Kickstarter Lesson #67 (video): Print-and-Play Reward Levels

23 October 2013 | 39 Comments

Today we have something a little different. Not only is this a post that is almost exclusively for board-game Kickstarter project creators, but this is the first video Kickstarter Lesson. Why? I’ve been wanting to try a video post for a while, so I thought I’d finally give it a try. Oddly enough, filming this 4-minute video took nearly 2 hours, far more time than it would have taken me to write it!

If you’d like to read more about PnPs, there is always Kickstarter Lesson #10 and the comments on Lesson #63.

Also, I was recently a guest on the Game Design Roundtable Podcast, and it just went live, so feel free to check that out too! We mostly talk about Kickstarter.

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39 Comments on “Kickstarter Lesson #67 (video): Print-and-Play Reward Levels

  1. Hi Jamey – Thank you so much for this video and for all your helpful blogs!! I do have a question on this one. If you do this, do you just email a batch of backers each day with the pdf? What is the best way to get it to them? And to make sure you don’t send it to someone more than once? Thank you! Lindsay

    1. Lindsay: Thanks for your question. The way I do it is that I host the PnP on Box or Dropbox, and I put a link in the project page. Basically, I don’t require a person to be a backer to look at the PnP. Most people just want to look at it to see if they like it, and a small percentage will print and play it.

    1. I think they look a lot more at the shipping fees and region-friendliness (particularly EU-friendly). As Matt suggests above, I think most backers look at the PnP to see the quality of the game, not to print it–that’s why I encourage creators to make it available for free on the project page.

  2. Jamey,

    I’ve really used a lot of your resources for our upcoming KS, but the one question I had was whether people were using PnP for giving a resource to European markets that would not otherwise play the game. Our game is a $20 card game, but shipping to many Euro countries is $12+. So, is it appealing to have a PnP option so that Euro backers can just print a copy locally and not have to worry about duties and shipping costs? (Or is this just something that is more hassle than it’s worth?)

    Kyle Crocker
    Jungle Rummy Game, and Tales From The Jungle Crews podcast.

    1. Kyle: It’s a good question, and I’ll respond with a question from my post about focus: Are you interested in making a cohesive tangible card game (all copies the same), or are you fine with people printing and playing the game (leading to lots of different version of the card and printing)?

      There isn’t one right answer to that question, but your answer will impact the way you structure your campaign. If you choose the former–if you want to provide everyone with the exact same experience–then at best you should offer a free basic print and play version of the game. If you choose the latter, by all means, offer a full paid PnP to replace the officially printed game.

  3. Interesting post. I wonder if there is any data (would prob be extremely difficult to get hold of) on once downloaded, how many people use the PnP or just look at it to see what the game is like

  4. Thank you for everything you have done for the gaming community. I have spent the last year researching your blog along with Richard Bliss, James Mathe, All us Geeks, Tom Vasel and every other source I can find related to Kickstarter.

    With that said, their is one particular question that I have struggled with that I hope you can provide some clarity on. I presently have a card game with a farming theme that is 105 cards. The game is 15-30 minutes to play and has receive good feedback from the groups and conventions that I have played at.

    The question I have is would you post the game as a free print n’ play on Board Game Geek in order to get gamer feedback? If yes, how close to a Kickstarter would you do it (or in the game development cycle in general)?

    I still intend to release a Print-and-Play in the Kickstarter with full visuals at a low pledge level, but am curious to hear people’s thoughts on the effect of generating feedback before the Kickstarter.

    All the best.

    -Trevor Lehmann

    1. Trevor: That’s a good question. I don’t think there’s any harm in putting the PnP on BGG now. Hopefully you’ll get some feedback, and you can post future iterations leading up to your campaign to keep it in the public eye.

  5. Those are great points. Publishers were my biggest concern but I think you’re right when you say they’re too busy processing submissions to rip off PnPs.


  6. Hey Jamey!

    I’ve been going through all of your posts for about the last two months or so. I think they’re great! I read your post discussing PnP reward levels. My ultimate goal is to make my game hard copy. My only concern is that I haven’t trademarked or officially copyrighted the name of the game or the design. I’ve already talked with a IP lawyer and I plan on doing all the trademarking/copyrighting stuff once (if) my Kickstarter gets funded.

    My question is: Do you think making a PnP version of the game is a good idea without intellectual protection?



    1. Hey Ben, that’s a great question. I think it is prudent for you to eventually copyright the game, but for the PnP you gain the advantage of the “poor man’s copyright,” which you get simply by e-mailing the PnP to someone else. By doing so, if you ever have to go to court to prove that you were the originator of the PnP (if someone copied and sold it exactly as you produced it–game concepts and mechanisms can’t be copyrighted) by sharing that e-mail, you have the rights to it. The same would happen if you shared it on BGG. If you’re the first person to share it, then no one else can claim that they were the first to create it.

