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Board game manufacturers – How to choose one?

20th January 2022 by Frank West19

When I first started making board games there was always a part of me that was worried, how can I find a factory to make my games, are they going to do a good job, or will I lose all my money? It doesn’t matter how well a game plays or how pretty it looks, if the physical game is full of errors, cheap materials, and doesn’t meet my customers standards, all my hard work could be for nothing.

Yet, when I started digging into things it turned out that I didn’t need to worry as much as I originally thought. There are plenty of reputable board game manufacturers and the biggest decision came down to which was best for me.

Let’s take a look at my 3 key measurements.

1. Communication

Above all else, communication is the key to manufacturing a great board game, if you can’t talk with the factory then you’re going to have problems.

I break communication down to several different parts:

  • Language: Not everyone is going to speak your native language perfectly, do you feel like your emails are being fully understood, and do you clearly understand the responses?
  • Frequency: How quickly do they respond to your emails, are you having to chase, or are things moving at a good pace?
  • Accuracy: When asking questions, do they answer everything with the level of detail you need, or do you find yourself left with more questions?

2. Price – Flexibility

When it comes to price, there is more to it than just the cheapest option, here’s my criteria:

  • Quote detail: How much detail are they providing in the quote, am I just getting a total price, or can I see a full breakdown?
  • Brainstorming: If the price is higher than I want it to be, how much will they help with brainstorming component changes. Do they recommend small changes to materials, sizes, or quantities that will help bring down the price?
  • Overall price: Are they competitive (not necessarily the cheapest) vs other manufacturers?

3. Existing games

Measuring the quality of a factories production capabilities is hard, sure you can get some sample packs from them, but these aren’t truly representative of final products available in a shop. I found the best option here was to enquire about games the factory has produced and then to go to a shop and buy one (you can also go to a board game café or ask friends who might have them).

With one of their games in your hands you can truly measure the component quality and how things have been assembled. This is also helpful if you are unfamiliar with components, you can simply say “I’d like cards made with the same material as the cards in The Isle of Cats” or “What’s the name of the finish used on the box cover from Vadoran Gardens?”. If they made the game, they will be able to help you learn the names of materials and get the exact end result you would like.

A list of manufacturers in China

While researching manufacturers and going through the above steps, I ended up choosing Whatz Games. I have worked with them now for 5 years and highly recommend them as a quality manufacturer who have produced over 500,000 products for me.

My top 3 manufacturers are as follows:

Other options

There are plenty of manufacturers out there who have great reputations and your requirements may be different to my own.

Here are a few more options:

Have you worked with any of these manufacturers, or do you have another company who you would recommend?

You may also be interested in:

Frank West

Frank West is a gamer and designer based in Bristol, UK. He published his first board game, The City of Kings, in 2018 and now works on other games and organising events in the local area. His goal? To design and publish games focusing on immersive themes, fun mechanics and beautiful components. If you have any questions or would just like a chat, feel free to get in touch at any time!


19 comments

  • Ross Myhre

    23rd January 2022 at 6:43 pm

    Thanks for the blog posts, Frank. Fascinating stuff!

    My best to you.

    Reply

    • Frank West

      24th January 2022 at 11:04 am

      It’s my pleasure, thanks for checking out the blog, I hope it proves to be a useful resource in the future!

      Reply

  • Gabriel Giulian

    27th January 2022 at 1:59 pm

    Hello Frank,

    Nice list of manufacturers! I got in touch with Boda and Whatz during Essen, and the products produced by them are top quality. As I’m based in Germany, I’m currently in contact with LudoFact. Their price is almost triple, and there are products, such as laser-cut wooden pieces, that have to be ordered from other suppliers.
    With that said, I’m still considering them because of local production (Shipping prices, time in transit from manufacturer to fulfillment, CO2 emissions, etc.) with recycled/sustainable goods.
    Another one is NSF 🙂

    Reply

    • Frank West

      27th January 2022 at 9:55 pm

      Hey Gabriel, I certainly hope LudoFact and some of the other non-China factories become more viable options in the future. From the interactions I’ve had they’ve just not been affordable from a price point and the emission benefits haven’t been as good as I expected. This is because they have to import some materials and specialist components (for all games regardless of customer location) from China, and then 80% of the finished games have to exported back out of Europe. It’s something I do look back into once every so often and hope one day to be able to add them to my recommendations list!

      Reply

  • Hicreate Games

    18th April 2022 at 10:39 am

    Hello Frank,

    Could you please add our company (Hicreate Games) to your recommended list of board game manufacturers?

    We are a group of dreamers and doers, we specialized in the researching, developing, customizing, and manufacturing of board games.

    Reply

    • Frank West

      18th April 2022 at 12:57 pm

      I’m afraid I can’t add you to my recommended list as I have no experience with your company and this list is only for companies I’m able to recommend. However, I am happy to leave your comment here for people to be able to see and find your company.

      Reply

  • Adam of Adam's Apple Games

    20th April 2022 at 4:33 pm

    Great point about seeking out an existing game to understand quality, though a huge title could possibly be spread over multiple manufacturers.

    I’ve found that product sampling is a critical aspect to ensure the quality of games and components match your quote and expectations. Do you consider a manufacturers development and sampling process when choosing who to work with? For example, a manufacturer that requires upfront payment and shipping cost may lead a creator to skimp on sampling… or a manufacturer that doesn’t provide color chip on correct substrate for approval may lead a creator to choose colors that look different from expectations. Curious what your standards with respect to sampling?

