Is there such a thing as a hobby WITHIN a hobby? Because if there isn’t, I have found something that definitely qualifies. My hobhobbyby (which is a name I don’t think will catch on) is crafting “print and play” games.
Print and Play is a term given to games that don’t exist in the real world until you make them yourself. You are given all of the files and instructions, but YOU are the factory in China, printing and assembling the game yourself.
Now, “crafting” is a too fancy word, because you don’t need much skill to construct a board game from scratch. All you need is a game to make, some tools, and some time.
Finding a game to make is like going to an all-you-can-eat buffet and filling up your plate before you even get to the halfway point. There are so many games that it is hard to find the perfect one for you.
Do you like rolling dice or laying tiles? Does the thought of cutting hundreds of cards make you sick? When first starting out, I only picked games that had one or two pages to print out, like Micropul, Jasper and Zot, and Zombie in my Pocket. As I got better at making games, my list of games to make grew and grew. Once you start, it is hard to stop.
One downside of print and play games is that most have few to no reviews, so you may just have to take a chance every once in a while.
On the other hand, many games that are worth your time usually manage to float to the surface, so it’s up to you to decide. You could find a hidden gem, or maybe there’s a reason only three people have downloaded the game,
Good tools and materials can make crafted games better than most retail games. Color printers, sharp knifes, and ruler are a makers best friends. But the beauty of print and play is that games only have to look as good as you want them to.
If you are testing out a demo of a game before you back the project on Kickstarter, just print in grey scale and save some money. Are you recreating a game that’s out of print? Go crazy. If a game requires cubes or other pieces you may not have lying around the house, glass beads from a dollar store near you perform wonders.
Time is probably the biggest barrier of entry with print and play games. Why on earth would you spend hours building a game when you can go out and buy one, no assembly required?
In my case, I worked in a sign shop in Washington, D.C. for a few months while my wife completed an internship. I made posters, banners, and stickers for most of the day. But in my down-time, I practiced using the knives we cut signs with and started making games. It started out as honing a skill, but when I was done, I was better with a blade and I had a game to play when I got home.
If it turned out to be a terrible game, I threw it in the garbage; I used scrap materials as much as I could anyway. If the game was great, then it meant even more because I made it. My copy of Neolithic Ops is one of my most prized possessions because I finished it on my last day of that job. It was the result of lots of hard work and concentrated effort.
If this hobby is something that you love, you will make time for it. I believe that there is a perfect print and play game for everyone.
Making something that didn’t exist before gives sense of satisfaction that almost overshadows actually playing the game. And when you find a game you love, that’s even better.
If you are looking for a place to start, I have a few suggestions. Mutiny is a simply outstanding game of lying and deception and it consists of only four cards.
Micropul is a little 2-player game that is easy to build. Just print out the black and white tiles onto full page label paper, stick it on an old cereal box, and cut everything out.
Another great resource is http://www.goodlittlegames.co.uk, where you can find designers dedicated to making small games that have big ideas. I highly recommend Empire Engine and Zeppelin Derby.
Good luck and craft away!