12/19/2014

Frugal GM Review: Inked Adventures Blocks

Frugal GM Review: Inked Adventures Blocks
These last few weeks I've easily dwindled down any DriveThruRPG credit I had on purchasing a ton of new products. While not intended for review, I'm sure I'll review most of it eventually.

This week I decided to work on the new Inked Adventures Blocks set. I'm lucky in that the creator, Billiam Babble, and I have a friendly exchange of emails and he's pretty much offered me any his stuff I want for free. Well, I'm Frugal, not cheap, so I try to pay for things I want to use and play with. Things I get just for review (hint, hint), feel free to send my way.

The idea of these block is to be able to just print them out at home, cut them out & assemble, and you're good to go. When I first opened the product my first reaction was, "Oh hell no I'm not printing these things up!" Most everything is in a grey-scale and the bottoms of all the blocks is solid black. All I could think about was my printer churning through an expensive toner cartridge. Ok, maybe I am also cheap.....

I reached out to Will and asked if he had a line-art version. I figured I'd print this up cheap at home and color it up using my handy-dandy colored pencils. He replied that he doesn't have such a set...yet. As much as I'd like to think I planted that idea in him, I suspect it wasn't the first time he had heard it.

Now the PDF for these blocks isn't locked down so I took and opened them up in Photoshop, did some creative editing, and then imported the blocks over to Adobe Illustrator to help clean up some of my sloppy editing. Back into Photoshop and I had exactly want I was looking for. I was also able to squeeze the entire set into a couple of fewer pages. This worked out great until I started to color the blocks in and I got way too fricken bored fast.

All cut out and ready to start assemblySeriously, the coloring in of the blocks was not fun. I do these things because they are fun, so my coloring option was right out. Maybe if I had used some markers instead of colored pencils I'd have been ok.

I ended up just saying "screw it" and going to my local print shop where I had 10 pages printed up at $1.24 each full-color onto cardstock. This came out to 7.95 Pounds or 10.10 Euros (in case this helps make sense). The PDF is 9 pages, but I omitted the 1st & last pages for printing and added in three more pages of blocks.

Uncolored & bit of overlap (1 each)Cutting out the blocks and then gluing them together was actually a bit easier than expected. I think some of it was finding the right setup and using the right tools. The only bothersome bits were trying to reverse-score the doors and the L-shaped three square block. My choice of glue made assembly a breeze and I quickly learned that doing all the blocks in stages made it go by much more easily. Simply looping the ends of all the blocks as a first step and then doing the bottoms, followed by the tops works wonders.

I felt that the lines for scoring, specifically the little dots on the blocks themselves, didn't really line up that well with the actual scoring spots. The stairs had a weird spot where bottom step wasn't colored in and the top of the stairs went too high. I haven't colored in my stairs yet and the extra length actually worked out well for covering any gap as it butts up against the next block. I don't think this was intentional though, but since this extra bit on the end of the stairs is evident in the assembled blocks shown on page 1 of the PDF I think some of it probably was.

Best example of glue tab overlap
The only thing I really didn't like about the blocks were the glue tabs were too big. In some ways this is a bonus because the valley between the tabs make it quite clear where the majority of scoring occurs. You could almost do away with the majority of the score marks with this style of tabs. The overlap doesn't help a lot when it comes to making a perfectly square block. Now I know I'm not going to get a perfectly square block anyway and the judicious use of a marker to go over scores and exposed white bits helps with the overall look greatly. I'm not going to get too worked up, but this adds an inherit variability to the blocks that means you really should only use them one stack high.

Squareness aside, I think the tops and bottoms would have glued up easier had the tabs not overlapped.

Aside from a few doors, all the building $12.40 at FedExKinkos gets you
Overall though I liked the blocks. If I had a better printer at home, like the one I want for all my paper RPG products....the one I'll get someday. I think I'd be churning these blocks out and maybe even giving sets as gifts. Of course I'd probably get all fiddly and try to do something nuts, but thankfully I don't have the printer so spending $1.24 a page will limit these impulses.

Frugal GM 4 Star Review: Inked Adventures Blocks
Right now Inked Adventures Blocks are on sale for $2.90, which is a pretty good deal. I could actually see purchasing these just for the doors alone. For some reason I'm really digging those paper doors and thing I'm going to end up using them more than the regular blocks themselves.

In the end, like most any RPG product, it all depends on how you'll get to use them. Since this product is modular, re-usable, and can scale to your printer and/or budget, I think there is a lot of potential.