According to The Game Crafter, there are 90,000 users of their site. There are sometimes dozens of new designers entering the chat in any given week. We hear the same sort of questions frequently.  I’ve tried to capture some of those questions and answers here.

The following is a list of very frequent questions. It is not a step-by-step guide to The Game Crafter, but rather addresses questions that come up in roughly the order in which people encounter them.

What software do you use to create your cards and boards?

In short, you need a graphics editor. A graphics editor will let you layout bit elements of your game and save them as an image file that The Game Crafter can use (a JPG or a PNG file). There are a number of professional offerings–the most popular of which are Photoshop and Illustrator.  There are also a few free alternatives that are popular, including Gimp , Krita, and Pixlr (which runs in a modern browser). Just about any modern graphics editor will work. For the sake of your own sanity, you should pick one that can edit images in layers (See below).

With the graphics editor, you can arrange your art, manipulate images, crop, resize, color, recolor, and apply filters and effects.  When you have it ready, you can save the image and upload it to The Game Crafter.

Great, but how do you actually create them?

First, start with the the Game Crafter provided templates.  They have created a series of template image files for the various printed assets.  You can view the templates by looking in the upper right of the product page.  For example, the Poker Deck page links an Illustrator template, a PNG template, a Photoshop template, and an SVG file.

The example to the right is the Poker Card template.  Using the template will ensure that your image uses the correct resolution and proper image size as well as provide all the relevant guides (cut lines, safe zone, border size suggestions, etc.).

To use the template, first open the file in your graphics editor, make it mostly transparent, and then add new layers to your image. For example, in Gimp, you can:

  1. File -> Open Location. Paste the web address of the applicable template, such as https://s3.amazonaws.com/www.thegamecrafter.com/templates/poker-card.png for a Poker Card.
  2. In the Layers Toolbox, set the opacity to 20%:
  3. Right-click on the “poker-card” layer and “new layer” and leave all of the settings and click “Ok”:
  4. Now make sure this layer is below the template (drag it down).  This is the layer from which you should start all your game creation!

Once you’re ready to save your file and upload to The Game Crafter, don’t forget to turn off the template layer.

Yeah, but how do I do [insert something] with the Graphics Editor?

If you’re looking for help with how to actually do fun and fancy things with your chosen graphics editor, you should search Google and Youtube for tutorials.

Can you just do it for me?

No.

And, the Game Crafter doesn’t have a “wizard” to create your games for you, unless you’re just looking for standard playing cards. If you’re doing standard playing cards, there are a bunch of templates you can use.

I used Illustrator and now it says my image is too big. What gives?

When exporting an image from the Illustrator template, you must check the “Use Artboards” button on the export window. Otherwise, elements beyond the artboard, when flattened grow the size of the image, typically by 1 pixel in each dimension.

To fix this, you’ll want to export your image as a 300dpi PNG file.  On the screen where you set the filename, make sure “Use Artboard” is checked:

 

Then, on your export settings, make sure you use 300dpi:

 

 

How do you get your words to look pretty?

Fonts.  There are lots of places that you can go to look for fonts. While to copyright status of fonts is a bit confused, there are many places you can browse for fonts that permit commercial use:

What else should I think about when designing my cards/board?

Have you checked thought about how it would appear to someone who is color blind?  You can use these online tools to see what it would look like: Vischeck and Corblis.

Can you explain the bits of the template to me and how to use them?


I’ll do some of them. The example to the right is from the poker card, but most of the templates have the same three primary areas: “safe zone,” “trim line” (or cut line), and “bleed zone.”

The safe zone is represented by the space within the blue dotted line. Everything in that area is, well, safe. So, everything you want to guarantee will be on your printed component should be within the blue dotted line.

The solid red line is the trim line (or cut line). This is the theoretical location that the machine will cut your printed component. However, in practice, it could cut anywhere between the red line and the blue dotted line. In that small gap, you can include information, graphics, and other bits of your template. However, it’s best not to include the important stuff here lest it ends up on the cutting room floor.

