My next major step in preparing for my Kickstarter campaign was trying to figure out which manufacturer to use to print Linkage. The game components include one deck (54 cards) of bridge-sized cards and standard tuck box with a rule book.
I have decided to stick with a U.S. manufacturer for a number of reasons – the main reason being overall simplicity since it’s my first attempt at publishing a game.
I posted a question on the “Kickstarter Best Practices and Lessons Learned” forum on Facebook and there were four main manufacturers I was advised to research.
Over the past few months I have been in contact with each of these manufacturers and have compiled a detailed summary of their prices, their services and printing schedules as well as a thorough explanation of everything I have learned during the process.
Here are the four manufactures I compared side-by-side:
Quality Playing Cards
Drive Thru Cards
The Game Crafter
I also wrote a section explaining some of the jargon frequently used by manufacturers and printers in reference to printing quality, printing methods and other card features. It may be helpful to become familiar with these terms in order to understand some of the printing details below.
QUALITY PLAYING CARDS
(1) Standard 300gsm – WHITE CORE – cards priced per deck – or –
(2) Premium 310gsm – BLACK CORE – cards priced per deck
Cost Per Deck Pricing
Quality Playing Cards quotes per deck prices instead of per card prices. A standard deck includes 54 cards; however, if 500 decks are printed, then each deck includes 56 cards. QPC’s printing process cuts, collates and packages the cards automatically. With this in mind, if you want a separate page of instructions, they must be folded and inserted with the cards and then cello-wrapped all by hand.
Quote with one page of instructions (4/4 printing), folded and inserted into the tuck box.
Quote with instructions printed on the playing cards.
Game Box (Four Options Available)
Quality Playing Cards (QPC) offers four different types of boxes:
(1) White Window Paper Tuck Box (1.75″ x 2.75″ Window) at
- 500+ = $0.20
(2) Hard Clear Plastic Gift Case
- 500+ = $0.44
- 1000+ = $0.42
(3) Soft Plastic Gift Case (available in Poker Size only)
- 500+ = $0.48
(4) Custom Printed – Thumb Slot Tuck Box
- 500+ = $0.52 each
- 1000+ = $0.44 each
Turnaround Time (Roughly 3 – 4 weeks)
Total turnaround time for 500 decks from QPC is typically 3 to 4 weeks including shipping. Approval of the first proof takes roughly 24-48 hours, after which an order can be submitted. Next you’ll receive a final press proof and an invoice, then the game goes into production. Printing takes roughly 2 to 3 weeks and shipping another 3 days or so. (QPC uses FedEx Ground and ships from Orlando – this is an additional cost.)
QPC offers a single page rule sheet folded and fitted into the tuck-box, however, they must be folded, inserted and then cello-wrapped all by hand – meaning this greatly increases the price! In the two price comparison tables above, the top table reflects the cost of adding a separate rule sheet, while the bottom chart represents a quote with directions printed on the playing cards. The second is obviously much cheaper.
Setup Fees (NO Setup Fees)
There are no proofing fees, mold fees or any setup fees.
Drive Thru Cards has two main card pricing options:
(1) Standard Tango 12pt, 270gsm cards which are priced at $0.080 per card – or –
(2) Premium Arjowiggins Playper 305gsm with black core for $0.085 per card
Bulk Rates (Start at 5,000 cards, which is roughly 93 decks at 54 cards per deck)
Bulk rate for Drive Thru Cards begins with purchases of 5,000 cards or more and must be shipped to the same address. For a standard 54 card game this means approximately 93 decks of cards. This means the price of 100 deck of cards is significantly cheaper than the price of 92 decks of cards. There is also a $0.20 fee per deck. Bulk rate prices are as follows:
(1) Standard – Same as above – $0.055 per card – or –
(2) Premium – Same as above – $0.060 per card
If you are manufacturing somewhere around 100 deck of cards, I think Drive Thru Cards clearly has an edge on pricing.
Game Box (Only Two Sizes of Plastic Deck Boxes Available)
The only card boxes they offer are two different small clear plastic deck boxes that hold approximately 70 cards and 120 cards. They will package your cards into these plastic deck boxes for $1.00 per deck instead of the $0.20 fee.
The publisher relations guy at DriveThruCards, Brian Petkash, said that many game designers simply print their customized box designs on cards and place those cards on the front and back of their decks. This way the clear plastic deck box still looks like a customized box.
DriveThruCards does not have the ability to print rule sheets or books. They recommend printing the rules on playing cards and including these as part of the deck. (Brian has seen up to nine cards used for rules.)
If the rules are very extensive, another option is to create a separate PDF that can be downloaded from your website, or for free from the respective product’s DriveThruCards page.
