Belle of the Ball Update: Rules Changes, Production Estimates, Kickstarter Plans

Many thanks to the good folks at Pruvop for hosting the most recent playtest of Belle of the Ball. Lots of excellent feedback!

» Follow the rules changes
» Download the Current Beta Rules PDF [Prototype H]
» Download the Print-and-Play Cards PDF
» Follow the conversation on BoardGameGeek.

Before I dive in any deeper, a disclaimer: All these plans and estimates are tentative, I just wanted to give you all an update on what the kind of planning is involved in producing even a simple card game like Belle.

I've spent the past six weeks requesting estimates from various printers with and without experience producing board games. I tried to find the best deal that would allow us to set an MSRP of no more than $20. I really tried to find a domestic printer who could meet those requirements.

But when all the numbers came in, it was only feasible to go print overseas. Here is the best estimate I have so far.

108-Card Decks*           $4440
Color Rules Sheets         $420
Telescoping Box           $1560
Art**                    ~$4000
Kickazon Cut of 15k**     $1500
U.S. First Class for 2k   $2970
Mini-Expansions (SPOD)     $645
TOTAL COST               $14835
COST PER UNIT                $7.095 w/o expansion
                             $7.417 w/ expansion

108-Card Decks*           $6450
Color Rules Sheets         $700
Telescoping Box           $3350
Art**                    ~$4000
Kickazon Cut of 20k**     $2000
U.S. First Class for 2k   $2970
Mini-Expansions (SPOD)    $1290
TOTAL COST               $20060
COST PER UNIT                $3.75 w/o expansion
                             $4.01 w/ expansion

* Premium 300gsm Paper Card Stock - Plastic Coated - Smooth or Linen Finish

** These are one-time expenses. Without them, the total cost for 2000 is $9,335; $4.66 per unit w/o expansion. Total cost for 5000 is $14,060; $2.81 per unit w/o expansion

Per the estimates above, the goal is $15,000 to produce 2000 copies of Belle of the Ball. Here are the pledge tiers I've outlined so far.

$20: You get a copy of the game months before it's available for the public! (International orders, please add $10.) See stretch goals for additional goodies!

$50: GUEST (96 Available): You get a copy of the game! Also, you can name one of the guest cards and get special sponsor credit in the rulebook! See details in the FAQ.

$75: RETAILER: For confirmed game retailers only (please contact us with proof)! Get SIX copies of the game shipped to your store's USA-based address at the same time as our non-retailer backers. This is at half MSRP, our standard retailer offering. A $15 shipping charge is included. Add $10 for each additional copy. Get as many as you like! If your customers are interested in getting the stretch goal rewards, see details in the FAQ.

$125: BELLE (8 Available): You get a copy of the game! Also, you can name one of the Belle cards and get special sponsor credit in the rulebook! PLUS, you also get a personalized Belle of the Ball t-shirt bearing your chosen County, Mood and Interest. See details in the FAQ.

STRETCH GOAL $20,000: Kickstarter Exclusive: Every backer gets 9 extra cards to add a little spice to your party. These will be printed and shipped separately from the main game.

STRETCH GOAL: Every extra 200 backers unlocks a new bundle of exclusive digital goodies for all backers. These include desktop wallpapers, production files, and exclusive streamcasts with the game designer.

This is the most ambitious Kickstarter goal I've ever considered, but I have a history of under-estimating potential funding. Ironically, this goal is ambitious to me, it's actually the bare minimum for the per-unit cost to be low enough to offer a reasonable price point for the customer.

"Worst Success" Scenario
At $15,000, we can manage the project as a DIY fulfillment operation. The quantity is small enough that we can store and sell them directly to the customer out of our apartment. We'll raise just enough to order 2000 units and then have some left over to sell in the long tail to compensate for any unexpected expenses. We'll just about break even.

Pivot Point
If we raise $20,000, we must decide whether we're a boutique studio (2000 units) or a full-on publisher (5000 units). We can manage 2000, but 5000 is way too big for us. Literally, there's not enough room in our apartment. We'd need to start connecting with distributors, warehouses and the like just to get orders out the door.

Point of No Return
At $40,000, we have no choice but to go into full-on publishing. That represents so many pre-orders that we need to order 5000 units just to have enough margin for lost shipments, damaged units, etc. There's literally not enough room in our home for that many units. For comparison, Carnival got ~1400 pre-orders, Farmageddon got ~2080 pre-orders and Creatures got ~3740 pre-orders, so I don't anticipate getting much higher than this.

It feels presumptuous to be concerned about raising that much money, crazier things have happened lately on KS, so I'm planning for all as many contingencies as I can.


  1. Are you forgetting the cost to get the remaining 3k copies over from foreign shores in the 5k case? If you're using the same shipping method, that would add ~$4455 to the cost. Divide by 0.95 to adjust for Kickazon's cut, and we get $4690, for a new total of 24750

  2. I haven't received a full estimate for the shipping costs from the printer, so that's not tallied into this estimate yet. I didn't even know how much to ballpark it at, but $5000 sounds good enough to me. If that's accurate, I should set the stretch goal at $25k.

