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Next step after PnP

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FrankM
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Horseman's Chess is now available as a PnP, and I want to bring it to a full product with physical pieces... but there are a couple hang-ups.

First, staying with the PnP I'd need to sell about eighty units to recover the cost of the artwork. That doesn't seem like it's going to happen quickly while sitting on the second page of TGC's PnP section. Using the first version to finance the second looks... doubtful.

Second, I worked out how to build the game out of existing capabilities at The Game Crafter. The laser-cut acrylic pieces could make for very attractive pieces and mounts. But the set would retail for about $65, and I'm not sure there's be a lot of demand at that price. $12 of it is just to include a folding chessboard.

"Expansion" packs (an army in some color other than black or white) would be in the $25-$30 range depending on packaging.

Going straight to molded plastic pieces would get the unit cost down, but I'm not sure by how much or how much the initial investment would be for tooling and a production run.

terzamossa
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how did you get those estimates?

I am not familiar with the amount of pieces in your game, but it is very unlikely that you manage to spend less than 10k for custom plastics made through injection moulding. usually it only becomes convenient when you produce more than 2000 pieces for each shape.
With resin casting you can produce at a higher cost per unit, lower copy number (I assume that simple chess pieces would be around 1.5 USD each, with minimum amount between 20 and 60 pieces, according to companies)

I keep seeing in here people wanting to mass manufactur games at the game crafter...but my understanding is that this has never been the goal of TGC, they are a good option for designers wanting to produce few copies for themselves/send to the reviewers. To have prices compatible with you making money out of it, you need to move to mass manufacture (probably not below 500 copies).
Of course this might be different if you were producing luxury handcrafted pieces, then you can make 1 copy and sell it as luxury item (if it's beautiful and all the rest) and a much higher cost.
But if you are competing with other boardgames, (which by the way are more well known and have been playtested and refined by more people...so they are most likely better) you need to have similar price, which means you have to mass manufacture.
if you need more money you can launch a kickstarter...or just pitch your game to a publisher.

THe reason I am asking about how you got those estimates is that the cost you pay from a manufacturer should be multiplied by 5 to get your market cost. if you spend 35 to make a game, you can't sell it for 40 and have a 5 margin, this does not take account of shipping costs, taxes, problems with faulty copies...by the time you get back what you spent in art, not to talk about paying for another print, you will need to sell millions of copies.

I will close it here as I wrote way too much and I am not even sure I am answering your question :) my main point is that at this stage you can't think of making money out of it, the goal should be spending even more money on marketing and public image of your game until you get to the point where 2000 people will want to buy it. Then you can mass manufacture it!

FrankM
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Kind of answered the question

Thanks, you did kind of answer my question in a back-of-the-envelope way.

If I make a physical game for sale on The Game Crafter, it would have an on-demand production cost of $57 to $60 dollars. People are willing to pay a small mark-up, but on the flip side the only setup cost is buying a prototype at the production cost (plus whatever I might pay for additional artwork).

The game as made by TGC doesn’t look much like how I’d imagine a mass-produced version to look. Laser-cut acrylic pieces make for interesting silhouettes for the pieces, but it doesn’t scale to mass-production. I imagine mass-production would involve injection-molded plastic (though thanks for telling me about resin).

The game’s bill of materials is:

8 black Pawns that taper down to a small square instead of a wide base.
8 white Pawns with similar bottoms
2 black Rooks with similar bottoms
2 white Rooks with similar bottoms
2 black Knights with similar bottoms
2 white Knights with similar bottoms
2 black Bishops with similar bottoms
2 white Bishops with similar bottoms
2 black Queens with similar bottoms (for convenience with promoting)
2 white Queens with similar bottoms (same idea)
1 black King with similar bottom
1 white King with similar bottom
8 black Jumper horse-shaped mounts that accept the pieces’ small square bottoms
8 white Jumper horse-shaped mounts that accept the pieces’ small square bottoms
8 black Charger horse-shaped mounts that accept the pieces’ small square bottoms
8 white Charger horse-shaped mounts that accept the pieces’ small square bottoms
8 black round bases that accept the pieces’ square bottoms
8 white round bases that accept the pieces’ square bottoms
1 chess board (almost certainly folding)
1 rulebook
1 box with any necessary inserts
Possibly some plastic baggies

That’s nine molds and 82 plastic figures per box. Or more likely, four multi-piece molds and eight frames for the player to separate. It needs high-enough quality that the parts will reliably fit together.

