Putting a Game Together

November 1996, by Bruce Biskup

Putting a Game Together

It’s Christmas time (actually Thanksgiving when I wrote this) and after Christmas comes the New Year and that means Resolutions. I normally do not make resolutions since I tend to forget them anyway. However, I am making a resolution right now. I, Bruce Biskup, hereby resolve to write this column in a timely manner, delivering a new commentary every month. Well, there it is. Feel free to harass me with email when I fail to keep this resolution. Now, on to the discussion.

Putting a new game together can be a difficult process. Especially when you have chosen the Internet as the medium to deliver the product across. Joshua and I choose to use the Internet due to the low publishing cost involved. We have no money so keeping costs low is a high priority. However, by going low cost, our customers must perform some work in order to play our games. This may include printing the pieces on heavy paper or mounting sheets on cardboard and then cutting them out. My purpose in this article is to describe some of the methods that we employ to mount playing pieces or make the paper copies playable.

The easiest playing pieces to make are the playing cards. The Way, Barons of Fyn, and Tiles are all examples of games created by BoneGames that are designed to be played as playing cards. The method that we use to create these cards is to copy the playing sheets to cardstock paper at a local copy store. Normal card stock paper works best and is inexpensive. The paper should be somewhat stiff since you will be handling the cards often. Thick paper should not be used since it will be difficult to cut. It is not necessary to laminate the cards but the lamination will keep the cards useable for a longer time. The goal of the playing cards is to have an opaque background so that the face of the card is not visible from the reverse side. The major difficulty here is getting the copy company to actually print the cards. I have had several instances with a local company where the clerk would not copy my counter sheets since the sheets had a copyright symbol on them. In one instance, I even had to speak to the store manager and show him my driver’s license to prove that I was the owner of the copyright. If you are making copies of our games make sure you carry the complete game with you. We print a licensing agreement on the last page of each of our games that is part of your use of our products. The license states what permissions that we at BoneGames give to our customers in regards to copying our games. If you have problems getting a copy company to make copies of our games then show the manager the license provided with the game. If the manager still refuses to copy our games, find another copy store to deal with.

The hardest playing pieces to construct are the counters. Several methods can be used to put the game together. The best approach will depend upon how much money and time you want to spend to put one of our games together and what equipment you have available to do this with. If all you have are a pair of scissors and a limited amount of money then you must take the low budget route. Essentially, all you need to do is copy the pieces to cardstock or plain/colored bond paper (photocopier or printer paper) and cut the pieces out. This also tends to be the fastest method. The problem with using playing pieces made from paper is that the counters will be hard to pick up and will not be very durable. A more durable method is to copy the sheets to cardstock just as with the playing cards. The counters will be more durable but will be just as hard to pick up as just plain paper pieces.

The most attractive (counter wise) option when creating counters is to mount the sheets to cardboard. This is the most time consuming and expensive option but will yield the best results if care is taken. I use plain paper sheets mounted to cardboard. Initially, I copied the counter sheets to card stock paper and then mounted the cardstock to cardboard. Unfortunately, the resulting sheet is difficult to cut due to the thickness of the combined layers. I purchased a paper cutter to help cut these sheets. Eventually I discovered that copying the sheets to colored paper and then mounting the sheets to thin cardboard works better, is cheaper, and easier to cut. The cardboard I use is scraps from picture frame shops that usually can be purchased at a lower cost than large cardboard sheets. The scraps also tend to come in more convenient sizes than large cardboard sheets. Be sure to choose relatively thin cardboard since you will have to cut the pieces out somehow.

Mounting the paper to the cardboard can be difficult depending on the type of glue you use. Most craft glues are water based and will stretch the paper when the sheets are mounted. This is not much of a problem for single sided counters but can lead to disaster for double sided counters. The paper may stretch in different directions and different lengths which makes aligning the two sides difficult. The best glues to use are the rubber cements. Such glues are toxic and should not be used by children without supervision. Rubber cement will not stretch the paper. You need to work with small areas since rubber cement tends to dry fast. I try to create the counter sheets in small block specifically to facilitate the mounting of the sheets to cardboard. Allow the glue to thoroughly dry since handling the sheets before they are dry may shift the paper.

The last step is cutting out the counters. Good quality scissors are very helpful. If you have to cut out all of the counters with a pair of scissors then take some time. It will be hard on the hands to cut through a large number of cardboard sheets. If all you have is scissors, then consider not mounting the counters to cardboard and use cardstock paper instead. I purchased a small paper cutter since I cut out quite a large number of counter sheets when I am developing a game. However, many copy stores have a paper cutter that can be used by the customers. Since a paper cutter is a large knife, it should not be used by children without supervision. A sharp craft knife can also be used but is dangerous. If you are using a knife, cut on a cutting board. Score a straight, shallow line first and then slowly deepen the cut until the paper is cut clean through.

Well this is it for now. Joshua and I are still working on three new ideas that we hope to have in beta soon. Our current crop of beta games has gone back into revision. Like normal, our real jobs have both of us busy with little time for our games. Keep the comments coming and remember to pester me to keep writing more of these Ramblings.