Full disclosure: A preview copy of Fit to Print was provided by Flatout Games. Some art, gameplay, or other aspects of the game may change between this preview and the fulfillment of the Kickstarter, should it fund, as this is a preview of a currently unreleased game.
Another year means another Flatout Games Kickstarter! I’m always really excited to tell y’all about these games, from Calico to Cascadia to Verdant to, now, Fit to Print. We’ll see how things measure up, but I’ve always been pretty impressed with the games I’ve gotten to try. Cascadia, of course, is my favorite, but the others are quite fun, as well. This is the first time I took one of these traveling with me, so it’s seen some mileage, but that may tell you how much I enjoyed it that I considered that worth the effort. But who’s to say? Let’s find out!
In Fit to Print, you’ve got a whole weekend edition of news and your small woodland newspaper is getting ready! Go out and find stories, set up your paper, and make sure that you’re selling enough ads to keep the paper afloat! You’ll have to move pretty quickly if you want to make your deadlines, but make sure to stay neutral as you do. Will you be able to print before the weekend, or will you just end up pressed?
This one can be a bit complicated. First, give every player a Front Page:
Start on the Friday / Saturday side. Then, give each player a desk!
Finally, give each player a Player Aid / Player Power card:
If you don’t want to use player powers, flip the cards to the other side. Shuffle up the Newspaper Tiles, keeping them face-down:
Each player gets a Starting Centerpiece Tile! Place them on the star on your Paper.
Shuffle the other Centerpiece Tiles, placing them in a stack nearby:
Place the Finishing Tokens nearby, making a stack from one to the number of players you have:
To add a bit of challenge, you can also use the Breaking News Cards, revealing one at the start of each round. If you don’t want to do that, then don’t use these.
Either way, you should be ready to start!
There are a few different ways to play Fit to Print, but I’m covering the main gameplay type. I’ll talk briefly about the other modes later. Essentially, you are keeping your newspaper business running by reporting, laying out, and shipping your newspaper each day of the weekend. Let’s talk about how to do that!
Each day plays roughly the same, with one primary difference: your newspaper’s size increases every day! You’ll start with the Friday area, then, next round, use the Saturday area, and finish the game in the third round with the Sunday side of the board.
The game is played in real-time, so, enjoy that. There are three timer options, which will let you choose how stressed out you want to be:
- 3:00 – Frantic
- 4:00 – Standard
- 5:00 – Relaxed
Each round has two phases: Reporting and Layout. You’ll use the timer for the entire round, so move fast. In Reporting, you’ll collect news stories from the center and set yourself up for Layout! Using only one hand, take a tile from the center and, if it’s face-down, flip it over above your desk or newspaper board. If you like the tile, place it on your desk. If you don’t like the tile, return it, face-up, to the center. Continue doing this until you feel like you have enough tiles; once you do, say “Layout!” to indicate to other players that you’re beginning the Layout Phase.
In the Layout Phase, you now build the newspaper! Generally, this leads to you moving tiles from your desk to your newspaper, following some rules:
- You have to adhere to the grid. No placing outside or anything like that. It’s a tile-laying game.
- Your centerpiece must cover the star. I mentioned this earlier but it’s even more important now.
- You cannot rotate tiles. Everything must be placed so that they are upright.
- Articles cannot be adjacent to articles of the same type. Not allowed!
- Ads and photos cannot be adjacent to ads and photos (respectively). Essentially the same rule as the articles.
- There’s a newspaper fold in the middle; tiles can cross over it. A permissive rule rather than a restrictive one!
- Tiles can be flipped over and placed as, essentially, “nothing” tiles. They still have to go upright, but they can be placed adjacent to anything.
You’d like to place all your tiles, if you can, but either way, once you’re done, say “Print!” and take the lowest-numbered Finishing Token. Once you do, you’re done. After all players have taken a Finishing Token (either because they’re done or time runs out), move on to Scoring.
To score, each player first checks another player’s board for errors. If there are any, they flip tiles face-down until there are no longer errors. Errors are, essentially, adjacent colors or ads or photos. Score everything else:
- Articles: They’re worth the printed number of points!
- Photos: Photos generally have some criteria on them. Adjacent tiles that meet that criteria earn 1 point each. Note that if the Photo asks for a Mood, the tile only earns 1 point, regardless of how many Mood symbols are on there.
- Centerpiece Tiles: These also have some criteria (or ability) and earn you points as printed.
