International Tabletop Day (April 30) is just around the corner—and what better way to celebrate a love of games than by giving your favorites a little upgrade? Toss the cardboard tiles and plastic tokens and add a little extra realism to your game night with these 15 options.
In Pandemic, players race across the world, attempting to cure different diseases that are represented by little colored cubes. Many players opt to enhance the realism of those dire situations by purchasing real petri dishes to contain the unused cubes. You can also buy pieces that resemble the game's characters (for example: scientist, researcher, medic), or make your research stations a bit more substantial.
Splendor turns players into gem merchants—so why not make the stakes seem a little higher by replacing the fake gem tokens with more realistic glass or plastic jewels? Another option: follow this fan's lead and add gold coins.
3. TICKET TO RIDE
You'll have no problem claiming routes with the trains that come with Ticket to Ride, but these wooden alternatives (with coordinating meeples) make for an even smoother ride. And perhaps they’re substantial enough to prevent players from pulling an Anne Wheaton.
4. LOVE LETTER
You have to win a certain number of rounds to be the overall victor in the game Love Letter, so the winner of each round receives a little red square to help keep track of victories. However, with a name like Love Letter, there’s no shortage of interesting alternatives to the squares. You can opt to purchase glass heart tokens, pieces that resemble blobs of sealing wax, or tiny polymer clay roses.
Mix chess and entomology and you've got Hive, a game where each type of piece moves differently to help you claim the other player's queen bee. For a delicious upgrade, press the original tiles into silicon to create molds for the pieces. Then, pour chocolate into the molds to make an edible version.
A modern-day classic, Carcassonne is a tile-laying game that encourages players to build roads, cities, and fields. These 3D-printed tiles might be a little harder to pack into a box than the flat tiles that come with the game, but they're helpful when it comes to visualizing your empire.
To compete, Agricola players have to plow fields, collect wood, buy animals, and feed their families, among other things. Players can really immerse themselves in those tasks by swapping the included colored disks for these tiny shapes that actually resemble the items.
8. LORDS OF WATERDEEP
Set in the Dungeons and Dragons universe, this popular game requires a number of meeples to be placed around the game board in order to complete quests, collect money, and take other various actions. Swap the meeples for these little polymer clay versions to make the Lords of Waterdeep characters really come to life.
9. POWER GRID
In Power Grid, the players, who represent companies, purchase power plants and other resources with the hope of suppling electricity to cities. You can customize your version by trading the standard components for buildings that are more specific to the game. Or, if you’re really into Power Grid, you can add some sizzle by wiring your board to light up.
10. FORBIDDEN ISLAND
Made by the creator of Pandemic, Forbidden Island requires players to work together in order to find treasures on an island before it sinks. The tiles representing different parts of the island have to be arranged in a specific manner each time—so why not keep them tidy with a wooden frame?
11. BANG! THE DICE GAME
Bang! The Dice Game pits player against player in an Old West setting—but your enemy depends on what character you are. Players lose life points when they get "shot" by arrows and bullets, represented by little cardboard tokens. Up the ante with these more realistic depictions.
12. CASTLE PANIC
In Castle Panic, players have to protect the castle in the center of the board from attacks from monsters like orcs, trolls, and goblins. This 3D-printed castle is perhaps a little more inspiring to defend than the cardboard pieces that come with the game.
Somewhat similar to Tetris, Patchwork comes with little cardboard buttons that players use to buy patches and help complete their quilts. Real buttons are relatively inexpensive, however, so many Patchwork enthusiasts have upgraded their game with the real things.
14. SETTLERS OF CATAN
VanGamble via Etsy
Settlers of Catan, a game where players build settlements, cities, and roads, is a mainstay in many households. It's easy to make your copy stand out, though—a number of Etsy shops sell Catan upgrades, from game frames to wooden hex tiles.
15. KING OF TOKYO
King of Tokyo is Yahtzee's more destructive cousin, a dice game where monsters try to defeat each other and rule the capital city. The cardboard characters included with the game gets the job done, but these versions—polymer clay, of course—feel like they could wreak some real havoc.