Homework Lesson 1-01
One of the first things to do when setting up a Kickstarter is to figure out how much it will cost you to actually fulfill said Kickstarter, or at the very least a rough estimate. This all starts with getting quotes from manufacturers for how much they would charge to print your game. In this lesson we will talk about how to ask for quotes from printers, what you will need to know about your game, and how to use that information to set your goal amount and reward levels.

Getting Quotes – How to get started

For many (myself as I was getting started in this business), the simple idea of finding a printer for your game is overwhelming. Thankfully, there are some who have done the work already. James Mathe has an excellent resource here of many printers in the board game industry. For Campaign Trail, we just picked a few out of James’s list and then also contacted some others we had either worked with before or knew people who had worked with them. We ended up sending out requests to 10 printers in all:

  • Print Ninja
  • Quality Playing Cards
  • Panda GM
  • Ludo Fact Germany
  • NSF Games
  • Annboli
  • Wingo Games
  • Warmer International
  • Liya International
  • Delano
  • Know what’s in your game

    Once you have your list of printers you want to ask for quotes, getting the quotes is easy. All you have to do is email them with a complete list of everything in your game and just ask them to provide a quote. You will also have to specify how many copies of the game you want. Most printers have minimums (with 1,500 being a common number). I recommend asking for quotes for at least three different size print runs (I do 1,500; 2,000; and 3,000). This seems easy enough, but be sure you ask for every little thing down to the minute details. A good printer is not going to make assumptions on your behalf. They want to make sure you get the game that you ask for, nothing more, nothing less. So make sure you know measurements on everything. Make sure you specify materials. It sometimes helps to give diagrams and pictures for what you want in your game.

    This is the component list we asked for when we asked for quotes for Campaign Trail. Notice that every component is listed in metric measurements. If you work with any printer outside the US you will need to ask for everything in metric. That’s the way the rest of the world works.

  • 1 6-fold Game Board (508mm x 762mm), printed full color
  • 1 12-page Rulebook (280mm x 280mm), printed full color
  • 108 poker sized cards (63mm x 88mm), printed full color front and back
  • 25 mini sized cards (63mm x 44mm), printed full color front and back
  • 1 60-pt chipboard mat (280mm x 175mm), printed full color front and back
  • 3 60-pt chipboard mats (280mm x 127mm), printed full color front and back
  • 1 60-pt chipboard mat, 2 layer with dials (254mm x 100mm), printed full color front and back.)
  • 1 3-part 60-pt chipboard mat, 2 layer with grooves, printed full color front and back
  • – part 1 (269mm x 100mm)
    – part 2 (274mm x 100mm)
    – part 3 (264mm x 100mm)

  • 51 punch out 60-pt chipboard scoring tokens (280mm x 220mm), printed full color front and back.)
  • 3 small (16mm) wooden meeples in white, red, and blue
  • 3 large (24mm) wooden meeples in white, red, and blue
  • 3 small (10mm x 10 mm) wooden houses in white, red, and blue
  • 3 large (17mm x 11mm) houses in white, red, and blue
  • 3 small (10mm diam) wooden disks in white, red, and blue
  • 3 large (15mm diam) wooden disks in white, red, and blue
  • 225 wooden cubes (8mm) (75 each of white, red, and blue)
  • 54 wooden cylinders (10mm diam) (18 each of white, red, and blue)
  • 1 292mm x 292mm x 102mm telescoping game box (1mm thick), both top and bottom printed full color
  • As I stated before, pictures always help, especially for the more advanced components. For Campaign Trail we have a 3-part scoring track that needs to be built to fit together like a puzzle as well as have grooves on top for the pieces to fit down into. I made the following images in sketchup to help the printers understand exactly what I was looking for.

    Scoring Track-01

    Be prepared to get questions from the printer asking for clarification or to provide things you missed. In our case we did not adequately specify dimensions for the meeples, cylinders, and wooden houses so we got a lot of questions about those particular items. Also, be prepared for this process to take some time. I sent out my requests on January 2nd of this year. I am still waiting to hear back from some. Most I heard back from around the 2nd week in February so it can take about 5-6 weeks for a quote to get back to you.

    So you have your quote, now what?

