the planning phase:

Boxes within boxes

For any component that you might need to be passed around, or easily removed, boxes is the best. A note on boxes however is that they take up space – a centimeter on both the width and height is always lost, and multiple boxes will take up exponentially more space than just using compartments or walls.

Compartments for everyone

Most games requires individual compartments to be separated in the box, but is only used (taken out) during setup. For these, I usually make compartments for each type of component and store it within the make box. A note on this however is that removing the components might be tricky.

A Tray for some things

Its not always the case that some components needs their individual box, however you still want them to be available at the table without having to keep the big main box on the table. For this, a tray is appropriate. A tray can either be set within reach of each player, or passed around. A tray is its own box and usually has small compartments for different kinds of components (tokens).

Card and Tile compartments (walls)

For cards and tiles, simply using walls will usually do the trick. It is essentially like compartments, only with holes for

Creating and adjusting

One thing to note is that when planning, always leave some extra room for components. So if your cards are 63x88mm in size, make the compartments at least 2 milimeters wider and longer so your compartments are 65x90mm. If you want to fit sleeved cards, use the sleeves for measurement but keep the extra space.

Something special I usually make for cards and tiles is a ledge. A ledge is simply a beam of foamcore that I place at the bottom of the compartment. This causes the cards to be elevated from the ground and allows you to push down on one side, making it easier to remove the cards.


If you don’t have access to, or the skills needed, for using Illustrator or any other program, you can do without. I’ve found the easiest way to do this is to simply lay out the components inside the box and make the organizer as you go. This takes less time but is also less efficient in terms of maximizing your foamcore usage, and you really need to keep track of your overall space so you don’t accidentally run out of space.


I sometimes look for inspiration from various other people that has made inserts for the specific game. BoardGameGeek is a great resource for this – simply go to the page for the game and look at the forums and images where others posts their ideas of inserts. Robert Searing, owner of makes foamcore inserts for sale. I’ve tried to refrain myself from looking at what Robert has made simply because I don’t want to copy it.


In summary, there really is no wrong way to make an organizer, but there are ways to make a better organizer.

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