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Guild of Blades Retail Group

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mikedrys
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I am just wondering about everyone's experiences with Guild of Blades. I have asked them a few questions in the past and normally gotten fairly quick responses. Now I know that people get busy with their job and I seem to remember reading a few weeks ago someone asked a similar question and was told that they were busy, but I just wondered if others are having the same experience that I am.

Last week I sent emails to them with links to the pages I wanted to get printed (talking cards here). I have gotten no response to those emails. Two days ago I joined their Yahoo Group and posted a quick, what I considered to be nice question as to the progress on my printing request. Again, I've gotten no response. On their group they have responded to the questions others have posed in the last couple days, but not mine. I've never had them do any work for me in the past, so I'd be a new client. But like I said, no response in a week or more via email and no response in a couple days on their group? Would just a quick, "Thank you for your interest in wanting to print with us. We would like to print your cards. We are extremely busy right now so it may be ________ (fill in the blank with the appropriate time period, depending on how busy they are) before we are able to get to your order" be too much to ask?
Mike

coco
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Actually GuilfofBlades is a BGDF user

Actually GuilfofBlades is a BGDF user, you he will probably see your post. And mine.

From what I know, they seem to be a bit overwhelmed lately, because my order took a bit long to be printed and shipped (I expect to receive it next week). They are slower answering e-mails than before too, and some messages seem to be missing. I'm happy for them they are so busy, but maybe they should focus on client/ordering tracking a bit more (hiring somebody?).

Last year I asked for a sample and it arrived very fast. The quality was quite good, and I'm sure they've improved it since then. That's why I placed an order, and I'm placing more shortly. I like their POD retail service, because you don't need to stock games. They print as your costumers order. I hope they have more packaging options soon, as well as a POD tiles and boards service.

NĂ©stor

Strangelander
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Build of Glades

I had a set of 10 decks of 90 cards printed around New Years. I called them, and they were very personable and even fit my run in between two larger jobs they had scheduled (I wanted them quickly).

I was not completely impressed with the quality. I'm a graphic designer, so my files should have been squeaky clean. I did intentionally do a few difficult things to test their product -- printed black out to the edges, gradients, etc. The die they used to cut my cards left white chips along the black edges, it wasn't a clean cut. Also, there were some streaks where the ink was slightly heavier (not related to the image), and some of the faces were misaligned (pretty far to one side) though the backs were all cut uniformly. So, I'm not sure how I'd feel if I ordered a $10-15 card game from an independent designer and got that deck, but for $6.45 each, they have made great gifts.

randrews0317
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I'm where you are

though I have had follow up through the phone that I've initiated. If it's going to be awhile, I just want to know as I would find another printer - but I really don't want to redo any layout work if I don't have to. I've got playtesters lined up, but may miss their best meeting times, which I thought I was well in the clear to hit.

NativeTexan
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Strangelander wrote:I had a

Strangelander wrote:
I had a set of 10 decks of 90 cards printed around New Years. I called them, and they were very personable and even fit my run in between two larger jobs they had scheduled (I wanted them quickly).

I was not completely impressed with the quality. I'm a graphic designer, so my files should have been squeaky clean. I did intentionally do a few difficult things to test their product -- printed black out to the edges, gradients, etc. The die they used to cut my cards left white chips along the black edges, it wasn't a clean cut. Also, there were some streaks where the ink was slightly heavier (not related to the image), and some of the faces were misaligned (pretty far to one side) though the backs were all cut uniformly. So, I'm not sure how I'd feel if I ordered a $10-15 card game from an independent designer and got that deck, but for $6.45 each, they have made great gifts.

Yikes. This is very disconcerting. I am planning on submitting my first order at the end of the month. I already have pre-orders for the game and I am going to officially launch at a conference in late May. I was under the impression that the card quality was solid. Any idea if this has been addressed?

coco
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templates

Strangelander wrote:
... some of the faces were misaligned (pretty far to one side) ...

