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Laser-Cut: Star Wars Imperial Assault Insert

Making Everything Fit

Star Wars imperial Assault AssemblyDesigning an insert requires 3 design challenges to be overcome; fit, form, and functionality.


Ideally the game should fit within the box after an insert has been made for it as Zip-Lock bags duct taped to the sides of the box lid may not have best appeal to it.  When starting my design process I layout all the components in stacks next to my trusty ruler and calipers and start measuring everything. Typically I start to sketch out some concept layouts just to get an idea of the possible ways I can orient components, do I want playing cards to lay on their side to save height or set them vertically? Next its time to move to doing some rough sketches in my modeling program so I can see what interferences may pop up and to better account for all the different dimensions of game components as well as the space that is used by the inserts themselves. Here’s an Isometric view of a basic test layout I’ll run through to see how the different component boxes will layout and to see where I can steal a few millimeters here and there to make better fits elsewhere. StarWars IA WireFrame This process can be a lengthy and frustrating one if you have lofty goals. I had those. My main goal for this insert was to fit the core game of Star Wars Imperial Assault and all the currently released and announced miniature and base game expansions for 2015. As of May 13t, 2015 there was a possible 55 small miniatures (miniatures with bases with a 1 inch diameter and under 2.2 inches in height). I was going to have a rough time trying to get all of the Star Wars Twin Shadows expansion components to fit. Eventually after a few failed attempts and trying to find every bit of free space I had to except defeat in the fact that the game would be able to hold the base game an all miniature packs set to be announced to be released but not the Twin Shadow expansion. Boo. I was stuck at 41 small miniatures. Not bad, but so close. Everything else looked to check out just fine. Plenty of room for all the cards, sleeved or on their own. Plenty of room for the map tiles, tokens, expansion booklets, medium and large miniatures and an area to fit two full sets of dice if desired.

Form & Functionality

One way I could have designed this insert was just to have two massive boxes with a bunch of little dividers in it. While that would have worked just fine and even save a tiny bit of room by eliminating a wall here and there to add some component useable space I decided against it. Another goal was to have the option of using the insert boxes as organizers that could be used during game play and not just a method to speed up setup and tear down time between games. Having a token tray that could easily be pulled from during a match would be ideal. Having one or two core box sized inserts taking up table space wouldn’t be an ideal setup. This is the first design I settled on for  a token tray Star Wars Imperial Assault Custom Insert After a bit of playing with these it quickly found that I have fingers that would not enjoy these as much as they could. Since I do rock climbing I basically have to keep those token grabbing finger nails down to a useless component pinch length. A solution was needed so I shortened the walls and added a clipped top to the mini divider so that the tokens would be much easier to grab. SW Token Tray Final The improvement to the token bin was exactly what I was looking for. I can now remove individual tokens with minimal effort.

The Great Big Fail

I had just spent a couple of hours getting each piece cut, sanded and glued into little boxes. I stood there looking at my masterwork of game organization awesomeness, marveling. It was good to be alive! The little part of me that yearned for a place for everything and everything in its place was so happy. I then started to place my insert piece by piece into its new home, the Star Wars Imperial Assault core box. Then a snag….it didn’t fit. SHHHHIIIIIT!!!….(╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻ oh I see what I did. I was under the assumption that I was smart in some manner, that was my first mistake. I stood there starring at my mistake wondering how I over-sized my insert by near 1/8 inch. As I stood there staring at my failed creating sitting not quite in the box I noticed something: DSC_0250 (700x348) When the lid of the core box is sitting next to the base oriented open side up they have the exact same box art on there sides. If one was to set both near each other and select one to measure one could select the wrong box to pull dimensions from. So I understood my mistake but that didn’t make the problem go away. It was time to saddle back up to the model and fix the problem. The worst part is now a loose a tiny bit of my precious interior space. Well, while I’m here resizing maybe I should redesign a thing or two. I quickly thought of a simple improvement for the small miniatures tray to add a larger capacity. Did hold 20, now holds 27. Win. The “Large Minis Tray” could easily be divided up to cleanly hold some items that had been free floating in the box which I was not a fan of as it didn’t follow my need for “A place for everything and everything in its place”. Here’s the before and after of the two: Star Wars Imperial Assault Custom Insert Star Wars Imperial Assault Custom Insert by Stefan

