Paper vs Dry-erase?

  • Paper vs Dry-erase?

  • Matt Stow

    June 2, 2021 at 5:29 am

    I’m really not a fan of games which use paper (whether that’s for the game board, the score board or anything else). I don’t feel like a game should ever “run out” of components.

    What do others think? When is paper and pencil/pen appropriate compared to a dry-erase board and markers? What are the differences in manufacturing cost?

  • CK Leach

    June 2, 2021 at 7:42 am

    Excuse the long reply, but I totally get where you’re coming from. There are probably 2 huge reasons why it’s used in a lot of games that require repetitive tracking/scoring. Coming from the dealing with costs and vendors directly in the past and also having a card game with a stylized paper tracking component, I’ve broken it down to two things; cost and consumable.

    As you mentioned, the manufacturing costs involved is probably the number one reason. There are many ways to track game stats and scores, and I’m not just referring to older games, but newer games as well. One could create different ways to track score with components, but RPGs and tabletop sim on the whole require a card and coins/chits/block or custom counters to be produced. It’s inexpensive to to go paper versus custom counters. This, as minor as it may seem, can run up the cost per unit. I’ve dealt with some vendors back in the day and it does add up. Designers can keep the pencil/paper feature out of their games all together but that margin is minuscule compared to custom tracker vs. paper tracker. I say if the costs mattered that much to the designer, just inform the gamer to use their own stuff. Lots of games do that too. I’m sure we all have paper and something to write with kicking around to keep score. Heck. We all have cellphones to do the same thing. Paper and whiteboards not necessary.

    The other condition I see is revenue on consumables. They are usually seen as a replenishable asset. This is a way for a company to make a little bit of money and the gamer keep the original experience recorded in the intended format. Yatzee and Scrabble are prime examples of this. Respectively, I see this more so in commercial games than indie productions or small game production. It helps keep a very tiny recurring revenue for the publisher. Now, that being said it’s probably the least thing to be concerned about. There were and are games that use coated boards/scorecards for dry erase that are built in now, and have been since the 80s. I have a couple old board games that had wipe down boards instead of paper sheets.

    At the end of the day it’s a personal preference. I don’t feel a ways about having a paper record of my game play or stats if it means recording my experience on something I can keep. Also, if the scorecard is formatting for organizing and tracking stats and tracking and can be customized by the player (ei: DnD and other sims), then I would have sheets over whiteboard. General tracking of position, order, or numbers to tally at the end of the game should more than likely be done on a renewable surface. Your opinion is valid, but at the end of the day it’s a player to player thing.

  • Nathan Harding

    June 2, 2021 at 4:44 pm

    Hey Matt,

    I am continually considering this point in my game design journey. In my personal experience it has come down to the tactile feel of pencil and paper over dry-erase and my design itself.

    I certainly prefer the “feel” of pencil and paper over the “mess” (as I see it) of dry-erase, but I struggle with justifying that as an eco-friendly type of guy.

    As I’ve moved forward on refining my own game, I’m looking to implement a small legacy or level-up mechanic that carries over from each game. This has worked better when having a permanent paper copy of the previous playthrough for reference.

    Having not begun to address any manufacturing implications, I’m hoping (dreaming?) of ensuring I provide recycled paper game pads and environmentally friendly (small box) packaging…

    Cheers! 👍🏻

  • Tim Gee

    June 4, 2021 at 5:20 am

    Depends on the application and the dexterity of writing required. I find writing words with dry-erase very difficult, but great for marking boxes.

    There is also the annoyance of when people leave lids off markers or don’t clean their boards and it dries on. But I am on board with the environmental issues, but does the use of multiuse plastic stack up against recycling paper?

    Also, we once framed Pictionary pictures that were particularly memorable. It can be nice seeing open the box and getting flashbacks of previous games.

    • CK Leach

      June 4, 2021 at 10:57 am

      Agreed. Depends on the application. And to Nathan’s point about feel, it also must be considered. Considering all paper pads with their chipboard backing and perfect bind style glue are recyclable, keeping eco-friendly is a no brainer. It does, however, come down to additional costs if you’re looking at pinching pennies. Are you providing the dry-erase or paper as part of manufacturing, or just suggest it in the rulebook and trust the player(s) to acquire their own scribing materials? Something to consider.

      Also, the amount of writing involved must be noted. DnD would never fit on a dry erase letter sized board, at least the way I’ve been tracking our game plays. I would need a whole 11×17 board at lease for that. Other simpler games could work, like Yatzee or Scrabble. It’s all in the purpose and presentation I guess. Keeping receipts of past games played in a box and finding them a decade+ later is pretty damn cool. That nostalgia factor gives me the feels. A little bit of history tucked away for future generations or new owners. To each their own.

  • Matt Stow

    June 5, 2021 at 5:31 am

    Appreciate all the thoughtful replies here. It seems I am possibly a bit blunt/naive in my dislike for paper & pen 🙂

  • Maarten van Schaik

    June 8, 2021 at 1:05 pm

    I would personally always favour pen and paper over dry-erase, for the simple fact I’m left-handed. Games requiring a fair amount of drawing or writing would result is a big blurry mess.

    It’s a great way to cover up earlier bad moves, though 😉

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