Make this DIY board game for family fun, using this free template available as a printable PDF or a Cricut Design Space File. This marble game includes a storage case for marbles, dice, and even room for playing cards or other small game pieces. Follow these plans to make this game, and read to the end for the rules to learn how to play this awesome game. This board game is fully customizable. Feel free to change up the colours to match your marbles and make it with or without the storage compartment.
Growing up my grandparents would often make wooden gifts for us for Christmas. Most recently, my grandma made wooden aggravation boards for each of the families. My dad has this “marble board” as he calls it. My sister loves this game and sometimes we play it for hours – or until she beats me too many times and I get grumpy. I wanted to make one like it for my family. I decided to alter the design slightly so that 6 people could play instead of 4, and I created the storage compartment underneath, so the marbles would always be close at hand.
I like the added room in the storage compartment, because I can put other game pieces in there, or playing cards. This will be perfect for camping, or family board game night.
I made sure to add a latch to the front, so that the compartment wouldn’t just open randomly and spill all the marbles. I can just picture my toddler making a game out of that, and with an 11 month old running around, I really don’t want marbles scattered about.
I made this board out of solid maple, because I like the durability of hardwood and love the light tones of maple. You could use any wood you like for this project. I’ve seen these boards made out of walnut, pine, and even plywood. Whatever you have on hand or whatever price point you want to spend will work perfectly. The point of this game isn’t just the aesthetics. It’s the memories you’ll make playing it with friends and family that really matters.
Let’s Get Building
- 12″x12″, 3/4″ thick piece of wood – I jointed together 4 – 3″ wide 12″ long strips of maple for this
- 6′ long 1×3 – I used maple
- 4′ long 1/4″x2 1/2″ – I used poplar (this will make the compartment dividers)
- 3/8″ plywood – for the bottom of the box
- 2 small hinges
- 1 latch or hasp – I used a small bronze one from a dollar store box
- 6 different colour sets of marbles (at least 4 per set)
- Acrylic craft paints – to match your marble colours
- White paint – I used Rustoleum spray paint in white semi-gloss
- Wood finish/sealer – I used brush on polycrylic in semi-gloss
- Sandpaper and sanding disks – Coarse to fine grit
- Wood glue – I use Titebond II
- Adhesive vinyl (optional) – I used Oracal Oramask Stencil Vinyl
- Transfer tape (optional)
- Painter’s tape or masking tape
- Double sided tape (optional)
- Safety equipment – respiratory protection, eye protection, hearing protection
- Measuring tape
- Speed square and/or combination square
- Exacto knife
- Table saw
- Miter saw (Could just use table saw for this)
- Cricut cutting machine or printer for template
- Regular grip cutting mat (if using Cricut)
- Weeding tool (if using Cricut)
- Router & bits:
- 1/2″ core box router bit
- 3/8″ and 3/4″ straight bits
- flush trim bit with bottom bearing (optional)
- 45 degree chamfer bit
- 3/16″ straight bit (or other small straight bit)
- Drill bits
- Screw driver
- Clamps – for box building, I highly recommend a 4 corner strap clamp like this one
- Random orbit sander or a sanding block
- Helpful jigs: jointing jig for table saw, cross cut sled for table saw
- Shop vacuum
- Small paint brush and large paint brush
Step by Step Tutorial
Step 1 Planning your design
If you have a Cricut cutting machine, I highly recommend using the Design Space File and cutting the template out on adhesive vinyl. This will make it so much easier to apply. If you don’t have a vinyl cutter, don’t worry! You can download the PDF, cut out the four squares. apply the design with spray adhesive or tape, and then just poke holes through the dots on the template to know where to line your router up!
Download the free template as a Cricut file or PDF below:
Download my Sketchup file to view the entire plan, dimensions and measurements here:
Step 2 Joint the wood for the board
First, if you have narrower stock you’ll need to joint the boards together to make your 12″x12″ board. If you already have a piece of wood that measures 12×12 you can skip this step.
