Laser Cut Board Games

I call shenanigans! There’s no way Vader could have four pieces on the board already. :smiley:


I don’t know, seems about right. Even with superior numbers a no regard for the rules he always loses in the end. :blush:


Yes! I’ve had the idea of creating a chess board by laser-ing the dark squares like this. Would love to see how the board looks.


Hi @dan. Since Dawne is an owner perhaps you can ask her this question for me next time you speak to her (I’m assuming “her”, and not “him”).

How do board game creators feel, in general, about someone sharing a laser-cut version of a game they created? Are they happy or mad that we are doing that (or both)?

I’ve been asked by a few people to share my cut files for Tsuro. I don’t usually share it, since it’s a copy of a commercial product that is still being sold.

I know board games cannot be copyrighted (only the name and artwork in the game can, not the game mechanic itself). So someone could come out with their own version of Tsuro, give it a different name, create new artwork, and sell it. See:

I’d love to get more insights on this from an actual game developer.


I’ll ask her!


I still feel pretty much as I answered in another topic doubled down with it might be their source of income for feeding their family etc.


I completely agree that artists, workers and creators deserve a lot of respect. I try to not copy or rip off anyone. I do find inspiration from other artists, but I always try and put my own twist or flair on it. If one does inspires me, I try to always mention them when talking about my work.

In this case, I’m also wondering about the positive effect that our posting a “Tsuro” board design may have. It could be that several people will buy the game because we are discussing it, and praising it. It could also be that several people who would have bought the game will not buy the game, and laser-cut their own. I don’t know if one balances out the other.


I’m going to buy a Catan set so I can copy direct.


I think i might have the same point of view as you on this.
I plan on making some laser cut versions of some of my board games i love.
Which i feel is fine as long as you own a real copy of the game and you aren’t selling them.
That way i can have a custom board that i want and the creator still gets paid for what the created.


Well you totally nailed me right there. I had no clue the game existed till you posted. So it’s on my to buy list :grinning: :thumbsup:

1 Like

“Are” or “aren’t” selling?

Sorry i missed that. Aren’t selling

1 Like

I agree. When I had my 3d printer I only ever downloaded one item to print directly. Otherwise I generated every design that I printed. Part of me just likes designing things, the other part of me wants it to be mine. So while I might take a product that I’ve seen and recreate it myself… I would never do a direct copy.

Printing board games is a bit trickier, since it has to be nearly identical to be played correctly, however, I am of the same mindset at @marmak3261. I own Settlers of Catan and therefore I have no problem making a copy for myself with the Glowforge. In this instance I will probably use the one from the GF catalog, as it is so awesome!

1 Like

I tend to look at whether what I do is going to make an impact on the original designer/seller. For example, I have a back-burner project to 3D print some pieces for games at the local library. Which means that kids can have more fun playing those games, which the library already purchased or got as donations. I’m not cutting into the market for replacement parts because AFAIK there is no market for replacement parts.


Very quick copyright rules (IANAL) but here is the summary:

  1. You cannot copy art or words - EVEN FOR PRIVATE USE
  2. You have very limited rights to modify a prior art - but they are REALLY limited
  3. Just because you are not selling - does not remove (1) above.
  4. Specifically for games: game mechanics cannot be copyrighted, but all art and text is, so again - NO COPYING

Now, you may choose to make your own copy and you will probably get away with it, because who would know right? However, it is still a breach of copyright.

And, as a follow-up, Trademarks, which are more often about selling.

  1. You cannot copy a trademark (like Catan)
  2. You cannot “pass off” - i.e. make it look official when it isn’t
  3. Supporting products for a specific trademark are grey, but mostly on the side of you can’t.

Some examples

You cannot make a wooden copy of Catan. You also can’t sell it (copyright)
You cannot make a wooden version of Catan with diferent graphics and sell it as a Catan board (trademark)
You cannot make a wooden box for Catan and sell it as a Catan organiser (trademark)
You could make a game just like Catan, but with different artwork, different wording for the rules and scrupulously make sure you have not copied anything. You will be legally safe, but everybody would think you are a cad. (also that’s not to say you couldn’t be legally challenged even if you won in the end).

Finally, just while I’m on the topic, ARTWORK

I’ve seen lots of pieces which use or copy someone elses art, design, logo or photograph.
Be clear, these are straightforward breaches of copyright.
Just because someone has got away with it does not make it legal or right.

Hope that helps…

  • Simon

Always remember Board Game Geeks. Amazing resource. Quite a few 3D printed games last time I checked. I didn’t look for laser cut games, but bet they have some.

Also a great place for making your own games, finding feedback, and refining rules.


That’s not exactly true. There are substantial rights under the Fair Use Doctrine, especially for one-off private use. As stated, this is overly broad. It’s worth reviewing the rules if you’re making anything for sale or in quantity but by & large you’re not violating the law to laser cut a Hello Kitty for example for your daughter :smiley:


As I understand it copying for private use only qualifies as “Fair Use” when it is for study purposes.

I think copying a game, photograph, design would not be fair use, but you are still unlikely to (a) get caught and (b) get pursued legally, it is a bit of a moot point.

In general copyright and associated protections do not have anything to do with whether it is for sale, not for profit or personal use.

Again, I am not a lawyer, but have spent a lot of time looking at these issues as I am a photographer, author and game designer :slight_smile:

Also, copyright law varies by jurisdiction, as does trademark law, so people not in the US will face a different landscape (e.g. no fair use, but a right to make a backup).

The statute, which says

the fair use of a copyrighted work,
including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any
other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism,
comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for
classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of

is not really helpful.

The Internet is awash in a lot of things particularly incorrect statements about Fair Use in regards to US intellectual property law. It mainly refers to criticism and news reporting. It’s what allows you to leave a review of something online without fear of being sued because the producer of what you reviewed didn’t like your write-up. When I was in college its use for teaching was severely restricted by a court decision. One semester you had to go to Kinkos for every class and buy the photocopied “book” of class materials (after the book store robbed you for the main text.) The next semester not so much.

As regards the Settlers of Catan board, Dan said in a post, or maybe it was one of the Q&A videos, they received permission for their board and will presumably have some sort of licensing deal if or when they put it in the store.

Case law and the actions of actors in different sectors have led to differing precedents and practices in different sectors. In science fiction/fantasy not-for-profit fan fiction is generally allowed as is cosplay. The relevance of whether or not you make money from it is different from the pure legal view versus what is allowed in that area of society. Try it with a Disney property (not including a Lucas Film one) and you’re likely to receive a cease and desist letter. The reason is because if an intellectual property right holder does not enforce his or her property it will eventually cross an invisible line and be considered public domain. That enforcement is expensive. The cost is why so many individuals and companies don’t enforce their rights and that non-enforcement helps to feed the misunderstandings of an already complicated subject.

Or you can go with my father’s summary of the law: what’s legal is what my lawyer makes legal.

1 Like