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Why I Love Print and Play Games - The Reasons I PNP
Chris Hansen
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Riverton
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If given the option, I would prefer to play with the green pieces, please.
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Over the past year I've found myself getting more and more involved with the PNP community here on BGG.

If I remember correctly, the first Print and Play game I built was Zombie in my Pocket. I don't remember how I first found it, but I remember reading good comments about it and being amazed that a popular game was available for free. The copy I built was pretty simple. I printed everything on cardstock with no card/tile backs and cut the components with regular scissors. I remember seeing the files for card backs thinking how ridiculous it was that anyone would go to the effort of trying to align the front and the back of the card.

Every now and then I'd happen to see another PNP game that I wanted to download but I never actively looked for PNP games specifically. The games I did make tended to be things like Sink the Bismarck or Dice of the Living Dead which were very simple with minimum amounts of construction required.

Somehow I read about the Print and Play Secret Santa in 2009 and decided to join. Nick Hayes was assigned as my target and I had a great time building his games, even though my PNP technique was incredibly amateurish.

About this time, I also read about the medical problems of Anthony DuLac's son Noah and the charity geeklist created for him. I wanted to do something to help so I created some PNP games for people who donated to Noah. This proved to be a pretty difficult task as I committed to make a lot of games that were harder to build than anything I had made before and it took me a long time to complete. (I wrote a separate geeklist about that experience.) Along the way of building all those games, I upgraded my PNP tools and learned several lessons about PNP technique. I look back on that experience as a love/hate relationship with PNP but at the end, I had become a bigger fan of Print and Play games than ever before.

This list will attempt to document my thoughts about PNP. I'm sure there are great things about the hobby that I'm forgetting so please add your comments and items to this list. Also, please see my list of things I don't love about PNP games.
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1. Board Game: Pocket Civ [Average Rating:6.66 Overall Rank:3034]
Chris Hansen
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If given the option, I would prefer to play with the green pieces, please.
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PNP games are generally free or very cheap

The fact that so many Print and Play games are free is an obvious place to start the list. Obviously, there are some exceptions to this rule (I've seen some very overpriced PDF files) but in general, PNP games can be obtained for very little money. The vast majority of them are even free. This was one of the firs things that attracted me to PNP in the first place and to be honest, it's still exciting to me. Having a baby meant that my game buying budget was slashed but of course I still have the itch for new games. PNP games allow me get fun new titles without having to raid my baby's diaper fund.

As I hope to demonstrate in this list, free/cheap PNP games most definately does not mean that the games are without value. Sometimes the games are just okay, but in many cases, the games are excellent.
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Chris Hansen
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Riverton
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Print and Players have a great community on BGG

We all know that BGG is a great online community filled with people who love all sorts of board games. However, it's important to remember that it is also comprised of several smaller sub-communities filled with people who share an interest in very specific topics that the larger BGG community may not even be aware of. These people often grow to know each other and become friendly. For example, I used to be very involved in the thrifting community and became friends with several BGG users simply through my involvement with discussing our thrift store finds. Over time, I stopped thrifting and hence, am not so involved with that specific group of people, but I still communicate with many of them and remember our interactions on the thrifting geeklists fondly.

Thankfully, the PNP community, while perhaps a bit smaller than the thirfting community is every bit as awesome. Just as the thrifters make geeklists to compare their finds, the PNPers make geeklists to share and discuss the games they've made with others. There are PNP Secret Santa Exchanges and thoia has even organized a PNP Round Robin Exchange. (The game I've chosen for this geeklist item is the game I currently have from the exchange, which, due to a very busy month at work, I am just getting around to playing now before shipping it off to the next person in the exchange.)

In the Print and Play Community I've found advice on how best to construct games, materials to use, and the best tools to use for different tasks. There are even people willing to expertly build games for you for a small price. I've found that the community is always excited to welcome new people and offer advice on what PNP games are the best places to start.
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3. Board Game: 18AL [Average Rating:7.27 Overall Rank:1837]
Chris Hansen
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Print and Play allows you to try any category of game

When I first discovered PNP games, I assumed they weren't going to be very many of them. I was, of course, incredibly wrong. There are thousands of print and play games available covering every category of games in the database. I remember researching 18xx games once and being very surprised to see that there were a couple of freely available games in that category! Now, if I'm interested in a certain type of game, I'll often search for PNP games within that category because even if I don't end up building the game, I can read the rules and learn more about it.

If you go to the advanced search page and select Print and Play from the Category menu, you can select any other category there and then search to see what is available.

