I Just Printed The Entire NISEI System Gateway At Home; Learn From My Mistakes
Print n' play is rapidly becoming a pretty enjoyable and surprisingly expensive hobby
Perhaps you, too, have watched the recent SUSD video, “Why You Should Get Into Netrunner in 2022”, and thought “I’d like to get in to Netrunner in 2022”, priced out a run of their cards, thought “whoa there”, and are now thinking “maybe I could just print off my own deck”. Maybe you glanced at that large color printer collecting dust in your home.
Yeah, it turns out if you have a printer you can do this much more cheaply on your own - and NISEI helpfully publishes pre-packaged print-and-play PDFs to peruse.
I can help! I have a handful of hot tips!
First of all:
The proper way to make a nice playing card at home is a topic of much debate on the Print n’ Play forums at BGG, where the process seems to involve some dark alchemy involving sandwiching a nice thick cardstock between two sheets of printed glossy paper with spray on adhesive, cutting the cards, using a special rounded corner tool to get those nice edges, and applying a card lacquer as the final step to protect and seal the cards and give them a nice glossy smoothness for good card feel.
I am nowhere near this dedicated. My technique is something much dumber and almost infinitely faster: thin glossy inkjet paper in an opaque card sleeve, with a playing card behind it to give it some weight and snap. This is a technique so foolproof that an idiot, a child, heck, even I could do it.
Printing out the full System Gateway takes 26 pages of glossy inkjet paper.
Printing Lessons Based on Stupid Mistakes I’ve Actually Made:
(on this project and others)
A lot of cardstock, if you try to print sharp colors or photo-quality images on it, you’re going to end up with a muddy, washed out mess as the ink sinks into the cardstock’s rich nooks and crannies where it forms itself into a grey-brownish muck. You don’t want this for your cards. Nobody wants this. Glossy paper is for crisp prints. Rough cardstock is for mistakes.
Inkjet printers either have pigment or dye based inks, and if you don’t get the right kind of glossy paper for that ink, then the ink literally will not adhere to the paper and that ends up looking extremely bad.
Everything in North America is Letter, not A4. The print files are sized such that scaling should not be necessary at all.
If you don’t have a home printer capable of spitting out the kind of glossy nice quality you want for cards, most print shops, Kinkos’, or Staples-s will print 26 nice glossy color pages for you for … about a buck a page.
I do have a really nice printer, though. I managed to save $30 on print fees by spending hundreds of dollars on a printer. That’s economics for you, baby!
Cards and Sleeves: You Need 'Em
Once you’ve got your print ready, you can proceed with exactly four decks of standard playing cards: there are at least 14 cards in the set you don’t need to sleeve (blanks and “welcome/good bye” cards), more if you don’t want to sleeve the rules-for-draw-and-stud-netrunner - so, printing every one of the 21X unique cards would take just under 4x55 card decks (52+2 jokers+rules).
Don’t buy the cheapest sleeves you can get your hands on, or clear sleeves, that’s not going to be a good idea. I have some dirt-cheap sleeves I used for an earlier print-and-play project and they just feel terrible to play with.
Okay, now you have 26 pages of cards, 4 decks of playing cards, and 300 sleeves (if you buy 200 you’re going to have to make some ugly decisions). All you need to do is carefully cut out all of these cards. It’s time to sit with a podcast and be very patient and quiet for a couple of hours.
Wait, Am I Actually Saving Money, Here?
If you’re following the budget here at home, at $30 for the print, three packs of $10 sleeves, and four packs of dollar store ($2.50) playing cards, you’re in it for $70. This is still fairly exorbitant, but we’re comparing against $75+$25 S&H for MakePlayingCards, so so long as we regard our time as worthless (and boy do I ever) we’re coming out slightly ahead.
Not terribly useful lessons I’ve learned about cutting:
Machines like the Cricut or Silhouette are going to seem like a magic bullet for tasks like this, but actually they are very frustrating: their registration is always a LITTLE OFF, if their blade catches they can easily mulch an entire page (and inkjet ink isn’t cheap, that’s like 50 cents worth of paper they just chewed up), and ultimately setting up cut runs takes quite a bit of time.
A nice paper guillotine will make short work of a big card cutting project like this, although: these cards in particular are printed 9-to-a-page, giving you almost no margin for error: you have to do the pages one at a time and be very, very precise about lining up your cuts. Great if you have access to a good guillotine.
A big cutting surface, an x-acto knife, and a metal ruler does a good job and produces very precise results.
Ultimately what felt most satisfying and meditative was just sitting with a pair of regular craft scissors and cutting these by hand.
Anyways, once you’ve cut, carded, and sleeved your deck, you’re good to go.
Now on to the even more difficult stage two: attempting to convince your wife to play Netrunner with you.
Oh, I used this same technique to print out my Attack & Dethrone cards. I guess I haven’t written a blog post about that, yet. I definitely should, it’s also an interesting thing that I worked on recently.