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Are custom game pieces a turn-off for publishing?

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Actionartist
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So my seafaring, privateering game requires each player to have six ship miniatures, each with a unique emblem printed clearly on each ship. Right now, I’m looking at getting the Napoleonic miniature navy sailing ships on Amazon, which are the perfect size and theme (https://www.amazon.com/Napoleonic-Miniature-Navy-Sailing-Ships/dp/B00JQL...). The only problem is there is nowhere to print a large, circular logo to uniquely identify each one. I’m going to have to attach a circular disc to the top of each one with the emblem printed on the disc for now.

Here’s my question. Is it too ambitious to want to have custom-cast or custom-printed miniatures for the final game? I feel strongly that the sailing ship miniatures contribute a lot to the feel and theme of the game. Somehow a flat, wooden circle meeple doesn’t say “swashbuckling” to me.

I don’t want to scare off publishers, but I’ve gotten repeated feedback from playtesters that they like the idea of miniatures over common game tokens.

Advice?

Evil ColSanders
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I think your Amazon ships are

I think your Amazon ships are just fine. I have no problem if there was a hole in the back ship with a hole where you could put a dowel which held a flag... though color could be enough to differentiate the players/ships. If you have player cards, I would frame the cards with the color of the ship. Libertalia does this to some extent.

polyobsessive
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Options

I guess you have several options for how ships are represented in the game, like:
- Punched cardboard counters
- Card standee.
- Simple wooden tokens with a sticker or printed design.
- Shaped wooden tokens ("ship meeples"), possibly with sticker or print/paint design.
- Various types of miniature.

If you are planning on pitching the game to publishers, you are probably best just picking one that you like for your prototype (I'd probably personally go for standees), but think about alternatives and be ready to discuss with the publisher ways to make the game extra awesome.

When it comes down to it, it is the publisher's decision on how to present the game, and a competent publisher can easily make cosmetic changes like this, but it's good to be able to present ideas and suggestions, as long as you can accept their decision.

Good luck!

let-off studios
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Go With Your Vision

I'd say go with as high production as you are willing to go. There are a couple reasons for this.

- Initial attraction will be high. It's easier to be wowed by a physical model than by 2D artwork, in most cases.
- I've heard time and again that if you're pitching to publishers, show them the experience you want to create for the player. They will alter artwork and "scale down" the budget to meet their needs should they decide to go with it. If it's a Kickstarter project, you can pitch the miniatures as a long-game "deluxe" stretch goal.
- If you're keeping it for yourself, then you'll have a cool-looking prototype to play and show.

So if you can afford it, why not? :)

Actionartist
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Exactly what I was thinking

Yeah, after having used standard game pieces to represent the ships, I am positive the gaming experience is just that much better with more authentic-looking pieces. Like I said before, standees or meeples in place of actual miniatures just make you feel like you’re playing a cheap charade; you want to see actual ships on the sea.

JohnBrieger
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Agree with above comments

In general, yes, custom miniatures are a turn off for publishers, due to the cost of additional molds, production, and final game weight. It sounds like you are describing 6 molds that are then reproduced for each player, so for a 4p game, that's 24 miniatures, 6 molds. That's a lot of price tag to add to your game. Consider if there are ways your design can be modified to use less molds.

All publishers will be able to look at a prototype using minis and say: "oh we could make this with standees or with size shapes of wooden ship". So it's not a big turn off unless you insist on using miniatures. On a sell sheet, I'd list "24 ship miniatures / tokens" so it's clear that they are not required to be minis.

I will say – standees can look really good if you construct them well, and handle nicely when you pick them up– so don't worry about getting the minis perfect for a prototype. I prototyped, tested, and pitched a miniatures game to publishers all with standees 100% of the way and it was not an obstacle for players or publishers. (That one is still under evaluation at publishers, so not signed yet, but hoping it will get picked up this year)

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