The gray area beyond the redline is the bleed zone. You can think of this as the inverse of the space between the dotted blue and red. Your designs should have any background image or texture continue all the way through the bleed zone to the edge.

Do I stop at the cut lines?

No.  The cut lines are there to give you an idea about the approximate location of where the machine will cut the image to form your printed component.  You should make sure that you go all the way into the bleed zone.

What is the bleed zone? What do I do with it?

If you load up a template, you’ll see an area outside the red cut lines called the “bleed zone”.  This area is what’s left over when your cards or boards are cut/printed.  In a perfect world, you would never see anything printed outside the bleed zone on your printed things.  But, we don’t live in a perfect world.  Things don’t cut perfectly.

The basic recommendation is to make whatever you use for your background to continue all the way through the bleed zone and to the edge of the image.  The reality is most of this will be cut in the final product, but continuing your color or texture into that area means that you won’t have to worry about the imperfections in cutting.

What is drift?

In short: it’s the amount by which the cutter can be off in either direction. It happens no matter how you print and cut your cards. There is a great explanation video and techniques for dealing with drift on the templates page.

Why aren’t borders (or thin borders) recommended on some templates?

Drift.  Especially with smaller items, drift will be more noticeable.  A border around your printed item might actually make the issue of drift appear worse than it really is.  If you have very thin borders, the effects of drift might appear very pronounced.

Notice the black borders along the left. From thick to non-existent.

I’m doing a bunch of hex pieces.  How do I get an image to be hex shaped?

You don’t.  Your image will be a square.  The gray area around the red cut lines is just the bleed zone.  Like any other shaped printable component, your background color or texture should extend all the way to the edge of the image template.

I don’t understand. Can you tell me how a square image becomes a hex?

Very existential.  In short, you upload a square image, it is printed to the paper or cardboard and then cut.  The machine cuts near the red line.

For your design purposes, there is nothing special about the redline other than you should make sure all of your stuff is within it — and, to be very safe, within the blue dotted line.

Where can I get art to use in my game?

Common answers:

  • Hire an artist!  You can browse the The Game Crafter’s Art & Design forums or reach out to an artist on Deviant Art or other various artist sites.
  • Make it yourself!  You can do it all digitally using a graphics editor or vector art program.  You can also draw the art by hand and then scan it in.
  • Get Public Domain Art! These are works that have, for one reason or another, fallen out of copyright or were released by the artist for free without the restrictions of copyright.  Many works created before the 1930s are in the public domain and works of the United States government (including NASA) are in the public domain. You can also peruse Flickr’s public domain collection.  If you are relying on Public Domain art, it is your responsibility to make sure it is truly in the public domain — labels on random internet websites aren’t to be trusted.
  • Get Commercial Use Creative Commons Art and attribute it!  Creative Commons is a copyright licensing scheme that frequently allows for commercial use and modification in exchange only for attribution. Make sure that you get the correct Creative Commons license though.  Creative Commons provides a useful search to help you find art.  Flickr.com provides a simple search for Creative Commons photographs.  Again, you are responsible for confirming the proper licensing and the propriety of the claim of ownership.

The Game Crafter will not print your game if you use unlicensed copyrighted works of other people.

Will an artist take a percentage of my game sales?

Short answer: almost certainly not.  Most artists are paid a fee per work (e.g., dollars per card).  Taking a small percentage of a game sale is very risky for the artist since the success or failure of that game is largely dependent on you.

Where can I get icons to use on my card?

You should check out: The Noun Project and Game Icons.net.  Both have a plethora of readily available icons to use for no charge or with attribution.

Where do I get the number of player, time to play icons for my box?

The Game Crafter has provided a number of those files in various formats on their Utility Templates page.

Are there any tutorials that will show me how to add cards to a game?

Yes.

I’ve created three tutorials that show how to:

1. Create decks quickly using TGC’s editor. This tutorial assumes you’ve already created the images for your cards.

2. Use the new TGC editor to quickly create double-sided cards and printable assets. This tutorial assumes you’ve already created the images for your cards and hexes.

