Resin 3D printing is a bit of magic. You send a design to the machine, watch the build platform descend into a puddle of goo, and then, hours later, a model appears seemingly out of nowhere. Even after countless impressions, the giddy thrill of that revelation doesn’t go away. It’s what I always dreamed of as a kid: the ability to print literal toys.
Except, these days, the D&D community has taken that dream further: instead of leaving it to individual miniatures, they create entire miniatures. worlds for us. broadcast and play (opens in a new tab) is one of the groups leading that charge, having grown from a single person dabbling with the best 3D printers to a company creating entire universes of content.
However, it was not easy to navigate at first. Alex Zaragoza’s first 3D printer arrived broken. As a second-hand machine he bought on eBay in 2015, it was, in his own words, “really bad”: the parts didn’t fit together properly and he had to glue them together. But still, he was impressed by what he could do. Although he gave up the ghost less than a year later, Alex (then a 3D artist in the video game industry) had gotten the bug. So when a friend offered him a resin printer that they no longer had room for, he jumped at the chance. Fast-forward a few years and Alex is now in charge of more than a dozen employees and a company that draws monthly subscribers for about 40 fantasy miniatures every four weeks. They’re also wrapping up their latest and, judging by over $156,000 raised so far, successful crowdfunding campaign ‘Terrain Essentials Vol II: Interiors (opens in a new tab)‘ with numerous accessories for your game table.
However, it wasn’t the ability to design huge setups that put it on the path to Cast n Play, it was the cost and practicality.
“We were getting into Warhammer for the first time,” Alex tells me as we catch up on a video call. “And I say, ‘this is too expensive. I’m sure we can print things [instead]. If you don’t mind, I don’t mind. Even if they look horrible, we can play. And if we like the game, then we can buy things.’ So we started downloading things from Thingiverse [a community 3D design website]. And it was kind of hard to get stuff. For example, for D&D, I’d make lists of all the minis I’d need to run the entire book, and I’d search the internet like, ‘I’m going to need three goblins, one dragon, four spiders,’ whatever. And it was very difficult to get them.”
Naturally, there was only one solution for a professional 3D artist like Alex: he would have to make these miniatures himself.
Even though he only intended to sculpt “a shitty goblin” just so he could start using it in his home games, he began to wonder if anyone was selling models like this to other players in a similar position. So he opened a discreet Shopify store to test the waters.
“It started selling even without ads or anything,” explains Alex. “I just uploaded a couple of models, and every once in a while we would have a sale for a couple of dollars, then $10, then another dollar here and there. And I was like, wow, people are finding them even though I’m not promoting. So clearly there are people looking for something like this because I don’t know how else they could find this shop I made last night.”
From there, things took off quickly.
full time dreamer
Around that time, model subscriptions through Patreon had started to gain traction. So, as you probably guessed, Alex decided to create his own. (opens in a new tab) in a ‘what’s the worst that can happen?’ spontaneous attack. And while that may not be a surprise, what happened next might be.
“We opened a Patreon and we were still uploading stuff, making sure the text looked good. And before we shared it with my parents and friends, a couple people signed up. I mean, it was [only] $1. But they just jumped without even having pictures. It just said like ‘Cast n Play 3D printable miniatures’, and maybe a horrible description. And that was it. People were willing to pay a dollar just to see if there were any better models out there.”
A domino effect followed. Alex made more models, and these earned Cast n Play more subscribers. He then hired another sculptor and concept artists for additional miniatures, which encouraged more subscribers to sign up and, well, this escalation continued for four years until the team reached its current total of 31. Today, the group produces a couple crowdfunding projects. per year, a model-independent wargame and full adventures that are compatible with the best Dungeons and Dragons books to go along with their original Patreon campaign.
It is a good example of the appetite that people have for this idea. In an age where costs continue to rise, value propositions like the one offered by Cast n Play are more than appealing. For starters, paying about $9 a month to get about 40 detailed models that can be used in most of the best tabletop RPGs, even if you have to print them yourself, is a heck of a lot better than the $30 to $50 you’d have to spend on pre-built miniatures from normal physical stores. It ends up at a few cents per model, which is pretty absurd when you consider you’d be lucky to get more than five minis for your $9 if you went the traditional blister or box route.
However, players don’t have as many options as when Alex began his journey. loot studies (opens in a new tab)broken anvil (opens in a new tab), and countless more now offer massive model packs every month. So what makes Cast n Play stand out in a now much more crowded environment? For Alex, it all comes down to ease; Instead of having to pay for separate models, dungeon tiles, and scenarios, you get everything you need to play a session in one package.
And there is much more to come, too.
“We’re trying to jump into the board game space,” Alex reveals. “We’re trying to design something that’s specifically designed and well thought out for 3D printing. We don’t want to go physical, we want something that can be printed at home and feels like a quality official product.” .”
With 3D printers now more affordable than ever (unlike in the late 2010s when they cost thousands of dollars, you can now get a respectable resin 3D printer for around $200), Alex believes that this kind of experimental approach it is the future. Actually, he compares it to the situation YouTube found itself in a decade or so ago.
“The fact that people [could] making videos and publishing them on your own, with very little equipment, is where I think we are right now with 3D printing,” he says. “Now we have YouTube channels that are of incredible quality. And I think we’ll eventually get there with 3D printing as well, where small teams can get really high-quality products.”
Basically? Watch this space – 3D printing will only get more impressive as time goes on. Considering where he is right now, that’s more than a little exciting.
You can sign up for Cast n Play monthly subscription here (opens in a new tab)and free sample minis are available through the Cast n Play Gumroad Page (opens in a new tab). As for more tabletop shenanigans, don’t forget to check out our guide to must-haves. table gamesthe top board games for adultsand these essentials board games for 2 players.