- Mood Balance: Articles have good mood (smiley face) and bad mood (frowny face) icons. Add up your good and bad mood icons, and lose points equal to the difference between them. Ideally, you have an equal number of icons so that you score 0 points, here.
- White Space: To score this, each player counts the largest area of adjacent squares on their grid that aren’t covered by any other tiles. The player with the smallest area gains 3 points, the player with the largest area loses 1 point, and all other players gain 1 point.
- Unplaced Tiles: Every unplaced tile loses you 1 point, but you keep the tiles until the next round. So that’s nice, I suppose.
- Ads: These don’t earn points! Instead, total your ad revenue, keeping track of it from round to round.
Add up your points! If you would earn negative points, you simply earn 0, instead. We’re not monsters.
After the round, reveal one new Centerpiece Tile per player. Players choose one in order of their Finishing Tokens, from lowest to highest.
Once Sunday has ended, the game’s over. Total every player’s points. But, also total their ad revenue. The player(s) with the lowest ad revenue immediately lose. Your papers go out of business! Of the remaining players, the player with the most points wins!
There are a few other modes!
- Solo Mode: This essentially just lets you play against nobody, giving you the white space bonus (or penalty) depending on your largest white space area size. Note that you lose if you don’t have at least $12 in ad revenue by the end of the game.
- Puzzle Mode: I’m particularly excited about this one! In Puzzle Mode, you have to try and earn as many points as you can with a limited tile set (and a timer). Keep in mind, though: you still have to place all the ads!
- Family Mode: This one simplifies the game by removing Desks, Finishing Tokens, and Centerpiece Tiles. There’s no Mood Penalty or White Space scoring, either. There’s no Reporting / Layout Phase; players simply decide if they want to add the tile to their newspaper. Once it’s added, it can’t be removed; only moved. The player with the lowest ad revenue at the end of the game loses 5 points.
- Turn-Based Mode: For players who don’t really want to deal with real-time, you can play turn-based! This one only happens over one round, and has a few other modifications. Get excited about that.
Player Count Differences
Generally speaking, there aren’t many changes at various player counts. The major change is largely that, with more players, there are more folks trying to grab certain tiles of certain shapes. Just means that you may have to be more flexible with your picks and needs for tiles. I think it may still be a bit before I’ll be playing six-player games, but it shouldn’t be too much extra work to play, should your game group be that size. During the game, you can’t really interact with too many other players in a meaningful way, other than taking ads or trying to minimize white space. If more players are grabbing small tiles to fill gaps, you may see a system-wide increase in empty squares, but, if that’s happening to all players, I wouldn’t expect it to meaningfully increase or decrease any one player’s score. Beyond that, yeah, I haven’t seen much to convince me that the game drastically changes with more or fewer players. For me, I’d probably most likely play it in the 2 – 4 player range.
- As someone who specifically lost a game based on Ad Revenue, don’t sleep on Ads. Since Ads don’t score you any points, it can be pretty tempting to ignore them for later. But if you wait too long, it becomes way too difficult to come back from the revenue deficit. When that happens, you’re basically sunk, especially since you usually cannot place ads next to each other, which limits your overall gain. Try to keep a running tally of ads so that you’re never in last place on that front. Just, of course, try to balance that against actually scoring points!
- Try to keep a running total of your Mood; it can help you choose which tiles to grab. I usually try to keep track of what I’m placing on my desk so that I never end up taking too many tiles of one Mood type. That usually helps me keep balanced, but, then, I need to actually place all of them during the round.
- Similarly, you’ll want to take a good mix of tiles; if you take all of the same type, you won’t be able to place them. This is pretty critical; if you take a wide spread of tile types, you’ll have much better luck placing all of them. For reasons that are pretty straightforward, you generally don’t want to take exclusively tiles of one type. If you do, you won’t be able to place all of them, and then you’ll be taking substantial penalties.
- I find taking the tall tiles a bit easier than the big ones? That’s just me, though. I find it easier to deal with the tiles that are 1×4 or 4×1, just because they feel like they’re easier to manage. With the 3×3 tiles, I don’t necessarily have as easy of a time visualizing how the tiles all fit together. Plus, I can usually fit more of them near relevant photos, getting me even more points!