To do this I used a jointing jig for the table saw, because I don’t own a jointer. The results from this jig aren’t always perfect, but they are really good for an inexpensive, easy to make jig. I made my jointer jig based on this video by Woodworking for Mere Mortals!
My wood wasn’t square at all, so I needed to joint all the edges. If you’re using wood that’s pretty square you may get away with just cutting your pieces on the table saw to joint together without any jig. It’s up to your discretion which method you choose.
- I cut my wood down to a rough length on the miter saw. I had 2-7″ wide pieces that measured about 13″ long.
2. My pieces were way thicker than I wanted, so I planed them down to 3/4″ thick on the planer.
3. Next, I put the first piece on my jointer jig, and with the straight, square edge of the jig against the fence, I trimmed an edge off the wood.
4. Then I put the edge I just squared up against the fence and cut a 3″ wide piece.
I repeated this until I had 4 square 3″ wide pieces. I then lined up the pieces in the best way possible so that there was very little gapping. I know there are probably better more accurate ways to do this, but I just wanted to do it in the fastest possible way. After I had my pieces lined up, I lettered all of the seams alphabetically so that I could be sure to line them up properly during my glue up.
5. Next, I trimmed an edge off each piece on the miter saw, and cut them each to their final lengths – 12″. In hind sight, I could have just done this on the table saw after my glue up.
6. I glued up my boards and clamped them.
7. Next I removed all of the clamps and sanded the piece smooth to make applying my template easier.
Step 3 Cut out the template
Cut out your template using either the PDF template, or using a vinyl cutter to cut out the Cricut Design Space file. I used my Cricut for this and cut the template out onto Oracal Oramask Stencil Vinyl.
If you printed out the PDF, you can tape it or use spray adhesive to attach it to your wood, and then just poke through the template to mark where you’ll need to router.
If you’re using the Cricut, remove all of the center dots, then use transfer tape to apply the template onto the wood.
Use a pencil to mark where the center dots were. This will help you line up your router. Then remove all of the circles – these are your router guides, then will act as a fail safe and help you line up your router for really accurate divets. I’m no router expert, but this really helped me!
Step 4 Route out the divets
Use a 1/2″ core box router bit to route out all the divets where the marbles will sit. I strongly recommend testing the depth first on a scrap piece of wood. This will allow you to practice, set the depth and determine how fast you’ll want to router the divets to prevent burning.
Step 5 Build the storage box
You could stop with just the game board, or you can do what I did and go on to make a storage compartment!
- First, cut the front and back pieces to length. These will measure 12″
2. Then, use your router with a 3/4″ straight bit or a rabbeting bit or table saw to make a rabbet on both ends of both pieces. Just make sure the rabbets are on the same side. These rabbets need to be about half the depth of the wood and be wide enough to fit your side pieces in. My rabbets measured 3/4″ wide and 3/8″ deep.
3. Now, using your board as a guide, line up the front and back of the box with the board, and measure from rabbet to rabbet, to determine the length of your side pieces. Make sure you cut these pieces the same length (otherwise you’ll end up with a box that isn’t square). My side pieces measured 11 1/4″ long.
4. Now you’ll need to router a rabbet in the bottom inside of each side for the bottom of the box to slide in.
First, put your box together (without glue) just to make sure everything fits together nicely. Clamp it in place and then mark the bottom inside of each side. This will act as a fail safe so you router the right spot on each side.
Set up your router with a straight bit – I used a 3/8″ straight bit, and set the depth for about the thickness of your plywood. I went a bit deeper than the thickness of my plywood so that the bottom of the box would be inset by 1/8″. You may want to do a test piece first just to make sure your settings are all correct.
Router the rabbet in each piece. You could also do this using a table saw and a set of dado blades.
5. Dry clamp all your sides together again, and measure the size of the bottom of the box. Then cut it out on the table saw. My piece of 3/8″ plywood ended up being 11 1/8″ x 11 1/16″.
