Print and Play: Is it Worth it?

The Beginning

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?

Well, maybe.

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.

Get the Royal Strawberries!
Get the Royal Strawberries! (And forgive my use of crayons to color the components.)

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.

Components not optional.
Components not optional.

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.

Just one part of this large game.
Just one part of this large game.

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.

Some of the characters
Some of the characters

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

Captain Locke grabbed the treasure and sailed off to freedom.
Captain Locke grabbed the treasure and sailed off to freedom.

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.

So What?

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)

2 thoughts on “Print and Play: Is it Worth it?

  1. Thanks for the mention and kind words.  LOL, I'm not one that made a million dollars by any stretch! I you price out mu components and watch my video "The Making of Mint Tin Pirates", I think most would agree that $14 for one game is a deal, especially since $5.25 of that $14 was postage and another $1.40 was in KS fees.  =)

    Now here's an interesting point – I made more money, for my time and materials cost, in the $1 PnP reward than any other reward. The same artwork was used so that was kind of a freebie for me, just PDFed it together (I did spend time making bot US and International variations because I'm just that kind of guy).

    So the $1 resulted in about 94 cents in my pocket – that's not bad!  =)

    BUT . . . the real value in the PnP is that it did let people try it out and led to more publicity because some put their pics up on BGG while the KS was live.

    To me, it's more important that the game "fits" the needs of the person playing it. I'm not interesting in selling any games to people that will be disappointed with them because that's no way to respect other people's money.

    And, I should have include this in the PnP but I always imagined that people would use coins for the pirates and maybe a been for the damage cubes!  I love that you used a penny for the gold and that's fitting since it represents money (well done!). =)

    Pennies and dimes for the pirates and a nickel for the ghost.

    Games should be fun and should be a nice escape for people – there's so much stress in the world and the last thing I want to do is add to it by misleading someone into wasting money on something they don't want.

    I guess that's why I drive an 11 year old tiny Scion and the last vacation I wnet on was more than 10 years ago!

    More power to people that can make a living from there games, I'm more into helping people enjoy life a bit more, even if it's only 10 minutes.  =)

    Glad you did the PnP and I appreciate it, you should have gotten a direct message from me thank you for your dollar, I thanked every person in the campaign and stayed up till 2 each night that first week.

    Now I do have an issue with some games that do $10 for the PnP!!! Come one, what's up with that?

    Check out Mint Tin Mini Apocalypse on August 11th, a $12 game with a $1 PnP including the soundtrack downloads.

    That one is all dice and meeples though and I think beans would make for fun meeples (Mint Tin Mini Bean Apocalypse!).

    Thanks Dave for the well written perspective and I agree with pretty much everything you said.  Do good! =)


    PS – do you have other articles online? would you write a review for a game? maybe you can be a reviewer for Mint Tin Mini Apocalypse – I'd like someone with a practical perspective and a "bang for the buck" mentality to look at it.  I know it's a value because I know, to the penny, how much I make from each (and it takes several to pay for a burrito!). =D

    1. David,

      I’d love to take a look at Mint Tin Apocalypse. I do have a Playthrough Boardgames blog for reviews and general articles and we do some video playthroughs as well. I’m thinking that my Epic Slant blog has more reach, but I’d be excited to take a look at Mint Tin Apocalypse either here or in another channel. I saw the cover art the other day–either on BGG or Twitter (can’t remember)–and it really looks fun.

      It is interesting to hear from the designer’s perspective where the most money came from–I would’ve (mistakenly) bet that the $14 was giving you more per pledge. I’m glad my buck made a good return for you. As for the Print-and-Play, I think it is a great way to get the word out: the folks running the Exoplanets Kickstarter sent around their $3 PnP file to backers early, and I printed it out and tweeted about it. Not only was that some publicity, but also my wife liked the game so well, she upped our pledge to get the professionally done components of the full game.

      Mint Tin Pirates was a nice escape; I even played it solo with a “Ghost Ship” variant that worked pretty well when I had no one to play with. It was worth the buck for the several times the game hit the table, to be sure.

      I hear you about living economically with the car, incidentally–we’ve got a ’98 Corolla. It doesn’t look pretty, but it’ll run darn near forever as far as we can tell.

      Anyway, I’m glad you liked the article and thanks for providing additional perspective! I’ve been watching Mint Tin Apocalypse for a while, so I’d enjoy taking a look at it, too.

      All the best.

      — Dave

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