    Reply

    • Frank West

      20th April 2022 at 10:13 pm

      I have very strict requirements for sampling and whenever I chat with a new manufacturer, I list them out and make sure they will be met prior to making any agreements.

      Typically there are 4 steps every project has:

      1) Digital samples – Digital visuals of all the files once they’ve been moved into the factories templates to make sure nothing has been missed or incorrectly set.

      2) Colour samples – Prints of everything on paper to show the final colours.

      3) White samples – Final versions of the game without print. This will include blank cards, boxes, punchboards, and all other items. This is always the final check to make sure I’m happy with every component in the box.

      4) Production sample – A sample of the final product.

      In addition to this, I will always do local prints first where I’ll get everything printed by a professional local printer so I can get a rough look at the colours. When I do this, I include a sample from previous games for each component type, so for example if I have 8 new cards with artwork, I’ll print a sheet with 9 cards, and the 9th card will be from another game I own. This way I can compare the colours in the print to a final production product, and roughly see how the other 8 cards will likely look. It’s not a perfect technique, but it helps me get everything adjusted to a good starting point before going to the factory.

      Finally, I will insist on additional steps for non-standard components, such as miniatures or wooden meeples. I’ll usually get these sampled and made (paying the costs upfront) prior to starting production of anything else to ensure the end component can meet my expectactions.

      This comes at a cost but also helps remove any risks as I’d rather spend a bit more in production, rather than a lot more trying to correct an error later.

      Reply

  • Jeramiah

    3rd August 2022 at 7:30 pm

    Do you recommend a Mfg for making wooden laser etched boards? Or is that common among all of them?
    Thank you

    Reply

    • Frank West

      4th August 2022 at 4:17 am

      Hey Jeramiah,

      I think most of them should be able to do this. I’ve worked with Whatz on a fair variety of wooden components with various markings and they have always done a good job.

      Reply

  • Rebekka malster

    12th August 2022 at 8:03 pm

    Hi Frank,

    I’m a driver trainer in NZ and want to design a board game for teens. It is about consequence in driving and needs to be interesting. I have a range of questions written this far and need someone who can help make it a two option game – short and sharp 30 minutes in class pit one student against another and a longer family option that allows parents to be involved in their teens driving decision making and decision making processes.
    Up for the job? I have another consequence idea that is a roll the dice (your handed with a ypu crashed 4 people in car – roll the dice to see how serious injuries are and life long results)
    I want this available world wide for in class / schools use.
    Zoom meetings ok.
    Ta
    Bek
    Achieve Driver training NZ.

    Reply

    • Frank West

      15th August 2022 at 1:08 pm

      Hi Rebekka, I’m afraid I do not currently work with design briefs or third parties in this way. I wish you the best with your idea.

      Reply

  • Ellie

    27th August 2022 at 8:17 am

    Thanks for the post! I’ve designed a board game and am at the stage of getting some local samples made up for gameplay testing so I can make as many amendments as i an before working with someone overseas for mass production.

    A business advisor I work with was recently trying to warn me off China due to quality control issues that they thought would be rife – how many missing part / issue reports from buyers do you get, do you consider this an issue with Whatz?

    Whatz and Wingo are on my shortlist having made initial contact with 7 or 8 factories as these are 2 I’ve seen recommend most and both are willing to quote me for 500 units.

    Ellie

    Reply

    • Frank West

      27th August 2022 at 5:52 pm

      Hi Ellie, congratulations on the progress with your game – It’s always exciting when you start getting samples made.

      Missing parts and quality issues can be an issue with factories and I’ve certainly heard of problems before. However, factories that constantly have these issues don’t survive very long in the board game industry. We’re very much dependant on games being perfect and the factories know this and do their best. My top 3 companies above are all ones where this shouldn’t be an issue, and I would trust them to do a good job.

      I would expect it to be OK with the other companies I listed as well (which in part is why I recommend them), but I have less direct experience.

      Reply

  • fred brink

    13th September 2022 at 5:13 pm

    My neighbor has designed a board game, and would like to find a way to get it to the public. However his resources are minimal. What should he expect to spend to get a game to market. Do you produce, and sell your games. Any advise, or interest in working with him. Had some prototypes made, and people who played it found it enjoyable. Thanks for your time and any advise.

    Reply

    • Frank West

      13th September 2022 at 9:33 pm

      Hi Fred,

      It’s very difficult to give an answer to this as costs vary a great deal. If they have designed a small card game then they might be able to produce 100 copies for a few hundred dollars at a local printer. If it’s a larger game that needs to be printed in China, then realistically you’re looking at $5,000 – $15,000 as a starting point. That’s not including things like artwork, graphic design, and other tasks around manufacturing and shipping.

      I would recommend they heavily research the subject and make a decision about whether they are doing this as a personal thing or looking to turn it into a business. There are a number of other articles on this blog that may help with various areas if they are looking to start a business. I wish them the best of luck!

      Reply

  • Whatz Games

    13th October 2022 at 12:29 am

    As an employee of Whatz Games, I’m glad to the company I work for is in your top 3 picks. Without being too salesy; If you or anyone are looking for a game manufacturer, I would be glad to show what we offer.
    Blake Connors
    blake.connors@whatzgames.com

    Reply

    • Frank West

      13th October 2022 at 10:59 am

      Hey Blake, thanks for commenting. Whatz are fantastic so hopefully you get a few emails!

      Reply

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