Luke: Welcome back to Behind the Board! This week, we’re joined by one of the co-owners of PnP Arcade, Jason Greeno! Thanks for stopping in, Jason.
Jason: Sure thing, excited to sit down and chat with you.
Luke: So tell me; where exactly did the idea for PnP Arcade come from?
Jason: I grew up in remote northern New York where there were no game stores. When I was kid, that meant I needed to invent games or play the tired old mainstays (Risk, Monopoly etc).
Now, when we visit my parents ‘up there’, I often wish to introduce them to new games. It occurred to me that many games could be easily printed, cut, and sleeved for play. An idea started to form in my head about printable games.
I had already started a website called Game Design Market which offered art assets to aspiring game designers. That enterprise did not succeed, but it did prove that electronic sales could work. Also, many folks are familiar with RPGNow and DriveThruCards, so this idea wasn’t completely unique. What WAS unique, was that I wanted it to be focused on card and board games.
Luke: And you partnered with Jason Tagmire to make this dream a reality, yes?
Jason: Yeah, I had been designing games for Jason Tagmire’s (JT) company, Button Shy Games. We had weekly meetings to check in on projects and to discuss new ideas. One of those ideas I brought up would become PnP Arcade.
Luke: Speaking of the name, how did you both settle on PnP Arcade as the identity for the site?
Jason: JT and I had a long Slack ongoing conversation about what to call the site. Being both 80s arcade enthusiasts (JT actually owns multiple full size arcade cabinet games) the word ‘arcade’ was an early submission. We knew we wanted a short and catchy name, so ‘pnp’ was an easy addition.
Luke: For sure, I think it works well.
So how would you describe your role in PnP Arcade?
Jason: I’m a graphic designer by day, so I handle most of the art direction and graphics for our site and new game graphics. I also act as one of the scouts seeking publishers and designers whose games fit our special mold. JT has a lot of experience running a niche business which translates into strong instincts for our company’s approach. He also scouts games, and oversees our newsletter and blog development. We both handle our weekly site updates.
Luke: Your website hosts a variety of different companies and types of PnP games; how do you both choose what does and doesn’t belong in the PnP Arcade collection?
Jason: We look for games that are print and play friendly. This means reasonable ink usage (even better if there’s a black & white option), low component count when it comes to printed pages, quality art and design, and of course, a fun game. Being print and play friendly also means not asking that the buyer supply uncommon tokens or game parts.
Examples of successful games on PNP Arcade are roll-and-write games like Robin Gibson’s Paper Pinball series and Roll Estate by Chris Michaud. Also, small card games like Jason Glover’s Desolate and Iron Helm are fan favorites.
Luke: And what do you think makes games like these examples of how to do a PnP well?
Jason: To me, a print and play should have all the things that a mass-market game has: great art, excellent table presence, clear and concise rules, and great replayability. However, games with just a few pages to print and little to no cutting are the sweet spot. While we do have some crafty fans who will build beautifully printed games, not everyone has a lot of time for gaming, let alone crafting that game. If I can print and cut the game in a few minutes and be playing right away, that’s the best result.
Another thing that works well is a game that releases content over the course of the year but works as a standalone playable game with each purchase (so you don’t have to own all the parts). You can see this in practice with our game, Chain Mail from Button Shy Games. JT and I actually designed this one, and you can grab the base game and first Adventure pack for free. If you want to expand your characters, quests, and treasure you can grab additional Adventure packs. That way, you can space out your purchases and crafting.
Luke: Yeah, I’m excited to see the Chain Mail definitive edition sometime this year.
Now, having said the games that you think work well in this format, is there a specific genre of game you wish appeared more often as a PnP?
Jason: I’d love to see more games that we can play easily over video chat. The pandemic has pushed all of us online, away from our game groups, and I’m hoping that we can find some solace by playing online together.
Luke: And, in this vein, I think PnP Arcade has done a lot to help gamers cope with the world-wide stay-at-home orders, providing tons of games for free to play from home. How can folks support your company during this time?
Jason: Spread the word. The more people that know about PnP Arcade or that give printable games a try will only help grow our community. In turn, more people will join the greater gaming community, and that’s great for everyone
Luke: Having been faced with such a worldwide and impactful event, how do you think the PnP landscape will change in the coming year because of recent events?
Jason: We’ve seen a huge surge in downloads at PnP Arcade. More articles, BGG Geeklists, and Facebook groups have talked about the benefits of printable games. With a larger community comes more game designs and more innovation. When I say innovation, I mean why stop at paper? What I’d love to see next is 3D sculpt files for folks to print game components. Just a few per game would be enough, since current 3D printing is still in its infancy, but the future of printing games from home is huge!
Luke: In regards to bringing new people into the world of PnPs, what would you say to gamers who are hesitant to pay money for PnP games?
Jason: I’d compare print and play to any other crowdfunding site like Kickstarter or Patreon. Even though we have a nice collection of well-known games like The Networks, Fire in the Library, Sprawlopolis, Roll Player, and Dice Throne, a large selection of our games is from first time designers. Buyers can help support the next crop of designers and great games by paying a small price to try new and fun games.
Many of us struggle at the staggering costs of $100+ Kickstarters. At PnP Arcade you can grab a handful of great games for $3 to $5 each. Of course, you have to do a little assembly, but for many gamers, that’s part of the fun.
Luke: If there’s one PnP game you’d recommend folks check out this week, what would it be and why?
Jason: Roll Estate is a great example of print and play done right. It plays 1-5 players and only requires a single page printed. Chris did an excellent job in designing this game and was nominated for a Golden Geek Award for the design.
Luke: Alright, Jason, thanks so much for stopping in and talking with us today. Before we end things off, what projects are you working on right now that folks should be keeping an eye out for?
Jason: We’ve partnered with AEG to sponsor a game design contest which will ask designers to make a video chat friendly print-and-play game. Stay tuned for more on that from AEG and PNP Arcade.
Also, we want to showcase the creativity of the print-and-play community. You can expect new blog posts with photos and stories of folks crafting their games and in a lot of cases, upgrading them with custom components.
One last thing to expect soon: The Prototype Zone. A place where folks can host their unpublished games that haven’t yet received that last bit of polish but are still fun for our community to download and try.
If folks want to submit a game that falls into the mold I listed above, they can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Luke: Well, there you have it folks! If any of what Jason talked above interests you, head on over the PnP Arcade and check out some of these phenomenal games for yourself.
And thanks as always for tuning and reading; let us know your thoughts in the comments, and we’ll see you next week!