Looking for Space Exploration games? There are about 30 games you can try for free! Same for Civilization and Horror Games. Abstract, Racing, Dexterity, Train, Political, and Wargames are all well represented by Print and Play games. If there's a category of games you're interested in, try searching for PNP games and I think you'll be surprised by the quality of games that you find.
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4. Board Game: Valor & Victory [Average Rating:7.73 Overall Rank:3383]
Chris Hansen
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Riverton
UT
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Print and Play allows you to try any mechanic of game

I was originally going to combine this with the entry for game categories, but the differences are big enough that I thought this warranted its own discussion.

Just like board game categories, you can try virtually any type of mechanic through PNP games. Want to know if you'll like Hex and Counter wargames but don't want to spend a lot of money on ASL without trying it first? Try building one of the smaller scenarios from Valor & Victory, Battle for Moscow (first edition), or 1st Alamein and see if that type of game suits you. If your interested in tile laying games? Try Cheese Chasers, Sneaking Mission: Solo, or Pirates & Plunder. Wargamers can try Point to Point movement, area movement, chit pull, and CDG games, and any other wargame mechanic through the print and play category.

Worker Placement, Voting, Hand Management, Route Building, Roll and Move, Auction, and many more are available. I didn't look at every single mechanic so there may be others, but the only one I noticed that had no Print and Play games available was Crayon Rail System -- get on that PNP game designers.
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5. Board Game: COD WARS: Iceland vs. Great Britain in the 1970s [Average Rating:6.50 Unranked]
Chris Hansen
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Riverton
UT
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Print and Play allows wargamers to simulate obscure battles

Wargame publishing is a tricky business. Publishing games on wars that aren't well known can be risky because there might not be enough interested buyers to cover the production costs. This means that battles that fall outside the spectrum of WWII, ACW, and the Napoleonic Era are often dealt with more frequently in wargame magazines and print and play titles.

Because PNP Wargaming is a tiny niche of an already small group on BGG, it can be hard to identify the games worth the ink and construction time as there often aren't many reviews or comments available for games. Thankfully, Desaix has compiled several excellent geeklists to help us separate the good from the bad.
Best Print & Play Historical Wargames
Average Print & Play Historical Wargames
Poor Print & Play Historical Wargames

Just on the first page of his list of the best PNP wargames, there are titles covering Vietnam, WWI, Modern Warfare, The Battle of Algiers, Ancient Rome, and The Russian Civil War (as well as the more common WWII, ACW, and Napoleonic Games.) In fact, I've learned of more battles through print and play wargames than I did through my collection of published wargames!

The game I chose for this geeklist item is Cod Wars and is a perfect example of an obscure conflict well represented through PNP. Truth be told, this (or any other game on the topic) would probably not succeed as a published game. The conflict is probably just too obscure for most people to be willing to spend money on it. I know that could have been said about me, since I had never heard of the conflict when I saw the game on BGG. However, I was still intrigued enough to download the free PDFs. So now, I've got a fun and quick wargame added to my collection and I've learned a little bit about a strange bit of history.

I've been able to acquire several games on historical topics that interest me through print and play that I'd otherwise not be able to find for an affordable price. (Those back issues of Strategy and Tactics can be pricey on eBay!)
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6. Board Game: Hot Air: Solitaire [Average Rating:6.69 Unranked]
Chris Hansen
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Riverton
UT
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Print and Play games offer a wealth of solitaire titles

I enjoy solitaire games but they can sometimes be difficult to find in published games. I own and enjoy several solitaire wargames but very few solo games of other types. I think that like wargames on obscure battles, solitaire games can be difficult to market and as a result they are not made as often as multiplayer games.

Thankfully, within the Print and Play category, you'll find enough solitaire games, to last you a lifetime. Many of these have already been discussed on this list. Pocket Civ, Free Trader, Zombie in my Pocket, Sink the Bismarck, Micropul, Silk Road Maker, Sneaking Mission: Solo, and Space Monster are all designed for solo play or have solo options. I'd say that some of these games are among the best solitaire games I've ever played.

I could list many more games, but a comprehensive list already exists on this excellent geeklist.

I've found sometimes that some people are unfortunately reluctant to play print and play games due to a perceived lack of quality. Sometimes, if you're into PNP games, it's a little easier to find players for the solo games than the multiplayer games.
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7. Board Game: Army of Darkness [Average Rating:5.60 Overall Rank:13483]
Chris Hansen
United States
Riverton
UT
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Print and Play gives new life to old out of print games

One of my favorite things about Print and Play games is that old and out of print games that would otherwise be selling for obscene amounts on eBay are sometimes made available in the Print and Play format for free or for a very low price. Up Against The Wall, Motherf*****!, Army of Darkness, most of the Dwarfstar line (Barbarian Prince, Demonlord, Star Smuggler, etc), and Black Death have all been made available by the publisher on the web.

