I love print and play games. The world it opens up is huge! Way more impressive than you may think. And a whole sub-culture of board gaming. What you can create with just a few simple tools will amaze you.
I spoke with a few people within the industry to learn a little more.
Tovarich has been designing games since a child! It was a joy to talk with him about this beautiful world.
First up could you talk a bit about your background in designing games?
Although I have no memory of this, my parents claim that I was designing games as far back as when I could first hold a crayon, as I made my own cards to insert into the family copy of CandyLand. I’ve been a kit basher, making unofficial expansions for games that I love, pretty much forever. Most notably I was part of a group of rabid fans for the cult classic Star Wars Epic Duels, which was really where I sort of honed my skill as a designer, getting experience with playtesting and iteration. After doing that for years, I suddenly asked myself why I hadn’t been doing any work on my OWN games, and the family card game Spy Guys (now sadly out of print) was the result. I’ve also dabbled a bit here and there, most recently creating additional cards for the fan-made Star Wars retheme of Marvel Legendary.
Awesome! What got you into the hobby as a player
I literally don’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t playing games. I would play such “classics” as Monopoly and Clue with anyone who would sit still long enough, slowly working my way up to more complex fair. I was paying Car Wars and BattleTech before I left middle school, and it just kept going from there.
What are your thoughts on how PnP can help bring new games to new players and how it affects the industry financially?
Print and play isn’t actually cheaper for the consumer, in many cases. I mean if you just want to print of a couple custom cards to throw into sleeves to expand a favorite game that’s one thing, but to produce a professional looking, sturdy copy of a game that will stand up to many plays takes time, effort, and more than a bit of specialized equipment. It’s a fun hobby but it’s got a learning curve like any other, and in the long run it’s far from free - you’re just spreading the cost out as you go instead of paying all at once, like you would with a commercial game. Now with that said - I’ve been somewhat astonished by the reaction of the game publisher community to the pandemic and lockdown the world is currently facing. Over 100 games or expansions have been released by publishers as print and play files in light of the catastrophe, and I don’t really think there’s a precedent for that in the history of the industry. I’m really curious to see the long term ramifications this has on gamer behavior. As far as income is concerned...let’s be honest. There are maybe 6 people in the world who are able to make a living JUST as a game designer. No one does this just for money. I don’t even think my royalties on Spy Guys covered the cost of producing the prototypes. Ultimately I make the games and expansions that I want to play, and hope other people want to play them to. Granted I’ve got a pretty good day job, but at the end of the day I’m not in this for the money.
How do you feel when people have made one if your games at home?
All of the confirmed printings that I’ve had are of things that I’ve specifically built as a part of a community response to expand a favorite game, which makes it feel really personally good. Partly because it’s affirmation that I was able to tap into and expand the original zeitgeist of the game that brought us together, and partly because I consider game design to be art, and the greatest enemy of art isn’t lack of quality - the greatest enemy of art is obscurity. To be played and hated is still better than to not be played at all.
Wise words! What do you see in the future. What’s next for you? #
I’m at something of a crossroads just at the moment. I developed a sequel to Spy Guys that I’m pretty happy with, but I just did a major interstate move, and just when I was about to gear up to start pitching it, covid-19 happened. I’m actually considering releasing it print and play, but I’d need to find a graphic designer to help me get everything ship shape first - I’m a designer, not a publisher, and I don’t have those skills. I also need to find a new community to bounce ideas off and playtest with.
If you could have any other game not made by you in your rosta of designed games what would it be and why?
It’s a card game called The Agents, that I received blind in a math trade at a convention and absolutely fell in love with. Every Agent card you play in the Agents will give you either an ability or a scoring opportunity - and give one of your opponents whichever half you don’t take, but you then have a secret hand of Missions that might allow you to score big bonuses based on the board position, which would allow you to capitalize on giving your opponent a seeming advantage. It’s an incredibly tense design and I’ve never seen anything quite like it.
Which other designer would you most like to have a games night with and why?
There's a great group of designers in the LA area that I spent almost a decade hanging out and testing games with. I'd love, LOVE to be able to round them all up for a game day, if for no other reason than the diverse personalities in play would mean a lot of different KIND of games to play! :) From an admiration standpoint, there's really no one designer I consider to be a mentor or guru - I find something to love about the design of every game I like, and I'm very eclectic about who I steal from...I mean, from whom I take inspiration. :)
Thanks Tovarich. There are some amaizng facebook groups for PnP, and I will be featuring more information about this world on this blog over the coming months.