MUCH Assembly Required: My PNP & DIY Games, and What I Learned from the Experiences

Greer
South Carolina
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I was looking through my collection the other day, and realized something about myself: I'm a DIY whore. If there's a game that I can print and play for free, then chances are, it's going to find its way into my collection. I usually try to limit myself to games that sound interesting, or have decent ratings, but I've been known to print out mediocre games. Why? BECAUSE THEY'RE THERE. I'm also partial to the do-it-yourself games like those published by Spiele aus Timbuktu, but the real passion is those that I can download and print.

I think there are two reasons that I have these obsessions. First, it's a game that I can add to my collection without having to pay a lot of money out of pocket for it. Secondly, I enjoy the process of creating the games. I don't do many things that I consider creative or crafty, but through trial and error, I've become pretty good at printing high-quality components for the games, and making them usable and versatile. More than one person in my group has commented on how professional the games look, and I take those comments with pride. I really work at making the components look good.

What follows are some of the lessons I've learned through trial and error.
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1. Board Game: Kardinal & König: Das Kartenspiel [Average Rating:6.79 Overall Rank:6563]
Board Game: Kardinal & König: Das Kartenspiel

Greer
South Carolina
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Early on in my days as a BoardGameGeek, I stumbled across Michael Schacht's website, and heard about these games that he gave away. I mean, they were just there, for free, waiting to download! At the time, there were three games that caught my attention: Gods, Kardinal & Koenig: Das Kartenspiel, and Dschunke: Das Legespiele. What I struggled with, though, was the size of the images. If I tried to print them directly off of the Internet, the images were too large, but if I tried to copy them and paste them into Microsoft Word, they wound up too small. My first printing of Kardinal & Koenig: Das Kartenspiel, for example, resulted in an itty-bitty set that appeared to be designed for ants to play. I mean, I couldn't even pick up the chits for claiming cards, unless I licked my thumb and stuck it right down on top of the piece.

The key word from this lesson learned was scale. What I didn't realize was that when I copied and pasted the images into Word, they were automatically resized to fit the page settings. They wound up printing off at about 50-60% of the normal size, which resulted in the teeny-tiny cards. Now, I make sure to extend the page margins as far as my printer will allow, and copy, paste, and CROP the images so that I have everything in the proper size. I wish I had learned this lesson earlier than I did; there were a lot of false starts and requests from other Geeks to get this deck into a workable size.
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2. Board Game: Gods [Average Rating:5.85 Overall Rank:13016]
Board Game: Gods

Greer
South Carolina
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The next step in my journey to making PNP games was choosing the right materials for printing the images. At the time, my best option for printing out color images was to use the color laser printer where I worked. I figured that, even at $1 a page, the quality of the printing was nice enough to justify the cost. Unfortunately, the only paper that I could use in that printer was what was already in the tray. I had heard all the discussion on the Geek about using full-sheet label stock, but it wasn't an option with this printer. I figured I could print out the images on standard paper, and then glue them down with spray adhesive.

This, for me, was a dead end. I wasted a lot of paper trying to stick down the paper using the spray adhesive. No matter how much I tried NOT to overspray the adhesive on the images, inevitably I would soak the paper through, making it difficult to handle and place onto the cardstock or matboard. Plus, the paper would grow so damp that the ink would bleed, making the images useless.

The lesson learned here was one of labels. I had to take a technological step back to using an inkjet printer instead of a laser printer, but starting off with label stock saves a lot of time and effort when trying to actually stick your images down to the proper materials. Invest in a good inkjet printer and a box of 100 full-sized label sheets. You won't regret it.
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3. Board Game: Rat Hot [Average Rating:6.30 Overall Rank:3847]
Board Game: Rat Hot

Greer
South Carolina
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Of course, now that you've figured out how to scale the images and print them out on label stock, what do you use for the backing? For card games, I thought I had it figured out: Just use cardstock! This actually takes us back to K&K:K, since my first attempts to create the game was in printing the images directly to cardstock. The stock turned out to be too flimsy and rough to work well with cards, but we'll come back to this in a later entry. Where I really struggled, though, was in trying to find the proper backing for games that required using tiles. Standard cardstock wasn't an option, since it wasn't sturdy enough. Chipboard was difficult for me to find, other than by cannibalizing old legal pads, and matboard was too expensive for my purposes.