It’s never going to undercut a cheap chess set that retails for $9, but I was hoping at scale it might stay in a reasonable price range.

Jay103
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I'd be willing to bet there

I'd be willing to bet there are existing molds at many manufacturers for all sorts of different chess sets. You should use one of those if you want to manufacture for real (i.e. make 1000 units).

I'd think you could also avoid the "mount" issue by finding some sort of existing poker-chip-like token with a raised edge that can neatly fit the base of the pieces. Then something like "red for charger, blue for jumper" will keep everything very clear and obvious in play.

Even if you needed to custom-create that item, you'd be creating one simple plastic item, not a dozen. And you'd also just need 16 reds and 16 blues per set, not 8/8/8/8 of different pieces and colors. Not sure why you need a "blank" bottom.. can't the pieces just sit on the board by themselves?

Anyway, I'm SURE there are lots of existing choices for decent chess pieces. You have the advantage of starting with what I'd guess is the most basic and easy-to-find set of pieces. The only trick will be finding a set with the same-sized bottoms. https://www.alibaba.com/showroom/chess-set-plastic.html maybe for a start.

I haven't done plastics myself (other than custom dice), but I'm always happy to talk manufacturing...

FrankM
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Wide mounts

I was worried that most King pieces have bases that just fit inside a square, so any mount that could hold it would be too wide.

I do see on that link that tall, skinny sets exist that could be paired with a slightly oversized board. That means we may not need the flat bases. I would however need customized Rook and Knight pieces made in the same style as the rest of the set. It would like kind of disturbing to have a horse figure riding a horse. This is supposed to be a family-friendly game ;)

Thanks for the food for thought.

Jay103
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Well, that's why I was

Well, that's why I was suggesting something more along the lines of a poker chip for your mounts, without any horseyness. Just use color coding (red/blue) to distinguish them, which is also easier to see while playing.

I suppose that's the difference between "basic good-quality playable set" and "deluxe fancy set." If you really want the latter, you'll have to pay a lot up front for it, plus the manufacturing cost itself. Using existing components, especially components that a manufacturer may have a million of sitting in a big bin, is a win.

FrankM
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Version problem

Ah, I see. You’re talking about an abstract simplified set of tokens. One of the problems with introducing a new version is that you compete with the current versions. For as much more that chess and tokens would cost, it probably won’t be a better value than the PnP.

The on-demand version at The Game Crafter would look great, but $65 is probably too high of a price point. If I can manage to make the acrylic silhouettes myself, I might make one for me and leave it public just in case.

What I’m trying to feel out is if there’s a possibility of a $20-ish (or ideally even lower) version that people would think of as “better enough” than the PnP to buy.

Jay103
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It's extremely difficult to

It's extremely difficult to make a $20-ish anything (though a chess set using existing pieces with few modifications would probably work).

I designed a card game that was a deck of cards, some round plastic chips, and some "gems", all standard parts, and could barely squeak that in at $19.

questccg
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Here's a sample

FrankM wrote:
...What I’m trying to feel out is if there’s a possibility of a $20-ish (or ideally even lower) version that people would think of as “better enough” than the PnP to buy.

Here's a SAMPLE of what I meant in my PM. Concerning the "custom" punch-outs ... Right now I just used a quick edit to make it more FANCY with an actual "charging" horse (Horizontal) and one that is in process of "jumping" too (vertical).

This is similar to the PNP except for the 2mm grooves on the base and the extra "connectors" on each of the two shapes.

