Well, hello there!
I’m here today to talk to you about Print & Play and our experience with one of their products and how it ended up not being a good fit for what we were trying to accomplish with Honey Bomb. It’s a cautionary tale of “You knew what you were getting into up front!” Perhaps through our experience, we might be able to save you the same troubles that we came up against and steer you towards another product which might satisfy your needs better, sooner.
A bit of info on Print & Play. They are the prototyping wing of Ad Magic, the game manufacturer who produces Exploding Kittens. They are located in Vancouver, Washington (USA) and they can produce all kinds of printed products helping you to prototype your game to within acceptable tolerances of your finished design. Boxes, tokens, meeples, cards. You name it, they can print it. They also have amazing customer service. We really can’t fault them there 🙂
We engaged their services to produce our first round of Honey Bomb prototypes (16 full games). They have a service which creates hex tiles of varying sizes. We went with the 3 inch wide ones which closely matched our handmade prototype. Why did we decide to go with Print & Play and not say The Game Crafter or some other service? Because Print & Play uses a mechanical process to create their pieces, not laser technology, and we didn’t relish the thought of our Honey Bomb prototypes smelling like burnt paper (a warning which is very prominent on The Game Crafter website).
But, it seems that every means of production has its drawbacks and there was a warning on the Print & Play website as well. Because they use a mechanical set of dies to punch out their tiles and don’t have a computer / laser lining everything up perfectly, there was a disclaimer that the registration for our tiles might be out by as much as 2 millimetres (mm). Now, that doesn’t sound like a lot, BUT when you’re talking about small tiles that are only 3 inches across, a 2mm offset can be quite… dramatic 😉
When our prototypes arrived, to say we were excited is an understatement! We were stoked! On edge! Absolute LIVE WIRES! We couldn’t wait to see the fruits of our labours born in cardboard!
Our first pleasant surprise was that Print & Play had actually assembled and individually bagged each group of tiles. We were expecting punch boards and a bit of manual labour, but having that done for us was a nice touch. The method they use to create the tiles leaves no punch board to punch, just tiles to stack. Sweet!
But that was where the love affair ended. It quickly became apparent that their 2mm offset was no joke and as we unpacked our assembled beauties it seemed that ALMOST ALL of our tiles were suffering from the max 2mm offset. We expected some of them would be off, but almost all of them? Since our design at the time delineated the tile artwork with a thin coloured border, the offset made the border thick/thin/non-existent on all sides, making the tiles look rather randomly designed and not a little bit like ass. Not only that, the tiles are uploaded into Print & Play in a template that butts each one up against the other, so as the offset started to wander, the border colour of neighboring tiles started intruding on others which really didn’t help matters.
That let a lot of the excitement out of the room.
On top of that, there was a crush mark on every tile THAT WAS NOT mentioned on the Print & Play website. This dismayed us even further. I guess, because they use a mechanical means for creating the tiles, some pressure is needed to force the tiles through the dies. This of course will damage the edges of whatever is being fabricated and every last single one of our tiles had this mark running around all six sides. It was slight but it was there. Sigh.
They also weren’t exactly cheap. Each one, after shipping, taxes, etc., ran us almost $30 CDN to produce. That’s the same amount we’re selling our finished Honey Bomb game, which comes in a box and includes 24 bear paw tokens and an instruction booklet. So you can understand that we were a little miffed to see how our hard work and money hadn’t bore the fruit we had expected.
I’d mentioned earlier that Print & Play customer service is quite robust, and they were happy to talk to us when we cried foul on the offset AND the crush marks they never mentioned. We felt the offset was way past their 2mm threshold and after careful consideration they disagreed. At that point, there was little point in arguing. This was a clear cut case of, “You got what you ordered.”
Ya win some. Ya lose some.
Now, I’ll admit that none of these issues are really that big of a problem when you’re just producing a prototype which is strictly for test play sessions and the game mechanics and artwork may still change down the road. And, in all honesty, for the limited number of play sessions we held before Covid 19 shut us down, few if any of our play testers mentioned the offset printing or the crush marks in their reviews of the game. But of course, with us at Ramstar being ambitious and forward thinking, we wanted these prototypes to be our ambassadors as well! They would double as review copies for when we pushed forward with our Kickstarter, and we didn’t feel that we could achieve that goal very comfortably anymore with them looking the way they did. First impressions are very important!
Long story short, we no longer have the capital to correct these problems, so we’ve had to use our Print & Play prototypes as review copies anyways, along with a note to reviewers about how the design has changed since they were produced and how the final commercial version of Honey Bomb will not suffer from these problems. Hopefully, the issues we’ve seen in the prototypes won’t detract from the enjoyment of Honey Bomb when people are testing and reviewing it. Fingers crossed!
One good thing that came from all of this foofarah is that we decided to remove the borders from the tile art. We realized that ANY offset in the final printing for Honey Bomb would be a disaster, so we decided to negate that possibility by simplifying our designs. And ultimately, I think the designs look that much better without a border, don’t you?
There. That’s better!
In the end, I think that all things will work out for Honey Bomb, but I don’t believe we’ll be using Print & Play‘s die cut service anymore, at least not for something that we hope will be of review quality. That being said, it might be perfect for what you need to accomplish, so do a bit of investigating before letting this article deter you from using this particular Print & Play service. Our experience wasn’t as positive as we’d hoped it would be, but yours may be perfect. 🙂
You can find out more about what Print & Play offers here: https://www.printplaygames.com/
For now, that is all.