Things to do on a Rainy Saturday – Make a Chinese Chess Set

A while back (as discussed in this post) I became obsessed with finding a Chinese Chess set that would fit my needs. After failing to easily find one that I liked, I decided to spend a rainy (I’m not sure if it actually was, but I’m going with it) Saturday and make a very simple set on my own (using images from Wikipedia).

I used a few simple materials

  • ¾ inch wooden cubes that I had laying around
  • Scotch tape
  • Printed Icons from Wikipedia (with one set color inverted)
  • A Saw, scissors, and possibly an X-acto Knife
  • A cheap suction table clamp
  • Sandpaper

A few of those items won’t even be necessary for most people; this can be easily modified for the type of set one wants.


First I cut the pieces out (square pieces would be better, but the circle is more traditional) and taped them over the cubes, making sure the tape ran down the sides so it wouldn’t be easy to peel up. I did this on both sides of the cube. I placed the cubes in the clamp and sawed them in half roughly (I’m not very good with a saw, and I was impatient with this project). Then I took the pieces and rounded off the corners on some inexpensive sand paper, really just for aesthetic reasons. Afterwards I cut away any tape that was left up after the sanding.


None of this was very difficult and I’m sure you could figure out what I did by just looking at the photos, but in the end I got a quite usable, if not very pretty, Chinese Chess set that I could use with a player who didn’t know Chinese characters. I then drew a simple board on a sheet of paper that I glued to a small piece of cardboard and cut out. Then, to cover the edges (again for aesthetic reasons really) I used white Duck Tape (as in the brand, not a misspelling of the product). I actually made the board incorrectly and forgot to include the river (making it a Korean Chess board, actually) but this I was able to fix with minimal problems.


The set was great for introducing me and a few other people to the game while I waited to receive better sets. It now resides in Altoids tins in a magnetic “traditional” style set I got online so I can play with either characters or pictures.

Where to Start…

So… I’m gonna talk… About stuff…

But seriously, this article isn’t going to be my usual article (is it too late to say I’m mainly a humor writer? My latest blog/article posts make me think it’s too late.) Not that this’ll be sad or anything, just different.

Now, I’ll be the second to tell you I’m not the smartest in the world (the people I know who are in school would be the first), but I think I can be a reasonably insightful person. And when I start writing I can write (type) like there’s no tomorrow (but there are hand cramps). The real problem is knowing where to start. Over the years I’ve developed many theories and views that intertwine to the extent that I have no idea where to even begin to explain them, because each piece requires another piece to fully comprehend. The ideal “book” in that case would be circular, one where it simply starts somewhere and then ends in that same place. Even more ideally, the language and concepts would be simple enough that one could simply jump in anywhere and start reading until they looped back around to that point.

Unfortunately, due to the very reason that so many things relate to each other, a book like this would end up being much less like a circle and more like a choose-your-own-adventure book, or a food web, with many complex ideas growing from or branching off of smaller “stepping-stone” or “building-block” ideas.

But what are these ideas that form the basis of all other ideas? Is the idea of a language to communicate ideas the basic idea, or merely a tangential one? And there are even more basic ideas even further down. And higher “ranking” ideas are necessary to understand the smaller ones. We’d need a word made up of letters to express the idea that perhaps a letter is the smallest idea. It isn’t, but that’s what we’d need. The problem here is that new ideas are infinitely majuscule and miniscule. In science (or all of the physical world, really) a Planck-length is the shortest measurable distance, there is nothing smaller, nothing ever gets smaller or acts over a smaller distance. But in our minds we can easily imagine something say… Half the size.

Now what does this have to do with my inability to figure out where to start? Well, first off, it showcases my ability to write something completely tangential to what I intended to talk about whenever I feel I am unable to start something. It also really means that there is no good place to start anything. There are an infinite amount of topics to discuss that could lead to greater understanding of the central (undefined at the moment) topic. Of course, this also means there are an infinite amount of topics that could lead to misunderstanding of the topic as well, and that infinity is likely larger.

Now looking at what I have just written, infinity seems quite large, and diving into something that could lead to infinity seems quite daunting. But I find that the projects I simply start end up being better than all other projects (mainly in that they aren’t really projects until they’re started). So, I guess that’s really the answer: just start, start anywhere, you don’t need a good place, and if you find the “best” place retroactively, place it in front. Make things better, work at them, but start anywhere. Starting is better than staring at the monolith of work in your mind and doing nothing.

Of course you might like to start at the monolith.

Why Make Stuff on the Internet? (Obviously Subjective)

I have been making things on the internet for a long time. Not all of them were good things: for the first several years I made crappy videos on Youtube. In fact, I’d say I’ve only been making quality content for the last 2-1/2 years of my 7-year internet carrier. And that only started when I made a bunch of webcomics and then made a conscious effort to make my video and articles (blog posts) better. My videos might have been alright for some time before that, but other things I did weren’t.

Even so, I’m not particularly popular. I do quite a few things that get some views, but I am for the most part a background character on the internet. Sometimes I think about internet generations, and how I’ve actually survived through several of them. I haven’t quit since I’ve started, and during that time I’ve not been rewarded with tons of views or engagement, partially because a lot of it wasn’t the best quality.

That is not to say I don’t have people liking and commenting fairly regularly (less so on my main site). People do, but I do feel quite distant from them and like they are a minority. I do this because I like doing it. And even though I haven’t made enough money to cover the expenses of doing it, it’s highly likely that I will continue doing it in the future.