Through my job, I was able to acquire some used posterboard that was thick enough to use for some tile games. I used a particularly heavy type of poster board to create my copy of micropul, but that material ran out in a hurry. The other board that I had wasn't uniform on either the front OR the back, so it wouldn't work in terms of randomly drawing tiles from a stack. I eventually settled on using foamcore, since it was thick enough to act as a tile, but not expensive or hard to find. I made a copy of Gods and Dshunke: Das Legespiele using this material. I was never happy with foamcore, because it was too lightweight. Pieces would get crushed if they weren't packed away properly, and the pieces always felt like they would float away if we breathed too hard on the game. It was the best I could do with the options I had at the time, though, so I presevered.

About a year or so later, I found a Hobby Lobby near our house, and saw that they had matboard for sale for $5.99 for a huge piece. Michael's had been selling an equivalent size for $25-30 when I had last checked, so I jumped on the chance to get some matboard on sale. It turns out that this wasn't a sale; their matboard is ALWAYS this price. There were a few weeks where they had the stuff on sale, 2-for-1, and I stocked up on the stuff. I've since used it for all my tile games, going so far as to recreate both Gods and D:dL using matboard. It looks and feels like regular tile pieces from professional games, and it's also good for creating boards.

The lesson learned? Use matboard. If there's not a Hobby Lobby close to where you live, this might not be an option, but if there's on nearby (or even not-so-nearby), it's worth making the trip to stock up on this stuff. I use a standard matte black style, but you can even mix things up by matching the colors of your matboard to the colors in your games.
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4. Board Game: Stocking Stuffers [Average Rating:6.21 Unranked]
Board Game: Stocking Stuffers

Greer
South Carolina
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As I mentioned above, finding the right material for card games was difficult. In fact, it was nearly impossible. Card stock was too rough to shuffle, and the square corners left from cutting out the cards didn't help when shuffling, either. I tried sticking label stock onto the card stock in an effort to make the cards sturdier and smoother, but it didn't work.

Really, the best thing to use for making DIY card games is regular cards. You can use old Magic commons if you have them lying around the house, or you can even use standard Poker-sized playing cards. They're both the same size (about 3.5x2.5 inches), and they fit perfectly into card sleeves. But now I'm getting ahead of myself....

I still feel that label stock is the best paper to use for printing out images, even when they're going onto cards. I scale the images to the size of the cards, print out the images, cut them out, and stick them on to the cards. Then, I place all the cards into card sleeves to protect the images, and to keep the rough texture of the label stock from interfering with shuffling. You really don't even need to use label stock, though; you can print the images out on standard paper, and stick them in front of the cards in the sleeves. This way, you could carry one deck of cards with you, along with the images that you can interchange, based on what game you want to play.

The lesson I learned here is that no material is better for cards than cards themselves. Don't skimp on this. Just find some old cards and convert them to the game you're making.
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5. Board Game: Die Tafelrunde [Average Rating:5.77 Overall Rank:17477]
Board Game: Die Tafelrunde

Greer
South Carolina
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designer
By this time, I had already learned that using full-size labels were the best way to go, but the price of a box of 100 labels scared me a little. Instead of getting the Avery labels from Office Depot, I went with some cheaper labels on eBay. These worked fine for a while, until I printed out the files for Die Tafelrunde, another free-to-print game by Michael Schacht. While I was printing out the images, I accidentally printed one of the sheets out onto standard paper, and was amazed at how much clearer the image looked than it did on the label stock.

