What Are DIY/PnP Games?

DIY board games or as we know them, PnP (print & play) games, are those that are designed to be printed out by the players. They’ve become increasingly popular since the early 2000s and they cover a wide variety of gaming categories from simple boards of Checkers or Backgammon to complex settings for Dungeons & Dragons. The components are usually cards, boards, sheets and occasionally, 2D character figures that replace the usual miniatures. Dice may or may not be required and the rule book to playing the game is more often than not included in the components that are printed.

Some PnP games are projects that are based on ease of access and functionality. Others might serve as a beta or demo version to the full game that the designer publishes to get support on their funding campaign. Either way, a PnP game is an optimal choice if you’re looking to play something new right now (literally)!

The Benefits Of PnP Games

As mentioned above, PnPs are all about flexibility. Not only all the components of the game can be made with little or no expense, they are also pretty quick to set up and save you a ton of time. However, flexibility isn’t all about time and money.

Traditional board games mostly come with a box. Sometimes it’s heavy, sometimes it doesn’t fit in your shelf and sometimes, it serves no other purpose than containing the extras. That is not the case with PnP games. You can have your PnP on the go or print it out wherever you feel like setting it up and start playing instantly. It’s quite the upgrade over carrying heavy objects in my book!

Furthermore, PnPs are a great option for game independent designers who are in need of funding and a way to demonstrate their product. Designers can publish PnPs of their original game to show how the final version will play out before going for retail. Games that offer new ideas and/or interesting gameplay are sure to be supported because the players will be intrigued to see the game fulfil its potential.

How To Make PnP Games

Recreation of a board game is part of the fun that PnPs offer. It can be an interesting process if you have the right spirit but it’s almost always simple and straightforward. All you need is a functioning printer and a computer device and you’re ready to DIY your next table top journey!

Step 1: Plan Ahead

This should go without saying but the first thing you need to do is to create a mind map of what you are set out to achieve. Your materials, your files, your tools are may vary depending on your personal preferences, so make sure you get them all in the correct order and ready before you start printing.

Step 2: Print

This is one of the simpler steps. You just get your files in the correct order and start printing them out one by one. There are many different factors that might affect your printing process and also the printed results. Experts of printing will tell you to use premium ink and paper for the best results but the truth is that “the best ink and paper” is a concept that varies from one player to another.

I personally recommend using generic photo paper and using some type of card board to back it up, but that’s just my opinion.

Step 3: Assemble

There probably is a manual for this step provided by the game designer of each game but this step isn’t always necessary. For certain games, the assembly process might be as simple as setting up the sheets on a desk and for some others it might be more complicated.

Patience and attention will you give you optimal results but that is not specific to this step (Though, it’s probably a good code to live by.)

Step 4: Play!

Sit around the table and challenge your opponents! Your new PnP board game is ready for field testing.

What Are Some Of The Popular DIY Board Games?

1. Secret Hitler


Secret Hitler is a classic game of drama and social deduction. The players are divided into two groups: The fascists and the liberals. The fascists lead by a secret Hitler are tasked with taking over the parliament of 1930s Germany. It is playable by 5-10 people and has been published in two different versions, PnP and standard packaging. It is one of the most popular social deduction games on the market.

2. Tiny Epic Galaxies


In Tiny Epic Galaxies, 1-5 players compete for dominance over the galaxy, each controlling their own space empire and relying on their dice rolling skills. It’s a fun, immersive experience that’s neither difficult to get your hands on nor difficult to learn. It can be played in up to 30 minutes which makes it a great option for when you’re short on time.

Moreover, it can be played solo, a great choice for a quick solo journey just challenging enough to keep you invested. It’s definitely worth the price if you ask me!

3. Air, Land And Sea


Is your strategy good enough to come out of the most brutal battlefield in human history with success? Air, land and sea is the game that provides you with the opportunity to test your battle instinct as well as your strategic thinking.

Two players go face-to-face in a card battle that can last up to 20 minutes, and fight for control over at least 2 out of the 3 War Theatres. Designed by Jon Perry and published by Arcane Wonders, this game is great for players who enjoy challenging duels and having armies at the tip of their fingers.

4. Vast : The Crystal Caverns


Leder Games, the company behind Vast: The Crystal Caverns defines the game as “a classic cave crawling adventure.” However, there’s more to this game than cave crawling.

1-5 players can take the role of any of the many elements the game includes in the game. It takes no more than 90 minutes to complete a whole session and the main objective is different for each player of a unique class. You can choose to be a brave knight, a horde of greedy goblins and even a mysterious magical cave and explore the… cave? Seems about right.

5. Rolling Realms


Designer Jamey Stegmaier designed this lightweight dice rolling game in the middle and specifically for the quarantine. That’s why Rolling Realms, unlike the others on the list, can be and is played on social platforms online. The game consists of a series of mini games, 11 different realms and two D6s. The player who earns the most stars after 3 rounds is crowned winner.

Jamey Stegmaier hosts meetings online for fans of this game to come together from all parts of the globe and compete against each other or the game’s creator. Its pace is easy to follow and it’s bound to keep you entertained at times that leaving the house is not a very good choice.

6. Eight Minute Empire


As the name suggests, you have 8 minutes to build an empire and make it as strong as you can, conquering lands and organizing your cards, which represent your resources and tools. Eight Minute Empire is an interesting hyper-speed take on Exploration and Civilization genres and is strongly recommended to all fans of the two.

7. TINYforming Mars


TINYforming Mars takes place in the future, where humans have reached the borders of planet Mars and they have the means and the intent to turn Mars into their new colony. Each of the 1-2 players is attempting to terraform Mars by completing projects that fulfill at least one of Mars’ parameters for supporting life; Heat, Oxygen, and/or Water.

The game was rewarded with the Golden Geek prize for the best PnP game in 2019 and is a must-play for fans of sci-fi in the form of a card game.

8. The Quiet Year


The Quiet Year is a post-apocalyptic map game played by 2-4 players. The lore, as officially explained by the publisher begins with the following monologue: “for a long time, we were at war with The Jackals. But now, we’ve driven them off, and we have this – a year of relative peace. One quiet year, with which to build our community up and learn once again how to work together.”

This game is a creative, simple and most importantly fun experience that requires collaboration, narrative talent and illustration skills.

9. Bargain Basement Bathysphere


This game was first designed for the 2018 solitaire print-and-play contest on BGG by artist and designer, Scott Slomiany.

Bargain Basement Bathysphere takes you to an adventure in the depths of the bay, challenging the single player to assure their survival in 10-15 minutes by overcoming the challenges that are included in each one of the numerous maps. It’s easy to learn, fun to play and even easier to assemble. Just print it out and immediately jump in! The water’s just fine! (Or is it?)

Final Thoughts

PnP games serve as the cheaper, more accessible and portable alternative to the traditional board games. They’re ideal for anyone who’s interested in playing new games without having to worry about the overwhelming costs, or revisit familiar titles in a new form that’s much easier to move around. What are your favorite PnP/DIY board games? Share your ideas with us in the comments!

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