Other old games have also been released on the web but the distributors rights to do so are perhaps questionable. Melee, Dune, Merchant of Venus, and Talisman all fall into this category. There have been many discussions on BGG about whether these games fall into some sort of abondonware classification, but the fact is that they are available and are an option if you're looking to try out an old classic. I'm certainly not going to pretend that I've never made any of them...


I remember seeing Black Death on a morbid humor geeklist once and was dismayed to see the ridiculous amounts it sold for on eBay. That's why I was thrilled to learn that the game was available as PNP with improved graphics! I'm also a big fan of the Evil Dead movies and was very pleased to see The Army of Darkness game available on the web. (It's on my list to build eventually.)

Regardless of whether you choose to make only games that have been released to the web with explicit permission or any game you can get your hands on, there are many games to choose from.
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8. Board Game: Island Trader [Average Rating:6.35 Overall Rank:9087]
Chris Hansen
United States
Riverton
UT
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Print and Play games are fun to build

Obviously, your mileage may vary on this, but many people (obviously including me) view the craft of making the games to be as enjoyable as playing the games. Generally speaking, I find making Print and Play games to be a relaxing activity. It's something I can do while watching TV, listening to music, etc. It certainly requires attention to detail, but not as much as playing a deep strategic game does.

For games that have many different sets of artwork or themes available, I enjoy looking through them and choosing the one I like the best. Strange as it may sound to some, I actually enjoy the work of gluing and cutting and I really love watching a game appear from all of the sheets of paper.

Truth be told, I've probably spent more time making PNP games than I have playing them. For example, I finished making Island Trader recently but I haven't played it yet. Thankfully I really enjoy making them or that statistic would probably make me very mad!
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9. Board Game: Dice of the Living Dead [Average Rating:6.15 Overall Rank:9315]
Chris Hansen
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Riverton
UT
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If given the option, I would prefer to play with the green pieces, please.
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Print and Play games can be FAST to build

I realize that people are going to have different definitions of the word fast and that to some people Zombie in my Pocket qualifies as a simple and quick build while to others there is an unbearable amount of cutting involved. However, there are a ton of Print and Play games for which there can be no argument since they involve nothing more than printing.

I love the games that can be played immediately after printing. Some of them are only worth one or two plays, but that's okay since you didn't waste any time in assembly. Games like Dice of the Living Dead, Delve: The Dice Game, Solo Dungeon Bash, Escape of the Dead, and Reiner Knizia's Decathlon all require nothing more that a print out to play and I've emjoyed playing each of them. Nick Hayes has compiled a terrific geeklist featuring filled with games that print on only one or two sheets.

With so many games like this, even the least crafty can try and enjoy PNP games.
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10. Board Game: Bindle Rails [Average Rating:6.21 Overall Rank:10285]
Chris Hansen
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Riverton
UT
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Print and Play games give designers an easy publication outlet

The internet has really broken down the walls between game designers and game players. While giving away your designs for free may not be a great way to make money, it is a good way to get your games played. Using Print and Play, new designers can put a game directly into players' hands. Many print and play designers have released several games without ever working with a publishing company.

Jeremiah Lee, Nick Hayes, Michael Eskue, Curt Woodard, Jack Neal, Emmanuel Aquin, and Felbrigg Herriot are all busy designers who got their start in PNP. (I know there are many many more I'm not listing here. This is just a list of people who's games I have recently played). Some of these guys have had their Print and Play games picked up by game publishers too. Zombie in my Pocket and D-Day Dice: Free Trial Version are both published versions of games that started as free Print and Play games. (It's sort of cool when this happens because you can say that you played the game before it got huge.)

But the print and play distribution method isn't just limited to new game designers. David Murray, designer of several games in the Panzer Grenadier, just released Outlaws: Adventures in the Old West as a free Print and Play game. Even Reiner Knizia has distributed several games as free PNP, including the highly rated Reiner Knizia's Decathlon.

Some game designers even make expansions to popular games available as free Print and Play games, such as Coloretto for two players, Last Night on Earth 'All Hallows Eve' Scenario, and Roll Through the Ages: The Late Bronze Age.

I love that both new and experienced designers are using Print and Play as a way to get more games out.