Turnaround Time (Roughly 14 – 24 days)
After a file is uploaded and an order placed, it typically takes 7-12ish days including shipping. Printing takes roughly 4-7 business days (average is 5.66), then shipping takes roughly 3-5 days. DriveThruCards recommends printing a preliminary deck prior to the final print run so you can verify the quality. Printing and shipping of this preliminary deck also takes the same 7-12 days so make sure you add this into your schedule.
Prior to placing such a large order you should order a single proof deck, to make sure it’s printing as it should. Same delivery time as above. So, to get your full order, you’re really talking 14-20ish days (if all goes well with the proof).
Setup Fees (NO Setup Fees)
THE GAME CRAFTER
(1) First, because they offer so many game components that they will have almost everything you need when designing game options.
(2) Second, because their prices for just a few games components are very inexpensive and it would cost you ten times as much to try and source or build everything yourself.
They also offer dimensions and details of every component they offer along with prices and design templates. Hands down the best resource for designing any type of game.
With that said, they are not known for being a bulk quantities manufacturer and many influential games designers would argue that their print quality is not yet good enough for game publishing.
Cost Per Deck Pricing
The Game Crafter prints their cards on 12pt, 270gsm clay coated card stock. Normally the 270gsm is a little thinner than the 300gsm card stock but since it is clay coated, their cards are very thick and durable. Standard poker-sized cards (2.5”x3.5”) and bridge-sized cards (2.25” x 3.5”) cost $0.09 per card.
The Game Crafter quotes per deck (or per game) prices but also provides per card prices (and even per component prices). You can upload your files for your game at TheGameCrafter.com and see the price of your game immediately, along with bulk prices up to 400 games. Quotes for orders larger than 400 must be requested via email, however, The Game Crafter has taken much longer than their competitors to respond to bulk quotes inquiries. At this point I still have not received a quote for more than 400 games but will update this blog with that information as soon as I receive it from TGC.
Game Box (Multiple Options Available)
The Game Crafter offers many box options for multiple types of games. A standard 54 cards tuck box is made from 270 gsm clay coated card stock and cost roughly $2.79. This may sound high, but the benefit is you can order just ONE.
The Game Crafter offers two styles of rule books. You can simply print a page and have it folded to fit into your box, or, for a more professional look and feel, they offer rule booklets of multiple sizes and varying pages.
Just like all other manufacturers, there is still the option to print the rules on playing cards and include these as part of the deck.
Turnaround Time (Roughly 3 – 4 weeks)
Total turnaround time for 400 decks from TGC is typically 3 to 4 weeks including shipping. All files can be uploaded onto their website and files can be proofed immediately through the website. Printing for 400 games takes roughly 22 days according to their site – just over three weeks – and shipping another 3 days or so. The Game Crafter uses mainly USPS’s shipping rates.
Setup Fees (NO Setup Fees)
There are no proofing fees, mold fees or any set-up fees. All prices, including shipping, can be seen on TGC’s website prior to finalizing any orders. (TGC adds the cost of shipping to the final order prices, which is paid prior to printing. To ship 400 games, weighing approximately 1528 oz. which is roughly 95.5 lbs., from Madison, Wisconsin to St. Louis, Missouri, TGC charges approximately $113.40 for USPS Priority Mail plus $47.25 for shipping insurance.)
The quote I received from DeLano Services was for 52 rounded corner, common back cards. Printed 4/4 with aqueous coating on 12pt C2S (265gsm) cards. For an explanation of what all these number and letter designations mean, see Printer Jargon below!
Cost Per Deck Pricing
DeLano services quotes per deck prices but doesn’t seem interested in printing orders less than 500. The quote I receive was for a deck of standard poker-sized cards (2.5” x 3.5”) instead of bridge-sized (2.25” x 3.5”) cards, however, I was told the price difference between poker and bridge-sized decks is pretty much negligible. The cost break down for a single deck of 52 cards, with tuckbox and rules is as follows:
For these prices the cards are inserted into the tuckbox, the rules are folded and inserted into the tuck box with the cards and each deck is shrink wrapped and packed into bulk cartons.
DeLano services offers a few different types of box options, however, I was only sent a quote (above) for one type: a tuckbox with dimensions 2.625” x 0.8125” x 3.625” with folding bottom, printed 4/0, and aqueous coating on 18pt C1S cardstock. (The cost for 500, 1500 and 1500 units of this box can be found in the table above.)
The rules include a single page printed on both sides. The page has dimensions 7” x 10” and is tripled folded to fit into the 2.625” x 3.625” tuck box. The rules are printed 4/4 with 80# black gloss text.
