Today is the final article in a series of four articles about where to find prototype worthy game components. Here is the list of articles from this series:
Before we get started I want to make one point clear: This article is not about standard dice or even RPG dice. You can find standard d6s and RPG dice at your favorite local game store. If you want standard dice visit your local store or local thrift store. Or if you want really nice standard dice then check out Chessex. This article is about where to find blank dice, or special dice, or even dice that you can write on!
And my disclaimer: I have not used dice in any of my game designs. While I know where to buy dice, I cannot speak to their quality, feel, or character.
As a reminder I want to give credit to the list that inspired me to write these articles. This list is much more exhaustive than mine since I am just highlighting a few of the major suppliers. But here’s the list so you can check it out yourself:
So today I present a few of the sources that I think are worth checking out…
Indented Blank Dice
When it comes to using blank dice for game design, look no further than Indented Blank Dice! These are six sided dice with indented sides.
Why indented sides? The sides are indented so that when you put a sticker on the side it won’t rub off or cause irregular rolls.
These are 19mm on an edge and the indented portion measures 1/2″ x 1/2″. They will also sell you sheets of labels on which you can print your game design’s custom icons. Here is their pricing for US and International:
|1||25 Dice – Domestic US||$15.00|
|2||25 Dice – International||$35.00|
|3||50 Dice – Domestic US||$25.00|
|4||50 Dice – International||$45.00|
|5||125 Dice – Domestic US||$50.00|
|6||125 Dice – International||$70.00|
|7||250 Dice – Domestic US||$95.00|
|8||250 Dice – International||$115.00|
|9||1000 Dice – Domestic US||$300.00|
|10||1000 Dice – International||$320.00|
Those prices seem a little expensive to me, but if you’ve designed the next Kingsburg, Alien Frontiers, or Macao, then you can probably justify the cost.
Each sheet of labels that they sell will handle 36 dice. Two sheets will cost your $6.
If you are a friend from across the pond, i.e., from Europe, then perhaps your first stop should be BlankDice.co.uk!
In addition to a nice assortment of indented six sided dice they also offer 8 sided indented dice. Here is the page for their six sided dice: BlankDice.co.uk – 6 Sided Dice
But here’s the kicker… If you were to purchase 25 of these at £0.20 each (to compare the pricing against the source above this one) you would find that it would cost roughly US$15.50 to ship to the US. That’s only $0.50 more than the above source. So if BlankDice.co.uk has a color that you desperately need, then maybe you could order from them instead.
Print & Play Productions
They make the list again since they offer so much awesomeness! If you are looking to order a bunch of different components for your game prototype and you need dice as well, then consider ordering from Print & Play since you can get cards, chits, meeples, and dice all from the same source! Here are a few different dice options offered by Print & Play:
- 16mm Stickerable Blank Dice: $0.15 ea.
- 19mm Indented Blank Dice: $0.50 ea.
- Stickerable Polyhedral dice (d8, d10, d12): $0.99 ea.
- 16mm Translucent Dice (Red, Green, or Blue): $0.45 ea.
Side Note: I personally met the guy behind Print & Play productions at GenCon and I can safely say he’s an awesome guy. I would definitely feel confident when purchasing from him. And the fact that you can order basically all of the components you would need for your prototype from one source makes Print & Play pretty awesome!
The EAI Education catalog is a fantastic one-stop-shop for game designers. You can order cards, dices, cubes, and more all from their online catalog at excellent prices!
If you do a search for “Dice” you’ll get 206 results. While they have way too many awesome options of standard dice, fudge dice, fraction dice, etc., here are some blank dice options that I think could be useful to game designers:
- Blank Dice – Set of 12: $1.99
- Blank Dice and Label – Set of 144: $26.95
- Dice Domes Deluxe (with foam dice): $13.95
- Magnetic Foam Write On/Wipe Off 1.5″ dice Set of 12 (Available in Classic or Bright colors): $8.95
- Magnetic Foam Write On/Wipe Off 3″ dice set of 36: $99.95
And if you need standard dice to compliment your game design, then you can believe that EAI carries what you need!
The Game Crafter
The guys at The Game Crafter also offer black indented dice. If you choose “dice” from their parts selection you’ll get a bunch of standard dice as well as blank dice.
They offer 8 different colors at $0.40 each, though if you order more than 9 of any color the price will drop to $0.38 each. These prices are better than some of the other sources listed above for indented blank dice.