Especially considering that since I started, my viewers (readers, etc.) have only gone up (sometimes down suddenly, but up is the overall trend). While they haven’t exploded like many other people who put a lot of content on the internet, there is no denying that there are more people who read me now than there were before. And I don’t think that trend will reverse for quite some time.

Sometimes it does feel like I’m just talking into the void, which seems lonely. Bu I have confidence that if I keep putting things up, keep my accounts active, keep moving forward, that people, even a few, will see what I have previously done. Because, contrary to what many might say, it is quite possible for things to disappear on the internet, mostly due to neglect from creators. If one creates something, even if it is immensely popular, eventually fewer people will remember it, and there will be little to no chance of recovering it if the creator lets his domain registration lapse and the content is erased from its original servers. Because those who might re-post the content on their own Youtube channel, or their own blog, etc. are much more likely to lose the content later, whether they chose to, or their account was abandoned or deleted. Piece by piece, internet history (as all history) falls apart and we can’t remember it all.

I’ve been fortunate for my own drive to create, and keep creating even if no one is watching. I might even prefer it that way (though money to like, live would be nice). Many people can’t keep making videos, or drawing comics, or writing articles if no one is watching, if no one is engaging, etc. I can, and I made a conscious decision a long time ago that I would continue to do so, which I guess is quite vain. I keep creating so that my past creations aren’t lost forever, and to incrementally increase my chance of “making it”.

I enjoy it. I hope other people enjoy it and find it useful, and of course I hope it grows. There are plenty of project, large and small, that I wish hadn’t ended due to creators moving on in some way (having another idea, getting bored, changing lifestyle, etc) and maybe I’ll be one of those people in the future (I hope not). But for now, I’ll be here, plinking away into the endless stream of new and amazing things appearing all over the place. And even if it doesn’t work out that I “make it”, sometimes people like me just need to talk into the void.

Board Game Creation Blogging Part 2 – Looking for a Manufacturer

I’m making a board game, and blogging about it. This is the second part of the process, which goes from finding a manufacturer to pricing for crowdfunding. If you are interested in the process before this, you might want to check out my earlier blog post. If something you want to know about is not covered in either part, please comment and I will try to fit it in in a future installment where I go more in depth into the process.

The process of finding a manufacturer really started before I even had the prototype, but it didn’t finish until long after. When I first went looking for manufacturers I wanted a U.S. one. I live in the U.S. and I like “made in USA” products. In this search I found very few contenders. The one that I wanted to go with was 360 Manufacturing, which makes all of the games for Hasbro, and apparently does other games, too. I say “apparently” because when I went to contact them, their “Request a Quote” form was broken. And when I emailed them I received no reply (I still haven’t gotten one and it’s been months). So I’m guessing that they either don’t care about other games (likely), don’t do them anymore (also likely) or are out of business (unlikely).

So I went back to the research board, and discovered to my dismay that making a game in the U.S. would be super expensive and have awful production times. I begrudgingly decided to have a look at Chinese manufacturers.

As you can see, China is much less attached to where I am.

As you can see, China is much less attached to where I am.

Now, there are several ways to go about having something manufactured in China. You can interface with the company directly, or going through a liaison company that will contact the manufacturer for you. Liaisoning is much easier on you, the game creator, but has a higher minimum number of games required, and higher prices overall. Interfacing with the company directly is cheaper, but puts way more work in your hands, and you can run the risk of getting a bad company that will a) Steal your game idea and take your money (or the reverse or one or the other) or b) poorly make your game and leave you with a crappy product and no legal way to get back at them.

I decided to go with directly talking to a company, because I have almost no money, and the higher order quantities would be raising the bar for my crowdfunding too far. Instead I decided to put my not-so-valuable-to-anyone-but-me time into researching what would be the best company for producing my game. I needed one that had good reviews and a tangible product set (see above for why one needs to make sure), had a relatively low minimum order, and could communicate in english relatively well (if either of us were to use google translate, that would be a mess).
In the end I decided to go with WinGo games, which had more reviews than any other company I saw (hint: if you’re reviewing a game manufacturing company, make the review easy to find) which gave me a good idea about its practices. It also had several glowing testimonials (The creator of “Gunship: First Strike” being the main one) and was relatively easy to get in contact with. It only takes one day to get emails back from them, which is amazing, and since they’re in China it’s right there when I get up in the morning. Their website is easy to navigate and fairly functional. It has a few problems but nothing too glaring. After a few emails and my idiotic showing of my lack of form-filling-out skills (they use an Excel spreadsheet) I was ready to get on to the budgeting part of the process. Really, the whole process was much easier than I thought. If I may complain, though, I’d say they do send answers back one at a time, rather than in aggregate. I know some people might be overwhelmed by a bunch of questions at once, but answering them one at a time does slow down the process.

Next time I’ll be covering the budgeting and introduction to crowdfunding parts of the process, and after that I’ll be moving into some more specific areas. Please leave comments telling me what you’d want me to write about more in depth.


Speak Your Mind 38 #186-190


1. Do you think name tags are helpful in large groups?

2. Why do you think people have class reunions once they get out of high school?

3. What food are you best at making?

4. Do you like to wear belts?

5. If you could eat a candy bar right now, what kind would you have?

ANSWERS By: Austin Smith

1. I personally don’t even notice them, so that would be a no for me.

2. I have no idea, I would never go to one, I guess to see old “friends”.

3. Chicken soup (at least it isn’t out of a can)

4. Depends on the pants I’m wearing.

5. A Hershey’s.