      But overall, you really don’t have to worry about someone stealing your game idea. People aren’t out there hunting for game ideas to steal. They’re out there trying to get someone to publish their game. I could give send you a PnP of an awesome game tomorrow, and you would still care more about your game, right? The same goes for every other game designer out there.

      And for game publishers, they’re overwhelmed with submissions as it is. They’re not searching BGG forums for unpublished PnPs to steal.

      The benefits to sharing your PnP far outweigh the downsides, so I’d highly recommend doing it, even if you start with a small group of people and expand from there.

  7. I could watch the video today :) I still prefer a text format, but it was good to hear your thoughts.

    I’d add that these approaches aren’t mutually exclusive. I offered a lite PnP demo to all backers (£1) and full PnP for backers who people who pledged specifically for that (£5). I had three backers ask me if upgrading the the physical game would mean that they didn’t get the PnP, saying that they were only interested in doing the upgrade if they’d still get the PnP files, I offered that at once and put it into a backer update and a number of people upgraded. I think that indicates that there must be motivations beyond “taste test” (they already knew that they wanted it) and “replacement” (they clearly wanted it as well as the physical thing). A few alternative motivations come to mind:

    They like codebreaking. There are ~35 codes in my game for various things, they might be easier to approach on a computer.

    They want to translate, a PnP is easier to paste foreign language words over than a physical copy. I know that one backer wanted to have an English version while she’s here but to make up a French version PnP style for when she got home.

    They can’t wait to play, the PnP files will be available some months before the physical game.

    They want to gift. The timing on my project is that the PnP will be out by Christmas but the physical game won’t be, perhaps some people are planning on wrapping up a PnP version with a promise to replace it with a physical one.

    I reckon that it’s good to supply the PnP community, there are some people who consume games entirely in this manner for whatever reason (maybe they’ve not got much money and want things cheaply, or have to move around a lot and want things to be physically lighter) and it’s not too much bother to knock some files together for them if you’re creating the game anyway. I think that in response to the “what are you here to do?” question I mostly want to write games that people enjoy playing. I use nice components because that’s how it seems that most people want to play their games, but I wouldn’t blink if tomorrow the games industry consisted entirely of pdfs or 3Dprinter files or whatever else. The mechanism of delivery isn’t nearly so important to me as what is being delivered (though I acknowledge they’re entangled to an extent).

    1. Greg–Thanks so much for showing that this topic is less black and white than I made it out to be. Well said!

      For the translation option, I think that’s a good idea, but perhaps one that can be approached more methodically by a project creator. Rather than having 6 different backers working on their own French translations, you could coordinate willing translators so they can work together. You could share the source file with them instead of the PDF.

      And in the end, I think it’s good to ask and answer the “what are you here to do” question for yourself, as you did. It’s when a creator doesn’t ask themselves that question that the project and the backers suffer. Thanks Greg!

  8. This is an interesting topic. I spend a fair amount of money on my PnP tests. My PnP of Euphoria came in around $35-40 after all the dice and pieces I bought to play it. Others have run in the $20-$30 range as well. (MtG backer cards, sleeves, etc.) The upside is I could reuse the components from each game if I wanted, but I’ve found the PnPs to be so labor intensive that I can’t bring myself to tear them down and hang onto them in case I want to let somebody else try them some day.

    That said, I would never want to keep a PnP version unless I absolutlely couldn’t afford the real version. I’ve been lucky in that I can, but I can see those trying to provide family entertainment on a low budget doing otherwise. I also keep a directory of all the PnP files I’ve ever received so that I can use them again someday should I ever need to.

    I would guess the people that would rather get a $1 PnP over the full game wouldn’t have bought the game anyhow without seeing it someplace else first so it seems to be good advertising.

    1. SuperG–Indeed, I was quite impressed by your Euphoria PnP. But I’m glad you still got the full game! One element I didn’t mention in the post is my focus on creating affordable games. $49 is a decent chunk of change, but by doing everything I could to keep shipping prices to a minimum, I think it made the game more accessible to a lot of people. It’s good to see more project creators doing the same.

  9. It might also be worth considering that an easily accessible PnP is a way to increase the chance that independent reviews will appear. If I remember correctly Dan Martin’s review and my review was the first independent reviews that appeared for Viticulture and both were based on PnPs made available during the Kickstarter.

    I’d say that this issue is particularly important for first timers who might face an uphill battle getting people like Tom Vasel to review their game.

    1. Morten–That’s definitely true about the independent PnP reviews. So do you think they’re better placed on the project page than on the reward levels?