The Final Result

After another couple of of hours fighting with the laser cutter adapting to a new batch of Mahogany plywood that required much slower speeds and inconsistent cut depth I had a couple of final batches ready to assemble. Here’s the final result, unpacked from top to bottom. Everything fits so nice and with room to expand. Star Wars Imperial Assault Custom Insert by Stefan With the Guides removed we see all the boxes fit together cleanly. In this shot the dice bin is placed in its standard location for those who only have one AT-ST. Star Wars Imperial Assault Custom Insert by Stefan Here’s the insert removed but assembled as it would be in the core box. Again you can see how the dice tray and AT-ST are set for a single AT-ST. Star Wars Imperial Assault Custom Insert by Stefan When the dice tray is move to the top right corner it leaves plenty of room for a dual AT-ST setup. I still need to confirm this is a good fit since I don’t have the AT-ST expansion to test the dimensions but I do know it will fit two identical AT-ST’s and since the alternate AT-ST is just a remold of this one with some extra odd plastic guns on it I feel confident its a good fit. Star Wars Imperial Assault Custom Insert by Stefan Here’s the first layer removed. Star Wars Imperial Assault Custom Insert by Stefan All the trays set out to show their contents. Everything has a little home now. Star Wars Imperial Assault Custom Insert by Stefan The token trays are well organized with room for future additions and each token is fairly easy to remove as needed during game play. The little lid was added to prevent tokens from jumping out and to also provide some notches to set the dice box into to stop it from moving about during transport so it doesn’t risk damaging the AT-ST plastic or paint job. When the dice box is located in its alternative position in the top right corner of the box that void space would be open so the lid really helps keep everything in its place. Star Wars Imperial Assault Custom Insert by Stefan The next best thing to a well organized system for tokens is one for all those cards. Star Wars Imperial Assault Custom Insert by Stefan Plenty of room for sleeved cards and expansions. Star Wars Imperial Assault Custom Insert by Stefan This tray is designed to fit miniatures, expansion booklets, the threat meter, larger base sized figures and the alternative location for the dice box if desired. This box was also designed with little tabs to prevent the manuals from shifting in box. This is key because there where a very few miniatures that were just too darn tall. IG-88 and to no surprise, wookies stand tall enough that the manuals would just touch their tops. To prevent and plastic warp over time or paint ware I was able to set up 8 slots to hold exceptionally tall figures. Looking at the future releases it looks like these two will be the only ones with this issue but better safe than sorry. Star Wars Imperial Assault Custom Insert by Stefan The inserts in both miniatures boxes are just a simply set in and I found that if you do a protective coat to your minis they really don’t cause damage to each other so if one where to remove the base slotted insert you can fit many more minis in this box between both miniatures trays. Star Wars Imperial Assault Custom Insert by Stefan The other miniatures tray also has the option of the base cut insert to keep the figures organized a bit better. Star Wars Imperial Assault Custom Insert by Stefan Map tiles are all store in one bin. I wanted dividers to hold each type of map piece but the only way to accomplish that was to  move a large number of miniatures storage from the insert and I wasn’t too thrilled with that prospect. I made sure there was enough room to fit some 3D printed plastic painted door for fun and hopefully the entire map tile set from the Twin Shadows expansion but I can’t confirm that until I have it sitting in front of me. The good news is the box is large enough to fit future stuff and organize and separate the current tiles so setup time is reduced when searching for tiles.

(Updates) Making Great Greater

I realized I could alter my personal insert a bit further. The first option was acrylic card dividers. I could have the words burned in then fill the letters with acrylic paint. Star Wars Imperial Assault Custom Insert by Stefan After the paint dries I can just use my fingernail to scrape all the waste paint off. Star Wars Imperial Assault Custom Insert by Stefan Peal off the protective film and I have a final batch of card dividers. So pretty! Star Wars Imperial Assault Custom Insert by Stefan I’m pondering If I should offer these as an option for people to grab a set of all clear unpainted dividers but I’m still on the fence about it. The Acrylic sets me back about $6+ per sheet so I could easily see myself loosing money quickly with just a couple of laser mistakes which always seem to happen. Star Wars Imperial Assault Custom Insert by Stefan Just for fun, a quick coat of spray paint to the miniatures base insert. Star Wars Imperial Assault Custom Insert by Stefan Star Wars Imperial Assault Custom Insert by Stefan Since I’m using Mahogany plywood instead of the basic MDF I have the option to stain boxes. Here’s some results after testing on the original prototypes. Star Wars Imperial Assault Custom Insert by Stefan For my personal insert I think I will coat everything with a Danish Oil. It gives it that rich honey finish that I’m a big fan of. I’ll have to test this on a scrap piece of game token and paper after a week to see if it has any negative interaction with the components. I would hate to have any stain discolor the game components since I’m not sealing these insert components. Star Wars Imperial Assault Custom Insert by Stefan