Well, it turns out that the label stock I was using didn't have any kind of a sheen to the paper. The ink would bleed into the paper, resulting in a loss of clarity on the images and, more importantly, the card text. I broke down and purchased a box of Avery labels, and as soon as used those for printing images, I saw a huge difference in the quality of the printing. I went back and looked at other games I had printed out on the old label stock, and decided to remake most of what I had done up until then. OrkoMondo, Antagon, Pirates & Plunder, and InterUrban all received upgrades, and the difference is astounding.

So, take this lesson that I learned the hard way: Don't skimp on your label stock. There's a reason the name-brand labels cost a little bit more. They're better in the long run.
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6. Board Game: Slow Freight [Average Rating:5.42 Overall Rank:18229]
Board Game: Slow Freight

Greer
South Carolina
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DIY games attracted me, too, mostly because of their price. Michael Schacht is sort of the king of DIY, with 10-15 games and/or expansions published this way, but Alan Moon released Slow Freight through Funagain in the same way. Of course, I had to have that one, too.

This and Die Tafelrunde 2 suffered a similar fate of unclean cuts when I made the game. At the time, I was using an Xacto knife and a metal ruler on a plank of wood for a cutting surface. I had used the Xacto blade a lot at that point, but I always made sure that the blade was sharp. Even with the sharpest blade, though, the edges of the cards felt strange, almost as if there were the faintest of a lip there. They didn't shuffle well, and tended to stick together at the edges. I figure that this happened because I was dragging the blade through the material, and that part of the paper was being pushed aside in the process.

Aside from this issue, there was a problem using the wood, as well. Every time I made a cut, I also scored the wood, and as I started using the wood, this wasn't an issue. As I made more and more cuts into the wood, though, I started cutting grooves into the wood that I couldn't avoid. Several cuts went wide, or curved at the wrong place, because the knife would follow a cut already in the wood.

After doing some research into these issues, I discovered two things: a rotary cutter and a cutting mat that "healed." The rotary cutter eliminated the problem of dragging the knife through the paper, and the cutting mat avoided grooves from previous cuts. I've still made a few wide cuts using these items, but those were more due to my hand slipping off the ruler at the wrong time. For the most part, this equipment makes the biggest difference, second only to the quality of the label stock used. Since then, I've cut a handful of DIY games using this process, and the cuts are MUCH cleaner, and MUCH easier to shuffle.

The lesson I learned here was to choose your equipment wisely. The materials used to create the game are important, but making sure that you make the right cuts, without error, is equally important.
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7. Board Game: Grand Total [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Board Game: Grand Total

Greer
South Carolina
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designer
All in all, I've created 31 print-and-play games, and 8 do-it-yourself games. There might be other techniques that work better for other gamers, but I feel like the above system works best for me. Feel free to add any other comments or suggestions that you've found helpful in your own projects.

PNP Games
Antagon
Carcassonne: Die Steinmauer
Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire
China: Das Duell
China: Grenzstreitigkeiten
Coloretto: Extrakarten
Coloretto for 2 Players
Coloretto: Zwei Neue Uebersichtskarten
Funkenschlag: Atolla Modulis
Gods
Hansa: Extrakarte
InterUrban
Isfahan
Kardinal & Koenig: Das Duell
Kardinal & Koenig: Das Kartenspiel
Kardinal & Koenig: Vatikan
Knatsch: Katalog Edition 1
Knatsch: Katalog Edition 2
Knatsch: Katalog Edition 3
Kontor: Exportlager
Kontor: Ereigniskarten
Kontor: Aktionstafeln
Loco!
micropul
Oh No, There Goes Tokyo!
OrkoMondo
Paris Paris: Zusatszkarten
Pirates & Plunder
Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town
Stocking Stuffers
Die Tafelrunde

DIY Games
Banditos
China: Erweiterung
Contra
Das Grosse Fressen
Knatsch: Die Kleinen Sonderkarten
Kontor: 3-4 Player Expansion
Slow Freight
Die Tafelrunde 2
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