I just used these to illustrate HOW to "connect" them together (3 pieces).

The old TGC samples were more visible of these "connections" ... And it was more apparent how to inter-connect pieces together. I just wanted to explain how to DESIGN the 3 pieces such that they FIT together.

Regards!

Note #1: You can REFINE the shapes a bit too... I just did this quick-and-dirty. Just to give you an idea of what they may look like when you take a couple of days to fool around with them. I only spent like 30 or so minutes. But you can get your artist to create VECTOR based illustrations and use Illustrator to create the pieces.

Note #2: I guess I inverted the colors. Black should be the one with the "Black Base" and White (the White-one). Anyways you get the idea...

Note #3: IF you want to save some money, the chipboard custom "punch-outs" allow you to print and create the right "effect" and you can be tighter on the lines. But I was just going with a $25 USD price point for the Mounts and Rulebook. This could be $25 USD worthwhile of material to assemble and play with.

Again you can be more precise ... with the contours. I just did them so that they are "recognizable" from their PNP counter-parts (Rectangle and Triangle).

Note #4: Here is a ZIP with all the files ... In case you want to play around with the Horses and stuff.

Horseman Chess - Archive

Note #5: You would need to use Millimeters to ensure that the SIZES are 2mm in thickness. This was just a SAMPLE to show you HOW the pieces could "connect" (3 pieces). Again you can maybe coordinate with your artist ... If he could come up with better "shapes" and "accurate measurements" for the connections.

Jay103
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Nice.

Nice.

FrankM
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That looks pretty

Thanks, that’s kind of the idea I had with the acrylic, except I was going to cut it right into a horsey shape instead of printing a horse on it. It would be laborious, but something I could render into an SVG by myself by tracing a decent silhouette.

For reference, the Rook and Knight symbols are the outer edge of my artistic ability; whereas the artist I’m working with seems to be able to sneeze an awesome illustration onto paper.

My nagging concern is that anything above PnP level will come with an expectation of Knight and Rook pieces that look like the symbols/illustrations. Pretty much every set of chess figures I can find has a horse motif for that &$#!@ Knight.

(There’s a more subtle issue with the Bishop. The Staunton Bishop is actually based on a helmet from when that piece used to be called a Page. A Knight helmet needs to by frilly enough to be distinct from the Bishop, or all of the pieces need to be human-like.)

FrankM
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By the way

By the way, there is a distinct chance that I’m overthinking this problem with putting a Knight on a mount.

I’ve been known to overthink things.

It’s kinda how I ended up with a Ph.D.

Let’s see if I can make these SVGs and see what happens.

questccg
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Here are some Chess HEADS...

Take a look at these "popular" heads of the Chess pieces:

https://www.pinterest.ca/pin/377035800035946971/

You'll notice the Knight is NOT on a Horse! I don't have a PHD ... But at some point in time, I was exploring a Chess-Variant and was looking for a set of different Chess Pieces.

So I just Googled to see IF I could find them... And Wow! It looks like people really liked this version of chess pieces.

Anyways take a LOOK ... It MAY (or may not) help you. Cheers!

FrankM
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Almost precisely what I was looking for

Apparently everything I can’t find on the Internet is hiding on Pinterest.

Awesome find!

(By the way, Ph.D. is not related to game design, though I did take a course on game theory. Not as applicable as you’d think.)

questccg
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Something to consider

Instead of "Heads" ... You could use ITEMS:

questccg wrote:

King = Crown
Queen = Tiara
Bishop = Ankh
Knight = Shield
Rook = Flag
Pawn = Sword

This is my own idea... After seeing that the Knight is ALWAYS (or almost) a horse ... And the Horse-on-Horse action is too much! (lol)

I thought this might be cool. And there could be "bases" for the items too. Much like traditional chess pieces... But more to "showcase" the different items that are part of the game.

If you could get someone to RENDER you 3D version of these ... I know of a 3D modeler. He charges about $150 USD per model file. And I believe he includes some 3D rendering for "sales" purposes (as a way to SHOW people what the STL files are for).