Edit: I forgot to mention that several major game companies also release PNP games as teasers for larger series. MMP gave away Montebello and Espinosa to promote the Napoleonic Brigade Series. GMT gave away Agincourt to promote Men of Iron. And Lock 'n Load Publishing, LLC. gives away Lock 'n Load: Forgotten Heroes – Vietnam to promote their series of games. I'm sure there are many others but those are the ones that come to mind right now.
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11. Board Game: Zombie in my Pocket [Average Rating:6.34 Overall Rank:2580]
Chris Hansen
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PNP Games inspire and encourage community creativity

When Zombie in my Pocket was first released, it looked like this:

It was the same great game that it is now, but the artwork was pretty rudimentary. (I mean no offense by that, it was still better than I could draw!)

BGG Users who liked the game and had more artistic ability redesigned the components into the masterpiece it is today:


While the most important part of a game is how well it plays, the artwork can go a long way towards the enjoyment of a game. It can also be a good indicator of the game's quality. If someone enjoys a game enough to redesign the artwork, that may indicate that others will like it too.

There are far too many examples to list them all but one of my favorite BGG User redesigned games is FNH1's Free Trader. Check out these images, which show the original artwork, linael's redesign, TGov's redesign, and Misha/Malechi's 1902 redesign. (I've made each of these with the exception of the original artwork.)


Perhaps the best example of a game with excellent user redesigns is Micropul. This game has exploded from a simple game of black and white circles, to an amazing mix of colors and themes. I've never made an official count, but there must be 30 or 40 varieties of this game available so everyone is sure to find one that appeals to them. And if you don't, you can design and submit your own for others to enjoy!
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Chris Hansen
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PNP Games Inspire and Encourage Creative Rethemes

One of my favorite aspects of Print and Play games is the ability of BGG users to quickly retheme it. If a published game is going to be rethemed (Vinci becomes Small World), it takes a long time because there are so many legalities involved. Print and Play games usually just need a quick verbal blessing from the designer to retheme.

This is a great thing because sometimes an otherwise awesome game has a theme that doesn't thrill you. (IE: you love the mechanics of Agricola, but you find farming games boring.) In the Print and Play community, many of the more popular games are available in several different themes. Let's say you find Silk Road Maker but playing a game about ancient trading routes isn't your thing. Maybe playing a game about making routes between classic machines at an arcade is more your style. The game play is exactly the same, but the theme is much more interesting to an arcade geek like me.

Possibly the best example of this is Zombie in my Pocket, which has spawned an amazing number of rethemes. Fairy Tale in my Pocket, Airborne in my Pocket, and 10,000 in my Pocket all have their own game entry and there are many more variants available in ZiMP's file section including games based on Star Wars, Wolfenstein, Aliens, Robots, and Santa Claus. Not liking zombies is no excuse to not try Zombie in my Pocket!
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Chris Hansen
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Print and Play games create new opportunities for contests and game events

The game in this entry is called RoboDerby: Express and was a winning entry in the recent One Sheet Design Contest. There is another design contest going on now. These contests gave people about a month to design a game and then another month for people to play the games and vote on the winners. (I was regrettably very busy with work and missed the deadline for voting on the One Page Design contest.)

Without Print and Play distribution, such contests would be impossible. The games can be distributed to the entire world with a click of the upload button and since the games are freely available, the contest organizers can reasonably expect people voting in the contest to build and play several games in a short amount of time.

I've seen some great games come out of these contests (including the winner of the One Page Contest, Jasper and Zot). I've even thought of organizing a Print and Play contest myself for the best solitaire game. (It would be a fun way to distribute some of my geekgold wealth and could get the community more games.)
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14. Board Game: Space Strips [Average Rating:5.91 Unranked]
Chris Hansen
United States
Riverton
UT
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If given the option, I would prefer to play with the green pieces, please.
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I have two new 9 Card Games: 300 Spartans and Franky's 1st Christmas
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Print and Play games are personalized creations

Earlier this month, I made a copy of the game Space Strips for myself. During construction I slipped with the knife and scarred one one of the pieces. It wasn't bad enough to reprint and start over so I just left the piece with the mild damage. This sort of thing happens all the time in PNP and used to really frustrate me. But now I don't worry about it much and view such minor accidents as marks of personalization. When I'm playing the game, mis-cuts, scuffing, and other marks remind me of the experience and enjoyment of building the game. They also ensure that there is no other copy exactly like mine.

Even the games that don't come out flawed are still personal. If I may toot my own horn for a moment, I think that my copy of Free Trader looks like it was professionally printed. When I play it, I am proud of the work I did on it and that's a feeling I have with all of my print and play games. There's a certain bonding you can experience with a game by making it yourself that you can't get just by punching the pieces out of their diecut sheets. The games I've made (both flawed and perfect) are uniquely my creations and are unlikely to ever be sold or traded or traded away. Even the games I didn't make, such as the games I received in the Print and Play Secret Santas, are still special to me because I know that someone else went to a huge effort to construct them for me.

