Custom Board Game Pieces – Ships, islands, and more!

Custom Board Game Pieces – Ships, islands, and more!

In my vast experience with Pirates CSG, I have made a LOT of custom board game pieces.  By “pieces” I mean both physical and “virtual” items that help me enjoy Pirates Constructible Strategy Game to the fullest.  This includes custom made islands and terrain for the game, in addition to game pieces that can be proxied into the playing experience or used easily on the VASSAL module.


Making custom islands for board games can be pretty fun!  There are a variety of building materials to choose from, not to mention the variety of supplies and accessories to consider.  I’ve had some success with various types of foam (not all of it will melt under spray paint, but be careful!), along with various cardboard chunks and molds.

Here’s an example:

Custom island

Custom island I made for Pirates CSG

For this island, I took a thin flat piece of somewhat weak foam and modified it in various ways.  I cut out a shape that I liked, then added a coat of black spray paint (some more porous foams may melt when applying spray paint, so test outside or simply avoid using spray paint in general if you plan to make your own islands).  Some grasses and sands (found at Hobby Lobby; Amazon has similar) came in handy for the realistic layer above the paint.  I applied the powdery grass and sand with spray glue (glue and water in a small spray bottle that came in the kit I bought), and then added some rocks or “boulders” as well.  You can see them on the shore at the bottom of the picture.  Towards the top (where the action is happening) I added some bushes for a more 3D landscape.

Custom game pieces for use

I’ve made a LOT of custom ships, crew, and other game pieces for Pirates CSG.  There is nothing wrong with creating your own stats and abilities for your very own creations.  I am consistently working on a historical custom set (Pirates of the Age of Sail) that I hope will eventually encompass nearly all known ships and historical figures (crew) that played a part in the Age of Sail time period.  I also sporadically work on my custom fantasy set, Pirates of the Epic Seas.  This is where my creativity shines more (though I’m not normally a very creative person), as I make all sorts of interesting stuff.

Pirates CSG custom set

The first handful of historical customs in my first set, Pirates of the Age of Sail

If you like playing Pirates CSG, I highly recommend experimenting with making your own custom board game pieces.  Both islands and customs (shorthand for custom ships/crew/equipment/etc.) are fun to make and very rewarding to use in games.  Although I haven’t made any of my customs into physical form, there are various ways to do so if you’re inclined (stickers, marker, 3D printing, etc).  If you still feel hesitant to get started, you could watch a tutorial or buy some islands, not to mention using other people’s custom sets!

You can check out the My Custom Stuff page for even more details on my personal contributions.

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