Star Wars I.A

19 thoughts on “Laser-Cut: Star Wars Imperial Assault Insert”

  1. This looks really special. I’m curious, what software do you use to make the patterns? I’m looking to try and make inserts for Tokaido and Elder Sign at some point, and it would be nice to go with wood rather than foamboard.

    1. With my work as a mechanical engineer I have access to SolidWorks which is also what I use for the 3D model design and flattened drawings of the inserts. To prep them for the laser cutter I then import the draws that where saved as PDF’s into the freeware drawing program Inkscape. I’m looking into doing a Elder Sign insert soon to replace my foam core insert I made a while back. If I get that done soon I’ll try to post the cutting files so everyone can have chance to make one too.

    1. I’ve added some contact (thinkertinkermaker@gmail.com) sales info to this post and more information to clarify what is being sold so people know that these are self assembly kits that will require some light cleaning and glue. I’d feel really bad if someone opened a box expecting a finished insert only to find a series of bundled packages each containing a set of flat little wood pieces not quite ready yet to organize your game. I’ll contact you shortly via email.

    1. As of December 5 our pre-order system is closed, and we will be working on fulfilling our previously placed Kick Starter and BackerKit pledges. We plan to open an online market to sell our inserts in the first quarter of 2016 when we can work on new orders. Prices will remain close to KickStarter levels.

      If you would like to be notified when we open the market you can either follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or send an email to ThinkerTinkerMaker@gmail.com with a message that you would like to be notified.
      Thank you for your support!

  2. I just got mine along with the twin shadows update, which is awesome. I really really love what you did. FYI I’m using the fatter spaces in the TS set for unique models since cramming multiple models into them are going to rub. Also, I have all the updates and now there is Return to Hoth and I wanted to share a few thoughts for going forward with what I assume will eventually be a Return to Hoth insert.

    1. With the latest updates I’m out of model space. While the TS insert was efficient enough for the model count at the time, its not nearly as efficient as the circle slots. I ended up putting the unique non heroes in the TS insert, imperial non unqiues in the core insert, and the heroes and rebel non-unique (since they aren’t painted yet) in baggies and store them in the return to RtH Box.

    2. I wanted to point out that we are short on tile space. The largest TS tile actually won’t fit in the core box, but that was OK because I don’t like to cross expansions on tiles. Most of the expansions can cross breed without trouble, but when your trying to build a random skirmish map, having tiles sorted by set at least speeds things up a ton. So I would suggest two compartments for tiles in the RtH insert. One for TS tiles and one for RtH tiles.

    3. We have plenty of card space. Even with all the expansions I haven’t had need to use any of the card space in the TS insert yet.

    4. We might need another small token container soon. Everything fits well still for now, but with a couple more status conditions and I know I’m going to wish for more token slots.

    So overall I would like to suggest adding tiles and model space to the RtH expansion insert. I personally would much rather have my game pieces spread out across multiple boxes each time I play, but have them organized as well as they are with your inserts. Especially since every add on to IA essentially integrates into the core game. Playing the vanilla campaign even though you have the RtH expansion? totally feasible to add most of the content in.. Therefore, I think it saves so much time setting up and finding things you need while playing using the inserts, even if spread across all the boxes. Compared to the single big box with a jumble of tiles at the bottom, and hundreds of baggies filling in the rest. Then a separate model container to protect models (and eventually a separate box for map tiles just to make room once the big box if full).

    6. The RtH box is the same size as the core set, only shorter. Short enough it can hold one layer of the core set inserts. That means there is the possibility to reorganize the inserts, for example, the two model trays, over to the RtH box. This might be useful in designing the RtH insert as you could design the inserts to split and rearrange between the two boxes to keep similar sections together.

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