What is print and play?
Print and play (often shortened to PnP) games are games that are available in a digital format, where the player is expected to print them off and assemble them. Often the game comes included with rules and most of the components. Sometimes some additional components are required as well, like dice, pens or cubes.
There are a lot of print and play games available on the internet on different websites. Often these games are free or relatively cheaply available. Often a print and play version of a game will be cheaper than the retail version, but you’ll have to assemble it yourself.
Types of print and play games
Pretty much any game can also be made as a print and play game. But there are a few types of games that are more often seen as PnP’s.
Roll-and-write games are games where you have sheets of paper (often one or two) on which you mark the results of rolling dice. Roll-and-write PnP’s often require you to print only one or two sheets of paper per player and adding dice (and a pen) yourself. They are easy to make and use.
- 9 or 18 card games
A popular common theme in PnP card games is to have only 9 or 18 cards. A lot of print and play games will use only this amount while still offering a full game. Most well-known games in this genre are the Button Shy wallet games.
- Full or tiny versions of retail games
Sometimes a publisher will make their game available as a print and play game. More and more publishers will offer a free PnP version of a game during a crowdfunding period to give people an opportunity to test the game. Or you can buy a printable version of a full game for a lower price.
Another thing that has become increasingly popular is to have a tiny version of a retail game. These are condensed down (both in rules an components) tiny version. Examples are Tinyforming Mars (Terraforming Mars), Mage Lite (Mage Knight) and Gloomholdin’ (Gloomhaven).
Where can you find games to print?
If you want to find great print and play games there are a lot of resources available. My favourite places to look are Geeklists on BoardGameGeek, PnP Aracde and social media groups. Here are a few of my recommendations:
- Great solo print and play games (my own Geeklist)
- Print ’n Play Games & Redesigns With Professional, GORGEOUS Art [image heavy]
- Free Solo Print and Play
- Free Roll & Write Games
- PnP Cousins of Commercial Games
Social media groups:
- Martin’s Print and Play Hideaway on Facebook
- Print and Play Games on Reddit
- Print and Play Gaming on Facebook
What tools do you need?
You don’t need a lot to start but you can expand endlessly in tools and difficulty. To start you need at least a printer, paper and some scissors. Games made with just these tools will not be very durable or pretty but they will be playable. Making one or two games with just the basics will give you an idea if PnP is something for you. I would recommend choosing an easy game for your first build. Preferably a roll-and-write or 9-card game.
Once you have a bit of a feeling for PnP and if it is something you enjoy the possibilities to expand are endless. Here are a few tools I would highly recommend to invest in.
- A laminator
A laminator is the perfect high reward tool. They aren’t all that expensive but your games will look a lot better once laminated. It will also increase durability. A laminator is also perfect for roll-and-write games (even non-PnP ones) because you can laminate one set of sheets and reuse them endlessly.
- A corner punch
A corner punch is used to round the corners of your paper. This will make handling printed cards a lot nicer and will increase the durability of your games.
- A guillotine or a cutting mat, a metal ruler and a plain utility cutter
It depends on your preference which of these will suit you the best. A guillotine is quick and gives very good results but it can sometimes be hard to see where the cut would be made. Using a cutter is a little bit more work but will be more precise. Both are significantly easier and will give better results than using scissors.
If you don’t have access to a printer that can print double sided you can also invest in some sleeves with opaque backs. You can put the cards in there and then you won’t need to print the card backs. Sleeves can also be handy in general to give a nicer feel to your printed cards and make them easier to handle.
- Cassette tape cases
Still have some cassettes tapes lying around somewhere? The cases are perfect for storing your print and play games. Because these games are often very small they will fit a cassette case perfectly and this is a nice way to store them.
A quality spray glue can help you a lot when assembling your games.
- Tokens, dice and standees
A lot of games will require extra components like dice or various tokens. I like to buy these in bulk and then add them to the games I print when needed. Standees are also something you can buy in bulk and I like to use them in games where you replace mini’s with printed pictures. I can then use the standees to make these stand up and be more visible.
How to print and assemble
Often a print and play game will include some instructions on how to assemble it. Cutting guidelines are present on the sheets and you cut along those. But there are a few standard steps to take when making your own PnP.
- Find and download the file(s)
First you’ll have to find the game you want to print and download the necessary files. Often everything will be included in one PDF file, but sometimes you will need to download multiple files.
- Print the files
Depending on the way you want to assemble the game (see below) you will print all the files either double-sided or on single pages. Make sure you use good quality paper.
- Prepare your prints for cutting.
Depending on the method of assembly you will immediately start cutting your paper or you might take some additional steps beforehand.
- Cut your prints.
Using your preferred tool you will cut the components to size. Usually the prints will include guidelines on where to cut.
- Add components and store your game.
Now that you’ve finished the print part of your build you’ll want to add any extra components you need, like dice or tokens. And then you can store the game. You can use things like cassette tape cases or small shoeboxes for this.
- Play your game!
Different methods to assemble your components
There are loads of different ways to assemble printable components and different people prefer different ways. But here are the top 3 ways you will often find used.
- Sleeve (very easy, playable)
For cards only. Print the card fronts (when using opaque-backed sleeves) or front and backs (when using fully transparent sleeves) to plain paper. Cut the cards to size using scissors or another tool. Insert the cards into the card sleeves. You can use an old playing card as backing when using an opaque sleeve to give the card a little bit more weight.
- Laminate (medium, good results)
Print fronts and backs of your components and cards to paper (preferably card stock). Insert into your laminating pouch and run through a laminator. Run through as many times as needed (look for good adhesion and no bubbles). Cut your components to size with scissors or another tool. Round the corners of your cards with a corner punch.
- Three layers (best results but more effort)
Print the fronts and backs of your components to separate sheets of paper. Preferably linen paper. Spray glue the front and back sheets to a single layer of laminating sheet. You can get one layer of laminating sheets by separating a pouch into two sheets. Allow to dry. Pass through a hot laminator as many times as needed for good adhesion. Cut your components to size with scissors or another tool. Round the corners of your cards with a corner punch. Rachel Bruner has made a great tutorial for this method: https://youtu.be/DgNJmAkO1_M