Of course this is way more expensive than an ARTIST. But 3D models can go a long way in making something that YOU thought up ... Into a REALITY such that it is unquestionable what it is you are trying to achieve.

Anyways ... Just some food for thought.

FrankM
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That's a good abstract take on them

That's a good take for an abstract set. Those could be things I could find existing 3D models for and tweak into chess pieces.

Of course, if I'm shelling out $300 per model for custom work then I want something in a human form where I can tell if he ironed his shirt this morning :)

If there was actually some chance of me running a Kickstarter, or if some Nigerian Prince paid me to move some funds for him, I'd absolutely love to make a set with custom 3D model pieces.

questccg
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No I made a mistake...

The modeler that I know charges $150 per model. It's the cost of the Chinese Molds that is $600 each. Some people think it's like $10,000 but if you have enough of them ... Well you can see that they can be pretty costly.

But most miniatures (aside from molds) cost between $0.10 - $0.15 for smaller sized ones and $0.20 - $0.30 for larger ones.

My mistake ... And he does rendering for advertising purposes too... So not only will he do the models, he can provide you with 3D renderings using different "textures" (for both White and Black samples).

Sorry it's not $300 ... It's $150. But still it's money and if you have 6 pieces ... $900! Plus the cost for Molds too... But IF you ran a KS for the project, you could factor all that in. It isn't CHEAP!

Cheers ... Good luck with your project!

Note #1: Again my apologies for the wrong figure. We're all learning and when someone shared this information with me ... Well it was VERY relevant. I went from being in "the dark" to actually knowing HOW much projects like this COST.

But be aware that projects by CMON or Mantic Games with ALL the minis... Do add up and can easily go in the upwards of $10,000 for the Molds because of the sheer VOLUME/QUANTITY of them.

I'm sure you've seen some KSs from either those two (2) giants and you know they offer a TON of Models PLUS all kinds of Stretch Goals too!

But I find it COOL ... I know someone who I can work with IF I should ever want to go down that PATH (Not ATM ... But maybe eventually...) Cheers!

FrankM
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No worries

Thanks for the info and the update.

If I get someone to match an existing set (probably a version of Staunton), I would only need models/molds for the Rook, Knight, Charger, and Jumper. Four (4) models would be $600(ish), plus tooling and production costs. I might be lucky enough to contract with someone who makes standard chess piece sets at scale so there are no concerns about color-matching or having to trash a boatload of standard Rooks and Knights.

All of that is far off, though. Working on more achievable steps for now.

(Edit: the 3D models would be an amazing value-add to a TableTopSimulator version, so they wouldn't have to wait for a full-scale retail boxed edition.)

Cheers!

The Professor
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Beyond PnP

Frank,

To circle-back to your original inquiry, there's quite a bit more that follows the PnP portion, if you're looking for this title to get to market:

- Need to make enough copies for a developer and playtest groups
- Hire a developer or handle the playtest and blind playtest groups in-house
- Analyze the data and make adjustments, as necessary
- Repeat the aforementioned process until you have at least 100 solid playtests
- Consider potential publishers or self-publishing
-- If through another publisher, research the games they publish and find one which is a good fit for your title ~ consider weight, ages, family, etc.
-- If self-published, shall you require a crowd-funding site or other marketing scheme?
--- Consider logistics, distribution, and fulfillment centers
--- Reorders and replacements (parts or otherwise)

Good luck in your endeavor!

Cheers,
Joe
Professor's Lab

Jay103
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FrankM wrote:That's a good

FrankM wrote:
That's a good take for an abstract set. Those could be things I could find existing 3D models for and tweak into chess pieces.

Of course, if I'm shelling out $300 per model for custom work then I want something in a human form where I can tell if he ironed his shirt this morning :)

If there was actually some chance of me running a Kickstarter, or if some Nigerian Prince paid me to move some funds for him, I'd absolutely love to make a set with custom 3D model pieces.