      1. For those who are launching their first game I’d tend to say that they should put a PnP prominently on the project page. For those who’ve already shown themselves to be capable game designers I’d think that it’s much less important.

  10. Thank you all for your thoughts. I like what you said about the merits of the free PnP. I should note that I essentially support the free PnP idea–even if someone pledges to my Kickstarter campaign and backs out, they have access to the PnP during that time–but the key takeaway here is that it helps to have some way of knowing who the people are who look at your PnP so you can engage them and connect with them. Is it always necessary? Definitely not. But it certainly helps when possible.

    As for the video, thanks for your feedback. I’m like most of you–I want to read online, not watch videos (and Julia, I’m exactly like you in that I usually “listen” to videos at home, not actually sit at my computer and watch them). I just wanted to try something new. I actually think it’s invaluable for me and my wonderful readers that I get some face time with you every now and then, so maybe I’ll do one of these a month.

    1. Jamey,
      Two words: MOAR KITTEHZ
      Make your two bubbies earn their keep…

      I’m glad I’m not the only weirdo who listens to videos if they bother at all. It’s a RARE video that makes me actually WATCH, and I’m trying to think of the last one… hmm… Dawn: Rise of the Oculites… the accent and hearing the baby got me to glance up and then Ben’s open, smiling face caught me and I watched the rest, and backed at a ridiculous level.

      I did actually go back and watch the Viticulture and Euphoria videos after you blogged about project videos. And I got a kick out of watching you and Alan get drunk and toast Viticulture backers… it’s a teeny bit sad that after your very first project, you’ve basically done too well to do that for Euphoria without either a team of friends toasting or alcohol poisoning; didn’t you decide to split the drinking over four nights, one per faction? That’s still some liver abuse. I digress.

      Anyway, PnPs are great for the flavor of the game but even when you make them pretty nice they are not as nice as heavy cardstock, cubes, and so on.

      1. Julia–We filmed all four Euphoria videos in one night. :) We really didn’t drink much, though–it wasn’t our intent to get drunk. We took very small sips.

  11. I’m a fan of getting PnP’s, and just the option makes a project more intresting – even if I don’t actually print it afterwards. It just shows how confident you are with your game.

    On the other hand, I’m wondering how would it work with more complicated games. For example mine requires 2o big hexes, player boards, tokens, a lot of cubes, cards, etc. so I think PnP would just show off my design (art, layout, general feel) – as I don’t see many people taking the time to actually build it. Or am I underestimating PnPlayers?

    Re the video, I second one of the above posters – I guess video is OK when it adds something that couldn’t be conveyed with text. I very much a visual person and it takes a lot of effort for me to listen and understand what is said.

    1. I think your right, most people won’t take the time to assemble lots of components, and those who do usually aren’t trying to get the game for free. We wanted to playtest Euphoria and see if it would be a good fit for us. It was! However, if I do a PNP of a game I backed on kickstarter and I don’t like it, I would remove my pledge, but as a game designer, I don’t think that’s a negative. I wouldn’t want people who don’t enjoy the game having to buy it! It’s one of the scary downsides of kickstarter that is mitigated by offering a PNP.

    2. I think that even if nobody assembles it the PnP is a good idea. I got plenty of comments from backers that implied that they’d looked at the PnP files and got excited about the game even if they didn’t want to print and build the whole thing. I think that some people like to have the opportunity to look through a whole deck of cards rather than the couple that you put on the KS front page.

      1. I am certainly one of those people, Greg!

        KubaP, the game I am looking to run a campaign for next year is also on the complicated side but I am of the opinion that showing backers an idea of what they are getting will relieve them some and have them be sure of their pledge (what they are giving money toward).

        I have been reading that most of the time a PnP is never printed but I absolutely believe that it does not hurt to have and that it shows effort on the part of the creator to get the game out as soon as possible. It means a lot.

  12. Interesting post and food for thought.

    Having a lite PnP available for free for people to try the game from before the Kickstarter hits seems like the best way to go all round. After more formal playtests are over it seems a great way for gamers to find your game and still be able to give feedback that can improve the game. Smash Monster Rampage indicates that having a game as a PnP before launching a physical version of it certainly doesn’t hinder sales.

    A colour PnP could then be made available from the Kickstarter for those who either don’t want the physical version (due to shipping or just that they’re a PnP fan) or who would like to see a digital approximation of the physical copy before it turns up at their address many weeks later.

    And my two-bits-worth on the video thing :) – as an example, the Crowdfunding Academy videos are a great supplement to the podcast and work by being kept separate from it. I think there’s nothing wrong with a video blog if it doesn’t take over from the written one. Written is a much easier format for me to keep up with/ review.

