Mind the Trap

We made a treasure chest for Indie Prize!

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Next week we’ll be participating in the Indie Prize Showcase at Casual Connect in San Francisco, and this time around we wanted to go a little more all-out with our exhibit. What better way to start this than with a distressed treasure chest to hold our promotional giveaways. The secret sauce? Coffee.

This is how it looked initially. It was purchased from Michaels for about $6. Just big enough to hold a handful of pins and business cards.

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IMG_5105 (1)

  1. Coffee as the first coat to stain the wood (and to make it smell real good)
  2. Flat black spray paint for the second coat
  3. Satin or flat brown spray paint for the third and outermost coat
  4. Gold metallic finger paint for the chest corners, lock and hinges
  5. X-acto knife for precise customization
  6. Non stick tape
  7. Sandpaper to texturize
  8. Block for holding the sandpaper (optional)

Step 1: Bang the crap out of the chest

Online tutorials said to bang the shit out of it with a hammer. Literally drop a hammer from waist-high onto it. We were so wary of doing this because the box was so small, but we were like EH yolo so we banged and clawed the shit out of it with the mighty strength of two grown infants. Yes, we held back but it still turned out pretty nice.

Step 2: Stain the wood with coffee

The reason for staining the wood in the first place is because later when we rub off the coats of paint with sandpaper, we don’t want the pale, white color of the wood to show. Not only was the coffee conveniently available, but it also provided tremendous opportunity for attracting sleep-deprived developers straight to our table with its wonderous odor.

Chris originally had the ingenious idea of soaking the entire chest in coffee, but that would be a waste of holy water, so we made a small but thick batch (6 tablespoons dark roast grinds for 2 cups of water) and tested it. It was still too light so we mixed in 3 more tablespoons of instant coffee, and it became the darkest soul-sucking cup of coffee we’ve ever seen. One sip was enough to wake a bear from hibernation. Chris only slept 4 hours the night before, so we insisted on him taking a sip. You can see the results below.


He’s happy.

After Chris woke up almost instantly, we commenced with painting over the chest in heavily soaked strokes. We applied two coatings (let it dry in between). Although the chest is clearly wet in the picture below, the dried outcome had roughly the same tone.


Step 3: Apply the second coat of black spray paint


What color the second coat is depends on what you’re trying to go for. In our case, we wanted to go with a dirty, heavily aged look. You’ll see how this looks later on when we shave off bits of the outer brown coating with sandpaper.

Let it dry for a day.

Step 4: Use painter’s tape to protect certain areas from the last coat of paint

We wanted the metal railings to have a black underlying color, so we covered the corners with painter’s tape before applying the last brown coat in the next step. We used an Xacto knife to cut away bulging pieces of the tape; otherwise, it would have looked really uneven once the tape was pulled off.


Step 5: Apply the last coat of brown spray paint


Let it dry for another day.

Step 6: Sand off every face of the chest

Here’s where it comes alive. The sandpaper gets hot on the fingers after a few rubs and can be difficult to hold due to how thin it is. We used a block to help get a good handle on the sandpaper and rubbed every surface of the chest, focusing especially on the edges.

Be careful with how much pressure you apply. You know you hit the gold mine when you see the second coat of paint. Any harder and you’ll get glimpses of the wood, which you want to keep to a minimum.

After you’re done, peel off the tape and voila!


Looking pretty good already right? Notice the black underlying areas where we sanded; it gives off a dirty, overly touched look.

Oh yea, baby. So satisfying.

Step 7: Touch up the metal with gold metallic finger paint

The paint is pretty heavy so don’t put on too much. If you put on too much, use the sandpaper to lightly shave it off.

As much as it defies all logic, think of the underlying black coating as the overlying dirt. Apply just enough gold that it covers a majority of the metal, but avoid areas that seem like they would be dirty from rust, age, or being handled too much. Alternatively, you can apply the gold finger paint everywhere and then use the sandpaper to shave off specific areas.

Do the same with the lock and hinges.

Final Words


That’s pretty much it! We’re letting it dry for about a week to let the paint stick to the wood, which is just in time for our pins and business cards to arrive. We’ll post a pic here then.

We hope you enjoyed this post. Exhibiting is one of the best opportunities to discover how the public responds to your game. Getting as many people as possible to playtest your game is the highest priority. That’s why we’re spending more effort this time to make our table as attractive as possible. In fact, we have some more props planned that we’ll be making this week.

If you want to find out how everything goes, follow us at Twitter, FacebookInstagram or Tumblr!

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