When you’re designing a board game, sometimes the theme comes first, sometimes the mechanics come first and you add a theme around them. Every so often though it’s the components that come first. You’ll find some part or bit that you just have to incorporate into your next game. It’s with that in mind that I recently visited The I.D.E.A. Store in Champaign. For those Season 4 competitors who might not have a firm game concept yet, or for anyone who hasn’t been to the I.D.E.A. Store at all, here are some of the eclectic products they have to offer, and some of my own ideas on what sorts of games you could build around them.




First we got a big ole’ bucket of CDs. Yes you read that right, 10 CDs for just 25¢. For that price, why use cards for your game? Instead use CDs with stuff written on them! Sure shuffling would be harder, but I’d buy any game with playing CDs instead of playing cards in a heartbeat.

If these “Compact Disks” are too newfangled for you, the I.D.E.A. Store has some other options that may be more to your liking.


These genuine floppy disks are two bucks per pound. I’m not sure what you could use them for. Maybe you could do some kind of Carcassonne-style game using floppy disks instead of tiles? They’ve got 3.5 inch floppies for sale as well.


Rings Fit for a Lord


Most games about brave Hobbits and such have like a single ring maximum in the game box. You however, could buy all of these rings for a few dollars and use them for whatever you want. Or really go the distance and make a whole game around them. I’m thinking some kind of collectable ring game that you can play standing up which involves moving rings from finger to finger to perform actions/attacks.


Soda Tabs


If you’re making any kind of post apocalypse game, you should really be using these aluminum can tabs as your game’s currency. Or victory points. Really all of your tokens should be different sized pop tabs. (The I.D.E.A. Store has tons bottle caps as well, if you want to be not at all innovative and just a copycat).


Eggs and Cartons



There’s a lot of possibilities here. First group that makes a game that involves plastic eggs of different colors and fits entirely inside a standard egg carton will have my undying respect. Such a game would likely involve hidden information of some kind contained in the eggs. Then they get passed around or something? I dunno just make it happen!


Trophy Bits

The I.D.E.A. Store has lots of trophy parts.





the shiny middle bits….


Like, seriously a bunch.


Obviously somebody needs to buy up all these parts and develop a dexterity game about building the tallest trophy. Call it Trophy Towers or somesuch. I’d play the crap outta that game.

“But Tom!” you proclaim in a whiney/horrified voice. “If I use any of these recycled parts in my game, how would I be able to get it published??!” Let me tell you about some games called Burp and Neolithibum. These two published games, both by the same designer, use stones picked from the his own back yard as primary game components. Thus, no two copies of the game are alike, and that’s pretty cool. Also, using unique components in unique ways is sure to put you in the running for this season’s Innovation Award.

There is a lot of wacky items at The I.D.E.A. Store, but even if you aren’t looking for something weird to build a whole game around, the Store has things that every team needs. Dice, pawns, cards, paper, art supplies, and tons of small containers perfect for holding game bits. If you’ve never visited The I.D.E.A. Store you should! And even if you have been there before, they get new stuff all the time so you should give it another look. You seriously never know what you’ll find there.