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Subject: PnP File Design Guide or Suggestions rss

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Scott Crabtree
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Hey all,

I am in the middle stages of board game design for a new "edutainment" type card and dice board game based upon the theme of infectious disease and medicine. I've done a fair amount of self-testing and some limited testing with family and friends. So far so good. I am hoping to move on now to blind testing to really refine the game and see if it sinks or floats. I'm looking to do this locally of course, but would also like to do so remotely for all those so interested. Unfortunately when I search the forum archives I can't find a good guide or FAQ for PnP file design. I would like to make it as user friendly for whoever is willing and wanting to go through the process of printing all the cards and components out, so any advice anyone has would be appreciated. Is the best tip just to smash it all into as few pages as possible to limit paper waste and cutting?

Thanks!
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B C Z
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PDF is critical.

Provide both A4 and 8.5x11 formats - you can help yourself do this by making sure the printable area is fully contained in the common size shared by these two paper formats.

If you're requiring double sided printing, be very aware of printer tolerances.

I prefer to not have two objects share a common edge - if I screw up a cut I've screwed up 2 parts. That is not a universal preference.

I prefer to have cuts align with paper edges or be perpendicular to them, to allow me to use my paper cutter. If you have to have non-right-angle cuts, consider aligning them to make it easier to do one cut for multiple edges of one part (that's not common edges for 2 parts, that's allowing me to drop a straight edge along a row of hexes, for example, and cut with the exacto knife with minimal straight-edge alignments).

Avoid, at all costs, cuts that require stopping in the middle of the paper. Ideally there should be a way to make long, straight cuts across the entire sheet. (Usually applies to hex tiles.)

Consider providing multiple formats: color, color low-ink, b&w. One of these options might minimize paper use (and follow the one cut, 2 objects recommendation). Another might have separated components.

Having an assembly guide, parts manifest or other such thing can help, but may not be necessary if you're not printing out a lot of complex stuff.

Expect parts to be replaced/substituted/etc, and offer good suggestions for that. Most prototypers or PnP'ers have a supply of tokens, chips, meeples, dice, etc. Be clear about what's required that isn't in the PnP packet.

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Scott Crabtree
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Thanks for the input BT Carpenter. Quite helpful. I've heard of A4 sized paper, but, being a navel gazing American, I never knew or cared what the difference was. I'll definitely be sure to create multiple versions.

I agree having a little space between cuts prevents botching two cards for the effort of one. When I've cut my own components for my prototype I placed the objects close enough that it still took only one cut between them allowing for perhaps a little white space (i.e. just a few mm between components). Do you think most people would prefer this or more space to prevent bad cuts even if it'd require more cutting?

And as a completely random aside, your avatar is very crescent fresh.
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Mihai Stanimir
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I also prefer a bleeding edge (the piece/card graphics extend beyond the trimming lines). Even 1mm between cuts is enough for me. There can be a thin line and I cut on both sides of it. For cards it's better not to have rounded corners drawn, because I do have a corner rounder, but it won't cut much. I place them in colored-back sleeves with another card behind for strength. It is my preference to print the cards slightly larger so that they cover the back card completely, but this doesn't work well with transparent sleeves. Note that all this is worth for a PnP game with finished graphics, but it might be too much work for a work in progress game where graphics are rough.

Another option is to have pieces/cards with the same uniform background touching each other. In this case cutting slightly off won't have any impact. I prefer placing a 1-2mm dot at every corner of cards/pieces in this case as guides, which get removed when rounding the corners.

On the other hand, I know there are people who prefer imperfect cuts if that saves almost half the cutting time, especially if there are a lot of cuts. If there was only this format with no space between cards/pieces, I would still manage to make two cuts if I really wanted. Just make sure there is no important information immediately at the edge of the card/piece that might get cut off.

If the graphics are good then I print full color (unless there are many cards with very dark backgrounds), otherwise I prefer less ink or I tell my printer driver to "save ink".

A vector format is better than just plain JPG pictures (and can be exported as PDF).

Thanks and have fun making games!
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Pelle Nilsson
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byronczimmer wrote:

I prefer to not have two objects share a common edge - if I screw up a cut I've screwed up 2 parts. That is not a universal preference.