Step 6 Create the compartments
Next you’ll need to cut all the slots for the compartments to slide into. I did this using a crosscut sled and cut all my slots out using multiple passes with a single blade width. You could also do this with a router, but I think it would be difficult, or you could use a dado stack.
- First I measured for the placement of the two vertical dividers. I knew I would be using 1/4″ thick plywood for my dividers. So I divided the sides into thirds and then marked 1/8″ on either side.
I set the table saw blade height to about 1/4″ and just used multiple passes to carefully cut out the slots – 2 per each side of the box.
2. Then I dry fit them in place and measured the length of my poplar dividers. I ripped my poplar on the table saw so my dividers would be 2″ tall, then I cut the poplar dividers to length and slotted them into place.
3. Next I needed to cut the slots for the horizontal dividers. I used the same method above, except I only needed to mark the centers. I marked the center of the two remaining box sides, as well as the centers of the dividers I just cut. I had to mark the dividers on the front and back, as they would require two slots to fit the center divider. I lined them up to mark straight across to make sure the slots would line up. This part was a bit finicky, but was well worth triple checking.
I cut the slots on the box sides to a depth of 1/4″, and I lowered the blade considerably, doing multiple tests before cutting the slots into the dividers because the material was so thin. I ended up cutting the slots in the dividers to a depth of 1/16″.
4. I dry fit everything back into place and then measured for the horizontal dividers. These ended up measuring 3 5/8″, 3 5/8″, and 3 1/4″. I cut these pieces to length on the miter saw.
Step 7 Assemble the Box
Now it’s time to glue the box together. First glue the sides together, add the bottom of the box on, and then slot in the dividers. I used Titebond II wood glue for this and a ton of clamps. Try to wipe off as much glue as you can, because it will be very difficult to sand it off the inside of the box compartments after. Video Below.
Step 8 Align the board on top of the box
After the box has dried, preferably overnight, remove the clamps. Now you can make sure the board lines up nicely as the lid of the box. Mine was a good fit, but I wanted to make it perfect, so I used a flush trim router bit (bearing on the bottom) to make sure the top matched up perfectly with the bottom box.
To do this, use double sided tape to attach the lid to thee box. Line it up as best as you can. You definitely want the back of the box and front of the box to be close to perfectly lined up in the end for the hinges and latch.
Next set up the flush trim bit so the bearing will ride along the box and run the router around the top edge of the board to flush it all up.
Step 9 Router the top edge of the board
Next, I routered a chamfered edge on the top of the board. This is totally optional, I just think it looks nice. I just recommending doing some tests to determine the depth before you router, just to make sure you’re not going to cut into any of your divets.
Step 10 Mortise in the hinges
I found this video by Wood Magazine really helpful for this step. I’d you’re new to attaching hinges, or just want a refresher, I highly recommend checking it out!
First make a mark on the lid and the box where they will be lining up, just to make sure you have them lined up properly before you do any routering. You could use tape for this, i just drew a little ‘x’ in pencil.
Next, use a combination square to measure how far from the edge the hinges will start. I placed mine 1 1/4″ from each side.
Then, place the hinge against the combination square and use and exacto knife, or marking blade to make a line on the side of the hinge. This will make sure your final measurement is accurate.
After that, mark the other side of the hinge using your blade. Then measure the hinge from the top to about halfway down the barrel. This will be how wide the mortise will need to be. Mine was about 11/16″. I used my combination square to mark this width with the knife, completing the area I needed to mortise out for my hinges.
Next I set up my plunge router with a 3/16″ straight bit. It doesn’t have to be this size, but it should be small. I set the depth to about half the depth of the barrel of my hinge.
I did a few tests until I got a good fit by adjusting the depth I was routering.
Finally, I routered out the area where my hinges would sit. I tried to go close to the lines without going over.
I used a chisel to finish going up to the line. I’m not the best with a chisel. If you aren’t either, just remember to take a tiny bit at a time and be patient.
Once those were finished I lined the lid up – matching up my ‘x’s. I marked the inside edge of where the hinges needed to go with my knife, and then used the same method as before with the combination square and router to mortise out the other two hinge spots.
