I think it all started when my friend backed this little game called “Havok and Hijinks.” You may have heard of it from such companies as Epic Slant, LLC.
See, my friend wanted to convince me that H&H was something I should back (spoiler alert: I did) on this newfangled Kickstarter website.
In order to do so, he tried to send the files to my local FedEx Kinko’s: an office supply and copy shop here in the U.S.. They refused, at first, rightly suspecting that he was trying to print someone else’s intellectual property. But, when he furnished an email with permission from the gang at Epic Slant, LLC, the place relented.
This was my first run-in with a Print-and-Play (“PnP” for short) game.
Why Print and Play?
I’ve weighed the pros and cons of PnP for some time, as I’ve watched some very pricy Kickstarter campaigns sail by, waving at them from the shores of Not Enough Money as they made ONE MILLION DOLLARS (or something like that).
As I watched the games go by, I often contemplated the PnP option. It was usually quite affordable, but enough money so that the creators of the game would actually benefit from it financially.
It was a win-win, right?
There are some good reasons, and some dubious ones for backing at a print-and-play level, or simply printing a free PnP file.
The Reasons: Good, Bad, and Ugly
Reason Number 1: to try a game out.
Imperial Harvest was one such game for me. I thought the idea sounded fun. I’d just started playing some Space Hulk Death Angel recently (if memory serves) and I was into the whole “squads of characters” idea.
I liked the theme of the hedge maze labyrinth, having been to a few in real life. And collecting giant strawberries sounded quirky enough to not take the game too seriously, which would increase my enjoyment of a competitive game, win or lose.
But, was the game any fun?
I decided to find out. And I ended up backing the game as a result. So, I guess the answer is yeah. It was reasonably fun.
Reason Number 2: Money.
Next up, Exoplanets. Another Kickstarter. It started out innocently enough. I didn’t have enough money at the time, having committed to another project, to back the game at a level that would get me a physical copy. But, I still liked the concept quite a bit. The reward of a light print-and-play version was supposed to come in October 2015, but they sent it to me around the second day of the campaign, to my surprise.
So, I took advantage of it, and went ahead and printed the thing. I had to scrounge for some components and modify the size of the sun in the center of the solar system to accommodate them, but hey.
And, my wife and I liked it. We liked it enough that my wife wanted to back it at the level of the full game, with her own discretionary money–which is something she’d never done before.
Reason Number 2.5 Money (but I was probably wrong)
I backed Mint Tin Pirates and Aliens for a dollar. And I thought I was getting a deal. And I was. Both games were fun, in their own right.
I got the print-and-play and congratulated myself on a steal. But, not so fast.
I needed components: I had dice, but not pawns or markers for various trackers on the pirate ships. And so, I spent some money on the character pawns, and then, there was the ink to print the game. I used black-and-white ink and standard paper, and taped the cards together–see the image below.
But, it probably didn’t look as nice as the regular game would’ve. To achieve that, I’d have needed better quality paper, color ink, and possibly lamination.
I just wasn’t willing to go there for a micro game. Again, none of this is the fault of the game’s designer, or Kickstarter team. I just was an inexperienced print-and-play-er.
Reason 3: Time
Who wants to wait? Right?!
I mean, KS campaigns give you the print-and-play sooner than the physical game that they need to have professionally printed, then shipped. Oh, and shipping is expensive, depending on where you are related to where the game is shipping from. (Don’t hate me, non-U.S. backers. I know we’re spoiled, here.) So, you could get a better deal by printing the game.
But, there’s a snag here that has nothing to do with shipping times–something I should’ve anticipated.
Cutting out and assembling tiles, cards, and other components is nothing like a convenient punch board–even if you have the professional tools, such as a paper cutter, laminator, etc.
No. No. No.
It takes time, sometimes hours. And I don’t have the proper tools. I used a scissors and clear tape for most of my projects–occasionally clear packing tape if I was getting fancy.
Look at these gorgeous tiles from Wizard’s Academy. And these are just from a prototype for backers at about 1.5 dollars, adjusting for the exchange rate. Each of these is the size of my palm, and I mounted them on a manila folder to give them some durability. Then, I taped them over with packing tape. All that to say, there were two more pages of tiles, two different sets of cards, and the character sheets pictured below.
These look great, too. Oh, but by the end of this one game, my colored ink was basically gone from my printer. But, given the amount of stuff it printed, I’m o.k. with that. I think, even without complete artwork, and so on, this was a good deal.
Reason 4: That’s the Only Way
I saw this game Stranded No More one day, while perusing my Twitter followers. Simple Design Publishing put this game up for a Board Game Geek solitaire design contest last year, and it’s only available as a print-and-play.
I’d gotten to the point where I felt as though I’d mastered–or at least played to my satisfaction–my set of solo-playable games that can fit into the time frame of my kid’s daily nap. And, I was intrigued by what appeared to be the fusion of Forbidden Desert with a light version of Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island (there are weather cards, wild animals, and pirate enemies).
I may come back and give a review of the game another time, but that is beyond the scope of this post. Anyway, this is the last reason to do a print-and-play.
Well, here’s the take away from my romp through the print-and-play sandbox.
1. Ask yourself what you’re hoping to gain by doing the print-and-play for a particular game.
How badly you want the final product to look like it actually came out of a box from a professional publisher (it won’t) may determine your mileage with this technique.
If you just want to see what a game has to offer, and aren’t particularly hung up on its appearance, then go for it.
2. Ask yourself how much you’re going to spend.
Take into account ink, lamination, paper, and other expenses like components.
If the amount you’re about to spend on making your print-and-play rivals the cost of the product, or even comes within–say–five to ten dollars of the game, just get the game. Why do the extra work to save a few bucks?
3. Is the game a viable print-and-play?
I saw an unfortunate project with a ton of customized dice offering a print-and-play. Fortunately no one got taken in by this. I don’t think the creators were trying to be manipulative–but creators, take heed.
Ask yourself if you would want to try to find a way to replace special components of your game before you offer this. Ask yourself if you even could.
If you wouldn’t do the work, then maybe no one else would either.
If you’re the consumer, an ounce of caution is worthwhile.
Well, that’s it. If you have a print-and-play story, or a bit of sage advice, let me know!
— Aschenglut (Dave)