Print & Play – Is it worth it?

When you have only a very small budget for gaming and you hear about people printing games at home to play you think ‘Wow! That’s awesome, I can do that!’ – at least, I did… but is it as good as it sounds or is it too good to be true?

The short answer is ‘Sometimes’.

The Best Treehouse Ever Print and Play

My first Print & Play Project – The Best Treehouse Ever!

For my first Print & Play project I wanted to start simple, so when I stumbled across The Best Treehouse Ever, a family card game that was on Kickstarter that offered free Print & Play files (limited art and no art on the card backs) I went for it. I downloaded the files, chucked some glossy photo card I had lying around at home in my printer and away hit print. At first glance, the results were excellent, I chopped the cards on a guillotine and we played and had a great time. I did learn though that glossy photo card looks great, but cards stick together. However, this game is not readily available here in the UK, so we are still playing with our initial printed version until such time as I can track it down at a reasonable price.

So the first project was a limited success and lessons were learned…

There was a full board game that I wanted, The Manhattan Project,and I discovered that the full art files were purchasable online – I love the art style of this game, so this time I wanted it to be perfect! I bought the files, I bought linen card stock, I bought card sleeves, I bought spray glue, varnish, grey board, more ink for the printer. I had under-estimated how much work would be involved in this build – Firstly, it was all laid up for US Letter sized card-stock, which is shorter but wider than the A4 that the rest of the world uses. This meant that the card backs would not line up with the card fronts, possibly I was missing something, but I spent hours trying to work it out – all the while, wasting card and ink – but was unable to…so I had to make do, I got them fairly close in the end.

The Manhattan Project Print and Play in Progress

The Manhattan Project – Tokens drying

So, after half a day spent printing I then had to cut the cards from the many sheets, with the guillotine this wasn’t too bad. Then I laid the cards out on newspaper on the table and spray varnished them. Next day’s job was the tokens…and boy, does this game have a lot of tokens! As a lot of the tokens are workers, I mounted the sheets to grey board using spray glue (I didn’t want to use a wetter glue and risk warping the card). Once stuck, I then had to cut the tokens down from the sheets, but because I’d glued them on grey board, I couldn’t use the small guillotine that we have – I had to use a metal ruler and a craft knife. This was the longest and hardest part of the job, it took hours and my hands were in agony – grey board is quite hard to cut! I also did the game board and player boards the same way.

Once this was done I then varnished all of the tokens and boards and was looking forward to playing once it all dried. But there were more issues – the pieces stuck to the newspaper….and yet the card was peeling up and not sticking to the grey board! I tried spraying a bit more glue and redoing a lot of them, and this fixed some, but many, many more still needed fixing. So I tried some silicon glue from the Mrs’ craft drawers. This worked well, but was very messy and slow to dry and ended up with tokens sticking to each other! Argh! The player boards and game board was also peeling at this stage.

The Manhattan Project Print and Play

My Second Print & Play – The Manhattan Project

So, I have an idea, I pop to the shops and buy some sticky-backed plastic to lay over the boards, wrap and seal them all together. That worked well, but the tokens were too small to use the same solution. We played the game and had fun, but I’m a bit of a perfectionist and the peeling tokens were driving me nuts!

In all, I spent around Β£40 on materials for this project (I had planned to get multiple games from them, but mistakes and under-estimation meant I had almost nothing left over) and I wasn’t happy with it….I still can’t bring myself to go back and re-stick all of those tokens…I could have bought the game for around Β£32.50! (Although I do also have the expansion files as well, but haven’t played it yet)

I had been firmly dissuaded from attempting any more Print & Play projects by this point, however, I see another Kickstarter game that I’d love to back…and to play….and I’m impatient and there were Print & Play files available again… The game is Scythe by Stonemaier Games, the same publisher & designer of the excellent Viticulture….and it looks BEAUTIFUL! So, I went for it – I had some white foam-core lying around, left over from my insert building, so I decide to mount the game board and player boards on that. I use even more spray glue this time and it still doesn’t stick well at the edges…but I can touch that up with other glue, there’s not millions of tokens this time! So I managed to get a much better result.


