How do you wade through the maze of getting a print product made while balancing cost, quality, and deadlines?  Here's also the place to talk about distribution issues.

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I asked about PRINT ON DEMAND services for board games (from the original site):

POD is gaining ground in book publishing (tho still expensive), but does anyone know of a service that can also do cards (standard or custom) at a reasonable cost? By reasonable, I’m talking under $5/deck for standard. Last I checked, bulk printing is down around $2-3–or less if you’re a mega publisher.

David Whitcher jumped right in with a couple of links:

Get you under $4 for a 54 cards when you purchase 100 decks or more. That’s without any packaging BTW.

I don’t know of any that are cheap enough to sell via a distributer unless you’re not interested in making a profit.

Jack Everitt offered up:

Lorraine – if you’re doing cards that are meant to be shuffled, be really sure you get playing card stock. It has a black (or blue) core that gives the snap back to original shape (You can tear the paper to see it). (You can also touch the two ends of a card to see if it creases…if it doesn’t it’s playing card stock.)

Someone I’ve not checked out but perhaps they can:

Gary said:

I’ve looked into a few different POD services but haven’t found one that really tickles me. :( My thoughts (not having done this before mind you) are that it will be more cost effective for us to piece out production across multiple manufacturers. Most “POD” services here in the US do the same thing… they just have rapport with lots of manufacturers already.

I too would like to hear from anyone who has experience with thegamecrafter or gamebuilders though. :D

Rich Hutnik chimed in:

I have not used Game Crafter, but I heard good things about them. The quality is good. Also, I believe the Games 100 Game of the Year (Traditional) happened to of used them. I am sure there are a few other options also.

One thing I would LOVE to see is game system games (Icehouse, piecepack, etc…) being able to have components that worked together so that designers would have enough bits to work with in designing game prototypes. It would be a bit opposite of the way Cheapass Games had worked, where they would give you specific game components for a game, and you provided the money and other pieces.

I asked about MINIMUM RUNS for cost saving (from the original site):

I’ve found that 5,000 units is where the price really drops for cards, boards, and other printed components, though that of course depends on the printer. Small printers are more will to do small runs (500, 1,000, 2,000) but the cost per unit might exceed the price point for the end products. As a game inventors, it’s really useful to do an initial short run (say 500) that’s not aimed at profit but rather getting feedback from users (and then adjusting), testing the sales and price points, convincing publishers that the end product can sell.

Lori McDonald said:

thanks Lorraine for the info. and leading me to roll and shuffle. Has anyone found a board game manufacturer who uses recycled materials, vegetable ink, etc? I’m getting a bid from Board Game Design based in Nevada, but would appreciate any other suggestions. I’ll have between 500 and 1000 printed so a pretty small run.

Tim Rodriguez said:

My local designers group has recommended for relatively inexpensive one-offs for card games, citing the price of a single deck at around $12. Not too bad for a nicely printed prototype, though certainly not mass production.

I added:

When you’re ready to go deep, Carta Mundi is the gold standard (in Belgium, but with US affiliates–they bought out Yaquinto). A rule of thumb is that production costs should be about one-fifth of the retail price. You want a single custom card deck to be around $2-3 US.

David Whitcher offered this advice:

I do all my prototypes by hand for 2 reasons; Price and flexibility. For example I can construct a 54 card deck using a standard printer, card sleeves, & spare playing cards in 30 min.

Price: Total cost under $5 + the sleeves are reusable so that price drops to under $1 for the next project.

Flexibility: Testing often reveals unexpected results. Using sleeves allows me to make adjustments like introducing entirely new cards with minimal downtime. I can be back to testing in minutes or hours not days.

I would only recommend using a service to produce a prototype once the game is ready to show to publishers, investors, etc… and assuming you can’t do just as well yourself.

Todd Zircher agreed:

I just want to second the card sleeves thing. You can get a whole bunch of these at a reasonable price. I prefer the ones with opaque backs so that the inkjet printed inserts are not visible. They handle and suffle very well without the mess of spray-on treatments.


I did, too:

Agreed–prototyping easily, cheaply done on a computer. I printed a dozen card decks of my Letter Perfect English game on medium card stock, double-sided (9 cards/page), and then sprayed them with acrylic for durability and easy shuffling/dealing. I cut them out and even rounded the corners by hand–labor, for sure, but I made it a party and bribed friends with homemade Chinese dumplings. They’ve lasted for years (both the cards and the friends).

Here’s what they look like: I use them both for play-testing and shopping to publishers.

Gary provided a ton of great links:

Cost is one thing we’re trying to keep in mind throughout this entire endeavor since we’ll be self-publishing. We don’t have unrealistic goals – but do want to ensure financial feasibility.

One thing I’ve had difficulty finding is printing for hex tiles and tokens (cardboard). The tiles will be somewhere between Settlers of Catan and Twilight Imperium in size (for our first game). Anyone have experience with something similar?

As for cards, our game has four decks (three for initial release); though the number of cards in each isn’t ironed out yet as we’re still early in the design stages. BUT, our first tests will be over Thanksgiving weekend!

Plastic pieces seems to be another very costly portion of the process… We’re trying to minimize the overall types and amount of pieces necessary while maintaining what is necessary to play the game. So, do I have to look toward China for this?

In the end, for our game we would like to have everything produced where price and quality are both sufficient. I’m envisioning a couple long weekends of opening boxes and assembling each of our first-run games by hand; boxes, pieces, etc. hahaha

Thanks for everyone’s assistance in advance!

Cheap plastic hex tiles that we may use for prototyping:

Super cheap (that I’ve found) chips; similar to those used in Axis & Allies:

Info on existing games:


Game Manufacturing:

Lots of links for the prospective designer:

AMAZING board game community. If you haven’t been to this site, it is a MUST:

I hope this links help someone/anyone/everyone. ;)

I said:

China is cheaper for both parts and assembly, but there are definitely quality control issues. A friend switch to a European co after losing 10% to poor quality.

The more standard your cards and tiles, the cheaper they will be. For cards, contact a printer (or two) and find out what their standard sizes are, how many cards per sheet. They all have templates. Then, you can tailor your deck to their specs to save $$. They can also give you other $4-saving tips about stock, coating, rounded corners, etc.

For plastic, you want to avoid having to pay for an expensive mold. Cheaper to find a piece out there already that will work with your game.

Price: A rule of thumb is that your retail price is 5x the manufacturing cost. This will be significantly different for a first short run–you might even lose a little per unit in exchange for getting feedback and attracting interest. Often very much overlooked is the fact that successful companies generally spend the same on marketing as they do on printing and distribution.

Thanks for the links! There are a couple there that I haven’t heard of and look really useful.

And then asked:

Has anyone used this service to make game pieces or other objects? Or another service like it? (3D printing seems to be spreading all over)

David, I see you posted a nice case study of printing/producing/publishing your latest game on BGG: Adding it here, in this forum topic, where I hope those interested in prototyping and printing will find it easily.

Video about how a board game is printed, by Ludo Fact (a German printer): via Scott Nicholson. 40 minutes.



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