I prefer no edges at all, or very very thin ones, with registration marks along the edges instead, to not have to make twice as many cuts. Each additional cut is an additional opportunity to screw things up and have to re-print (and re-glue) sheets (botchering one or two makes no difference really as the typical result is to re-print the entire page), plus it just makes everything take twice as much time to complete and is boring.

For doublesided though, only do this on one side, and on the back just make sure there are lots of margins so if the cut is not perfect no content is ruined.
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Pelle Nilsson
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Consider avoiding designs that makes mis-cuts obvious. For instance any kind of borders will make it very obvious if I mis-cut a counter even a fraction of a millimeter. Human eyes/brains are very good at picking up asymmetries, so a square token with something square on that is supposed to be equally close to all edges that often end up misaligned when I cut will look very obviously non-square and ugly (especially on something double-sided... the back can easily become several mm off when I am in a hurry trying to get a game or a few created late at night when the kids finally are asleep and I also want to go to bed soon and can't be bothered to sit for several minutes trying to get everything perfectly aligned). So in general artwork that is not following the edges too much, and with large margins. For the back-sides this is an obvious requirement for all. For sloppy people like me I prefer to have that also on the front-sides (and of course, like I mentioned in my last post, not having any visible separation between things is a must for me).

If possible avoiding anything double-sided is a good idea, because making single-sided components is very easy and fast, but I know many even experienced pnp'ers are not too happy about having the extra work of making things double-sided.

EDIT: Also it is the relative errors that are bad, not absolute errors. Larger cardboard tiles/counters still look square even with quite bad cuts. Small ones look very rectangular even with just a small error. So I put fewer on each sheet to make bigger ones that are more forgiving.
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Craig Stockwell
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BT covered most of what I'd include. Here's my usual checklist:

* PDF format, fonts embedded
* Files: Rules, Cards (color), Cards (greyscale); as needed -- Player Reference Sheet(s), Board (tiled), Other Pieces, Assembly Instructions
* I don't expect to know every printer tolerance, so I go with 0.37 inch margins -- if someone's printer can't accomodate that, I presume they know how to figure out printing reduced size from their PDF reader
* When making sheets of cards, I aim for a tiny gap -- 1/16 inch or 1 mm -- often by laying out cards in a table, and making the cells slightly larger than the cards
* I use a cloud-based service, instead of attaching to e-mail ... after one time I received a 33 MB PnP monster file in my e-mail ... on my cell phone =P
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Nick Case
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As an aside you are about to hit two levels of harsh reality;

1/ Friends and family tend to be nice. As a result they are unlikely to offer objective criticism, indeed they are unlikely to make any comments that sniff of negativity. A remote, disconnected crowd are less likely to pull their punches. Once you find people willing to blind test, be prepared for some new insights into your game.

2/ Finding remote playtesters isn't as easy as you would think. I originally thought that people would be more inclined to play and review if you sent them a made up copy of the game. I tried this at Essen 2015 and of the 8 copies I circulated not one resulted in any feedback at all. I have more recently opted for P'n'P thinking that if someone is prepared to download and print a prototype they will be more willing to give it table time. The results were better than zero, but lets say I wasn't rushed off my feet with enquiries, even after setting up this geeklist;

https://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/215894/looking-play-t...

One thing I would say about a p'n'p copy is that you must have a well developed rule book available and not just sketchy notes. Feedback will need to be on game play but that will be useless if the players misunderstood the rules and played it all wrong.
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Derek H
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Big Bad Lex wrote:
One thing I would say about a p'n'p copy is that you must have a well developed rule book available and not just sketchy notes. Feedback will need to be on game play but that will be useless if the players misunderstood the rules and played it all wrong.

Yup. Possibly worth getting this done first and sent out (or put it up as a Google doc, with comments enabled) for feedback while working on the rest. You are almost guaranteed to get no feedback if the rules are clunky or otherwise hard to parse.
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Scott Crabtree
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Wow a great many more comments over the past day. Thanks all.

Given it is a mid-stage prototype and I want to make sure I have a decent game before I devote effort to the art so the graphics are currently rather limited for better or worse. I suspect that may limit its initial appeal for play testers, but hopefully will also minimize problems with printing, cutting, and need for precision.

Currently the prototype as I have it set up has the cards formatted so that they can be printed front and back on a single sheet of paper assuming the printer is able to "flip" the page on its long axis. I am getting the impression that many folks don't particularly like this double sided printing, though, and would prefer just to print 'em all out individually with instructions on which fronts are associated with which backs?