Mega Millions drawing tonight is for like $900m.

(also, abstract is nice, but now instead of a horse's head on a horse, you've got a helmet on a horse. Not sure it's a huge improvement)

Jay103
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The Professor wrote:Frank,

The Professor wrote:
Frank,

To circle-back to your original inquiry, there's quite a bit more that follows the PnP portion, if you're looking for this title to get to market:

- Need to make enough copies for a developer and playtest groups
- Hire a developer or handle the playtest and blind playtest groups in-house
- Analyze the data and make adjustments, as necessary
- Repeat the aforementioned process until you have at least 100 solid playtests


These can all be done WITH the PnP version, however, or with an online simulator, since this is an abstract game with only a few components.

Frankly, people who'd be in your target market already have a chess board of their own, so they could playtest with a rulebook and literally a handful of colored poker chips.

FrankM
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I’ve seen the 100 figure in other places, too

The Professor wrote:
Frank,

To circle-back to your original inquiry, there's quite a bit more that follows the PnP portion, if you're looking for this title to get to market:

- Need to make enough copies for a developer and playtest groups
- Hire a developer or handle the playtest and blind playtest groups in-house
- Analyze the data and make adjustments, as necessary
- Repeat the aforementioned process until you have at least 100 solid playtests
- Consider potential publishers or self-publishing
-- If through another publisher, research the games they publish and find one which is a good fit for your title ~ consider weight, ages, family, etc.
-- If self-published, shall you require a crowd-funding site or other marketing scheme?
--- Consider logistics, distribution, and fulfillment centers
--- Reorders and replacements (parts or otherwise)

Good luck in your endeavor!

Cheers,
Joe
Professor's Lab

Thanks, Professor :)

I was hoping that I could short-circuit this a bit by leveraging the fact that it’s a chess variant. I haven’t run enough playtests with my own family to convince myself the design is bullet-proof, but I do know that mounts get left alone quite often and therefore need to be distinguished by type and owner.

Making copies of a PnP for playtesting is trivial. What I have not had a chance to do is bring it to any playtesting groups because of Covid. I really want candid reactions to the rulebook.

The pull-my-hair-out frustration is knowing that in the future, putting “age 8+” on the box is going to require a phenomenal waste of money on child-safety testing since chess sets are already a known quantity.

Jay103
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What child safety testing are

What child safety testing are you thinking about? Printed components need to be tested for the composition of the paper, but I don't think there's anything about plastic parts. And I don't think I paid over $300 for the testing I had to do.. I can't find the invoice right now, but it wasn't that much.

FrankM
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Pleasant surprise

Okay, I may have been thinking about proving childproofness where you need about a hundred toddlers. While child safety testing may not be a huge burden, it is something that The Game Crafter categorically does not offer for the things they sell.

Jay103
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If you were intending this

If you were intending this FOR kids under 3, I'm sure there's a lot you'd have to go through. Over 3, you just need an appropriate "not for kids under 3" warning and some toxicity tests.

(ymmv in Europe.. I don't know the current state of the UK and the EU exactly, but the CE requirements are pretty searchable).

Note: Get the warning wording exactly right or someone will get upset. My language was checked by the same Chinese company that did the tox tests.

FrankM
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Toddlers

By the way, toddlers will literally work for peanuts, but their parents usually want money.

I have a number of steps before getting to that point anyway. Nice to know that experience is here on BGDF when I do need it later.

questccg
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Just put 12+ and you require no testing at all...

FrankM wrote:
...The pull-my-hair-out frustration is knowing that in the future, putting “age 8+” on the box is going to require a phenomenal waste of money on child-safety testing since chess sets are already a known quantity.

Again ... Just put ages 12 and up. That covers TGC and requires no additional testing of the product (12+ years). Of course if you have the "Double Horse"-Action ... That may be 18+! (roflmao)

Best of luck(!?) with your project!