One of the templates was wrong. They admitted it but they didn't change it. I fixed it in my PDFs, so I hope my cards are right.

guildofblades
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Hi Mike, Sorry I had not

Hi Mike,

Sorry I had not replied to you sooner. Yes, we've been swamped lately. We're taking measures to try and rectify that, but they aren't exactly simple measures. Like, for instance, in a forzen credit market, finding a means to upgrade our printer to a much faster model, but where that model costs as much as some houses right now. And we have begun working with a local mechanical engineer to custom build a new die cutter that we have designed, as no machine currently exists that will cut playing cards efficiently and in the manner required for POD cards the way we need it to.. Neither of these are exactly simple fixes, but both are required in order for us to better manage the growing volume of cards being ordered well into the future. If we are lucky, we'll have both resolved before the Gen Con printing rush.

We did recieve your e-mail. I was waiting to reply until after I had had a chance to review your files. We'll be off for Easter sunday, but I hope to do that on Monday.

Thanks,
Ryan S. Johnson
Guild of Blades Retail Group - http://www.guildofblades.com/retailgroup.php
Guild of Blades Publishing Group - http://www.guildofblades.com
1483 Online - http://www.1483online.com

Traz
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Just received my cards

I also just received my cards from a trial run a couple weeks ago and noticed the fronts of the cards all cut on the side incorrectly, but the backs all seemed just fine. Will I use them again? Absolutely! Even with the [slight] miscut, the quality for the price was unbeatable anywhere else for such a short run.

I'm still a bit perplexed at why the cut for the front was off while the cut for the back was just fine. I thought I set everything up just the same, but I will play with the art a bit more next time to see if I can figure out what went wrong. I'll be the first to admit I'm computer challenged, so I tend to think the fault is on my end, but I'm heartened that Ryan is looking to do upgrades to deliver an even better product. I went with the full bleed option, and next time I'll try the no bleed option to see what the difference is.

Certainly the colors popped off the card and were even brighter than I hoped for. I also asked for a couple samples of 'uncut' discards which gave me a sheet of printed stock from the same paper the cards are cut from, in about 8.25 x 10.5 size, which I need as play aid cards for my next game. This was a pleasant surprise to discover an additional product available from them! Many games use player aid cards, and having this solid option for prototypes is a plus.

NativeTexan
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Clarification please

Could you clarify what you meant by the following bit?

Traz wrote:
I also just received my cards from a trial run a couple weeks ago and noticed the fronts of the cards all cut on the side incorrectly, but the backs all seemed just fine.

Thanks in advance.

guildofblades
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I would presume it is an

I would presume it is an issue of registration. It is absolutely the most challenging aspect of POD cards. The print and die cut tolerances are pretty small and its pretty difficult to get them right using a digital printer and the type of die cutter being used presently.

There ARE more accurate die cutters, but all were designed for higher capacity larger runs. We are, at present, using the highest quality table top die cutter available. Its not really designed for professional productions and is actually more for hobby crafts and scrapbooking. That said, the absolute llowest end automated die cutter designed specifically for what we are doing is a $315,000 machine (plus another $40K or so for delivery and set up), weighs 30 tons, takes up a good 15" x 20" operating area if you include the base, and makes is not efficient to set up to operate on smaller print runs such as POD provides. This is why we've had to design our own semi automated table top unit specifically to use for POD card printing. And why we have a local machanical engineer working on building it (some of the parts have to be custom crafted).

As for printers, of four higher end models we've looked at, one is considerably faster than the one we use now, but no more accurate in its print registration on the thicker stocks. Two couldn't print those stocks even as accurately as the model we currently use. The fourth should print considerably faster and we believe will be a bit more accurate on the print registration but also is the most expensive of the four options. This is the one we plan to get, but its expense means we can't just buy it in one lump sum of cash. We'll need to arrange finiancing, which is not exactly simple for a company less than 2 years old in this credit market. Odds are my wife and I will have to complete the process of buying a house this year and use our equity in that as a personal guarantee on the loan for the printer.