Another option is to print the rules on playing cards and include these as part of the actual deck.
Turnaround Time (Roughly 5 – 7 weeks)
Total turnaround time for DeLano services is typically 5 to 7 weeks including shipping. Approval of the first proof takes somewhere around 2 to 3 days, after which the game goes into production. Printing takes roughly 4 to 6 weeks and shipping another 3 days or so. Delano uses various printing options and shipping is invoiced separately after DeLano is billed from the shipping company.
Setup Fees (LOTS OF FEES)
DeLano services charge $155.00 in fees for proofs for a 500 unit print run ($85 for proofing cards, $35 for proofing tuckbox, and another $35 for proofing rules) and $185.00 in fees for proofs for a 1500 unit and 2500 unit print run ($85 for proofing cards, $35 for proofing tuckbox, and another $65 for proofing rules). There is also add an additional 10% overrun which is added to the final bill.
My Opinion (Is Worth Less than a Cup of Coffee but Here It Is Anyway)
In my opinion, DeLano services is a big league manufacturer, which means they are great if you have a big budget and time to wait, but they are probably not a good fit for a small show. Their prices are not reasonable until you hit 1500 units or more; their turnaround time is longer than their competitors’ and the sales representatives I talked to were polite but very brief.
Deciding between manufacturers can be daunting since there is so much jargon used in the printer world to specify exactly what it is you’re getting. I wanted to quickly cover some of the essential vocab that printers and manufacturers use:
The thickness of card stock is commonly measured in two ways – by paper weight or paper thickness. Now the distinction between these two is so slight (and outside the scope of this blog) as to be insignificant for us to distinguish for our purposes here. With this in mind, there are three type of “units” conventionally used to measure card stock: the pound (lb.) and grammage (gsm),both correlated to a paper’s density, whereas the point (pt.) measures the paper’s thickness directly:
(1) Pounds (lbs.) is simply the weight of a standard unit of paper (the standard unit used its 500 sheets of 20” x 26” or (508mm x 660mm) paper.
(2) Grammage (gsm) is the measure of cardstock in grams per square meter.
(3) Points (pts.) report the actual thickness in mils (thousandths of an inch).
In order for paper to be thick enough to be considered card stock it must be at least 50 lbs., or 135 gsm or roughly around 6pt. paper. Further details take us beyond the scope of this article – but I did add a few charts below to provide a quick reference.
C1S vs. C2S
C1S simply means that one side of the cards will be covered while C2S means both sides of the cards will be covered. This designation is common, especially with coatings. So,
“Aq. Coating on 14pt C2S”
simply means, the cards will be 14pt thickness (0.014” thick) and have both sides coated with an aqueous coating. One thing to keep in mind is that the actual cards will be thicker than 14pt. once they have been coated on both sides!
CMYK and RGB are the two common palettes used to design and print. CMYK means that four colors (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black) are mixed to create all other colors (this is sometimes also referred to as the “four color process”). RGB means that three colors (Red, Green and Blue) are combined to form all other colors. Printing is done using CMYK while designs in photoshop, Illustrators etc. can be done in either. Some manufacturers want files to be in CMYK while other want them in RGB. The Game Crafter above recommends that you design in CMYK for best color matching and convert it to RGB (The Game Crafter currently only accepts RGB files).
4/0, 4/1, 4/4
These are designations used with the CMYK color process. 4/0 means that one side of your cards will be printed in full color with the four color process while the other side will be in black and white. 4/1 means you will get the same four color process on one side while the other side will be printed in grayscale. 4/4 simply means that both sides will be printed in full color with the four color process.
Aqueous Coating (Aq. Coating)
Coatings make printed material more durable and resistant to finger prints, scuffing and scratches, and can even help protect from moisture to some degree. Aqueous coatings are water based coatings that dry fast and are very clear. They usually provide a high gloss finish but can also provide a matte finish.
Quick Reference Guide (These figures are not exact.)
C1S (one side gloss coated)
6pt is roughly 148 GSM
8pt is roughly 184 GSM
10pt is roughly 219 GSM
12pt is roughly 247 GSM
14pt is roughly 274 GSM
C2S (both sides gloss coated)
6pt is roughly 166 GSM
8pt is roughly 201 GSM
10pt is roughly 237 GSM
12pt is roughly 265 GSM
14pt is roughly 293 GSM
If You Found This Information Helpful, Please Comments Below
So those are my thoughts and I’d love to hear yours! Have you manufactured a game for a similar price? Are you currently doing research and are finding very different numbers from other manufacturers? Is there anything crucial that you think I have left out?