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Subject: What makes a good PnP card game? rss

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Timothy Goddard
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BoardGameGeek » Forums » Gaming Related » Do It Yourself
What makes a good PnP card game?
I'm in the playtesting phase of a card game. In part as a gambit to scare up more playtesters, I'm considering creating a low-ink print & play version. The primary version is very colorful and does a lot with photographs, but I have some ideas that I think will look better when printed on a home computer, and use less ink doing it.

On the other hand, I've never really done any significant PnP, so I don't have a good sense of what folks are looking for in one of these games. So, I'm asking the question in the thread title--what makes a good PnP game? In particular, one that is trying to use a small amount of ink. Everything from fonts to file formats to art styles--lay it on me.
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K H
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Ink is a major consideration for PnP. Artwork should be minimal. If you can get away with it, cartoony line art (no fill, no shading) uses little ink.

If there is a way to strip the game down to just a subset of the components for the first couple plays, then group those components together in the first pages and clearly identify them as such. If someone is unsure if they will like the game for whatever reason, they'll be more inclined to give it a chance if they don't have to invest the time, labor, and materials in printing (and cutting, and gluing) the whole thing just to try it out.

Fonts should be clean and legible. Avoid those foofy scripts you see on wedding invitations. Ideally, choose fonts you can read upside down from across the table without giving yourself a headache. Aim for simple, uncluttered layout.
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Jake Staines
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Slounger wrote:
Ink is a major consideration for PnP. Artwork should be minimal. If you can get away with it, cartoony line art (no fill, no shading) uses little ink.


For prototypes, as the OP seems to be asking about, I would agree completely; I don't think it's the case for PnP in general, though.

For general PnP, it's a great option to provide a low-ink/lineart version as well, but there's no reason not to produce nice full-colour artwork once your game has come along to a point in the vicinity of 'finished'.
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Sturv Tafvherd
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timgoddard wrote:
I'm in the playtesting phase of a card game. In part as a gambit to scare up more playtesters, I'm considering creating a low-ink print & play version.


In my opinion, the low-ink version is a "two-edged" sword. But I've used it all the time. In many cases, what I try to do is provide both the low-ink version AND the "deluxe" version.

And I still don't know what the best practices are.

Arguably: if you find a playtester who is willing to assemble his own copy, then it is likely that guy is already self-motivated to play the game and provide feedback. That's what happened to me when I found Jacked In and assembled my copy. The part that I appreciated there is that the components being printed out were not overly saturated with color -- there's a lot of whitespace. So I didn't feel like I was wasting ink.

On the other hand, it can be tough to find people who are willing to print their own copy out and do all the cutting. I tend to shy away from printing stuff that seems to use a lot of ink, especially if it's a lot of color. I also rather dislike making "hard cuts" -- like circular tokens.

I have no problem using black & white / shades-of-gray. I would even appreciate the use of patterns being used in conjunction with colors. A card that has large areas of Red and Green, for example, might print out as a uniform shade of gray when translated to grayscale. However, if Red had a checkerboard pattern, and Green had squiggly lines, that might produce something more distinct when translated to grayscale.

The two-edged sword part of this is that your components will appear rather "bland", and you run the risk of losing feedback on how to improve the "look/layout" of your game. Color can add a lot of visual cues, after all. I'd have a hard time playing a game like Carcassonne if it were only in grayscale. ("Ummm ... does that gray farmer meeple have squiggly lines or diagonal stripes?")


Sadly, I've been part of playtest groups where we are not even provided components to print out. Just a list of the cards and what would be on them. It was pretty much left to us to grab index cards, write down the text, and put them into our decks.

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Patrick Stangier
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I can only agree with the others. For playtesting a low ink usage, clear readability and easy assembly should be top priorities, a finished PnP game on the other hand can have heavy ink usage.

While not a card game you might want to have a look at Xscape. That game has a black and white "Ashcan" version that was also used for playtesting and "Full Color" version for the final release.


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Slounger wrote:
Ink is a major consideration for PnP.

Production complexity tends to hold me back more than ink usage. Ink becomes more of an issue the larger a game is.

My guess is that games with a heavy ink/paper ratio are actually more likely to get printed than the low ink variety. Heavy ink use will repel some, but the art will draw others.
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Carl Parsons
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I have access to a good printer at work so put me squarely in the good artwork side of things but I understand completely the low ink side of things. If I didn't have free prints I'm sure I would switch sides.

I don't have as much problem with complexity to making a game as I do with unnecessary complexity. If you're making a card game with fronts and backs (I've often not printed a game because it didn't have card backs) then make sure they line up easily. By that I mean the cards line up when the edges of the paper line up. And don't forget that one of the pages has to flip to put them together almost like a mirror image. It's not as big of an issue if all of the card backs are the same but when the cards have unique card backs make sure the the top left image of the fronts to the cards matches up with the top right image on the backs to the cards. Otherwise each card has to be cut out and assembled separately. This additional step may add enough complexity to the crafting that I may not make it.
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Timothy Goddard
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Stormtower wrote:
Sadly, I've been part of playtest groups where we are not even provided components to print out. Just a list of the cards and what would be on them. It was pretty much left to us to grab index cards, write down the text, and put them into our decks.


In the alpha-version of the game, we used sharpies and playing cards. I'm using return-address labels and a box of Trivial Pursuit cards for another one. But I can't imagine asking someone else to test a game like that.

LurkingMeeple wrote:
Production complexity tends to hold me back more than ink usage. Ink becomes more of an issue the larger a game is.


Do you have any examples of folks who have done things right/wrong?

Thanks to everyone for the feedback so far.
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Carl Parsons
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Also, Crop marks. Preferably on the back side of the cards outside of the card artwork. This is essential to uniform card size. Don't rely on the artwork itself to delineate where to cut.
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timgoddard wrote:
Do you have any examples of folks who have done things right/wrong?

I'll pick on myself, but it's not a card example. I've created hexagonal tiles that were very laborious to cut. Hexes might be completely right for a game, but a trihexagonal layout requires fewer cuts than other layouts.
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tom franklin
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batman wrote:
Also, Crop marks. Preferably on the back side of the cards outside of the card artwork. This is essential to uniform card size. Don't rely on the artwork itself to delineate where to cut.


Seconded.
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Bob Z.
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Access to a free printer on the part of the players/PnP'ers.
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