In our last post, we kicked off the first of a four parts series on manufacturing. My aim is to demystify some of the unknowns that you may face creating games. Our latest post set the scene of some basics of our costs that we have experienced and some tools you can use to help get the ball rolling. You can catch up by reading part one of this series here.

In this post, we are going to be talking about some of the more common higher-cost items that you’ll typically find in a game box. We will not be covering the creme of the crop specialty components such as power crystals or miniatures. We are saving that for part four of this series, so keep an eye out for that when it drops next Monday. Let’s jump in.

Working from the Outside in

Last week, we talked about our total price per unit coming to around $12.24. This week, we are going to start breaking down these costs for you and looking at why you might select certain specs over others for your game pieces. One of the larger cost items that we want to talk about is the box.

Based on our quote from Nice Funny Games, the box for Gnomes and Wizards will cost $1.42 per unit which makes up about 12% of the total manufacturing sum. As I mentioned before, there are a lot of components that make up Gnomes and Wizards so this is a sizable number.

From my experience, the box is one of the few components that doesn’t have much wiggle room in cost. There isn’t even much difference in the manufacturer’s standard sizes vs creating a custom size. The only real difference is the total box size. So smaller games will have less cost for their box than larger games but you are also sacrificing something else when you make your box smaller.

Box Size Equals Game Weight

When it comes to selecting a new game to add to your shelf, the small games tend to get overlooked, don’t they? Maybe you really like building your “filler game” collection but as far as noticing the game when looking at your shelf, I bet many would say that they look at their larger box games first before their smaller ones.

Something that I learned from being in this industry is that the size of your box should more closely relate to the weight of your game, rather than the number of components in them. When I say weight, I am not referring to how heavy it is but rather the complexity of the game.

If you have a mid-weight strategy game but pack it into a tiny box, you are going to lose out on a lot of potential buys. When people see a small box, they expect a small game. And if someone wants to buy a small game, they are going to look at the smaller boxes. Some gamers have voiced that they really don’t like this mentality because it’s deceptive on the amount that is truly contained in the box.

New Edition vs Classic Edition

Look at citadels for instance. The latest version comes in a sizeable box. Could they fit it in a smaller box? Sure they could, in fact, they use to. Just look at their old box vs their new one. Why did they make it bigger then? Just to be seen easier on the shelf at Barns and Nobel? Well, there is some merit to that but I would argue it’s because it more accurately depicts the weight of the game.

Another version of this classic game

Citadels is heavier than small games like Cards against Humanity or Card Wars that share a similar box size to the original Citadels. There is much more strategy involved. But it’s still a lighter game, that’s why I would say it wouldn’t be appropriate to make it the size of a “normal” mid-weight box. I would put the box size and weight of the game to a similar level as Carcassonne which also has a smaller than mid-size box but larger than a small game box. I realize that this is just my opinion but I would argue that it is in fact less deceptive to depict the experience that gamers will receive by matching the box size to the weight of the game rather than the containing components.

When creating Gnomes and Wizards, I had the opposite problem. I have a lot of components that I need to pack into a box that gives off the sense that this is a mid-weight game, rather than a heavy game.

Photosynthesis box and components

Sometimes it is not possible because of the components involved. Photosynthesis is a great example of this. That box has to be large even though it’s a lighter mid-weight game. The cool 3D trees just take up a lot of space. So Blue Orange had to try to convey the weight of the game in other ways such as the visuals on their box.

I wanted to talk about the box size relating to the weight rather than components in detail because I have seen a few arguments online on how some games have all of this extra space and it’s just a marketing ploy to have their box more visible on the shelf. Although there is some truth to that, I wanted to state a reasonable counterargument to that idea. After all, it is more expensive for publishers to make the game boxes larger.

Let’s get back to the components breakdown. Next, I want to talk about the second most expensive item in Gnomes and Wizards and that is the cards.

Stack the Deck

The cards win the second most expensive award for Gnomes and Wizards. Some of it is due to the sizable number included in the box. There are 32 tarot size cards (2.75” x 4.75″) and 64 mini euro size cards (41 mm x 63 mm) included in the base game. The total for these cards is $2.09 per unit.

When it comes to cards, there are a few factors that can decrease the cost. One of them is the number of cards that are printed and cut per sheet. Every manufacturer prints different amounts per sheet for each card size so make sure to communicate this with your manufacturer.

Sometimes you’ll have more flexibility to adjust these numbers so they can fit to a whole sheet and sometimes you won’t. We had some wiggle room when it came to the ability cards because there is a stack of cards that players will use throughout the game and the number of cards doesn’t necessarily matter all that much.

The tribe member cards on the other hand (tarot size) don’t have as much wiggle room. Each faction has 7 characters cards plus each player gets a reference card, meaning that there are 8 cards per faction, and 4 factions are included in the base game, bringing it to a total of 32 cards. Because we required a set number of these cards, we were unable to round to the nearest sheet, creating a bit of waste.

A small part of the cost will be affected by the number of card backs your design has. This is because the more unique backs you have, the more setup will be involved for the manufacturer when going to print your cards. Some manufacturers don’t account for this as much. It typically depends on their printing process.

Gnomes and Wizards has 5 different backs for the tarot size cards and 2 different backs for the ability cards. This means that the manufacturer can’t just set up a grid of the cards and make them all the same which would make it easier and therefore cheaper to print. They have to know which cards get which back so that they can match up the cards properly. It may seem intuitive from your standpoint because you created the game: Obviously, the green backs go with the green fronts, but you have to think about it from the manufacturer’s point of view. They are printing hundreds of thousands of games and they can’t afford to make those kinds of assumptions.

Punch Boards

The last high-expense item that I want to talk about is the item that showed the highest cost per unit (excluding the power crystals) when getting quoted for Gnomes and Wizards. That is the cardboard punchboards.

Punchboards can be executed in a couple of different ways but traditionally, cardboard pieces require what is called a die-cut. A die-cut is a metal design that is created to typically press into paper-based material such as paper, greyboard, cardboard, etc. The cost to create these die-cuts can be a bit pricey to start but once the die cut has been made, making the cuts is as easy as lining up the material and running it through a machine. With this method, there is a lot of upfront costs to make the die cuts but the more your produce, the cheaper it becomes.

So when thinking about manufacturing, you want to consider how you can go about making the fewest die-cut patterns possible. For Gnomes and Wizards, we were able to pare it down to 3 die-cut patterns.

Our quoted tooling costs from Panda GM was around $1700 for the base game. The majority of that cost was for the die-cut patterns. We had an additional $700 tooling cost for the expansion quotes but that was significantly less because the main die cuts would already be created for the base game and could be reused when making the expansion.

Final Thoughts

You may have noticed that there was a common trend of the expensive items that I have mentioned. The commonality all of these expensive components share is that they are all printed items.

This is important to note because the more printed material you have in a game, the more expensive you can bet your game will be.

In the second part of this series, we will be going over the smaller-cost items and you will see, these are the items that aren’t as expensive because they can easily be mass-produced and they aren’t necessarily specific to a certain game.

Just looking at Gnomes and Wizards, there are still custom items like the resin dice and the engraved wooden discs, but the processes for customizing these pieces are much more streamlined than printing. We will get more into this in part 4.

In part 4 of this series, we will conclude by talking about manufacturing special items such as miniatures or other 3D items that add a ton of value to the game but are typically the most expensive. In that post, I will share some ways you might be able to implement creative ideas to get cool components into your game without breaking the bank.


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