But as I mentioned when writing about TGC for the Meeples article, if you are ordering components like these you still have to wait in their production queue. Since I live in the Madison area I think I should volunteer my time to fulfill component-only orders with no customization of cards or boxes or rules. That way, if you order stocked components only, the order would skip the custom production queue and be able to be mailed to you much more quickly. This isn’t a huge complaint and it doesn’t hold me back from ordering from TGC. It’s just something I think they could do a little better.
The interwebs offer a bunch of sources for dice, but Amazon seems to have some good options. Here are a few that might be good for game designers:
- 25 Blank White 16mm Dice: $2.95
- 1 Inch Foam Color Resources Cubes Set of 102: $13.21
- Chessex Set of 6 Blank White Polyhedral Dice: $3.59
- Set of 100 Colored Blank 16mm Dice: $18.95
So perhaps Amazon will be your go-to source for dice.
And there you have it, folks! This is the conclusion of my series on sourcing game components. You should now know where to find all of the components you need. Thanks for reading along during this series. It has prompted me to desire a large order of components from all these different sources. I’d love to simply stock up on tons of stuff so that I can have the world of game components at my finger tips in case inspiration strikes! Good luck game designers!
This is the first in a series of articles that are meant to help aspiring designers and published designers alike. The goal of these articles is to simply list some of the sources for different components that we designers like to use in our game prototypes. While I have not used all of these different sources, I’ve done my research and feel confident that you’ll receive a decent quality production from any of these sources.
Today’s post is about sourcing cards for your prototypes. But over the next few Thursdays I’ll be posting articles about other components:
They won’t be dreadfully exciting articles, but I hope they can help you out as your on your way toward a high quality prototype. But first, my inspiration comes from this post:
That is a way better list than I’m going to make. But my sources seem to be some of the more mainstream sources. If there are component sources that you use, and like, that I have not mentioned in these articles, please let me know and I’d be happy to keep these articles up to date.
So let’s get to the sources I would use for cards… Note: The Game Crafter is my go-to source, and thus they are listed first.
The Game Crafter
This is the one source that I have used. They have a large number of sizes available. They provide a template for each size. And overall I have never had any problems with my cards. They are not going to be the highest quality, linen finish, and all that, but they are great for putting together a quality prototype that you could feel confident pitching to a publisher.
Here’s the details about sizing and pricing (click the link to go to the template page for each item):
|Printed Item||Cost Per Sheet||Cost Per Item||Items Per Sheet||Image Size (in pixels)||Finished Size (in inches)|
|Bridge Deck||$1.56||$0.09||18||750×1125||2.25 x 3.5|
|Business Deck||$1.89||$0.09||21||675×1125||2.0 x 3.5|
|Hex Deck||$2.29||$0.19||12||1200×1050||3.75 x 3.25|
|Jumbo Deck||$1.25||$0.21||6||1125×1725||3.5 x 5.5|
|Micro Deck||$3.99||$0.07||56||450×600||1.25 x 1.75|
|Mini Deck||$2.89||$0.09||32||600×825||1.75 x 2.5|
|Poker Deck||$1.56||$0.09||18||825×1125||2.5 x 3.5|
|Square Deck||$2.29||$0.19||12||1125×1125||3.5 x 3.5|
|Tarot Deck||$1.89||$0.19||10||900×1500||2.75 x 4.75|
When you upload files you can upload a bunch at once, or one at a time. When you are ready to have them printed, you’ll have to “proof” each one. When I order cards I usually go with the Mini Deck since you can get them for a pretty good price. They are also one of my favorite sizes for games in general. They are large enough to hold a lot of information, but small enough to not be a nuisance.
My wife has used ArtsCow for a few scrapbooking things, so I can attest to the quality of those. However, I have not used ArtsCow for any cards. So take this for what it’s worth.
On the ArtsCow page you can choose from custom playing cards, cards shaped like circles, and cards shaped like hearts. While ArtsCow doesn’t seem to have the game designer in mind with their products, I think people have had success with ordering customized cards.
The best option I’ve seen for custom double sided cards is the “Multi-Purpose Cards.” This seems like the best option for custom double sided cards from ArtsCow. They measure 2.5″ x 3.5″ and start at $10.99 for a 54 card deck, which seems quite high for 280 gsm matte paper. But like I mentioned, they don’t think like game designers.