That said, even when we upgrade to that printer, the reality is that POD printed cards, on average, will still have slightly more lose registration than cards professionally printed via offset. That and I believe there is an unrealistic expectation at play here sometimes. In our store we have bins of bulk singles for Magic cards (some 20,000 of them). Going through those bins, I find a good half of those cards have registrations somewhat off center. I find the same for the Yu-Gi-oh cards, the Pokemon cards and the older Star Wars and Star Trek cards from Decipher. There is a reason why most trading card games use a fairly standard sized card border. It is because the offset printing and die cutting process for cards comes with an expectation for a certain variance. Unfortunately, often with some of our clients, we recieve designs with virtually no border or extremely thin borders that are far smaller than those used on most offset printed trading cards, when the POD process should demand more.

Part of this is our fault for not documenting this issue more clearly with prospective clients. It is something we will be addressing in far more detail with the expanded file prep documentation that we are working on presently and will be putting online soon.

Ryan S. Johnson
Guild of Blades Retail Group - http://www.guildofblades.com/retailgroup.php
Guild of Blades Publishing Group - http://www.guildofblades.com
1483 Online - http://www.1483online.com

Traz
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clarification

Ryan is probably correct here. If I knew how, I would post a pic of some of the cards so you could get a better sense of what I'm talking about. Now that I have gone through the process once, I have a better idea of what Ryan is talking about. Next time I won't go for the full bleed - I thought using the full bleed would GIVE me more wiggle room, but I'm thinking now that may not be the case. In fact, it might be just the opposite.

To get a better idea of what I'm talking about, imagine that the printing process offset the front side of the cards by about .25" in relation to the back side of the card [on the paper sheet]. When it gets to the cutting guy, he flips a mental coin in his head and sets the paper into the cutter with the back side facing up and registers the die cutter accordingly. Thus, the BACK of the cards is cut PERFECTLY, but the FRONTS of the cards appear miscut. That's what I got.

Now - the followup question is this: will I do this again? You bet! I'll make adjustments now that I'm familiar with the limitations of the process, and Ryan's post that he'll be making corrections to the templating process only serve to make me MORE excited about this product.

But let me be PERFECTLY CLEAR. I completely understand what Ryan is talking about. If he takes his equipment to the next [insane cost] level - you can forget about the services he is offering at the prices he is offering them. After going through hell trying to find someplace I could get 100 decks [183 cards per deck] printed up at ANY price, this is hands-down the best value for the money I have found anywhere.

Guild of Blades POD minimum is the best deal available I am aware of and I will shout their praises from the mountaintop every chance I get. Are there limitations? Yup. No surprises there. This is NOT a case of 'buyer beware', rather it is a case 'buyer BE AWARE' that will probably take more than one order to get right between me and them.

At these prices/quantities, I can live with that.

Thanks, Ryan - knowing you are constantly looking to upgrade makes your service even MORE valuable to me.

mikedrys
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Replying

Ryan,
Thanks. I appreciate you letting me know. I guess I'm just anxious to get this going. I'm glad that you guys run your business and offer this to us. I'm looking forward to hearing from you.
Mike

guildofblades
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Hi Traz, Actually, the

Hi Traz,

Actually, the opposite is true. If we are able to get both the new die cutter and new printer set up, then we'll be able to hold to the existing prices or thereabouts (paper price fluxuations might make us change, but it hasn't yet).

The problem with the current set up is it is too labor intensive. Simply not labor efficient enough that it makes fiscal sense to hire additional folks to help produce the cards to handle the growing volume of the POD card business. All the profits get eaten up in paying for the labor. This would mean to hire any help to enable us to keep up with production we would need to raise prices in order to stay profitable and not go broke. lol. We're trying to both avoid prices and go broke. Hence the move to invest in more efficient equipment, even if in this case it means having to design and have built a custom machine designed specifically for POD card die cutting. I estimate that if both machine can be put into action that our POD card production can becomes x5 more efficient. If so, we'll be able to hire help, maintain the existing prices and maybe even lower them a bit on large productions and get set up to do randomized printing and packaging for trading card games.

Unfortunately we're simply going to have to muddle through the best we can this summer until the higher capacity can be put into place.

Ryan S. Johnson
Guild of Blades Retail Group - http://www.guildofblades.com/retailgroup.php
Guild of Blades Publishing Group - http://www.guildofblades.com
1483 Online - http://www.1483online.com

P.S. Mike. Reviewed your files and will be shooting you an e-mail today.

nomadsgames
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My Experience

I have used the Guild of Blades services 3 to 4 times. The quality of the product has increased each time I have ordered from them. My last order was the best quality to date.

