Who Makes Our Prototypes and Preview Copies?

Countdown: 32 days. I mailed out preview copies today. It’s always a pleasure to work with Andrew Tullsen at Print & Play Productions to make these.

I mailed the first eight preview copies today, and I have more components on the way to send out more next week. (I wrote about the importance of third-party reviews during the Lanterns campaign: link.) Most of my campaign preparation efforts over the last two weeks (outside of playtesting) have been spent getting artwork updated, orders placed, cubes sorted, and addresses collected so that those could go out.

I have been using Print & Play Productions to make prototypes and preview copies for two years now, and I have been so happy working with the owner Andrew Tullsen. You probably don’t need his service in the early stages of prototyping when you are still trying to get a game to work. But his services are great once you have something ready for some rigorous testing or to pitch to a publisher or to send to reviewers in advance of a Kickstarter campaign.

  1. Components (Standard Parts, Cardboard Tokens and Tiles, Cards)
  2. Quick Turnaround Time
  3. Personal, Individual Service

1. COMPONENTS

— Standard Parts

Andrew has lots of different parts: cubes, meeples, standard dice, custom dice with stickers, and so much more. Even when a final game will have custom pieces, these standard pieces will almost always suffice for preview copies. (I love to use bingo chips when possible; they are very inexpensive as counters.)

— Tokens and Tiles

Wide Selection

Andrew has the widest range of printed cardboard shapes and sizes I have seen, from small 0.63″ squares tokens to 2.2″ hexagon tiles and 4.75″ square tiles. I first discovered Andrew after my Relic Expedition campaign but before rewards were delivered to backers, and I needed a prototype made with final art to demo at conventions. He had sizes that roughly fit everything I needed. (My final tiles jungle were a little smaller than Andrew’s, but they were close enough for a demo copy.)

Cardboard components from Print and Play Productions.

Demo copy of Relic Expedition. Cardboard components were produced from Print & Play Productions. (Wooden components were final production samples from Panda Manufacturing.)

Custom Shapes and Sizes

When I started working on Lanterns, I decided the best component for the lake tiles would be square tiles with 2.33″ sides. I was concerned about the tile artwork looking beautiful and also being functional, so I wanted to thoroughly test them on real cardboard tiles in the right dimensions. Andrew did not have that size available, but he worked with me to create a custom die.

He offered me a discount on the die if I made it available to other people, which means anyone can now order Lanterns-sized 2.33″ square tiles for their prototypes. Now I understand why he has such a wide selection: people have worked with him to create the custom shapes and sizes they needed, and the pool of available shapes and sizes has subsequently grown.

Sheet of twelve 2.33

Sheet of twelve 2.33″ tiles

Cardstock

He can also print all these cardboard tiles and counters on card stock. This can be significantly cheaper, and it may be appropriate for your game. I created a lot of preview copies of Lanterns, and most of them were on cardstock. I had some copies made of cardboard for demoing and testing the overall product experience, but the cardstock copies were enough to give previewers a sense of the game play and the artwork.

Cardstock tiles (Photo Credit: League of Nonsensical Gamers)

Cardstock tiles (Photo Credit: League of Nonsensical Gamers; source)

— Cards

Andrew has cards in common sizes: Poker, Bridge, Mini, and a few others. The cards are really good for prototypes and preview copies. (I should mention here that I would not consider them production quality. If the only component in your prototype is cards and you are not in a rush to get them, DriveThruCards may be a better option.) I have included cards in our preview copies for Lanterns and for World’s Fair, and they have always turned out great.

cards

2. QUICK TURNAROUND

Andrew has always had a fast turnaround, but recently he has outdone himself by adding a “48-Hour Guarantee.” I can put together my order over the weekend and place it by Sunday, it will ship by Wednesday and arrive at my house on Friday or Saturday. Knowing that I can count on this turnaround has been great as I prepare for the World’s Fair 1893 Kickstarter campaign.

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3. PERSONAL, INDIVIDUAL SERVICE

It’s hard to put into words how great the service is. It’s not just about being friendly and including candy in every order — though he does those things. Andrew will always work with me to find the best solution for my needs. When I start a new project, I have a lot of confidence that it will work out. Here are some examples:

  • I mentioned the custom die for the Lanterns tiles above; being able to test the tile artwork and ergonomics of the game with tiles that were the proper size was invaluable.
  • If Andrew and I are both going to a convention, he’ll print components just a few days before and hand-deliver them to me. That gives me time for last-minute changes.
  • With Lanterns, I had Andrew make 12 extra preview copies and hold them before the Kickstarter campaign. When people reached out to me, Andrew mailed them directly to the reviewers for me.
  • The World’s Fair 1893 board is modular with curved pieces. We talked about making a custom die, but it wasn’t something others would want and I wasn’t going to make enough of them to make it worth it. We’ve done two different things:
    • Andrew has custom-cut triangular cardboard tiles (all straight lines) that work well enough. (Those were the tiles I had at Gen Con.)
    • Andrew has printed the curved pieces on card stock, and I have cut them out with scissors. (These are the pieces included in the preview copies.)
Modular board pieces for World's Fair 1893

Modular board pieces for World’s Fair 1893

Since finding Andrew at Print & Play Productions, everything has been great. (During preparations for my Relic Expedition campaign, I tried a number of different services that didn’t really work out like I had hoped.) I’m curious to hear from other people about your experiences: Have you used Print & Play Productions or other prototype and print-on-demand suppliers? What other tips and tricks have you found for creating nice prototypes and preview copies?

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