Printing the Cards

I’m writing this from a UK persepctive, so anybody reading this in the USA will probably have closer card printers.

There are three things you’ll need to get printed for your card game. The cards, a box and the rules. Some people combine 1 & 3 and print the rules on additional cards, which will save money at the expense of being able to have the rules on one sheet. If you get the cards printed through a company which does set numbers of cards and won’t change in single increments than this can be a money saver or impossible depending upon the card numbers.

When it comes to card numbers, one thing you need to consider is the size of the box required. In the UK if you need to post anything over 2.5cm the cost goes from a large letter to a small parcel. This includes the packing you need to include to make sure it gets to its destination in one piece. If you need over 60 cards and want to keep postage costs down you need to consider a double deck box, which will obviously increase the box price.

Once you know exactly how many cards you need you can start looking at the printing options. Obviously China is an option, but unlike larger games the savings on card games compared to EU printing aren’t that great, and outweighed by the need to have CE testing and shipping costs. Ivory Games Maker and Cartamundi are obvious UK printing options here, but unless you are printing a lot expect to pay significantly more for them. In the end I went with Ludocards. Their pricing is transparent, easy to see (instant quotes), all safety checks on the materials has been done and they were easy to communicate with. They were also a lot more competitive on price. The great thing about using them was when I was running the Kickstarter I could price in additional cards quickly for the stretch goals.

For the artwork it was just a matter of using the templates provided. Photoshop is the easiest for me, so it was just a case of making sure the bleed etc was correct, then saving the whole thing as a multi-page pdf.

There are a few things to consider when using Ludocards:

  • The tuck boxes aren’t great. For my promo copies I didn’t get them laminated, which may have made a difference, but the box quality was what made me want to make my own. I’ll talk more about making my own next time, but definitely check out the tuck box quality before deciding upon using it to sell. I can’t talk about the other boxes as I never ordered them. One good thing about this was I knew that my boxes would be considered large letters instead of small parcels (the postage costs of which was untenable).
  • You need to ask via email for things such as spray varnishing, which is free, but something I expected as standard. If you’re aware of this it’s no problem though.
  • Additional leaflets are expensive for what they are. This is understandable as it does complicate the manufacturing process somewhat, but you can get them printed elsewhere for a fraction of the price. We’re talking 0.85 euro vs 0.10 euro per leaflet.
  • If you are getting them printed cards only, it actually isn’t always cheaper to get them printed in sets. When I needed sets of 60 cards, it was actually cheaper to get them printed in sets of 120. This changed depending upon the total sets I wanted, with the cheapests varying between 60, 120, 180 and 240 depending upon the numbers. We’re talking a few pence per set, but if you’re on a budget that adds up, heres an example of a spreadsheet I made to work it out:
Luckily I like spreadsheets
  • Don’t forget to add the 22% tax, unless you’re VAT registered (which, unless you expect to sell a lot of your game, it doesn’t really make sense to be if you can avoid it (disclaimer- I am not an accountant))
  • Brexit. God knows what’s going to happen here, but on the flip side if you manufacturer in the EU and the UK you won’t get hit with US China tarrifs.

I had my cards printed at Ludocards, made the boxes myself, and had the rules leaflets printed at an online printing company. I’ll go over making a box next post, as it’s quite detailed, but leaflets are suprisingly easy- any leaflet printing company will give you quotes instantly. Your rules leaflet should fold up to be the size of your cards and printed double sided. For costs I paid a little over £25 for 400 rules leaflets.

Getting Art

pt 2 of how to publish a small card game

You’ve designed your card game, playtested it until it’s in a state you’re happy with, and you want to make it and sell it. One of the biggest obstacles to this is the art; where to source it from and how much it costs. If you’re already something of an artist yourself then excellent, but most of us can’t draw for toffee, so need to get it elsewhere. Hopefully some of these experiences regarding art are helpful.