I have not used Printer’s Studio for any cards, but I know people who have. Like ArtsCow most of their options for cards are decks of custom playing cards. But they do have a page for blank playing cards that can be fully customized as well.
- Mini Size (1.75″ x 2.5″) starting at $4.39 for up to a 64 card deck
- Bridge Size (2.25″ x 3.5″) starting at $7.99 for up to a 54 card deck
- Poker Size (2.5″ x 3.5″) starting at $7.99 for up to a 54 card deck
- Tarot Size (2.75″ x 4.75″) starting at $1.89 for up to a 10 card deck
- Large Size (3.5″ x 5.75″) starting at $13.99 for up to a 54 card deck
Those prices seem a little high to me, but these are for 300 gsm card stock. Each card size also has an option for 310 gsm linen finish.
While I have not ordered cards from Print & Play, I have ordered hex chits. I was very pleased with their quality, so I would likely be pleased with the quality of the cards as well. But that’s not a guarantee.
Print & Play offers several sizes of blank or custom printed cards:
- 1.75″ x 2.5″ 270 gsm starting at $2.00 for 32 cards printed on both sides
- 1.75″ x 2.5″ 270 gsm starting at $2.25 for 78 blank cards
- 2.5″ x 3.5″ 270 gsm starting at $2.00 for 18 cards printed on both sides
- 2.5″ x 3.5″ 270 gsm starting at $2.00 for 52 blank cards
They also have an option for a letter size sheet of custom cards starting at $1.25 for double sided printing.
If all you’re looking for is blank cards from which you can make a prototype, then perhaps EAI or Amazon is your best bet. Here are the details:
EAI: Single deck of 54 blank playing cards is currently $0.99 per deck (regular price = $1.55 per deck)
Amazon: 500 Blank cards for $13.50
So those are the sources that I am most familiar with for blank cards. The other option is to use something like nanDECK and create/print your own cards that you could then sleeve. I haven’t had much luck trying to use nanDECK, so good luck with that.
Please let me know if you use someone else. I’d love to add it to this list and make it more complete. Thanks for reading. I hope this list and the next three covering meeples, chits, and dice will be helpful to you as a designer!
One topic that seems to come up a lot is how to make board game prototypes. I’m not talking about coming up with a design. I’m talking about physically creating prototype game components. Game designers are constantly trying to make their components so that they can get right to the playtesting phase of game design.
Today I want to discuss the tools I use to create my prototypes. At this point you should already have your prototype artwork created if you’re going to be printing anything. Let’s assume it’s already been printed. Now it’s time to make it awesome!
One common component that is particularly easy to make for prototypes are chits. These are typically just printed artwork glued onto matte board. But matte board can prove to be difficult to cut.
There’s two ways that I’ll cut my chits out of the matte board.
- Straight edge and utility or X-acto knife (not ideal)
- Rotary cutter (ideal)
What we are doing here is separating the chits from one another. When creating your artwork you should line up the edges of the components so that you only need to make one cut between them.
The straight edge and knife approach is definitely NOT my approved method and I would never recommend it. However, a lot of people use that approach so I needed to mention it. One recommendation is to use a safety straightedge like the one shown here. You only have 10 fingertips so why not spend a few extra dollars and get a straightedge like this and make sure to not lose any fingertips!
I don’t like this method for a few reasons. The first is that you need a cutting mat to go underneath so you don’t scratch your table. The second is that the blade doesn’t always stay straight as you are cutting the matte board. And that can be really annoying.
My preferred method is to use a rotary cutter like this Fiskars 12″ Scrapbooking version. It is super easy to use, relatively cheap (especially compared to the $40 safety straightedge), and very reliable. And since most of us don’t have printers that print on anything other than 8.5×11 paper anyway, the 12″ Fiskars tool is perfect!
So I will print my prototype artwork on photo paper, adhere it to matte board, and then cut out the individual components using the rotary cutter. Just a heads up when using matte board though: you’ll likely have to roll the cutter back and forth a few times to cut all the way through. That’s still an easier process than trying to run a blade along the straightedge.
On the topic of matte board, I recently went to Hobby Lobby and purchase two huge packs of “matboard” for $6 each. I got a pack of 12″x12″ and a pack of 11″x14″. These are so cheap that I almost felt like I was stealing. They are just the leftovers from the framing department that were cut out from the boards used to mat pictures/paintings for customers. What a great way for Hobby Lobby to reduce their waste and provide a useful product. Here’s what I got for $12:
The other key tool of my trade is a glue stick. Some people will use standard glue, some will use spray adhesive. I prefer the glue stick to standard glue since it is simple to apply evenly. This is very helpful when trying to make sure that your components are completely glued down.