I definitely agree that a good rule book is essential as even if the components are easily obtained and beautiful, if you can't easily make sense of the game who is going to bother? I've been investing a lot of effort into it up front. I like the idea of sharing that first while the rest of the PnP gets polished.

As a final only slightly related question, I see a number of Works In Progress threads in the forum. Does anyone really look at those, and, if so, when would it be best to develop one?

Thanks again for all the assistance!
 
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Quentin N.
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As said above, rulebook first. I decide if I want to play a game upon reading the rules, not after I printed it out.

Classic presentation applies:

concept, a bit of storytelling (to give the flavor of your game), rules. Don't forget to add illustrations, and designer notes if you want to.
 
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Derek H
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Mimolette wrote:
Classic presentation applies:

concept, a bit of storytelling (to give the flavor of your game), rules. Don't forget to add illustrations, and designer notes if you want to.

I would not expect illustrations from a draft rule set for a pnp game ... nice, sure, but really not needed - the rules should be clear regardless of any pictures.
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Pelle Nilsson
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[q="Jaundice101"
Currently the prototype as I have it set up has the cards formatted so that they can be printed front and back on a single sheet of paper assuming the printer is able to "flip" the page on it's long axis. I am getting the impression that many folks don't particularly like this double sided printing, though, and would prefer just to print 'em all out individually with instructions on which fronts are associated with which backs?
[/q]

My impression is that most will use card sleeves with something like common Magic cards in them as backing for the cards. I do that as well. For double-sided cards (not as common as single-sided) I print on two sheets and put one "card" on each side of the Magic-card, to make a double-sided card. So, no, I do do not expect many will try to print on two sides of the same sheet and just cut out the card and play with it. Would require thick paper and very good precision in the printer (and when cutting). Simpler (and cheaper) to use the sleeve+magic-card trick.

EDIT: It is still convenient if the fronts and backs are in the correct locations so there is less work to match them up. Just mark them clearly so it is easy to find maching ones if they are lost. As a side-effect of lining them up correctly, if anyone out there is going to print double-sided it will work for them as well.
 
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Carel Teijgeler
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Jaundice101 wrote:
Currently the prototype as I have it set up has the cards formatted so that they can be printed front and back on a single sheet of paper assuming the printer is able to "flip" the page on it's long axis. I am getting the impression that many folks don't particularly like this double sided printing, though, and would prefer just to print 'em all out individually with instructions on which fronts are associated with which backs?

I hope you have considered that the right margin on the odd pages is the left margin on the even pages.

I would like to print double sided on one sheet of paper, but so far all attempts show a misalignment of the cards by a small margin.

If only I could avoid gluing, ....
 
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Scott Crabtree
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Hmm. My printer seems to do a pretty darn good job of lining up the front and back images without too much difficulty. I of course had to account for the margins and page flipping to make it work, but after that it seems to work pretty well. At least without getting a ruler and measuring by the mm.

Since there are so many potential issues with double sided printing, though, and a general overall preference for one sided I'll probably just make two copies of the PnP. One allowing for double sided printing the other using single sided with clear indications of which backs are associated with which fronts.

Thanks again all for the input.
 
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Mihai Stanimir
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Jaundice101 wrote:
Since there are so many potential issues with double sided printing, though, and a general overall preference for one sided I'll probably just make two copies of the PnP.

Good choice! While one printer might align everything perfectly, others will do a very bad job. The only way I know that works all the time is to design the page with 4 card fronts on a line and the same cards' backs on the other. You print, then fold, then glue, then cut. But that's another thing.
 
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Carel Teijgeler
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sufertashu wrote:
Good choice! While one printer might align everything perfectly, others will do a very bad job. The only way I know that works all the time is to design the page with 4 card fronts on a line and the same cards' backs on the other. You print, then fold, then glue, then cut. But that's another thing.

This would be my suggestion as well. Think it may the best and paper friendly (less paper, less printing) solution. YMMV, of course.
 
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Pelle Nilsson
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I don't really see why you would need a special version for those of us that want to print single-sided. Sounds like just extra job for you and a bit more confusion for players. Can't imagine what you could do to a two-sided version that would make it difficult to print as two one-sided sheets.
 
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