a game by Andrew Backhouse

🔥 Buy for $5 🔥

What is it?

Penciltown is a solo resource management and strategy game in which you help a newly-founded town to survive, grow and thrive. It's print-and-play, and you draw and erase things as you go. It's heavily driven by chance, and its intention is to create interesting stories.

How is it played?

You need a pencil, an eraser and two six-sided dice. You also need the rulebook, which you can print or use on a screen, and a playsheet, which you can print or draw on graph paper.

You start with a single structure. You draw and erase resources as you gain and lose them, and gradually expand your town by paying for and drawing buildings. You make tough tradeoffs since excelling at everything is pricy. Buildings give proximity bonuses and space is limited, so placement matters.

You attract people to your town and specialize them into fighters, clerics, philosophers and more. The giant events table throws problems at your town which you must solve, including increasingly dangerous attacks. Later on you can equip adventurers with potions and gear and send them on risky but rewarding quests.

It scratches that city-building and base-defending itch, but in a simpler, paperier package.

Pencil and dice lying on a Penciltown game board

Is this game for me?

It gets pretty crunchy when it comes to mechanics. It's not "convenient" to play in the way board games can be (move chits from zone A to zone B), which is the tradeoff for the really rich simulation. The question for you is whether fiddle is worth tasty crunch. However, my 55-year-old mum taught herself the game in under an hour, so the complexity is quite manageable.

The game is designed for solo play. If that's not your intended mode of play, skip it - I don't want to disappoint you. If you love solo deep-dives, it'll be really rewarding. That said, I have had a lot of fun playing this with a small group. You just need everyone on the same page.

Chance is a big factor, and it has many ways to mess you around. If you get frustrated at seeing your progress dismantled, this may be one to miss. (It does have a difficulty setting you can lower.) However, if you love lows because they make highs feel amazing, get it - snatching victory from the jaws of defeat never felt so good.

It's long. A game takes 2-6 hours. If you prefer your entertainment bite-sized, you can always play in shorter bursts, but be aware that the arc of your town's ascension takes a while.

The visuals are what you make of them. Gameplay happens in pencil marks that you make. On the other hand, the writing is lush. Events offer 220 tiny self-contained stories, and the other moving parts are full of word-based worldbuilding. The construction and economy game is also really satisfying. This game does the most for people who love systems or stories more than visuals... but if you like making art, drawing a beautiful town as you play is probably a lot of fun.

While the overall flavour is wry, broad-minded fantasy, the writing gets dark in a couple of places, so I'd read through it before you give it to your child.

Want something lighter?

Penciltown was succeeded by a sibling game, Pencilvillage. If you're looking for a quicker, lighter town-builder, take a look.

YouTube logo Click here to watch an in-depth gameplay primer. (52m)

Woman playing Penciltown

What does it cost?

Penciltown costs five US dollars.

What do I get?

  1. The 34-page Penciltown PDF. That includes 13 pages of modestly-illustrated rules explanation, 4 pages of nifty structures to build, 12 pages of randomized events to keep each playthrough spicy, 3 more pages of mechanical exotica, and a thoughtfully-designed quick reference on the back. For you quantifying sorts, it's over 25k words.
  2. The three-map Playsheets book. These printables let you jump straight into the game.
  3. A lifetime subscription to content updates. I may release paid expansions if it gets popular, but at least half of my future work on this will go into free updates for the base game.

How do I buy it?


Important purchase notes

It may take up to two minutes to receive your files. If you are a Gmail user, please check your spam folder! Several game e-mails have ended up in there. To download your files, click the "View product" link (button) in the e-mail you receive. Mail if you have any problems.

You may prefer to shop directly on Gumroad's site.

Penciltown is also available on DriveThruRPG download link image

Stylized snapshot of Events table


On September 27 2018, I released version 1.1. See what changed here.

Thanks a bunch for your interest, and I hope you buy Penciltown, because it's really cool.

I want to hear from you! E-mail me at

🔥 Buy for $5 🔥

I'm running Google Analytics on this page to examine traffic. If this offends you, I'm really sorry - please feel free to block Javascript. Penciltown was made almost exclusively using free and open source tools. Huge thanks to the LibreOffice developers! Site fonts are Delius Swash Caps by Natalia Raices and Annie Use Your Telescope by Kimberly Geswein. used in document development.