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Print and Play Games

Welcome to the BGG Print and Play page. This page is designed to try to condense the various secrets to creating great looking games and game parts in one area.

Material and Tools

Cutting Tools

By Tatsu

For the do it yourselfer, there are certain basics that go towards making your own games. The first is a cutting tool. While its true that a steady hand and a decent pair of scissors will suffice, often the materials being cut are thicker than normal or made from more durable materials. In addition, its much harder to get a nice professional look with scissors. There are basically two schools of thought for getting decent straight cuts - a metal ruler and utility knife (razor) or a roller cutter. Both will work well, and both have their own quirks.

A metal ruler (typically chosen because they are hefty and come in many long lengths with straight edges that will not warp) is quite easy to find at hardware stores and craft stores. The length makes long cuts easier. Utility knives are also easy to come by at the same stores and replacement blades are also cheap. When using this combo, you will want to make sure that you cut on a material that can withstand your cuts. I like using a large thick plastic cutting board. The material gives enough that I don't wear through the blades quickly. Do not use a glass cutting board unless you like changing the blade every other cut. I don't suggest cutting directly on your tables or countertops either, unless you don't mind the cuts. I've encountered a couple of drawbacks with this method (which could be due to my lack of manual dexterity). The first issue I've encountered is that it can be hard to keep the ruler in place on longer cuts. I've also found it harder to keep the blade against the ruler and have often found my blade "drifting" away from the ruler, leaving me with a not-so-straight cut. Lastly, I've often found that I get "angled" cuts with a razor - the edge is so fine, I sometimes end up with the blade at an angle as I try and keep it against the ruler. You may be tempted to use an exacto knife rather than a utility knife - this will work decently, but for a large number of cuts or for heftier materials, you will want a utility knife which will let you more easily (and safely) apply more pressure to the surface.

Another option which I've found to work very well is the choice of many scrapbookers and quilters - a rotary cutter. These blades come in disk shape and come in various sizes and with different methods for cutting. You can get cutters in a hand-held style that allows you to use them with any straight edge - basically replacing the utility knife. If you choose a rotary cutter, you can find them at most craft stores (Michaels, Jo Ann Fabrics, SoFro, etc) and easily online. You will need/want to get a self-healing cutting mat for use with the cutter. You can also find these cutters in a mounted setup, where the cutting wheel is mounted to a straight rail - no addition equipment needed. This has become my preferred tool, though there is a limit to the size of the pieces you can cut.

Finally, for small and thinner pieces, you can't go wrong with a Fiskar's paper trimmer. you can get these in various sizes and they are quite effective for cutting straight edges quickly and cleanly. We have ours for trimming photos and whatnot (my wife scrapbooks), but I've found that its great for trimming printouts for games.

Printing materials

By Orph (except the paragraph about paper sizes)

Paper

Standard Papers
The material you choose to print on will depend on what you are printing. If you are simple printing out the rules for a game, standard 24-26 lb paper stock should be sufficient. The next grade up is usually ~65lb medium card stock, which is generally good for cards or lightweight player aids. I usually sleeve my cards that I make in this fashion, but it isn't always necessary. Finally, you have heavyweight card stock which is generally in the 90-110lb range. This is better for cards and player aids that will see heavier use, since it is a more rigid paper. Heavyweight stock is also good for prototyping game boards. It rests fairly flat and won't move around as much as regular paper.
Paper sizes (by Lajos)
Note that the paper size of files differs depending on where the designer is from. Most of the world uses the A4 as a standard paper size, while the US have their own paper sizes. Check paper size before printing PDF files. In case of non-US files that use a full A4 sheet, use US Legal paper. US Letter paper is substantially shorter. On the other hand, US Letter size file will almost always be printable on A4 paper. Here are the respective sizes for comparison:
* A4: 210mm × 297mm or 8.3" × 11.7"
* US Letter: 216mm × 279mm or 8.5" × 11"
* US Legal: 216mm × 356mm or 8.5" × 14"
Furthermore, generally it is advisable to uncheck 'fit to size' when printing PDF files because otherwise you may get size differences between printed components and components obtained in other ways. For example, 18xx board used with the tiles from a professionally printed 18xx game, may have too small hexes when the map is printed with this box is checked.
Photo Papers
I don't really use photo paper much, but it does have certain advantages over standard paper. Many photo papers are archival, meaning that they are acid-free and won't yellow over time. Also, you can get photo papers in different finishes, if your application needs it.
Label Papers
This is something that is highly useful. Full sheet label papers by companies like Avery are useful for making game boards, tokens, and paste-ups for other games. You can print and trim them to the desired size and adhere them to whatever surface you're working with.