3. How to use the TGC editor to add a booklet to your game:

Also, while it uses the older Game Crafter editor, TGC has this getting started video:

Can my cards have unique fronts and backs?

Yes.

Create a deck and click “Edit Cards.”  Add a card and select its face.  You will be shown something like this:

The bottom option “Back Design From” is typically “Deck.”  To add a unique back to this card, click the down arrow and select “Card.”  You will now be presented with a place to select the “Back”:

If every card has a unique back, do I need “Deck” back?

Yes.  You have to have a proofed image for a “Deck” back on the Deck-level page:

This image will be used for the previews on your shop page.

Will my cards come sorted? Can I order the cards in a deck?

No.  The cards will not be sorted or grouped in any meaningful fashion during packaging.

I want people to get a random selection of my vast array of cards, can I do this?

Yes.  When editing your decks, you are provided the option to indicate what the deck includes.  By default, decks include all of the cards you add to them:

Clicking the down arrow allows you to select “Random” and then specify numbers and frequency of the cards in the random decks:

Selecting “Random” then provides the ability to indicate the rarity of individual cards in the deck itself by specifying the “Class Name.”  By default, every card will be the in the “common” class.

Can I get my hex chits to “connect”?

Depends on what you mean. If you are creating a tile laying game with “connections” like Tsuro, then “yes,” but you will still need to account for drift. In addition, if you’re creating reversible tiles, you should consider that the drift on the back may be different than the drift on the front.

For example, these are the tiles I created for Tectonic. The roads meet at the middle of each edge in the image that was uploaded to the tool.  The following image includes tiles connected “front” to “front”, “back” to “back” and “back” to “front.”  The back to front connections show the most deviation.

hextiles

You should carefully consider how and where to make the connection and where and how you might think about masking drift-related issues if they are to be placed right next to each other.

Some tips:

  1. Make sure you have a relatively straight line from the middle of the safe zone ALL the way to the edge at the angle of that edge.
  2. Think about using a wider region to make the connections
  3. Avoid acute angles in your lines as the approach the edge of the safe zone.
  4. Consider minimizing the number of different tile variations on a given side.

What is proofing?

Once you have uploaded and image and added it as part of one of your game’s printed components, The Game Crafter requires that you “proof” your image to help ensure that your print is successful.  Clicking the proof button below an image will bring up a masked version of your image with: cut lines and safe zone.

The image to the right shows the cut line as the rounded red box along the outside and the safe zone as the dotted blue line.  If everything looks correct, you can “Approve” the image.

You must do this for each and every printed component.

I have [insert large number] cards. Do I have to proof them all?

Yes.

Are the cards printed on good cardstock?

Yes. The Game Crafter has switched to printing on 305gsm black core card stock. It is essentially the same cardstock used for things like Magic The Gathering cards and is a significant improvement over the 270gsm clay coat.

TGC user Ophidian Wars did a bend test using both a MtG card and a card printed on TGC’s 305gsm card stock.:

What is this going to cost me?

The Game Crafter has a very convenient pricing estimator tool for its printed components — this price would not include dice, meeples and other game bits. It will give you the estimated price of your components at both the standard rate and the bulk rate (200+ units).

How is the price for [printed item] determined?

The Game Crafter has a complete pricing sheet available on its website for its printed components. Pricing is broken down by “cost per sheet”, “cost per item”, “items per sheet”, and “best bulk price.”  For most purposes, the only two you care about are the price per sheet and items per sheet. (Let’s ignore bulk pricing for a second).

For printed parts: you always pay by the sheet regardless of the number of items.  Even if you game uses a single, printed small square chit, you will pay for the entire sheet of 150 chits, i.e., $9.49. You cannot buy a single small square chit for only $.06. The per item price is a guide to the cost of using that component, it is not indicative of what your game costs.

Price per item may help you pick between the types of cards or shards or chits or other printable item so that you can maximize the value for the number of items for the price.

On bulk pricing:  Bulk pricing is available if you purchase a large number of units at a single time.  The discounts escalate until 250 units.  Sales are not aggregated, these are one time purchases.

