So you want to publish your own tabletop game and get REAL PHYSICAL copies out into the world! Congratulations 😀
First of all, these lessons are from our own first hand experience. We are the co-creators of the Treachery Card Game, a space and sci-fi themed collaborative card game which we created, crowd funded and published. The tough decisions, especially with the early first runs was in deciding how much to do ourselves versus how much to kind of outsource with a real publisher or producer or printer, and this is what we’d want to pass on to others following in this path.
1. Do (Some) Yourself
We ended up with Game Crafters for the majority of the printing of our cards and some game components. We started out with a cost comparison and got really nitty gritty on a spreadsheet in order to price out each and every piece. Certain component features make a huge difference in price e.g. if you have complex shapes that are going to be laser cut are more expensive vs simple shapes like squares and triangles. Services like game crafters are actually great because they let you custom design your different shaped cards and send it in. On the other hand, for our simple components, this is a hack we used. You can buy chipboard online and sticker paper, print the card or token design on the sticker paper in repeating sheets. You then stick the paper on to the chipboard and then cut out to make multiple cards or tokens for cheap.
2. Source creatively
Look beyond the obvious for components. Cards, components and other bits and bobs that are specifically designed for board games can be expensive. One example is our resource gems in the Treachery Card Game, which we needed in six colors, and a specific size and shape. This would have been expensive to order custom! Instead we went to the wedding supplies section on Alibaba and got many inexpensive plastic gems that are used for decoration.
3. Automate tasks
Putting together and distributing your game is basically an assembly line to sticking to a system is imperative. Have checklists – checklists for assembling, checklists for testing, checklists for component pieces in box, checklists for receiving and shipping games and components.
4. Quality Assurance
When you are DIY-ing things in-house, you still NEED to put out a product of high quality because people have paid for it and people have supported your project. Implementing repeatable and redundant quality checks is super important. In order to have a second pair of fresh eyes on each part of the process we often divide tasks up and have one person as the do-er and the other as the review-er. For game text and rules, use spell check and online grammar tools to ensure you are in tip top shape. If you change anything, read through the whole thing to make sure it still makes sense.
We all know the value of play-testing, but make sure you capture feedback not only about the gameplay but about any quality issues.
5. Invest in Equipment
While DIY is cheap, it also takes a looooong time if you are just relying on your regular at-home scissors or exacto blades. We recommend you invest in some small time equipment to help things go faster, especially if you will continue to use them over and over. For example, over time we have invested in, a high quality printer, specialized hole punches to cut out various shapes, a paper cutter, a Silhouette custom and a shrink wrap heat gun and laminator. Just on the heat gun and laminator for shrink wrapping – these have enabled us to put a professional tamper proof packaging that makes the games look really nice, especially when you have them for sale in person at a con or other event.
As always comment below with your own lessons or any questions you have about this process!