Random musings of the Little Sensei: Board game design philosophies

Nothing like a random image to begin a random post

I was listening to Business FM this morning on my way to work. It was The Morning Grill with Tune Hotel’s CEO on the hot seat this morning. Now somehow or another, the conversation went from profit making strategies to issues on efficiency: using the least amount of resources to get the most amount of value that you can get. On average, a standard Tune Hotel will have 100-150 rooms and 10 staff members to man them. This revelation was a shocker and it immediately brought me back to game design mode.

I’ve been wondering about this for quite some time now but never really got a solid mechanic nor theme to try it out. Here’s where my issue of cost comes in. I envision that a lot of people would want to buy my game if it was priced in relation to its value. So a Silver Line small box type of game I would expect it to go at around USD20 for people to consider it reasonable. A normal sized medium square box game which normally ran around USD39.90, has jumped up to USD59.90 as being reasonable. Some don’t even complain when they see a USD60-USD100 box anymore.

The sad thing is, for an average Malaysian, anything over RM99 (roughly USD30 now) is considered too expensive and would probably be passed over.

So what got me thinking was this: How to make a standard sized board game at USD30 or less? First we would have to look into the cost of actually manufacturing the game itself. Now according to normal standards, you should always price your retail price 10 times your actual cost in producing each unit of your game. So if I want a USD30 game, I have to make sure that my manufacturing price is no more than USD3 per unit. Tall order. So what’s in a game?

1) Components (chits, tiny blocks of wood, etc)
2) Board
3) Cards
4) Dice
5) Rulebook
6) Box
7) Plastic baggies for packing

Now I’m not sure how much I can save up by manufacturing the board alone, but what I do know is that cards cost more than dice to produce.

A single card is basically a result in a deck of randomly shuffled values. Then again, so is a single face of a die. Now a card can be more flexible and you can have a lot more funky values in a deck rather than a single die, but it also costs more. A card basically needs to be printed, which takes colour into account. Cards will have design on them, so pictures and layout basically cost money as you’re hiring artists to work on it. An average card would cost about 20 cents to make. A single die would cost the same. And that is 6 random results as opposed to 1.

Let’s take it a bit more: making cheap custom faced dice. Etching on the faces would take a pretty penny and would drive the cost up. But what if the faces were to be stickered on? A single sheet of paper would generally be able to print 8-9 2.5″ x 3″ cards. A single sheet of paper would theoretically be able to supply 16 dice with individual faces. That’s equal to 96 different results. Arts on die faces are rarely if ever too artistic nor colour intensive in the first place. This is certainly a factor to look into.

Okay I’m done with my rambling in the morning before I start working. I’m not sure if there will ever be another installment on this idea but we’ll see.

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Posted on December 14, 2010, in The Little Sensei and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. i like the picture and i like it when u talked about your idea 🙂

  2. Hehehe… Time will tell if this theory will see any use in the future 😛

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