Also, you can't beat the price for short runs.

I will finish by saying, "Ryan and Company, keep up the good work".

Best Regard
Sean D MacDonald

randrews0317
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Don't forget me Ryan!

:) Just anxious to get my decks.

coco
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received!

I've just received them! I was so excited that I've destroyed one of the wraps by accident!

The quality is A M A Z I N G for the price. I've noticed that registration problem too, but I think I can avoid it in future templates.

One thing I will consider seriously it to get the games fully assembled in GOB, not here. As I said, I've destroyed one trying to glue it.

Nestor

bluesea
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guildofblades wrote: it means

guildofblades wrote:
it means having to design and have built a custom machine designed specifically for POD card die cutting. I estimate that if both machine can be put into action that our POD card production can becomes x5 more efficient....

Just curious if this new machine (which sounds very cool by the way) will position you to offer an Artscow-like service, i.e., one-off decks. Or will it be target at increasing short-run production alone?

Do you have any idea how Artscow is making money of these $5.77 decks with free shipping? Is this something GoB can do to?

I guess a good use of each service is Artscow=prototype and GoB=Short-Run for Sales.

Also, Ryan, thanks so much for your candor in all your discussions. Not only does this transparency in your business model build interest, it also instills confidence that you are sincere and that you know what you are doing.

SiddGames
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bluesea wrote:Do you have any

bluesea wrote:
Do you have any idea how Artscow is making money of these $5.77 decks with free shipping? Is this something GoB can do to?

I guess a good use of each service is Artscow=prototype and GoB=Short-Run for Sales.

I got an Artscow email recently that stated something along the lines of, Thanks to all our recent business we are buying a new digital printer. I can't believe they are making money off $5.77 decks with free shipping... the shipping alone from Hong Kong to all over the world can't be THAT cheap. Or, maybe it is driving a lot of other business to them, if the coupon is a lossy deal just for marketing purposes.

bluesea wrote:
Also, Ryan, thanks so much for your candor in all your discussions. Not only does this transparency in your business model build interest, it also instills confidence that you are sincere and that you know what you are doing.

Seconded!

guildofblades
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>>Just curious if this new

>>Just curious if this new machine (which sounds very cool by the way) will position you to offer an Artscow-like service, i.e., one-off decks. Or will it be target at increasing short-run production alone?<<

Its largely targeted at increasing short run production efficiency and simplifying the skillset required to do it at all. Both are essential to our ability to scale production upwards to handle larger and more complex jobs more quickly and to process smaller jobs through in a profitable fashion. Simple reality is that once you factor the labor most small jobs for us are done at a loss and its the mid sized jobs that allow for a profit. We've maintain the low entry points this last year as a means to help foster a growing indie card game movement and to make it easier to spread the word about the existance of POD cards. As of yesterday some new minimum order terms went into affect. Basically the minimum order for a "first time" printing with new files, to get the wholesale pricing, is now 25 units. Without changing the files, reprints will be maintaining the 10 unit minimum. But we are also introducing non wholesale pricing with a minimum print run of 2 decks.

>>Do you have any idea how Artscow is making money of these $5.77 decks with free shipping? Is this something GoB can do to?<<

Well, we will be introducing non wholesale pricing at a minimum run of 2 decks. But unfortunately, no, not at that kind of pricing. Given that they are shipping free from Hong Kong, they are either taking a loss on the shipping alone or they are getting government subsidies at this point to cover their loses. As for how they might produce them so cheaply, the fact that we are talking about China here essentially answers that question. Its likely their production facility is outside of downtown Hong Kong proper and possibly over in a nearby Chinese provice like Canton or the like where labor is cheap.

Unless I really am missing something with regards to global shipping options or unless the Chinese government is massively subsidizing those costs, I expect their offer for free shipping won't last.

Ryan S. Johnson
Guild of Blades Retail Group - http://www.guildofblades.com/retailgroup.php
Guild of Blades Publishing Group - http://www.guildofblades.com
1483 Online - http://www.1483online.com

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