Printers

There are two categories of printers that most people will be using to print out their games. The most common is an inkjet printer. The main advantage of inkjet printers are that they are usually inexpensive. They can usually be bought for $30-$150. The downside is that they require frequent ink refills if you are doing a large amount of printing, which can cost anywhere from $30-$80 per complete refill. Photo quality inkjet printers have more than the standard five inks, which are supposed to provide a better range of colors for your prints. Inkjet inks often are water soluable, requiring varnish or lamination to prevent running if they come into contact with liquid.
Laser printers are the other main type of printer that people will use. Although the cost of the printer itself is generally more expensive, as well as the toner, the overall cost per print is generally less with laser printers. Laser printers usually have a high quality print, although you often need to make sure that the material you are printing on will work with a laser printer. These images will not as likely run.
Your decision on printers will really depend on how much printing you plan on doing. If you are only to do infrequent printing, an inkjet would probably be sufficient. If you plan on doing larger quantities or plan on using it for making many prototypes, you may want to consider a laser printer. No matter which you choose, make sure you use the appropriate paper or cardstock; some coatings designed for laserprinters do not work well with inkjets. This is why these products are often labeled for a specific type of printer.

Mounting Materials

While cards and player aids are generally fine when printed on heavy card stock, other items work better when mounted onto rigid boards. Game boards, player aids and small game tokens are among the things that generally require mounting. There are several kinds of material for mounting game parts and boards.
Comic Book Backer Boards come in standard sizes (8x10, 8.5x11, etc) and are generally about 1/32 inch thick. While these aren't very rigid, they are perfect for player aids or player boards. They aren't quite thick enough to use for chits and tokens. I've made folding game boards out of these, since they are easier to work with, but heavier stocks might be better.
Matte Board is available from art supply and office supply stores, comes in larger sizes (20"x30") and is thicker (1/16"). The added thickness of this material makes it ideal for game chits and tokens, since they have more heft to them. They are also good for making heavyweight game boards. The larger sizes that they come in make them a little more difficult to work with, but when cut down, they are easier to handle.
Chipboard is closely related to matte board and is also about 1/16" thick. It is often found at stores that cater to scrap-bookers and craft enthusiasts. It is usually available in black, white, or brown, and typically comes in 8.5"x11" or squares either 8", 6", or 4" per side. It is ideal for chits, tokens, tiles, and can be used for game board components.
Foamcore is typically sold in large sheets at craft or office supply stores, most often in white but sometimes also in black. It is about 1/4" thick and rigid (but brittle if bent). It consists of two lightweight cardboard outer pieces with an interstitial foam layer. It requires a sharp knife to cut cleanly, else the foam layer will tend to tear and "pill up" leaving a ragged, unattractive edge. It is not recommended for projects intended to be played for a long time, due to its tendency to curl with age and its overall fragility.
Gatorboard is a thinner (1/8"), more durable version of foam core, available primarily in black but also white from copy centers that perform mounting services. It is much more durable than foam core and avoids the tendency of foam core to curl with age.

How-To Guide

Multi-fold Game Boards

Supplies
  • Comic Book backer boards or Matte Board
  • Full-sheet adhesive printer labels
  • Clear packing tape
  • Level arm paper cutter (or other cutting instrument)
Directions
Making a multi-fold game board is not that difficult. The first step is to decide how large your board is going to be. Usually a four or six fold board is enough for most games. This guide assumes that you've already got the image of your board created and ready for printing. Simply use the graphic editor of your choice and print the board out onto the correct number of adhesive label sheets.
After you have your sheets printed out, you need to cut the boards to the proper size. This works best if each board segmant is going to be the same size. Just use your paper cutter to trim your backer boards or matte board to the proper size.
Once you have your board segments cut, it is time to attach them to each other. The best way to start is to stack two segments and tape around one edge with the packing tape. Then unfold them, lay them flat and tape the seam on the other side. This will allow the board to fold back flat when you want to store it. Repeat this for each seam that you will need, making sure to take into account how each seam will need to fold.
Once you've got all the segments connected, you can stick the labels on each board segment.

Tuck Boxes / Card Boxes

Tuck boxes are easy to make, especially with the Javascript that Craig P. Forbes created. You'll need a .pdf viewer to use this, but they are free to download from Adobe's website. Once you have this, just print the pattern out onto a piece of 65 or 110lb card stock and put it together. Double-sided tape works well to hold the seams together.

Printing Suggestions and Tips

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