How to Make 3 Amazing Desktop Games Entirely from Cardboard
Using lots of cardboard and some skill, you, too can make these three cool games.
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There is something magical about cardboard. You can use it for packaging, of course, but the material is so versatile that you can use it to make many other things — like a working Nerf-style gun.
One example is to make some simple and very entertaining tabletop games! Follow this guide to see some interesting examples.
As you can imagine, you'll need some tools and materials before you get started like any project of this nature.
Materials and gear needed
- Popsicle sticks
- Wooden toothpicks
- Plastic straws
- Glass marbles
- Colored plastic ping-pong balls
- Modeling knife
- Plastic or wooden rods
- Hot glue gun
With all the gear and materials ready, it's time to get on with this great little build.
Game 1: Making a cardboard table tennis game
Let's start by building the first game. The first step is to cut five strips of cardboard to the following dimensions: -
- 2 no. 9 and 1/6 inches (23cm) by 3 and 5/32 inches (8cm) - "Part 1"
- 2 no. 8 and 21/32 inches (22cm) by 1 and 37/64 inches (4cm) - "Part 2"
- 2 no. 9 and 1/6 inches (23cm) by 1 and 3/16 inches (3cm) - "Part 3"
- 4 no. 5/32 of an inch (8cm) by 1 and 37/64 inches (4cm) - - "Part 4"
- 2 no. 1 and 3/16 inches (3cm) by 63/64 of an inch (2.5cm) - - "Part 5"
- 2 no. 1 and 3/8 inches (3.5cm) by 25/32 of an inch (2cm) - "Part 6"
- 4 no. 1 and 3/8 inches (3.5cm) by 63/64 of an inch (2.5cm) - "Part 7"
With the cardboard pieces in hand, take one of the largest pieces ("Part 1") and lay it flat on a table. Then, take two of the "Part 4" pieces of cardboard and glue them to either end of the larger piece vertically.
Next, take one of the next widest pieces ("Part 2"), and glue it between the two vertical struts as shown below.
With that done, take one of the "Part 3" pieces and glue it between the two vertical bars to make a cardboard shelf.
Next, take Parts 5, 6, and 7. Using "Part 5" as the base, glue the two number "Part 7" pieces to opposite sides of "Part 5". With one of the remaining "Part 6s", glue this to one end to make a kind of scoop shape. Puncture holes through the "walls" of the scoop as shown below.
With that done, cut off the rounded end of a popsicle stick, and cut a length of plastic straw to the same width as the stick. Glue it about a third of the way down the popsicle stick.
Then, take the stick (and straw) and line up the straw with the two holes of the cardboard "scoop" we made earlier. Thread a toothpick through the holes (and straw) to make a hinge. Cut off any excess piece of toothpick, and secure both ends into place on the cardboard using superglue.
Next, cut a small circle out of both walls of the scoop. With that done, cut matching holes on either side of the main shelf walls we made earlier.
Next, cut a 9 and 1/16 inches (23cm) long length of wooden or plastic rod, and thread it between the walls of the shelf and the "scoop" piece. This will form a rail to allow the "scoop" to run along. Secure the rod into place using a hot glue gun.
With that done, cut another piece of cardboard and glue it below the main base of the piece. Rinse and repeat all the steps above to make a second, matching cardboard assembly.
With that done, it is time to cut some more pieces. First, cut a piece 9 and 1/16 inches (23cm) by 13 and 25/32 inches (35cm). Mark out a dividing line 6 and 57/64 inches (17.5cm) long the longest length of the cardboard.
Next, cut two pieces 14 and 11/64 inches (36cm) at the base leading to a pitched roof shape with the shortest height of 5 and 29/32 inches (15cm) and 7 and 3/32 inches (18cm) at its ridge. Also, mark out a border 2cm parallel with the "roof".
Bend the largest piece along its center line, and glue it along the borderline to the "roof" of one of the pitched pieces. With that done, cut two lengths of cardboard 9 and 1/16 inches (23cm) by 1 and 31/32 inches (5cm).
Glue them at regular intervals to the base side of the same "pitched roof" pieces. Then glue the second "pitched roof" piece to the other parts.
Next, glue the previous flipper parts to either side of the "roof" structure as shown below.
Now, cut four more pieces of cardboard 2 and 61/64 inches (7.5cm) by 5 and 29/32 inches (15cm). Also, cut two more pieces 9 and 1/16 inches (23cm) by 4 and 59/64 inches (12.5cm).
Use these to close up the gaps at either end of the game.
After that, paint the game to resemble a tennis court, and make a small dividing wall to the same dimensions as the ridge of the main "roof" part of the game.
Next, create the main ball rack, and ball receiving troughs as shown below. Then cut out, paint, and glue the two small cardboard table tennis mallets.
At last, your cardboard table tennis game is now complete. Have fun!
Game 2: Making a cardboard ball tree game
The second game requires players to hit colored balls out of a "tree" that corresponds to their basket's color. If the ball stays inside the fenced base of the game, you "score" and need to put the ball in your basket.
If you manage to get your ball into one of the middle baskets, you get another free turn.
If the ball falls outside the fence, it is deemed a "miss" and needs to be replaced on the top of the tree. The first player to get three balls wins.
OK, that's the basic rules of the game, but now we need to build it. First cut a sheet of cardboard 8 and 21/32 inches (22cm) square for the base. Cover it with green paper, or paint it green. Next, take a handful of popsicle sticks, and cut them half.
Stick them around the base to make the posts of the "fence" of the game. With that done, take another handful of popsicle sticks and glue them directly to the posts horizontally to complete the "fence".