Building Print and Play games is a labor of love which can even help you to forgive flaws with a game because you were part of the game's creation.
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15. Board Game: To The Last Man! [Average Rating:7.66 Overall Rank:3703]
Chris Hansen
United States
Riverton
UT
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If given the option, I would prefer to play with the green pieces, please.
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I have two new 9 Card Games: 300 Spartans and Franky's 1st Christmas
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Print and Play Games put you in control of the component quality

I forgot this item when I first put this list together but it's a big one for me. PNP games are delivered to you via PDF. How they look when assembled is entirely up to you. If you want your games to look professionally done, you can easily buy some tools and materials that will allow you to accomplish this. If you just want to play the game and don't care about things like tile thickness, you can just print on regular paper and grab some cheap scissors and glue stick for assembly. If you hate it when wargame publishers use paper maps, rest assured that the PNP wargames you make can all have mounted boards!

My copy of To The Last Man! was made by my PNP Secret Santa with the counters and tiles all beautifully mounted to wood and a mounted board. This is a game that will last me the rest of my life. On the other hand, my copy of Delve the Card Game was printed on regular paper and quickly thrown together so I could try it. (I've never really been inclined to make a nicer version.) I've made three copies of Zombie in my Pocket for myself, each with nicer components than the one before. I think my first was printed on regular paper and cut with scissors and my most recent made with thick mounted tiles and heavy stock cards.

Some PNP makers go far beyond my admittedly mediocre standards. Some are happy doing less than what I like I to do. But just as each game is personal, so is the craft of making the games. My games aren't going to look like the excellent games made by Howitzer_120mm. On the other hand, I heard once that when FNH1 makes a game to review for the Print and Play podcast he does a quick black and white print on regular paper and assembles it as quickly as possible so he can focus on the gameplay. My games are going to look a little bit better than those.

Some people love using foamcore and rotary cutters, others like X-Acto knives and lightweight cardboard (me), and others like card stock and scissors. There are tons of different tools and materials and not everyone is going to agree on which is best. For a year, I swore by paper cutters, which are not very popular among the print and play crowd, but they worked for me. A Free Trader with thick cardboard planet tiles cut with an X-Acto Knife plays just the same as a Free Trader with paper planet tiles cut with scissors so you can try lots of different things and find what works best for you.
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16. Board Game: Free Trader [Average Rating:6.18 Overall Rank:7023]
Chris Hansen
United States
Riverton
UT
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If given the option, I would prefer to play with the green pieces, please.
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I have two new 9 Card Games: 300 Spartans and Franky's 1st Christmas
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Print and Play Games are portable!

While there are definitely exceptions to this rule, most Print and Play games do not take up a lot of room. Unless you make a box yourself, PNP games are usually stored in ziplock bags. Many of the most popular games easily fit into a sandwich bag - including the rulebook (thank you pocketmod)! The photo of Free Trader shown on this geeklist item is my copy of the entire game. It fits very nicely in a ziplock bag and I can take it anywhere without taking up too much space.

There is an entire series of games with the words "in my pocket" appearing in the title! There are also lots of express versions of games that have only a few components. Agricola Express uses 13 dice, Infection Express (an adapted version of Pandemic) uses only 5 dice! I also mentioned this contest earlier in the geeklist but the one page game contest just added 34 new games to the database, all of which have very small storage requirements and are easy to transport.

I sometimes squeeze in a couple of print and play games into other game boxes when I'm going out to a game night. Other times I just fill a large gallon size ziplock with lots of small games. Sometimes if I want a lunchtime game I just stick one (as the title of the game might suggest) in my pocket.

Thanks to Tony Ackroyd (1000rpm) for giving me the idea for this item in the comments section.
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17. Board Game: King Me! The Toilet [Average Rating:6.50 Unranked] [Average Rating:6.50 Unranked]
The root of all evil ...but you can call me cookie.
United States
Gainesville
FL
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One thing I like about doing PnP Projects are all the small things I can add on to my existing games. Let's face it not all of us are going to be able to make it to every game convention across the globe. In fact I'm lucky to make it to one a year and it's only an hour and a half away from me. Still at these cons so many very cool little add-on's are handed out. Sure people sell them and what not but getting one isn't always easy. PnPing them however is a snap! A few I've done:

King Me! The Toilet
Agricola: Through the Seasons
Agricola X-Deck
Carson City: The Indian
Finca: El Razul
Thurn und Taxis: Der Kurier der Fürstin

Not to mention that there are fan made expansions for games as well. I love Zombie Puerto Rico for example...cause I mean what does PR need? Zombies! Am I right? You know I'm right.
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