FrankM
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Progress

Since there's a huge amount of overlap in designing the two versions, I'm working out what acrylic and chipboard pieces would look like. What I can't figure out is how to link directly to an image in my Dropbox, so check it out here:

Laser-cut preview

The acrylic is 1/4" thick, so those bases on the left plug into the sides on the right. (Still not ready to actually make, there are technical requirements for laser-cutting templates that I haven't done yet.)

Edit: For a size reference, those square holes in the middle of each base are 1/4" by 1/4" so you could poke a pencil through there.

questccg
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Hmm... Unfortunately that IMAGE is useless...

I just chatted with the folks over at "The Game Crafter" (TGC) and it seems like ALL shapes need to have their OWN PATHS. What I mean is that you cannot SHARE "lines" or paths with other parts. So all those BASES must be SEPARATED.

Second, you pay per sheet PLUS laser usage. So all those CENTERS to the bases IF they are NOT REQUIRED, I suggest you remove them. Why? Because it's EXTRA LASER USAGE and will cost MORE if you don't really NEED those holes.

Third, the sample has 16 BASES and only 12 MOUNTS (6 of each). My recommendation is using a custom template to shape the MOUNTS (8 of each) and then another template for the BASES. You can maybe use a SMALLER sized TEMPLATE. You need to SEE what is available from TGC.

Fourth, you need TIES. Little spaces or 0.01" or 0.25mm in four position of EVERY piece you want to shape. OTHERWISE your pieces will FALL into the LASER and that's NO GOOD. The TIES keep the pieces stuck on to the main piece of paper or acrylic.

Fifth, you need to use ILLUSTRATOR not Photoshop. Download the TEMPLATE from TGC which will confirm the THICKNESS of the ties. Punchboard is 0.01" or 0.25mm. I don't know what ties are for acrylic usage.

Sixth, using ILLUSTRATOR you must UPLOAD a .SVG. I believe Illustrator can SAVE AS... a SVG because I've already uploaded and tried this with custom cardstock.

Just wanted to HELP out... Sorry for all these points. I just wanted to make sure you understood HOW to prepare the files for cutting at TGC.

Cheers!

FrankM
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Thanks

Hey, thank you for all the pointers. That's a preview of an Inkscape SVG file, so each of the lines there is a path. Those paths don't have ties yet, mostly because my attempts to make them haven't worked yet. It might be something to do directly in Component Studio.

I was hoping to save a bunch of laser inches by tessellating the bases (which would, of course, need ties added to them). You can't tell from the PNG render, but there are no double-cut segments. If each base absolutely needs to be distinct, I might as well add a little bit of taper to the pegs.

Those square holes in the middle are necessary because that's where pieces slide together. Every one of the main pieces ends in a 1/4" x 1/4" square at the bottom, which inserts into that square in the base. The sample I posted is one of three files. One file has most of the pieces and the round "dismounted" bases, and another has the Queens and the balance of the "mounts." I'll see if I can post the other two tomorrow.

From what I can tell from TGC's instructional video, voids do not need ties. So the holes can just be allowed to fall out during production, and therefore they never get in the customer's way. I plan on asking before submitting the file however, just to make sure that's still the policy.

FrankM
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The other two files

As promised, these are PNG renders of the other two SVG files.

Second file Queen, spare Queen, and mounts

Third file Most pieces and round bases

The three together make up one side's army. So a total of six acrylic sheets per game. (Chipboard mounts would be a bit smaller, but unlikely to fit on two sheets per side.)

Also, I found a way to cut the nicks/ties within Inkscape, though it's tedious.

- Make a rectangle with no stroke (border) and a solid fill that is exactly 0.005" thick and long enough to easy to select.

- Lay a copy of it across the shape you want to nick. Select the rectangle and the target shape. The rectangle must be on top.

- Use the Boolean "Difference" operation from the Path menu.

- Zoom in. A lot.

- Delete the four segments where the line cast a "shadow" on the shape. One of these lays along the original path that you're trying to nick.

- You now have a single 0.005" gap in your path that will work as a nick.

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