As carefully prepared, printed and applied paper strips or labels, paste-ups firmly belong to another era. Well, with their punch boards, various cardboard bits carefully punched, clipped and sorted by hand, so do board games. Both are made for each other.
Thanks to living rules, gamers can easily get the latest version of almost any rule set, and see the included corrections at a glance, since they’re often written in a different font color.
Otherwise, errata will show them the way around known errors in a published game, and sometimes even allow them to correct those themselves.
The thing is, when the error you want to fix, the overpowered element you want to curb or the text you want to translate are printed right in the middle of the main board, or on dozens of cards or tiles, things get a little more complicated.
Enter paste-ups. If you have the patience and inclination, they may be that extra bit of fun that you can squeeze out of a board game. A game within a game. But if the mere idea of a pair of scissors, a pot of glue or an Avery template for Microsoft Word makes you cringe, or if such words don’t even sound familiar, you probably are amazed at the amount of time and effort some gamers are willing to put into making physical adjustments to their games.
Once upon a distant time, in the pre-computer era, the pages of a newspaper or a magazine had to be laid out, by hand, on a drawing board or a light table. Skilled technicians would cut, align and physically paste every title, text column and image on a rigid sheet of paper. The resulting paste-ups were then sent to the printing press.
So when board gamers use a paper strip or a label to cover an icon, a sentence or a single digit, they perpetuate, in a way, techniques, gestures as well as words, that belong to a bygone craft.
Of course, computers have made pasting up quite simple; modifying a printed game is now available to everyone. That is why publishers, more often than not, provide printable files with their errata, so that people can fix the games themselves. But gamers also produce and distribute such files, formatted for industry-standard label sizes, mostly to translate board and card games.
Apart from using them to retheme an entire game, one of the most ambitious types of projects using paste-ups is indeed localizing a game—meaning translating all the printed texts in a game. Such translation stickers have been prevalent in the world of collectible card games. Thankfully translation stickers are much less necessary nowadays. Because the professionalization of the board game industry means that most games get published upfront in several languages. Or, even better, they are designed from the start to be language independent—that way only the rules need to be translated. So paste-up operations mostly involve older, out-of-print games. Gamers in need of some DIY projects should take notice that such a radical approach is likely to affect a game’s resale value.
As for those gamers put off by the idea of physically altering a game, there are alternatives. Card sleeves are often used to hide the text or the back of cards without the need to apply any stickers, but those are not without their drawbacks.
As a last resort, it is always possible to sit comfortably on your hands and wait for the new edition.
References and Further Browsing
- Paste up techniques, on Boardgamegeek
- El Grande – Paste Ups – Method, on Boardgamegeek
- The Quacks of Quedlinburg – English Translation Cards/Pasteups – Books Now Added, on Boardgamegeek
- Barbarossa – How to use paste-ups?, on Boardgamegeek
- Paste ups??, on Boardgamegeek
- Throwing Away the Pasteup Books, on Creative Pro