Design With Manufacturing in Mind

With design and development done on Shipload o’Gold and Stir Fry 18, and our next game ideas not yet at a point where we’re able to talk about them, I’m going to take this week’s Design post and talk about something that many people might not think about – designing with manufacturing in mind.

Now, I’ll preface this by saying this is by no means the only way to design a game, and really should just be something you keep in mind. Limiting yourself in early design isn’t a good idea, and this should come into effect more in a later stage of design. I’m also not speaking as an expert. We’ve got two limited print runs of games under our belts, so definitely qualify this advice based on that.

The best advice to start with when designing a game to self-publish is to start small. While I think a large number of new designers would like to be credited with a large box board game, the amount of components to create that game would cost very large amounts of money for a small print run (1000 copies or less). If you are set on making a game like that, try to figure out how to simplify your pieces. If things can be printed on cardstock (cards, boards, and chits), that is much less expensive than needing custom molded figures and parts. Or, if you really need some sort of figure or part, it would be much less expensive to go with something standard (like the common meeple). Economies of scale really come into play when manufacturing anything, and for the level of printing that small, self-funded game designers/publishers have, the prices aren’t really weighed in our favor.

Both Shipload o’Gold and Stir Fry 18 are card games. They’re relatively simple from a manufacturing point of view, but they still presented us with certain design challenges. Shipload o’Gold consists of 85 cards for the game, needs some rules, and we want to include something to use as coins. The cards are pretty easy and cheap, though it’s best to keep them in multiples of 18 when dealing with standard Poker sized cards. This is because there are 18 cards on a printed sheet. This is why Stir Fry 18 is only 18 cards. For “coins” we didn’t find anything printed that would work for the price point we were trying to set, so we used bingo chips for the initial batch we sold at PAX South.

In addition to looking at how components are printed, and what is on a “sheet” you also need to consider how everything will be packaged. With standard size Poker cards and tuck boxes, the boxes tend to hold multiples of 18 cards (36, 54, 72, 90, and 108 being the normal sizes). For Shipload o’Gold, since the game was only at 85 cards, we decided to add 5 reminder cards to maximize box space and fully use 5 print sheets of cards. Since we weren’t using printed coin pieces, this was the most cost-effective packaging solution for us. With Stir Fry 18, we’ve run into the issue that the game is too small for the smallest size tuck box, yet we don’t want to just have the cards wrapped as we want to include printed rules. This is causing us to branch out and look at some alternative packaging methods, which may raise the cost of the game substantially.

So there are some things to consider that you might not normally when designing a game. It is by no means an exhaustive list, and I’ll probably be adding to it as time goes on. If you have any further questions or comments, hit us up and we’ll be happy to discuss!