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Help with cardboard thicknesses: technical question

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kpres's picture
Joined: 04/20/2013

I'm developing a game that uses tiles. For my prototype, I need to make 110 cardboard tiles, printed on both sides. They need to be thick, like Carcassonne tiles, or like the coins in 7 Wonders, or the cardboard tokens in most games. I'm looking for a company that prints accurately on two sides of a sheet of card and stamps perforations into the sheets. Here are my questions:

What is that type of cardboard called?
What is the service I'm looking for?
Has anybody done this before and can give me an idea of the price?

rpghost's picture
Joined: 03/03/2009
Most any manufacturer will be

Most any manufacturer will be able to help you. The cardboard is called "chipboard" and they use a die to cut it out and that's sometimes together known as a "punchboard". Most high quality think cardboard games are made of 2mm. But many games cheap out and use 1.5 or even 1mm and it still works fine. WIth 110 pieces it's going to be costly at 2mm. I don't think even Carcassonne is 2mm anymore.

A die will run you about $200-300 so you want to use the same die for all sheets of cardboard even if you end up with a couple extra tiles.

Try or or or

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Joined: 05/19/2013
One thing to note is the die

One thing to note is the die is a one time fee and can last for many, many punching operations. Some places MIGHT charge a storage fee once your project is over, but that's likely cheaper than having a new one made if you need more down the road.

As was suggested, when possible having multiple sheets cut with the same cutting pattern is helpful because you avoid that upfront cost. That's why some games you'll see split tokens across multiple sheets, or even have some dead cuts that don't end up being actual tokens, but you'll see those same cuts on another sheet did have tokens.

Your manufacturer will explain exact technical details but you'll need an artwork bleed around each cut, the one time I did this I just had to provide an additional layer in our illustrator artwork that had the vector lines for cutting.

Joined: 05/19/2013
Also a cheap pair of calipers

Also a cheap pair of calipers such as these:

Will run you about $10 and let you quickly and accurately measure all those pieces of existing games that you'd like to replicate the feel of, without squinting to see if it's 1mm or 2.

kpres's picture
Joined: 04/20/2013
thank you

Thank you for your help. Man, that's expensive! That die sounds great for production but not appropriate for prototyping. I'll have to use regular card stock rather than real card for now.

questccg's picture
Joined: 04/16/2011
Same conclusion...

kpres wrote:
Thank you for your help. Man, that's expensive! That die sounds great for production but not appropriate for prototyping. I'll have to use regular card stock rather than real card for now.

I had a game that I was making damage counters for. On The Game Crafter (TGC), they have "Shards" which are cardstock and full bleed on both sides. I too decided that for a prototype, I would used card stock rather than have thicker chipboard which would be better for the final game...

Joined: 05/19/2013
For low volume you could look

For low volume you could look at They'll laser cut a variety of materials, they don't have chipboard but they do have corrugated cardboard, or you could get acrylic and then use fullsheet labels you print yourself to add artwork. It's a lot more work than you were hoping for of course.

You could consider a die cutting machine, you didn't mention but are they square tiles? Companies like make manual machines, you just have to find a 'die' that matches what you want, they have hex shapes ones so I bet they have others. You'd just need a machine capable of cutting the chipboard you want to cut.

There's also electronic die cutters, you hook them to a computer and 'print' a cutting pattern and it does it's magic. Some of them even let you print registration marks on the page and an optical scanner will 'find' it and make all cuts relative to that point, that's one of the few that will let you print on full sheet labels, stick it to your base material, and cut. Those machines are $300 to over $1000 depending on capabilities, but if you prototype enough it could be a good investment.

Again I know you were looking for a service provider, I'm a big DIY person so those are the ones I think of.

These folks offer prototyping services where they handcraft the whole game as close to production quality as they can: I'm not sure if that includes creating that many tokens but maybe they can do something short of creating a die.

Ludo Fact
Ludo Fact's picture
Joined: 09/22/2011
my 2c

All correct which has been said. Just a few added remarks:
- Carcassonne is made form 2mm cardboard. To be exact: 800g greyboards plus two times 100g high quality label paper. 7 Wonders is made from exactly the same material. Trust me, I know ;-)
- a punching tool is always required. Unless you accidently find someone who has the exact tool you need, and owns it, it will cost app. 1000 Euro to make one.
- as Itsdan said: work with your manufacturer for the best layout.
- small print runs usually need to be looked at closely to determine what options one may have. Work with your manufacturer on options.

For prototypes don't over do it: take cardboard, say, from note pads (the thick card board holding the pages), print your tiles, glue them to that card board and cut them Get a cutting mat and a sharp knife. That is fine for play testing and for publishers as well. That is already a luxury, I have seen many, many prototypes when I was working for a publisher which did not uphold standards like that.

Btw: James, your link is not working. I have not read that article, and I would really love to!

Ludo Fact GmbH

yodazhang's picture
Joined: 12/24/2013

I agree to what LudoFact said: For prototyping, you can just DIY everything. Print in color on stickyback-paper and then put it on cardstock, then cut with a paper-knife.

If you want a short-run production, like 10 or 20 or 50 games, you can ask, they also do the die-cutting and have different tools to choose from, so you don't need to pay tool-cost, except you need a special tool for your game.

Then if you need the large quantity, go to LudoFact or any of the other production companies mentioned in other threads.

Joined: 07/10/2011
rpghost wrote:WIth 110 pieces

rpghost wrote:
WIth 110 pieces it's going to be costly at 2mm.

rpghost wrote:

A die will run you about $200-300 so you want to use the same die for all sheets of cardboard even if you end up with a couple extra tiles.

Everything else you said was right–– but my experience contradicts you on these two points.

I've been getting quotes from a variety of Asian and American printers in the last few months, and in my discussions, the difference in cost between 1.5mm, 2mm, 2.5mm, 3mm, and 4mm punchboard is negligible. For a sheet of full-color 200mm x 300mm punchboard, it starts at about 25¢ and increases by factors of less than 1¢ per extra mm. (Obviously print-run will affect the base price, but I think this estimate is conservative, based on the variety of prices I've received.)

This is because the critical factor is not the amount of material; chipboard is just cheap raw wood pulp, often recycled, and it's easy for the manufacturer to slap on another layer. The expensive part is the printed surface. However, there will also be 'trickling' costs–– if you do multiple sheets, you may need to increase the box dimensions to accommodate the components. Also, multiple sheets of hefty punchboard can increase the weight of the finished product, which can produce a variety of trickle-down costs.

About the die–– my received quote suggest die tooling usually runs more like ~$500-700, and a quick google search seems to concur.

However, if there's a company that can do die cutting more cheaply, though, I'd love to hear about them!

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