Thursday 21 March 2024

Self printing home brew rules

I recently bought a PDF download supplement for some commercial rules and had them printed by an internet Print on Demand service (POD) and was surprised both by the commercial quality of the product and the accessible price.

This got me to thinking about having a single copy of my own ACW rules printed, so that at the very least, I would have a rather nice looking ‘proper’ rulebook to play from.

Up until now, I have kept my rules in one of those presentation files that has clear plastic sleeves that you slip the individual pages into. During play, if I need to make notes, I pull the sheets out and write on them and then every now and then, I do a complete re-read, edit and re-print and so it goes on while things get fine tuned, changed and then changed again!

The rules are now at a stage of being quite tight and certainly a lot of hours have gone into them. That is not to say they are good rules or that they model the subject well, but simply that I like them - obviously!

They have always had some colour artwork in them (maps and photo’s), but on the most recent edit, and to get ready for a PoD copy, I decided to take some better pictures.

This is not an aim for a final version, they still need continued playtesting and will have update and edit notes written in them (as painful as writing in / defacing a proper book will be!), but perhaps at this stage, the red ink does not need to flow as freely as was once the case!

I had designed a front cover, but had trouble inserting it without all of my tables and photographs slipping around (since getting my printed copy, this has now been fixed so will appear in my next printing).

The rules have been a living document in the ‘Pages’ app on the iPad for some years. I exported the file as a PDF and then uploaded it to a POD company. I used

This PoD company makes uploading and buying really easy to do and there are a number of presentation configurations to choose from. You click the ‘Calculate’ button when you have listed what you want and get an instant quote. You can then go back in and change things and get another quote. This can be done as often as you like.

What I found interesting was my first selection gave a cost of £14.60 for a single unit.

I then tweaked a few things, mainly getting rid of saddle stitch and 120gm paper and the cost dropped to £10.64 (post free over £10).

Then I changed the print volume to 20 copies and this basically dropped the price to just over £5 per copy. My thinking is that once the rules are finalised, I might get a small print run done and this would make the items cheap enough to either gift and / or make a ‘not for profit’ charge.

This would essentially allow me to present the rules the way I want, with a goodly number of colour photos and maps etc, without someone asking can I create a ‘print friendly’ version etc. 

I know there are good social arguments for doing that, but I have spent a lot of time on these rules and it seems reasonable that I should expect the final presentation to fit with my vision of how it should all look.

It would also allow me to put on a presentation game at a show that are supported by some cheap rules for anyone particularly wanting a closer look - something that might have to be negotiated with show hosts of course and be something that the traders are happy with.

So, what did I get for my £10.64

A4 Wire Bound (cheaper than saddle stitch and more practical to using at the table - the above photo shows the rules folded to one of the Quick reference pages).

A 40 page document

80gm paper (the next option is 120gm, which is somewhat overkill, I wish there was an option between the two, say 100gm, but having ordered from them before, I knew 80gm is fine even for colour).

Double sides (so the booklet has 20 sheets, each printed front and back).

Full Colour (you only get two options, colour and B&W, so even though several pages are just text, if you want any colour, then it is the full colour option).

Front and Back on card (you can opt out of this, but it does protect the publication).

Note … Protective Covers (you can have additional protection, such as a clear plastic cover, but I did not take this option).

This doesn’t deal with the play aids, which I can do myself separately - though the three pages used for play aids are also in the rule book and the wire binding makes them easy to keep at hand.

The booklet has arrived and I am pleased with the production. Any failings are down to my non-professionalised approach to rule lay-out and presentation etc.

Since getting this, I have included a front cover in my text file. As the number of pages in the book must be divisible by 4, the cover puts me at 41 pages, so I have had to create another 3 pages. One is taken up by an inside front cover and the other two are at the rear of the book with a detailed example of play that I am working on.

At a recent wargame show, I picked up a napoleonic scenario book on the Leipzig campaign by Steve Shann. It is rather glorious and gave me some ideas on how to improve the presentation of my own rules.

His paper weight is clearly heavy and that seems to give sharper photos, so for my next printing, I will have a go at the 120gm paper. 

He also does all of the order of battles for each scenario on coloured backgrounds. It looks lovely …. but I also quite like the clinical and clean look of my black and white orders of battle, so I have decided to add what is best described as spot colour, with all headings done in the appropriate army colour, but keep it down at the pastel end of the vibrancy spectrum.

The photographs have all been given a shadow cast to lift them a bit.

I am tempted to re-order now, but it makes more sense to play a few more games to see whether the body of rules need changes and then do it, plus some more presentation tinkering is a certainty as I explore the idea more.

Anyway, I am only putting this post up simply because I know a ton of gamers have their own rules or adaptions knocking around somewhere and that formalising them into a coherent and nicely presented format might just be a fun aspect to pursue and you may feel that this sort of price is an acceptable deduction from your wargaming budget.

I am happy enough with this to now be looking at some of my other rules sets for similar treatment and of course the Chronicles of Piggy Longton might beg for a spot in the limelight and given the ‘brochure’ look :-)

Resource Section.

My sister webspace ‘COMMANDERS’  showcases the various figure and boardgame systems that I am enjoying and gives a flavour of where current projects are up to. Link.