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Someone just spilled water on my Carcassonne tiles. The illustrations are coming apart from the cardboard (they're wrinkling).

What's the best thing to do? How can I dry them with best results?

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1  
Bummer! Sadly, I don't have any advice. Good luck! –  David Oneill Feb 14 '11 at 5:30
3  
+1 out of commiseration! Every boardgamer's worst nightmare... –  thesunneversets Feb 14 '11 at 5:41
    
Obviously I couldn't wait for answers, but if this happens to anyone else, I've posted what I did as an answer below. –  idbrii Feb 15 '11 at 2:39

6 Answers 6

up vote 12 down vote accepted

Here's what I did, and they don't look bad.

  • Used a towel to pat dry the tiles.
  • Used my fingers to press out the wrinkles and squish the expanding cardboard back together.
  • Laid them down between two towels, put a textbook on top, and pressed down to get some more water out.
  • Pressed out the wrinkles and squish cardboard together again.
  • Laid them down between two paper towels (paper towels are thinner and I wanted to make sure they stay flat) and laid several textbooks on top.
  • After several hours, squished with fingers again.
  • Dry paper towels and textbooks again.
  • The next day, I pulled them out the next day and lay them on a dry towel.

At this point their holding together really well and are only marginally thicker than the undamaged pieces.

Formerly soaked piece on left. Dry on right. The damaged piece on the left is only a bit thicker than the dry one on the right.

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Was there anything you did to prevent damaging the illustrations when pressing out the wrinkles? –  Rob Mosher Feb 15 '11 at 14:20
    
Yep! Classic blotting technique. 8) The trick is, you must act while the counters are still wet, and the quicker the better. Once they're already deforming and starting to dry, it's sadly not doable. 8( –  Viktor Haag Feb 17 '11 at 14:22
    
@Rob once or twice the illustrations stuck to my fingers, but they were coming off as a whole sheet so I just had to be careful not to tear or crease them. At most a centimetre from the edge came loose. –  idbrii Feb 18 '11 at 7:39

Customer Service at Rio Grande Games will replace pieces for a fee upon request.

I ended up with a set second hand that was missing a tile, and they sent it to me. I'm not sure how cost effective it would be if a lot of tiles are damaged though, compared to getting a new set.

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The sad answer is that the only real shot you have at saving wet die-cut cardboard counters is when they're still wet, as far as I know. If you immediately put them on a tray, or in a plastic box (if in layers, separate the layers with wax paper), and put them in a very cold freezer and leave them there for a long time (i.e. weeks or months), then the water freezing will tend not to mis-shape the cardboard, and gradual sublimation will happen very slowly over time and your counters should dry out. Taking them out of the freezer later will require care as condensation will occur on the counter surfaces: best to bring them into air that's as dry as possible and as cool as possible, and have lots of blotting material ready until the counters' temperature gets warm enough.

If all you're concerned about is functional tiles that don't have separating layers, you can try re-gluing with a decoupage solution (good decoupage glue will dry clear), but I have never tried that and I suspect such a project would require great patience and care (and again, I suspect would meet with more success if done while the tiles were still wet/damp). In terms of this particular game where it's important to have relatively non-distinguishable tiles, I suspect this solution isn't going to produce happy results.

In the long run, you may find that the easiest, least expensive (in terms of materials and time) solution is to simply buy another copy of the game (and ask the water-spiller to help defray the cost, if you feel comfortable doing that).

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+1 Neat trick: I'll have to remember that one –  David Oneill Feb 14 '11 at 18:52
    
For sublimation technique: you probably need something to squeeze them flat because they wrinkle very quickly (unless you have a flash freezer : ) –  idbrii Feb 18 '11 at 7:33

Manners dictate the clumsy culprit should offer to buy you a new set. Beyond that, you can laminate the tiles.

That said, you have to see this from a cost-to-benefit perspective. Unless this particular set is dear to you, I would buy another one. Especially since laminating the damaged tiles also means laminating all of them; you don't want to make damaged tiles distinct from their intact brethren.

Short of that, you can try a one-sided pseudo-lamination by sticking plastic sheets only on one side.

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I used an iron set to Cotten. Placed on a granite counter. Pressed back, then front. I pressed hard and straight down leaving the iron in contact for a good five seconds. Could do three to four at a time. Wiped moisture off counter with paper towel as I went along. Took a few cycles on the wettest tiles. Left flat on counter over night. The iron did not burn the paper and the paper did not stick to the iron. Turned out great.

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A more DIY answer: if the top has come off of the tile but not the bottom, then you could:

  • Wait for the remainder of the tile to dry.
  • Cover in paper towel and press it with heavy books until it's dry and as flat as you can get it (two blocks of wood and a vice can help with this).
  • Print out the image of the tile (there are lots of images on the game's entry on BoardGameGeek: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/images/thing/822/carcassonne ).
  • Cut it out roughly, and paste to the top of your existing tile with PVA glue (white glue). Make sure the edges of the image slightly overhang the edges of the tile, and that you cover the back of the image in only a thin but consistent layer of glue.
  • Take a bit of that transparent, self-adhesive book-covering plastic, and smooth it over the top of your pasted-down image.
  • Turn the tile over, and using a sharp knife (wallpaper knife, scalpel, that kind of thing) trace lightly around the edge of the tile, applying only a little pressure until you've cut through all of the overhang of the image and the plastic.

For bonus points, press it in the vice again to make sure it's as thin as you can get it; home lamination will nearly always be thicker than commercial printing, and waterlogged card will often swell.

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