    Thanks for the insightful posts all the same.

  13. Without sounding too creepy, I have to say, I watched the video because after “talking” to you so often in email and blogs and project comments and stuff, it’s nice to see you and hear your voice, to be reminded that you’re a real person. But really, I am a video hater. Do you realize that out of the 350 or so projects I’ve backed, I’ve watched less than 20 of the project videos? And when I say “watch” what I often mean is “listen” — that’s how I take in Vasel most of the time, listening while looking at something else, unless he says something about the way something appears or moves and I back up a few seconds to actually SEE what he’s showing people. LOL I am a words person through and through.

    As for PnPs, I am a huge fan of good ones. You know that I printed and laminated and cut out (carefully) each version of the Euphoria PnP, which we then playtested the hell out of, often playing each iteration two or three times. All those components are in a plastic storage box and the laminated “board” is rolled up behind one of our game shelves. I’ll keep it to wax nostalgic someday. I always end up buying the real game, though; I can’t think of a single game we’ve only PnPed. Even Icehouse Volcano, which is not a big published-by-someone game… we played that for years on grids just printed on paper until last year when I backed one of the laser game board projects and I got a nice wood grid.

    Projects without PnPs don’t scare me away if everything else is in order on the project page. I realize it’s not important to all people and some creators just don’t get the PnP folks, or don’t want to let their game-baby out into the world in a format they don’t have any control over… fair enough.

  14. My favorite posts are ones where there is a written summary of what’s in the video. That way, I can get the gist of the video if I don’t have time to watch it right away. Maybe you could try that.

    Still, good first attempt on a video entry. They do take quite some time to do.

    I’m not a big fan of making PnPs, but I do like to see them because it allows me to take a closer look at the game than just the rules. I prefer PnPs to either be free or $1. I personally think $5 is too much for a PnP, but if it’s a high quality one of the finished product, then that’s okay. I never touch the ones that charge more than $5 for a PnP, and I have seen those.

  15. I agree with Justin about reading faster than people can talk. I would much prefer the text but then again I am a visual learner. I have friends who would much rather watch a video or listen to a podcast because they are auditory learners. I guess you can’t please everyone.

    1. At the moment I can’t play sound, there are other people in the room and I don’t have headphones, so while the comments are interesting I’ve no idea what Jamie says in the video.

      If anyone fancies being perplexed try turning on the automatic subtitles and working out what’s being said from them ;)

  16. #68 Video Updates vs Text Updates

    A thing to keep in mind is some people HATE video updates. Having to sit through minutes of video that could be read through (if it was just text) in FAR less time often sits poorly with these people, especially when the video isn’t really providing anything visually that couldn’t be put straight into text.

    I’m only half-kidding, I didn’t mind the video update, but it’s basically the same for me if I see a big news story on the front page of a news website… if it’s in Video, unless it’s something HUGE like “Maniac Kills 20 People In Dover, NH” (where I live), I’m not going to bother watching it. I can read FAR more quickly than a person can talk, and it feels so inefficient to watch a video when I could read the equivalent text in a quarter of time (if not less).

    Of course, I’m the guy who checks his backed Kickstarters 4 times a day (or more) to see if anybody has backed out of the “Early Bird” spots so that I can scoop them up (managed to work my way up 4-rungs of the Ortus kickstarter recently and saved myself 6 dollars), so maybe I’m just the crazy one!

    As for this specific update… as I don’t have a printer, any PnP for ME would be an extra cost… but it’s a great way to decide if i want the “real” game or not… but I’ve always wondered how many people back Kickstarters to get access to the PnP files and then back out once they have them.

  17. Obviously I’m a fan of PNP, though we’re pretty excited to receive the actual game. Printing your own copy of the game is not easy, though it is very rewarding, especially if the game is good. Nothing like the professionally manufactured game though, especially with the bonuses you throw in there Jamie!

  18. Thanks Jamie!

    I love the topic. My tactic for the Stones of Fate relaunch is to do the free version of a PnP. In fact even now I have already put the game out there for my fanbase to take a look at well before the kickstarter is even started. Our Kickstarter page will have a very visible link where anyone (without even backing) will be able to download it. My reasoning is that this will serve much like youtube does now or napster did back in the day for the music industry. People want sneak previews, they want to see what they are buying before they buy it. I doubt there will be many who will use it as a replacement and those that do probably wouldn’t have purchased the game in the first place.

    I do agree with you on making the real game as awesome as is possible so that the PnP becomes irrelevant. But the PnP can be a fabulous marketing tool and one that I intend to use on every game I ever produce. You will always be able to get a PnP copy of a Cosmic Wombat Game for free.

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