Three-Dragon Ante, a decent, fast-paced gambling card card game, links tangentially to Dungeons & Dragons, but stands on its own. Wizards of the Coast must have intended it, and its sequel Emperor’s Gambit, to be prominently displayed on shelves of book stores, because the game box dwarfs the cards the cards it contains. As space in our gaming cabinet is at a premium, consolidating the decks from the two sets into one, smaller box, seemed useful. Unfortunately, because the cards are a non-standard size, a pre-made box for this proved elusive, so I built one.
I don’t have much experience with this type of craft, so I made serious errors just about every step of the way. Still, the result works well and looks OK. Let me know if you find a better solution.
For materials, I found an decent-sized, unfinished pine box at A.C.Moore that looked like it would do the trick. You can see it in its raw state (as well as a look at how mismatched the cards are to the box they come in) here:
With that base in hand, some other materials also needed gathering. Here is the full list:
- unfinished pine box
- ebony wood-stain
- 18″ of black ribbon
- red leather
- various wood bits
- decal paper
- acrylic sealer
- glue that can stick wood to leather
The fit was going to be tight, so I decided to use ribbons under each deck to aid in getting them out of the box (sort of like you see in some battery compartments). The steps I took went something like this:
- Take hardware (hinges, clasp) from the box.
- Measure and cut inserts, including width of leather. The idea here is to take some bits of balsa wood and fill in the gaps at the top and bottom of the cards, with a thin divider between the two decks. You can see this in the image above, where the filler at the top and bottom of are wrapped in leather. The center divider is not leather wrapped, as the box was not wide enough. Underneath all this is a square of red leather. If you make the center divider slightly bit taller than the other you’ll be able to sort of force it down into the leather on the bottom of the box, which should prevent cards from sliding underneath it.
- Route channel in inserts. In order to keep the center divider in place, I cut a channel in the filler pieces. I used a dremel mounted on a press for this, but the wood is so soft, you could probably use a knife as well.
- Wrap the filler pieces in the leather, without using glue or anything, just to check the fit.
- Sand, clean and dry box.
- Pre-stain box and center divider. Not sure how important this is. In theory, since the wood pine box is really porous, it needs the pre-stain.
- Stain box and center divider. I did this three times, following the directions for repeated staining. This includes some more light sanding.
- While all this staining, drying, and re-staining was going on, I scanned the dragon logo from the card box. Because the logo is blocked by letters and other elements, I had to hand complete parts of it. This was all done in Photoshop. (Since this image is trademarked, I cannot share the resulting image. Sorry.)
- Print the logo to decal paper. I wanted one logo on the top of the box and another on the inside of the lid. I wasn’t exactly sure how well the logo would fit, so on one piece of the decal paper, I printed out four copies of the logo at slightly different sizes.
- Cut out each decal and apply to the box. Use the holes left by the hardware to make sure you are orienting the decals correctly. Because the decals are slightly transparent, the black of the box mutes their look a bit. This had the effect of making the logo look a bit more “antique” than intended, but it turns out to be a good look.
- Seal the box with spray acrylic. Pay attention to the decal paper instructions on what types of sealer to use. I used the wrong kind, wich semi-dissolved part of the decal. This wound up giving the decal an even more weathered and antique look, so it was sort of a happy accident.
- Apply multiple coats of the sealer. Light sand in-between.
- Glue the leather bottom to the bottom of the inside of the box. To let the glue dry evenly, I put wood on top of the leather and clamped it while it dried.
- Wrap the ribbon around the upper filler piece, then wrap the leather around that. Keep the seam of the leather at the bottom of the filler. This not only hides the seam, but it allows the ribbon to come out at the bottom, right where you want it. Again, spare wood and clamps will help while drying.
- Wrap leather around the lower filler piece. Glue and hold.
- From the filler pieces, cut away the part of the leather wrapping the covers the channels you routed to hold the center divider. Fit the divider into the space.
- Fit the assembled filler/divider into the box, making sure the ribbons go the correct direction. Check the fit of the cards. Once satisfied, glue the filler into place.
- In order to hold the instructions, I attached a ribbon to the inside of the lid. I used a staple gun to do this. This is a bit tricky, because I wanted the ribbon to hide the staple. So, I positioned one end of the ribbon and stapled it to the lid. Then, without doing anything with the ribbon, I just put a staple into the opposite side. Then I carefully removed the staple, pulled the ribbon to the other side, and worked the staple under the ribbon with my fingers and into its original holes. Some careful taps with a piece of wood and a hammer seated the staple.
- Add all the hardware back on.
- Insert cards. Insert manuals for the games into the lid (I had to cut a very small amount from the bottom of one of the books to fit correctly).