On with the show...
You may remember earlier in the year I made a small game for a 24 Hour contest, which was about cracking eggs (in the form of cards) on your head and trying to not get covered with rotten eggs. It was, and still is, a dumb game, but one that usually results in some good laughs when it is played. For reasons of my own, I had a need for a small game with a Shakespearean theme, that I could give away to friends, so my brain started thinking about a newly retitled "Egge on Thine Face".
While I was pondering this, Cathryn Orchard, an artist friend, posted some pictures on Facebook which looked very close to a style that I thought would work well for the game. A conversation was had, an art direction document was written, a price was agreed, and in a short while, Cathryn sent me photos of her nearly-done-works-in-progress, showing that she had absolutely nailed the art brief. Not long afterwards, she sent me the good scans of the work, making me a very happy customer.
|The card back, which is even more on the money than I imagined.|
As for the backgrounds, I figured using some textured paper effect would be nice, maybe with a darkish one for the card backs and a lighter one for the front. Some searching the web led me to someone who had shared a selection of paper textures via DeviantArt under the terms "FREE USE :) JUST DONT CLAIM THESE AS YOURS :)", which is not exactly a clear Creative Commons license, but I figured would be fine as long as I give appropriate credit in the rules -- and here!
My original version of this game had cards with the simplest possible fonts for the limited card text, but going with my Shakespearean reskinning effort, I wanted to use a more "authentic" looking typeface. Again, some searching the web found JSL Ancient, a free-to-use typeface based on fonts used by C17th English printers, and very much typical of the period a century either way of that time, so perfect for my use.
So, pulling it all together... As you may know, I make extensive use of a piece of software called nanDECK, which is a tool designed to help you create custom game cards. I already had a script to create the cards for the original version of the game, which just needed small tweaks to account for the new typeface, art and background textures.
My usual method for using nanDECK involves building decks of cards, nine to an A4 sheet, which can then be printed out and cut, with the minor issue (if you want a professional finish) of there being lines on the edges of the cards, depending on how you go about cutting them up. This is not a problem for my prototypes, and not for most people who make print and play games.
I was intending to get these cards printed at UK-based print-on-demand service, Ivory Graphics, who require printable artwork to be provided as PDF files, with a 3mm bleed. What this means is that the art I provide needs to have an additional 3mm all around the intended card faces so that if the cards are cut slightly off-centre, they will still look okay. This was easily done by tweaking some numbers in my nanDECK script and setting the PDF pace size I would output to match the size of the art the printer required.
Now we get a bit technical. As with most (probably all, actually) printers, Ivory they require files to be submitted using the CMYK colourspace as opposed to the RGB used by the free tools I have available to me. In case you didn't know, these are basically two different ways for a computer image file to define colours, with CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, blacK) being optimised for print, while RGB (Red, Green, Blue) based on how screens work. If a printer is expecting one of these and gets the other, the results can be... Actually, I have no idea what the results are, but I hear they are less than ideal.
Here is a point where my lack of training and experience in printing and graphic design really shows. It turns out that in order to convert your files to CMYK you need something called an ICC color profile, and researching that a bit resulted in a lot of confusion for me. This is on my list of things I really need to learn about, but in the shorter term I did manage to find an incantation for GhostScript that I could use on my Linux PC...
gs -dSAFER -dBATCH -dNOPAUSE -dNOCACHE -sDEVICE=pdfwrite \
-sColorConversionStrategy=CMYK -dProcessColorModel=/DeviceCMYK \
If you are not used to Unix or Linux command lines, that command above is probably terrifying to look at, but it follows a style that is very familiar to most other command line tools, and when you get used to that sort of thing, there are all sorts of useful shenanigans you can get up to, without having to click around menus and dialogue windows.
I have used this particular command before, and it gave a result that produced the results I wanted with the printer on a previous project, so it is, for the moment, a voodoo spell that produces an effect I need without any understanding on my part about what is going on under the bonnet.
Being a little paranoid, though, I had to wonder if this actually did anything tangible, so I found another incantation that I could use to provide some evidence...
|Either gobbledigook, or interesting stuff, depending on your point of view.|
(Probably much like this blog in general.)
Right, logging into the Ivory Game Maker website, I was able to upload my PDF file and then twiddle things around until the cards were arranged with the fronts and backs that I wanted. If I had spent a little time with nanDECK, formatting my file to alternate card fronts and backs, this would have been a lot quicker (well, automatic, I think) but it wasn't too bad a process. I set the project up to be six copies of the game in one deck (of 54 cards) for convenience, checked the digital proofs, and then submitted an order for the first set, just checking that everything worked, before ordering a bigger batch later.
As an aside, I have so far ordered four of these 54 card packs, and two of them came with the card backs visibly imperfectly centred. This is one of those things that can, unfortunately, happen, and is the reason for that 3mm bleed allowance. Something I learned from this, however, is that the border on the card back art made this imperfection a lot more obvious. I really like the framing of that border, and I think it looks great on the "good" cards, but it is a thing to bear in mind if I ever do another project like this.
Next I needed a rulebook, preferably a small one. I rewrote my original The Yolk's on You rules, simplifying a bit, and cutting out a lot of cruft, then fed all that into the DTP package, Scribus, which I have used a couple of times before, but don't have a lot of experience with. After a bit of poking around, I managed to get the rules formatted so that I could trim the page to an appropriate size, then fold it a couple of times to be a little larger than the game cards, so I could fit the whole thing into a gripseal baggie.
I printed a load of these onto some paper that came pre-printed with an aged texture, the sort of paper you buy to print invitations to a pirate themed party, or something. Unfortunately the colour of this paper doesn't quite match that of the texture I used for the card backs, which would have been ideal, but doing it this way is saving me a lot of printer toner.
And so, all the above, combined with a bunch of heavy duty 2.5" by 3.5" gripseal bags (350 micron plastic, which was so worth the slightly increased outlay), meant that I could assemble a pile of the games in a state ready to be given away.
|Some cards, some more cards, and a baggie containing cards and rules. Yay!|
Overall, I'm very pleased with this whole project and how it turned out. The game itself is very basic, and the presentation is rudimentary, but it is what I wanted it to be. I will probably make a few more sets of it, but when the limited supply of paper for the rulesheets is gone, I reckon that'll be it. But the print and play materials are available on the game's page on Board Game Geek, so if anyone fancies doing some printing and cutting, go for it!