Now you know a great method for producing chits. If possible, keep them as rectangles rather than circles of hexes. But since we’re on the topic of circles and hexes let’s move on to another excellent tool…
There are times when you don’t want rectangular components. Perhaps your game is a map building game with hex tiles. Or perhaps you require special discs for your game. If that’s the case, then I strongly urge you consider purchasing a punch.
One thing to keep in mind when purchasing a punch is how thick of paper/board are you wanting to punch. Often these sorts of punches are used by scrapbookers who are only punching paper. That means they may not be able to punch through matte board. Sometimes you can only find out after you’ve bought the punch. Bummer.
Here are some recommendations, keeping in mind that I don’t know specifically how thick they can punch. OR you can just do a search for “hobby punch” and find one you’d like.
- Fiskars Squeeze Hex Punches
- Creative Memories Punches
- Older Creative Memories Hex Punches on eBay
- And don’t forget the Corner Rounder punch which can be helpful for cards that are printed on nice canvas/linen finish paper.
These can come in really handy. I use a circle punch when creating prototype coins. I have used a hex punch to create stickers for hex tiles. And here is my little tip for punching, which I mentioned in a prototyping article a long while back, but which is worth repeating.
When punching, flip the punch over so you can visually align the part that you want cut.
So now you’ve got the tools to cut out chits and punch out little bits of awesomeness! What about cards?
Many game designers come across the need for cards in their game designs. I have made cards numerous times. Early on I would buy 60lb. paper and just cut out rectangles. But there is a problem with that. The edges of the rectangles can be slightly bent from cutting, which leads to great difficulty in shuffling the cards.
The way to prevent that while also protecting the cards is to purchase card sleeves. These inexpensive beauties will be a little lifesaver by removing anguish from your prototypes. Plus, you can get awesome one’s like the one shown here with a kitten running through a field!
If you want a good go-to source for sleeves then look no further than Mayday Games. Here is a series of links to the sizes you may be looking for:
- Euro Cards (59×92 mm)
- Mini Euro Cards (45×68 mm)
- Card Game (63.5×88 mm)
- Standard USA Cards (56×87 mm)
- Magnum Ultra Fit for 7-Wonders (65×100 mm)
Those should offer some help. They definitely help with being able to shuffle your cards. The only downside is that when stacked they can be really slippery and your stack may tumble over.
Speaking of tumbling…
Sometimes it becomes necessary for a game designer to create their own set of dice. Sure, you could always just make a cheat-sheet conversion table, but that can be a huge burden for your playtesters who would constantly have to recheck the sheet. So one of the tools of the trade is to purchase blank, sticker-able dice.
Look no further than Indented Blank Dice. The best part of their site is that they have labels that you can purchase and print on rather than having to buy blank label paper and try to cut/punch out your own labels and then peel them off.
Don’t buy blank label paper. Don’t cut/punch out stickers. Don’t try to peel them.
Just buy the sticker label paper and save yourself from the frustration.
So this concludes my little article about Prototyping Tools of the Trade. Next week I will be posting a follow-up article on Sourcing Components for Prototyping. It will cover where to purchase boards, bits, and more. So stay tuned!
So there I was, working on Trading Post, watching the Dan Brown movie Angels & Demons when all of a sudden a new game design hit me. I thought to myself wouldn’t a game about electing a pope be kind of fun? So I changed course and laid the groundwork for a game design I am calling Conclave. (It could also be called Preferiti, Triregnum, Habemus Papem – which is already used for a game, or Fumata Bianca).
That was back in 2011. I had the idea for the game and a sheet of paper with a few details, but, like so many other game concepts, it sat on my shelf for nearly two years.
While again working on Trading Post a few weeks ago, and yes, while watching Angels & Demons (I guess I have a liking for that movie) I again was drawn to the idea of a game about electing a pope. So this time, since Trading Post is my white whale, I diverted my attention to actually conceptualizing Conclave.
Papal Conclave: What is it?
In the Catholic Church the pope is the person elected to succeed the line of Saint Peter, Jesus’ disciple. Since the dawn of Christianity there has been a leader of the Christian Church. And the Catholic Church has referred to that leader as the Supreme Pontiff, or more simply, the Pope.
