How do I get my game made?

I’ve been doing the self-publishing thing for a while and have worked in TTRPG publishing long enough to occasionally get approached by someone with a developed idea/prototype of their game and asked How do I get my game made?”.

This is my living answer to that - some of it might change over time, some of it you might disagree with, and it’ll likely grow over time. This started off (24th June 2024) as a response to an email I received from a friend-of-a-friend that I thought might be useful to keep public.

Admittedly, I don’t really deal in board games so I might not be the best person to ask here! I’ve got thoughts on the boring logistics side because that’s more my speciality. This is general running a good games business” advice, which if this is a hobby project, might mean that you can flex these and not worry about them so much.

To begin: as a general rule you want to at least 5x your production costs in retail price.

  • 1x covers the cost of printing
  • 2x covers the printing of the next copy
  • 3x covers the cost of folks you work with
  • 4x gives you the ability to run discounts
  • 5x leaves you with profit! 

The thing is, selling games direct to consumer is difficult when you’re just starting out. For that reason, you’d usually want to actually 10x your production costs. Any shop you sell to will usually take stock at about 50% of your retail price (because they have to make money too!), so you need to be able to cover the 5x I listed above, but also make some money yourself when selling the game at half of its retail price. 

Some other points:

1. Cards are expensive to print. I’m not aware of a print shop in the UK that’ll do card printing at a cost that is in any way feasible to productise. For that, you’d usually have to go to China to dedicated board game manufacturers. They’ll print your games for peanuts with the disclaimer that they only do so at volume (ie. at least 500-1,000 copies). That’s a big ask when you’re just starting out and something you probably shouldn’t do without a strong retail strategy in place (unless you fancy storing 1,000 copies of a game you can’t sell in your house, which I have absolutely done and many folks I know have done haha)

Just for reference, I just used a quote estimator on Panda Manufacturing’s website and they gave me an estimate of $1.17 per copy for a standard card deck of 54 cards (I know that’s one more than you have in your game but it might be worth slimming it down so you’re not moving up a size bracket), a tuckbox, and an instruction booklet. At 2,000 copies. This means you’d easily be able to sell these at £10/copy and be comfortable. I’ve attached the screenshot. 

Screenshot 2024-06-24 at 12.04.40.pngScreenshot 2024-06-24 at 12.04.40.png

   2. Become part of game maker communities. There’s a bunch of folks in the UK and internationally doing this and sharing information. Not sure if you’re a Discord guy but it’s a really good idea to become one and become part of these communities. For information-sharing, camaraderie, support, and marketing. Obvs people don’t like it when you enter a community to self-advertise so this is a slow process. Some great Discords I’m in: 

  • Atopia: mostly board game focused but plenty of TTRPG folks in there. Very nice place with folks sharing lots of thorough WIP work.
  • UK Tabletop Industry Network: these folks hold monthly meetups all over the UK, they hold shared stalls at big conventions (great way to get an in into the convention circuit which can be inaccessible and expensive when starting out!)
  • The Lost Bay: started off as a discord for a single TTRPG designer to talk about his work but is just quite a pleasant community. The scene is very big on information sharing, so everyone’s very open about their work! 

It’s important to get talking about your game as soon as possible to get people interested. Unfortunately that means having to get over any personal inhibitions about talking about your own work and talking about it on socials constantly. 

3. Consider giving shit away for free. Nothing gets you into people’s good books more than free stuff. If you head to the tabletop section of there’s so many free games and games that are WIPs being given away for free. A big concept in the TTRPG scene is the ashcan” - a rough, ugly, unedited, WIP version of your game that you give away to solicit feedback. For your card game, a print-and-play version might be a good idea to start off with?


June 24, 2024