Step 11 Sand
Next, sand everything. I started with the top and bottom of the board, using my random orbital sander and 80, 120, and 220 grit disks. Then I did the same on the outside of the box.
Then I hand sanded inside the box compartments and lightly hand sanded any rough patches in the divets. I had some burning in the divets, but I didn’t really mind because I was planning on painting them anyways.
Step 12 Paint interior of box
This step is optional. You could always just leave the inside of the box as is, but I wanted to add some contrast, so I taped off the top edges of the box, leaving the notches where the slots were uncovered, and used some scrap paper to cover the sides of the box.
Then I spray painted the interior compartment white. If you spray paint it, just make sure you do really light coats, letting it fully dry in between. I’ve made the mistake of spraying too thick and ruining finishes so many times!
Step 13 Paint marble divets
Paint your marble divets. The colours don’t matter. I painted mine to match my set of marbles, but you can choose any colours you want. It works best if they match your marbles, but really it doesn’t matter as long as each person remembers their colour.
The divets are painted in this configuration, and it’s important for game play. The divets I painted white could be left unpainted as well!
I painted mine using acrylic craft paints. If you go outside the divet a bit, don’t fret, just sand it off after it’s dried. I had to do that and it worked great.
Step 14 Apply sealer
Next apply a sealer to your game board and the box as desired. I sealed my board and box using brush on polycrylic. I used a large brush for the majority of it and a small brush to get into each divet.
Step 15 Put on hinges and latch
Carefully line up your hinges, pre-drill the depth of your screws and then use a screw driver to put them in. Make sure the hinges are lined up well with the lid and box so that the lid is properly positioned. You may wish to do one screw per hinge first to leave room for adjustment.
Measure the center of the front of the box and mark, predrill and screw on your latch. I used this little hinge I got off an old box I found at the dollar store. Any small latch or hasp would work great for this.
Now you just need the rules and you can start aggravating your friends and family! The rules are really easy once you get playing.
- The game is played with 2-6 players
- Each player has their own colour of marbles
- One die is used for game play
To move all 4 of your marbles from your base to your home
- You must roll a 1 or 6 to move your marble from the base to the starting spot
- If you roll a 6 you get to roll again (anytime during game play)
- You must move in a clockwise direction around the board
- You can never jump over or land on your own marble, therefore if it’s a situation where you would have to do this to keep moving you must move the marble in the front first
- Your marble must always move a full dice count, if it is blocked by your other marble, the ones in front need to move first
- You can jump over other players
- If you land on another player’s marble by exact count you aggravate them – moving them back to their base
- Your marble can’t be aggravated if it’s in the base or home areas
- You can use the ‘star’ spaces – the coloured spaces in the center as a shortcut
- When you go into a star space by exact count you can move around the star spaces in a type of fast track (clockwise) to get to your home faster, but you can be aggravated from these spaces
- You can get into the center space by rolling an exact die count, or by rolling a 1 from a star space. Then on your next turn you can roll a 1 to exit the star space to the star space closest to your home
- When moving marbles into your home you must move by exact count, and remember the marbles can’t jump each other, and they must move the full die count or not at all
- When all 4 marbles are home, you win!
Enjoy Hours of Aggravating Family Fun!
Whether you made the entire project, or just the game board, I know you’ll love playing this game with family and friends. It’s equal parts addictive, fun, and competitive. The perfect blend for a board game in my mind at least. If you’re interested in more projects like this one, subscribe to my email list to be notified every time I post. For more ideas, follow me on Instagram @the_walnut_grove and Pinterest @thewalnutgrove1 and pin this image to Pinterest to refer back to. Thanks for the support!
Please let me know how this project went for you and if you had any difficulty understanding my explanations. I am totally open to feedback and I’d be happy to hear from you! Let me know if you made this board game, and how the process was for you. I’d love to see your customizations! For more ideas, check out similar wooden projects for kids below.