    Now, you can use that quote to set up things like reward levels and overall Kickstarter goal. I typically like to determine a rough guess of what the MSRP for the game will be based on the quotes I receive as well as the information found here. Then I set up my reward level for the game at some discount off of that price. I believe that Kickstarter backers should get a discount since they are putting their faith in you up front to make and deliver a game to them. For Campaign Trail, we determined after looking at all the various methods of pricing that the MSRP should be ~$65 (this may go up or down depending on getting better quotes, changing components, or adding new components through the Kickstarter). Since our MSRP is $65, we thought a good price point for the Kickstarter would be $50 for the game. This gives everyone that backs us and puts their trust in us early a 23% discount. I think that’s fair.

    The next step is to figure out what you will need to set as your overall goal for the project. You can figure out how much it will take to print the game via your quotes you received. This is your starting point. Now add in whatever you will need to complete the artwork on the project (sometimes this may be payed for ahead of time, sometimes not), add in the amount that Kickstarter will take out for processing fees, add in whatever else you may need to fill other various rewards, and finally add in what it will take to ship your goods from China (or wherever you will be printing) to either yourself or your fulfillment warehouse(s) and what it will cost to ship rewards to backers individually. This will be your final goal amount. As I mentioned in a previous post, keep your goal amount as low as you possibly can. This is the most critical component relating to the success of your Kickstarter (other than perhaps the size of your network). Finally, take your goal amount and divide by the amount of your base game reward level. This is the number of backers needed to be successful. Is this number realistic? Can your network support this? If not, you will need to make some changes to your game to get that goal amount down or really start focusing on building your network.

    For Campaign Trail, we estimate that we will need ~$30,000 to do the print run and pay for art, shipping, and fulfillment. At $50 per copy, this means we will need about 600 backers. Since we did get 582 backers for Stones of Fate, we feel this is realistic however we will continue to evaluate how we can bring that number down all while continuing to provide excellent value to our backers. To see how this all works out on our Kickstarter page and where we stand now, please check out the Campaign Trail Kickstarter campaign as it’s being built here.

    Also, I wanted to give another shout out to Teale Fristo for giving me the inspiration for this series and point you to his ongoing Kickstarter campaign for a great little game called Birds of a Feather!

    Jeff calls himself an engineer but that’s just his cover. In reality most people don’t know what he does. We’re not even sure he does. Sometimes he can be found designing games, other times developing other people’s designs and bringing them to kickstarter. He is supported in all this by his loving wife and 2 boys who always keep him on his toes.

    8 Readers Commented

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    1. Randy Hoyt on March 16, 2015

      Some great stuff in this post! On the components side, be sure also to ask for any plastic bags and a box insert if you want them included.

      A few things I would remind people to look out for:

      * Stones of Fate was a much different type of game. Your reach allowed you to get 557 people to buy a 30-minute card game, most at $20-$30. That’s different than getting 600 people to give you $50 for a 2-hour game. I’d also suspect that your reach has grown a LOT since last year.

      * You didn’t mention HOW you calculated your fulfillment costs. That definitely depends on the number of backers. You can’t calculate these things sequentially: they are multiple equations that work together. For example, if you drop your pledge level to $40, you would need more backers and would then have higher fulfillment costs and would need a higher goal.

      * You also need to plan for international backers. I wrote a post about that explains why that matters. Especially for bigger/heavier games, there is a much different cost: http://blog.lanternsgame.com/2014/10/31/why-backer-count-is-more-important-than-total-pledges/ Fulfillment costs is a moving target that is hard to estimate; it’s one of my biggest challenges as a project creator.

      I love the series! Thank you for doing this. 🙂

    2. Eric Hanuise on March 16, 2015

      Don’t forget the taxes when calculating your costs and KS prices, or you could have a nasty surprise 😉

      • Jeff Cornelius Author on March 16, 2015

        Yes, good point and greatly influenced by the time of year you do your Kickstarter and when you fulfill those rewards.

    3. Jamey Stegmaier on March 16, 2015

      This is fantastic! Thanks for writing this, Jeff–it’s a great guide to a new designer and a great reminder about what’s important for getting a quote (for anyone). I like those tokens you designed to create the innovative score track.

    4. Kim on March 17, 2015

      Great post thanks Jeff.

      Its very important to consider the cheapest possible international fulfillment costs if bundling shipping into the base pledge, and even when you dont. Backers look at that whole price as the cost Very quickly after liking your game.

      I agree with Randy re watching the backer count.

      See also a blog series I wrote on cheap global fulfillment options that should simplify your fulfilment process, lower your shipping costs and bring you more backers.

    5. Billy on December 5, 2015

      Hey Jeff!

      So at the end what manufacturer did you decide to go with? I love your stuff and wanted to see what your final option was.

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