The biggest and hardest decision when creating a board game or card game for me has always been:
Where and how will I get this game manufactured?
Before Dark Flight existed I was running an online business selling decals and phone cases which I would put together, by hand, for every single order. In batches of 10-15 every 2-3 days this process was manageable, but still tedious. Needless to say after 4,000+ hand made orders I started to crave a streamlined automation.
Fast forward to the first game Nick and I made, Poison Bottles, and I was very eager to deliver a unique 1 of a kind product and experience as was a signature trait of mine. The brand had to deliver more than it promised, or I just wasn't living up to my potential. I somehow convinced Nick that it would be a great idea for us make 10 stamps, and hand stamp every single box of Poison Bottles in a multi step process, laser cut some chits, paint them ourselves, draw X's on their eyes, print instructions that needed to be hand folded, and then assemble everything. While this model allowed us to make an incredibly small run of only 150 or so copies of the game and still make a small profit, it was very time consuming. I can still hear Nick cringing every time the words "we can make that ourselves" escaped my mouth.
Next up was Turin Market. I knew I wanted another quick turnaround time on the production of this game, but I was really swimming in the deep end on this one. After designing the game and making a prototype, I decided that I would hand make every single box, which included wrapping the box tops and bottoms with a glued print, around 10-15 min each.. not to mention that I laser cut all of the money for the game and made instructions booklets. Just for fun, I decided to get a quote from Panda (a major board game manufacturing company) to see how much Turin Market would cost if they printed it. I was aghast to learn that it was about the same price as what I was paying to hand make everything. While I have no regrets on the beautiful products we've made so far, I'm now asking myself what the future holds for as we scale up operations.
Normally when a board game is designed, you have a team of people working together from artists to marketing teams, but here we have the full control of every aspect with just a two man team. This means that we can plan ahead for any crazy fun ideas that come to mind and explore them freely. Just the other day I was visiting the biggest packaging and offset printing company in Norway, discussing some off the wall designs for the box of my newest game Jutaku. I've since dreamt up designs of die-cut frosted recyclable plastic that can be rivited together instead of glued or wrapped as is the industry standard. Exploration grants innovation.
We are living an age of endless possibility for manufacturing products, but the real joy of those products comes from thoughtful design. We will continue to wrestle with the line between one off hand made and manufactured games, but one thing that won't change, is the thought and clever care that goes into designing each one.