Conclave is all about electing a new pope. The word Conclave is a conjunction of two Latin words, cum (“with”), and clave (“the key”). The interpretation of the word conclave is “sealed with a key.” In 1274, due to several elections taking years to decide the next pope, it was decreed by Pope Gregory X that the elections should take place inside a sealed room. This way the college of cardinals would have to elect a pope while basically being sequestered and given small rations of food and water.
Since 1846 all conclaves have taken place in the Sistine Chapel, in the Vatican City.
During conclave the cardinals of the Catholic church are locked in the Sistine chapel. They will cast their first vote in the afternoon of the first day. To elect a pope requires a 2/3rds majority for any single candidate not including that candidate’s vote. If the vote does not result in a newly elected pope, the ballots will be burned with chemicals that result in black smoke emanating from the Sistine Chapel smoke stack. Each subsequent day the cardinals will take a vote in the morning and another vote in the afternoon. Black smoke will be displayed each vote until a pope is elected. Once a pope is elected then the smoke will be white, thus informing the world that a new leader of the Catholic church has been elected.
While this Scrutinium method (secret ballot) of electing the pope is a standard method there are three others: Compromissum, Accessus, and Quasi-Inspiratio. This game design is focused on Scrutinium.
How does the Game Work?
During a game of Conclave you represent one of the Preferiti, the preferred cardinals for the papacy. It is your objective throughout the game to manipulate the college of cardinals such that you earn their votes and get elected as the next pope.
This game is all about area influence. The game will be played using cards that represent each of the players. Each player will have their own deck of cards. Half of the cards are your own player color. The other half match the colors of the other players.
The first portion of the game represents the first afternoon vote on the first day of Conclave. During this portion of the game players take turns playing cards onto each cardinal to set their initial vote. Once all the votes are in, assuming no player has a 2/3rds majority (which is physically impossible in the first round with how I’ve designed the game), then the second phase of the game begins.
The second phase is the manipulation portion of the game. One your turn you can perform one of several types of miracles/charities, each basically giving you a specific action. These are listed here:
- Miracle of Feeding: Flip the cards of any one cardinal.
- Miracle of Healing: Swap the top cards of any two cardinals.
- Acts of Service: Lock any one cardinals vote.
- Acts of Mercy: Examine the bottom card of up to three cardinals.
So I’ve mentioned cards and tables. Let’s explain. During the first phase of the game (the first afternoon vote) players will take turns placing cards on each of the cardinals. They will place one card face down, and one card face up. The face up card is the only one that matters when counting the votes. The bottom card represents the bias that the cardinal has toward another Preferiti. So when players choose Miracle of Feeding they will flip any one cardinal’s vote over to the other card.
When players choose the Miracle of Healing they will take the top cards from any two cardinals at any tables and swap them.
Acts of Service allows for any one cardinal’s vote to be locked in for the rest of the game. This cardinal can no longer be swayed. But beware, each player has only so many “locking cubes” that they can use to lock cardinals.
And Acts of Mercy allows a player to look at the bottom cards of up to three different cardinals to see which way they might be leaning. This will help players know when it might be beneficial to choose the Miracle of Feeding (flip cards) action.
How do you win?
The game board basically represents the locked down Sistine Chapel. Your objective is not to earn a straight up 2/3rds vote as that would be boring for a game. Rather, you are trying to win different tables within the Sistine Chapel. It’s an electoral college of sorts. There are tables of 3, 5, and 7 cardinals. If you possess the majority of votes at any table, then you receive a number of votes equal to the number of cardinals at that table.
So if a table of 3 cardinals has two green votes and one blue vote, the green player would currently have 3 votes. It is an all-or-nothing system.
Players play to a certain number of votes depending on how many players are playing. Once a player has successfully manipulated their way to the right number of votes then they are elected as the new pope and the game is over.
Current State of the Game…
Currently the game is in the prototype phase. I basically have it ready for solo playtesting. Right now it is a pretty simple concept and is easy to prototype. But I’m exploring a few things that could make it both more interesting from a gameplay perspective and more difficult to prototype at the same time. So for now I’ll keep it simple. My goal is to solo it this weekend and get a better idea about how to move forward with the concept.
I’ll post more about Conclave in the future, but until then check out this awesome infographic from image-illustration.net: (click to embiggen)