  3. I just assumed that a shipment of 2k sets is probably just a shipment of multiple smaller boxes, and unless you're close to saturating capacity somewhere (labour, space, etc.), each additional box should cost about the same as the one before, assuming no economies of scale. As such, I just multiplied the cost for 2k sets by 5/2.

    Enjoy sitting, eating and sleeping on boxes of cards for a while!

  4. Ghost Pirates ended up with similar numbers on the back end. Two main differences I see is that I ended up paying a LOT less for art and design, and my initial goals were set even lower (hence my $7,500 goal). Once I saw the production numbers, I resolved to take on some debt to make the full-on publisher leap despite the comparatively small amount of money raised.

  5. Has that risk paid off in the long run? That is to say, has that debt been paid off?

  6. Freight for Ghost Pirates was on a per-unit basis and definitely took advantage of economies of scale. My quote for shipping 2,000 units was about 86c/unit, which was cut in half at 5,000.

  7. Would you mind sharing what sort of software you use for the instruction manual? I'm using Scribus and I'm not too keen on how it works. Wondering if there's something easier out there. Thanks for any info :)

  8. The long run hasn't started yet. We'll see. But considering the numbers and the support I'm getting from both my distributor and print management company, it's very manageable with what I'm considering to be very little risk.

  9. If I get 5000 units, I'm definitely getting a distributor and warehouse to manage that. However, I only *have to* order 5000 units if we get more than 4500 pre-orders, which based on similar projects' history seems unlikely. Thus, we always have the option of ordering a more manageable number of units up until that point.

  10. Do you happy to know the weight of each unit of Ghost Pirates?

  11. Huh. I dunno about all that, but I used InDesign for the rulesheet. In early iterations, I'll just make the rulesheet in Google Docs.

  12. Excellent. That's what I was hoping for us, too. We may incur out-of-pocket expenses, but they'll be covered with long tail sales.

  13. What about taxes? Or, does that not kick in until higher quantities? (like a bajillion)

  14. That's another thing we gotta figure out down the line. Uncle Sam might take a cut at both ends: When we collect the funds and when we make the sales.

  15. Collecting the funds is making the sales; basically, track your expenses, subtract them from the funds, what's left is profit you must report as income.

  16. Sure do, had to weigh it for the UPC code: 7.3 oz.

  17. Think there would be much difference for an 8.2oz box?

  18. Ah! Right. I think Megan has a better handle on that side of the operation. :P

  19. Thank you :) I think for prototyping I'll just use a wordprocessor instead of Scribus. I can see that doing the design part of the rules too early would lead to issues since you're still refining the game. I think maybe I'll leave the design part to the designers. :P

  20. Definitely. Presentation is definitely important, but you want the basic mechanics to work first.

  21. I'd just like to add that seeing these kind of breakdowns is really interesting, despite my lack of any ambition to go there myself.

  22. Thanks! Yeah, if you told me five years ago I'd be planning this many spinning wheels, I'd have called you nuts.

  23. Could you go into more detail about the Unit cost vs the retail cost?
    I don't see how you couldn't use a US printer even if the costs were a bit higher...
    (Yes, I know nothing of this sort of thing but seeing $7.42 unit cost makes me think a $15 game is easily possible.)

  24. At $7.42 unit and $15 MSRP Dan would lose $2 per sale into the retail channel. At $20 MSRP might lose a few pennies or gain a few pennies depending on how the coin flips. To have a workable profit margin with that unit cost his MSRP should be something like $35, which would let him pay for the production of two units for every one sold in retail.

  25. Sure, with the caveat that I have way less experience managing retail networks than my advisors Fred Hicks, Chris Hanrahan, Kathleen Donahue, et al. With that said...

    The rule of thumb for retail distribution is that your cost per unit should be about a fifth of your suggested retail price. This allows a retailer to buy your product at a steep wholesale discount, but that still makes you a slim profit to cover shipping and handling expenses. The retailer can then sell the product at the MSRP and make a profit for herself as well.

    Thus, a unit cost of $7 means that the MSRP would be $35. That's not a competitive price for a card game when similar games are as low as $10. Bear in mind, that simply rules out retail distribution, not direct sales. I can certainly sell the game for about $15 directly online, but I won't reach as many casual family gamers who are my primary audience.

    If I want the game to cost around $15 at retail, the unit cost needs to be a fifth of that, about $3. Even that seems unfeasible at the scale of production I am eying. The lowest cost I can get is about $4, meaning an MSRP of $20. Now, the "unit cost x 5" rule is just a rule of thumb. I could still just go "x4" and make the game about $16 MSRP, but in buyer psychology, 16 is almost the same as 20 anyway.

  26. Ok, that is some good info.
    So how does a game make a profit with a $15 retail price?
    Does it have to have a big print run to bring the per unit cost down?
    How is the $10 game making a profit?

  27. Typically, by keeping the unit cost to no more than 20% of the MSRP. AKA "print in China, and in large quantities!"


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

5 Graphic Design and Typography Tips for your Card Game

Belle of the Ball Guest Name Generator

One Thing to Avoid in Game Design