- At a certain point, it’s not worth the time to return tiles you’re taking. Maybe just deal with the negatives? This is definitely a risky endeavor, but if you know what tiles you’re grabbing, you might be able to make it work! Look for certain sizes and shapes of tiles to fill in what you need, and then just … keep them if you want. I’ll usually throw tiles back, but if I’m in a rush, I probably will not. It’s only a few points if you play your cards right, but try not to take, say, ten tiles you don’t need.
- Shifting some tiles slightly to the left or right can break up large chunks of whitespace, which can help you gain points (or avoid a penalty). It’s a pretty quick fix, provided you don’t end up creating any errors as a result. You only take a penalty for your largest whitespace area, so, moving your tiles around a bit to break those areas up can help you earn the bonus (or, at least, get the single point for not doing anything particularly good or bad).
- I generally try to split my time evenly between pulling tiles and placing them, but you’ll find your own groove. Just don’t run out of time taking tiles. Early in the game, it’s probably wise to shoot for the middle split so that you can get a sense of how long it takes you to do the Reporting and set the Layout. The four minutes moves exceedingly quickly, especially for your first time around. You don’t really want to get stuck with a bunch of tiles on your desk.
- Your life will be a lot easier if you organize your desk as you drop tiles, so that you can more effectively utilize the space. I did not think of any organization when I was first learning how to play the game, so I just had an unintelligible pile of tiles on my desk. The desk is rather small, so having some scheme to organize them helped a lot. Now, whether you organize by size or mood or type is entirely up to you, I suppose.
- If you see a player struggling to make their Ad Revenue, you can always dunk on them by taking a bunch of ads. If you’ve got a solid lead, sometimes you can just go all-in on ads. If you can just take all the high-value ads, you can pretty successfully prevent another player from coming back, and they’ll just get stuck with their low ad revenue and lose the game. It’s a very mean thing to do, but, I mean, you’re here to make headlines, not friends.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- I think making players put all their tiles on the desk is genius. It’s a seemingly innocent constraint that trends towards diabolical over the course of the game. There are so many tiles that you’re going to want to stack on your desk, and players won’t immediately think to have an organizational strategy for their desk (or they’ll be too rushed to care). Then, during the Layout Phase, you’ve either got far too many or far too few tiles for what you need, and you have to go work all of that out. It’s essentially a forcing function for players, adding a bit of challenge that I wasn’t expecting, and I think it’s brilliant.
- I love the theme of this game so much. As a fan of the written word, this game’s right up my alley, thematically. Plus, I just like newspapers? I think they’re fun. I’d love to see this get expanded with other fun newspapery things like comics or something.
- Ian O’Toole’s art is a fantastic fit for this game. It looks super good! The art does a great job of making the game and characters feel real, like there’s already an ongoing world happening and this game is just part of it, to some degree. Honestly, I’d really love to see a spinoff game set in the same general “universe”.
- I love how hectic, frenetic, and challenging this game is. There’s a lot of pained grunting from players as they struggle to get tiles to fit in certain spots or minimize whitespace or just make ad revenue. It’s all doable, granted, if you have infinite time, but having the extra constraint of a timer just tick-tick-ticking away while you’re trying to puzzle and sift and sort is excellent. It’s a nice, engaging mix of stress and strategy, and I think there’s always something golden at that intersection.
- I really like that there’s a puzzle mode included? I think that’s delightful. The puzzle mode is super cool! It adds a timer (or not, if you prefer) and just lets you try to solve a puzzle they’ve created. I’d love to see something like an app that just automatically creates puzzles and target scores or something, to allow players to just kind of goof off with their copies indefinitely. Plus, it wouldn’t be bad to have a timer for the game somewhere online, even though we’ve all got stopwatches in our phones, these days.
- I’ve definitely lost time during the game because I’ve been reading the very-fun headlines. This can be good and bad (as I mention later), but I really like the amount of work that went into writing the headlines. They’re cute and engaging, and they again contribute to the texture of the game’s world. They make it seem like we’re getting some lens into a world that’s continuing on outside of the game, and I really like that worldbuilding. Plus, they have the occasional pun and I love that, for me.
- The paper gradually increasing in size is both good and bad, since it gives me more space to work with and also completely throws off my previous level of comfort. It’s a nice way to shake up the foundation of the game beneath the player. Plus, it’s really fun to have a giant paper to work with at the end of the game, even if I could not, for the life of me, tell you how many tiles can potentially fit on it. We live and learn, just without the learning part.