Next, cut a series of circles with a radius of 63/64 of an inch (2.5cm), and some strips of cardboard 2 and 3/4 inches (7cm) wide. Strip one side of the cardboard to leave the internal ribbing exposed.
Having completed that, wrap the strip around the circle base to make a cylinder and then add the second circle of cardboard to close the top. Next, cut a series of root-shaped pieces of cardboard, and glue these to the base of the cylinder to form the trunk of the tree.
Next, make a par of horseshoe shapes 25/32ths of an inch (2cm) wide, 7 and 3/32 inches (18cm) across, and 5 and 1/8 inches (13cm) tall, with a flat base 1 and 31/32 inches (5cm) long.
Cut the second one in half, and glue them perpendicular across the center of the first intact horseshoe to make a sort of bowl shape. Glue this to the top of the tree trunk to form some arced "branches" of the tree.
With that done, glue the tree to one corner of the fenced base.
Next up, cut a circle of cardboard with a 2 and 61/64 inches (7.5cm) radius. Cover it with green paper (or paint it green). Stick a yellow paper ring around the perimeter of the circle, and cut 8 holes through the circle to hold the balls.
After that, make some more circles of cardboard with a radius of 1 and 1.16 inches (2.7cm) and strips of cardboard 1and 49/64 inches (4.5cm) wide.
As with the tree trunk, wrap the strips around the circles to make an open-topped cylinder. Cover the outside with orange paper (or paint).
Rinse and repeat to make two more equally sized cylinders. Glue one of these to each of the remaining corners of the fenced base of the game.
Moving on, glue the ball holder to the top of the tree. Next, make the player boxes using rectangles 1 and 31/32 inches (5cm) by 4 and 23/32 inches (12cm) of carboard, and add some colored circles of paper inside to match the color of the balls you have to hand.
With that done, take another handful of popsicle sticks (ideally of differing widths.
Glue three full sticks together in a stack (one wider one at the base, and two thinner ones above), and then cut off the rounded ends of some other sticks. Glue four of these in a stack to one end of the triple-stick handle.
This will be used to hit the balls out of the tree.
Next, load the tree canopy with some plastic balls. In this case, four are yellow, two are green, and two are red. Place the boxes to two sides of the base, and the game is now basically ready to play.
Now all you need to do is test your skill. Good luck!
Game 3: Making a gravity-powered bowling game
That's two games under our belt, now to make the third and final one. This game uses a ramp to power a marble around a curved bowling alley.
Much like regular ten-pin bowling, the aim of the game is to knock over as many pins s possible. Perhaps you'll be lucky enough to get a strike?
The first step is to make a rounded top door shape of cardboard. No dimensions are provided, unfortunately, so you'll need give it your best shot and see what works.
Next, make a second equally-sized door shape of cardboard, and strip off one side of the cardboard to expose the ribbing underneath.
With that done, make a small wedge of cardboard, and glue it into place at the crest of the curve of the base piece of cardboard. Next, glue the flexible piece of cardboard on top of the base cardboard and the wedge of cardboard so that one end of the strip is raised.
Next up, make another thin strip of cardboard to the same length as the outer perimeter of the base minus the backside of it. Glue this onto the base to make a raised wall.
Next, cut a piece of pink paper to the same dimensions as the base, and draw on a series of lines, or lanes, parallel to the perimeter edge of the base.
Glue the paper to the base, as needed.
After that, cut a rectangle of yellow paper and glue it into a place where the pins will be placed. Next, cut another strip of cardboard to make a dividing wall down the middle of the base.
Glue this into place, as needed.
Sketch a series of dots on the yellow rectangle to mark the positions of the pins, as you'd find on a regular pin table.
Next up, it is now time to turn our attention to the ball ramp. Cut a rectangle of cardboard to the same dimensions as the yellow pin table.
Next, cut two small strips of cardboard, and glue them to either side of the first piece. With that done, cut another small strip of cardboard.
Stick a toothpick in the very center of this strip. This will form a rail of sorts to move the ball ramp left and right.
After that, make another rectangle of cardboard to the same dimensions as the base of the slider, and cut a slit through the middle. Feed the toothpick into the slit, and the piece to the slider base.
Next, it's time to make the marble ramp. Create a piece of cardboard to the dimensions of the footprint of the ramp.
Then make two curved pieces of cardboard to form the walls of the ramp. Glue these to the base as needed. With that done, make a strip of cardboard (with one side removed) and glue it to the ramp frame to make a curved ramp.
Next, make two rails to either side of the ramp using some thin strips of backless cardboard. Glue them on either side of the ramp ensuring you leave enough of a gap for a marble to run between them.
Stick the ramp onto its base slider by punching a hole through the base of the ramp and attaching it to the toothpick.
This setup should let the ramp move sideways, and pivot around its axis. Test the action, and adjust as needed.
Next, place the ramp to the right-hand side of the main base, and secure it into place with another strip of backless cardboard to form a bottom wall.
Next, take ten plastic pen caps, or another object, to use as the pins for the game. Rack them up on the pin table as needed.
With that done, take a marble and place it at the top of the ramp. Hold it into place using another toothpick.
At last, the game is now ready to play. The release the ball simply remove the toothpick and let the marble roll.
The released marble should run around the curved lane and hit the pins at the other end. Now all you need to do is practice different angles of attack, and speeds, so you can consistently knock over all the pins.
If you enjoyed making these three simple games, you might be interested in making another, slightly more challenging one? How about, for example, an "Among Us" themed cardboard game?
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