My Third Print & Play Project – Scythe

It’s not all rosy though – As there were no tokens, I did need to borrow components from other games to stand in for pieces…..I used characters from Mage Knight, meeples from Village, resources from Keyflower, buildings from Viticulture and cubes from….somewhere. Pulling all these components from other games and putting them back after made it a chore to setup and put away. I think I also had trouble with the US Letter formatting again as well. But, the boards looked amazing and I got to play the game a year before it’s available to buy!

So, in conclusion, as I mentioned at the start the answer to the question of ‘Is Print & Play worth it?’ is just ‘sometimes’. I apologise for not giving a definitive answer, but this is one situation where mileage may vary depending on your experience, available tools, the game & it’s files and so many more variables.

I’ve had successes and failures along the way and I will do more builds in the future, but from experience I now have a better idea of when it may or may not be worthwhile doing as well as a better idea of the problems I may face. As always, I’d love to hear your experiences and thoughts, let me know what you think of Print & Play games and your successes and failures! πŸ™‚




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12 Responses

  1. I have only PnP card games like the treehouse game you have posted and other free kickstarter or BGG provided full games. I have not done tokens or boards due to the fact I believe I would have invested something close to retail cost with supplies and time similar to what you mentioned above along with the questionable quality. In the end, I am cheap and will PnP to check out a game like Tiny Epic “insert name here” when the files are free and there are rave reviews. Otherwise, I don’t bother. Now, pimping out your game with files (player aides etc..) from BGG and such that are not available retail is another PnP experience. I just did a whole bunch of stuff for my LOTR LCG.

  2. Christopher Dickinson says:

    It can be really rewarding, but frustrating… and you need to ignore the expense. I was very happy with my PnP of Pay Dirt, Black Forest, Snicth! and Guilds of London (three of those games are not available too – yet). I used spray varnish and I think that is what interferes with the glue as I had the same peeling issue. If I PnP again I will spray varnish first and then glue after it has all dried.

    • Aeggil says:

      Ah, thanks for the heads up…though I’d already decided I won’t use the spray varnish again anyway…I’m not sure if I did it wrong, but once it dried the cards & tokens felt gritty.

  3. Don Liles says:

    I downloaded Viticulture to try it, but I think that something was missing. In addition, a bit concerned trying to print the board. Thank you for this great blog, I recently found your videos and have enjoyed them quite a bit.

    • Aeggil says:

      Thanks for the comment, I’m glad you’re enjoying our content! πŸ™‚

      In what way was something missing from Viticulture? In the way it plays or the files? I couldn’t manage to find all the files to make that one before buying…so I bought that one on faith and wasn’t disappointed πŸ™‚

      Printing boards is tricky, and I’ve not worked out the best way to do that yet aside from printing on card and mounting on greyboard/foamcore.

  4. Gerard S says:

    Thank you for this write up. I’m in the middle of a PnP project and your lessons learned are valuable. πŸ™‚

    On making a board, I’ve seen most do it by printing on sticker paper then mounting on compressed board. (Here we call it “illustration board”.)

    • Aeggil says:

      I’m glad to hear it was useful to somebody, be sure to let us know how the project turns out πŸ™‚

      • Gerard S says:

        Just a couple more inputs — I live outside of the US, UK, etc, so PnP is a way for me to get games early. (Love those $1 PnP Kickstarters!)

        Also, my current PnP project is Dune, the Avalon Hill classic. I’ve come to the conclusion that yes, it is much more expensive that if this were at retail, but at this point, there is no way to get the game any more, so PnP it is. πŸ™‚

        • Aeggil says:

          Indeed, a couple of mine have been through necessity and in that case it’s definitely worth it, otherwise you can’t have it. I just won’t try to do a currently available commercial project again (like the Manhattan Project)

  5. Bryan ML says:

    Hi, i’m very interested in making Scythe PnP. Could you send me the files you have yoused?

    • Aeggil says:

      Hi Bryan, I’m sorry but I no longer have the files as I now have a published copy of the game. I got the files from Stonemaier Games’ website, if they’re not there any more I guess they took them down now that the game is out at retail.

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