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The top 5 places to get your board game prototype made

In the previous two articles, we looked at great components you’ll want to have on hand for creating your prototypes and some of the best tools for prototyping. Today, we’ll look at the best places to get your professional-looking board game prototype made.

Once you’re in the later stages of designing your game and you don’t anticipate any major changes, you might be thinking of getting a professional-looking prototype of your game. This will more likely be for the case of self-publishing, as you’ll want some good-looking prototypes for videos and reviewers, but you might also find this helps with pitching your game more effectively if you’re going that route.

So, let’s have a look at 5 great places you can get your prototype made.

#5 Printer Studio

While Printer Studio isn’t known for making board games, they do allow you to print cards of all shapes and sizes. I’ve used them to have prototypes made previously and was impressed by the quality and the relative ease of using their website.

If you’re looking for a lot of other printed components, you’ll need to look elsewhere, but if cards are all you need, they are worth checking out. They also print various promotional items.

They are also a Canadian company, so it felt good to support a somewhat local company. This also resulted in a fairly quick shipping time for me.

#4 Drive Thru Cards

Drive Thru Cards is another site dedicated to card printing, but they also offer creators and publishers the ability to sell their games through a print on demand (POD) service.

This isn’t a service I have used myself, but I have heard other designers and publishers say good things about them.

So, if you’re looking to print a game that is all cards or you can supplement any other components yourself, they are worth a look.

#3 Boardgamesmaker

Boardgamesmaker is a full-service printing company that provides lots of options for boards, cards, dice, pawns, mats, tiles, pieces, and even the box for your game.

They allow you to print custom dice of all sizes from a D4 (4-sided die) to a D20 (20-sided die), and even provide options for 6-sided engraved dice!

If your game has a lot of different components and/or you want to get a box made for your game in any size, Boardgamesmaker is definitely worth investigating.

#2 Print & Play Games

Print and Play Games is a division of Ad Magic, which is a full-service printing company. This offshoot specializes in helping you make your prototype with boards, cards, tokens, parts, and boxes.

They can make any size of custom folding boards and they also offer various tuck box sizes. Plus, you can print handy sticker sheets for making your own custom dice.

I’ve used Print and Play Games’ services multiple times and was happy with the quality (other than the one time I failed to review the image resolution on a file I submitted, which was on the low side – totally my own fault though).

If you’re looking for a full board game prototype, this is definitely a site you’ll want to check out.

#1 Game Crafter

Finally, we have The Game Crafter. This site offers a lot of services, from parts to prototypes to POD sales to crowdfunding.

I’ve ordered many parts and pieces from The Game Crafter over the years. Everything from meeples to cubes to various other components. They have a fantastic selection.

While I haven’t had a full prototype printed from The Game Crafter, I know many others who rave about their quality. They have lots of options and make a great prototype, plus they offer a couple of different ways to sell your game if you’d like to maintain control but don’t want to have to go through all the work of running a Kickstarter campaign yourself (and this is a LOT of work!).

Wrapping it up

There you have it. Five great options for printing a professional-looking prototype. Each one has its own specialities, so you’ll want to confirm that they can offer everything you need before investing the time in submitting all your files, but I’m sure that at least one of them will be a great fit for you.

What company do you use for making your prototypes?

Please share your thoughts by leaving a comment.

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    Many thanks for a very useful appraisal of these options. I personally would have appreciated a rough idea of the costs involved – perhaps a starting-at price. I suspect that these are too high for anything other than a final final draft. What I am looking for (at this time) is good prototypes for playtesting, which (almost certainly) will be extensively modified.

    Hey, Andrew! Thanks so much for your comment.

    Yes, these suggestions are really meant more for late-stage prototyping when you’re not expecting to make a whole lot of later changes. The costs can vary widely from around $20 for cards and simple components to a hundred dollars or more (even thousands if you are creating something like Fireball Island, which would involve working with a more specialized company), so it is difficult to come up with an average. However, it’s very easy to go to any of these sites and start plugging in all the components you need to figure out what costs are involved.

    For early prototypes, you can use game pieces from existing games, other components you keep on hand, and print items like cards and boards yourself, keeping costs quite low while you tinker and make changes.

    I hope this helps!

    Hey Joe, great list! Do you have any tips for us European designers? 🙂

    Hey, Kenny! You’re right. These companies are located in North America, and while those outside the region could order from them, the shipping and customs costs could be prohibitive.

    While I have never used them before and cannot verify their quality, here are a few European options I have found that might be worth a look:

    Again, I cannot speak to how good they are or what they offer (some are in languages I don’t even speak), but hopefully, this is helpful.