- I appreciate that there’s just a score penalty for Ad Revenue in a two-player game. I was briefly worried that the player with less ad revenue just lost, which would make the game strange. Not a problem, though they do take a pretty significant score penalty past a certain threshold. You can either try to score enough that that doesn’t matter or focus on trying to thread the needle. I appreciate that the player has both options.
- The per-round modifiers are also pretty fun. I really like round modifiers as a way to gently guide players, even in an early game. It can be difficult to immediately know what to do when you start a game, and if you have certain incentives (or penalties) up front, it can help players figure out what to do. Plus, they’re not especially complicated, I think. They just add a nice bit of flavor to each subsequent round.
- You’ll probably want to start with a five-minute timer for your first game; this game is much harder than you think unless you’re a Galaxy Trucker fiend. Even if you have experience with real-time games, balancing both rounds and filtering tiles by placing them on your desk is a lot more challenging than I expected. Give yourself some bonus time for game one.
- I think it’s funny that losing due to Ad Revenue feels so bad, given that by basically any metric, you played the game incorrectly. It’s just something that players need to get used to. I’m saying this as someone who, ruefully, scored a ton of points in my first game and didn’t get enough ad revenue to avoid losing. To be fair to my opponents, they focused on the right stuff (and I would have earned fewer points if I had gone after more ads). Reframing it as another way to just not win the game helped me be a bit less frustrated, but it’s definitely going to catch the first person who loses this way in your group by surprise, so be ready for that.
- I’m kind of hoping for double-layered boards in the final product, just because, in my haste, I am occasionally knocking tiles off of the paper that is my newspaper. It’s the hazards of pre-production prototypes, I suppose, but I definitely have seen players knock tiles every which way as they’re trying to hustle through the all-too-short rounds. Having an extra lip around the play area would be lovely, though I’ll freely admit that I’m not sure how that would work for the Friday / Saturday side of the board. This is why I’m not a product designer.
- It can occasionally be a bit tough to make out major features of a tile (Mood, point value) just because all the tiles are fairly small and the game is moving quickly, which can be unfortunate. I think that’s just the challenge of real-time games; you need to try and take on a lot of information all at once and sift through it. The challenge is that the tiles are pretty dense (even if not all of the information is relevant), so I think I occasionally just end up reading and enjoying the headlines and missing some of the relevant information that I need. It’s a delightful problem to have, though I think I would prefer if the tiles were slightly larger to accommodate.
- This is another one of those games that will be absolutely punishing for folks who don’t love spatial reasoning. It’s that dreaded combination of spatial games and real-time games. That might not be your thing, and that’s okay! I love it, personally, but I’m acutely aware it’s not for everyone.
Overall: 8.75 / 10
Overall, I was very impressed with Fit to Print! I should have expected that Peter McPherson would, once again, vex me with a pretty challenging game with a pleasant appearance (after Tiny Towns, you’d think I’d know better), but I was pretty wowed by this one. It’s got a lot going for it! Ian O’Toole’s art really elevates a premise beyond just “animals making newspapers”, making the world you’re playing in feel contoured and alive. It’s a level of vibrance that I think really speaks to his skill at executing on a solid premise (and, also, the well-selected pairing of artist and theme). Art only goes so far, though; the game itself is also rock-solid. Fit to Print is a challenging real-time tile-placement game that is almost cloyingly deceptive. It seems simple enough, but the game was designed with a timer that will really put the screws to you in ways that I wasn’t expecting. Honestly, for our first game, we eased up on the mood penalty and the round timer just so that everyone could get a sense of how to play, and we made a ton of errors. I was originally concerned about players getting eliminated based on ad revenue, but I’ve circled back around to that being clever. It’s ludonarratively consistent and, to be fair, the game is very upfront about this requirement. It’s just another way to not win. I think that adding the extra turn-based and family modes will help make the game more approachable to players, which I always appreciate, but I also really am quite enamored with the puzzle mode! It reminds me, a bit, of TETRIS Attack and the other games of that type I used to play, growing up. The game’s a nice confluence of many things that I like, and as a result, I’m enthusiastically a fan of Fit to Print. Flatout has, predictably, done it again, and if you’re looking for a challenging real-time puzzle-laying game, you’ve always wanted to start your own newspaper, or you’re just looking for a game with some fantastic art, I’d definitely recommend checking out Fit to Print! I’ve had a blast with it.
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