  1. Art isn’t graphic design. Before you go looking for artwork ensure you understand what you want your cards to look like. For Forks I had a chat with some friends who suggested some looks, and we settled on a clear yet distinct look. This meant when I needed to source the artwork for the cards I could specify dimensions, colour and give as much detail as possible about what I needed.
  2. How much art do you actually need? If you’ve got ~50 cards, each with unique art, that is going to cost a lot. Consider ways to cut down on the art requirements per card. Can cards share the artwork, or zoom in on different parts of the same art? Can a change in colour help to differentiate? Does every card need a piece of artwork? Also, are you remembering art for the box and the back of cards? For Forks, we used the boxart for the art for the back of the cards, changing the colour and removing different parts depending upon the type of card. This allowed us to get the most out of the most expensive piece of art.
  3. Is it possible to use pre-existing art? If you like something, approach the artist and ask how much to use it commercially. This is what I did for some of the logos, and it should work out much cheaper than paying for commissions.
  4. Budget for a good artist for the most critical pieces. As I detailed here: unlike the logos on the card, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted for the box art, just something striking, clean and distinct. In this case I decided to budget much more for something which I would be discussing with the artist, rather than just telling them what I want. The results ended up being fantastic, and suitable for use not just on the box, but on the back of each card.
  5. Where to look. I used, which was a wonderful resource full of artists who actually listened to commission requests before pitching. Unfortunately that’s now dead. I’d now recommend Deviant Art for small commissions. If you offer a paying job you will be able to find someone to fit your budget. Just make sure you look at their previous work and how much they read your commission, because there are a number of artists there who reply to every commission offer no matter what. Other sites like ArtStation allow you to contact artists directly, but charge a fee for posting adverts.
  6. Write a contract before exchanging money or art. It doesn’t need to be filled with legalese, just a clear expectation of:
    • When you will pay (I did two payments- half up front with the rest to follow after milestones have been met)
    • The timescale you agree on, and what will happen if they’re not met
    • How many revisions you can expect, and what will happen if you exceed that number
    • What format you will receive the artwork in, and at what resolution if digital
    • Confirm that the art will be used for commercial purposes, and whether or not you want exclusivity of it.
  7. The cost will vary massively, and you should be able to find something to fit your budget. I don’t want to give a price here, because you’ll be able to find a hundred examples that prove me wrong. The more you can budget per art, the better it will be, but if you’re desperate to get lots of low quality pieces you will be able to do that (to a point), but at that stage it will feel exploitative. Better to think cleverly about your art requirements.

I hope I haven’t missed anything about the art, really it’s a case of knowing what you want, budgeting for as good art as you can get, and making sure yourartist also knows what you want. Let me know if I’ve missed anything out!

What’s Stopping You?

pt 1 of how to publish a small card game

I was at a Van Gogh exhibition today, and the quote “What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?”, admittedly this was followed up by “The sadness will last forever”, but that initial quote still sums up the importance of taking a risk. And self-publishing your own card game is a big risk. So what’s stopping you?

Costs? The biggest cost will be artwork, followed by production of prototype copies for reviewers. Assuming a Kickstarter route, provided you have costed everything else up accurately you won’t pay out for anything else until you’ve got the money. As for the artwork, clever design is required- a card game requiring unique art on every card will be prohibitively expensive, but rarely is such a thing needed.

Contacts? It’s a myth that games publishing is some exclusive club you need to break into. All you really need is a facebook account and a willingness to approach people at conventions. Most people want to discuss there projects with each other, and there are always reviewers, podcasters and bloggers looking for games to review and designers to chat with. You just need to reach out to them.

Lack of confidence in your game? If you’ve designed a small card game, playtested it to a point where your happy with it and people enjoy it, you’ve nothing to be concerned about. You’ve already done so much more than other people in terms of games design, and if people enjoy it it’s by definition an enjoyable game. Some people won’t like it, but you can’t let that hold you back- even your favourite game is hated by someone, just don’t take negative comments personally.

The legal stuff? I’ll be writing primarily for UK designers, and am not a lawyer, but this was my main concern, and one which needed a bit of research, but the legal side of self-publishing is actually navigable. Labels required to be on the package, CE marking, starting a company- I’ll try and explain what I’ve done for these to ease other people through them.

Time? This one I can’t help with. Publishing Forks took all of my spare time over a period of months, and a good proportion of spare time outside of that. If you have lots of time commitments and can’t dedicate your time to self publishing, then it’s probably not for you. Especially as soon as you become customer facing on Kickstarter (although, I did manage to go on holiday in Japan for two weeks between Kickstarter and fulfillment, so you can have some time to yourself).

Inclination? If your not inclined to self-publish then don’t. You’d end up spending all of your time doing stuff you don’t like and it would drag.

So whilst there are some reasons for not self-publishing, there are more which can easily be overcome. Clearly if you want to go the publisher route there are loads of benefits to that- I’m not suggesting that self-publishing is objectively better, just wanting to help those people who want to (I loved the ability to keep control). I’m definitely no expert, just talking from experience. If you can think of any other reasons people might be reluctant to self-publish, or any other comments, please let me know!