What if I have multiple decks, how are the cards counted?

Cards of the same type are all aggregated and stitched together onto the same sheets.  For example, if you have in your game a Poker deck with one card, a second Poker deck with 10 cards, and a third Poker deck of 7 cards (for a total of 18 Poker cards), you will be charged for a single sheet.

How does pricing for boxes work?

Most of the boxes are priced as printed components.  For example, if you select the tuck box, it comes printed and in a box.

The big exception is the Large Pro Box.  If you order just the large pro box, it is going to come in plain black.  If you want to print onto the Large Pro Box, you need to add a “Large Pro Box Top Wrap“, a “Large Pro Box Bottom Wrap“, or both.  In this case, the cost is equal to the box cost plus the wrap or wraps you select.

Are the printed part costs the only costs?

No.

First, TGC does add a nominal $.89 handling fee which covers the cost of throwing everything in a box and mailing it out.

Second, if you have any unprinted and game components, those are added at their cost.  They are usually on a per unit cost (e.g., $.28 for each die).

Third, people buying your game will be charged a mark-up based on your game’s settings.  This markup results in an MSRP.  If you are purchasing your own prototype/finished game, you are not charged this amount.

Finally, the costs do not include the cost to actually ship your game.

How can I estimate shipping?

The Game Crafter uses two shipping methods: USPS Priority and USPS First Class.  As such, you can estimate your shipping using the United States Post Office’s online tool.  You will need the estimate weight of your game which is included on the right side of your game’s page:

How do I actually buy my game?

I’m assuming you’ve managed to create your game, upload all of your images, and added the parts you’ve wanted.  If not, read the other tutorials.  If so, then there are a few ways to actually add the game to your shopping cart and check out.

You can go to “Make Games” -> My Games” and then click the “Buy” button.

Or, from the main editor screen for your game, you can click “Add to Cart”.

Or, you can click through to your game’s shop page and click the buy button at the top.

Then, just click the shopping cart at the top and check out.

 

Chits are expensive, what does everyone else do?

Chits are a very nice, printed component.  If you have a game with very few chits, they can be very expensive.

If you do not need them to be printed, you can consider using:

While the per unit cost may be higher, you can buy fewer of them.

If you want something printed, you can consider shards (which are card stock), micro or mini cards (both of which are also reversible) or use token stickers and poker chips.

What about chits for currency?

Chits are still expensive. However, there are a few pre-printed chit-currency pieces that don’t require that you purchase $10 worth of chits that you might consider:

Fantasy coins:
Photo of Fantasy Coin 1 Photo of Fantasy Coin 5Photo of Fantasy Coin 20

Future coins:
Ad for Future Coin, 1Ad for Future Coin, 5

Do chits fit in game stands?

No. The chits are too thick for the game stands. You may wish to consider using cards or shards (e.g., tombstone shard) and card stands instead.

Why aren’t my chits’ images centered!?

Drift. Drift on smaller chits is very noticeable (e.g., small circle and small square). For example, the following images have elements that are perfectly centered in the images, but the drift makes them appear close to the edge. Everything within the safe zone is still on the chit, though.

drift

Report it to support: If you believe that yours drifted beyond the safe zone, you can click the green “support” button on the left of the homepage. Include your order number and attach a photo of the result.

As you get larger components, the drift is there, but less noticeable. For example, you can see that the roads mostly align in these hex tiles:

9EFEEAF0-A1E0-11E4-8A97-2671B2B0CB8E   9F0C96D2-A1E0-11E4-AD89-02672E6F545F

What do I do if I want a sheet full of the same chits?

Each chit in your order can have a custom face and custom back. That means, on a small circle chit, you can fit 150 perfectly unique chits. More often than not, that’s not the case. In the case that you can use the “Quantity” to specify how many repeats.

chit quantity image

To get a single sheet of just one kind of chit, you just set the quantity to the total number of items per sheet value.  In the case of small circle chits, that’s 150:

chit quanity max value

How do the Large Pro Box Wraps Work?

Large Pro Boxes are technically unprinted components.  They are black “telescoping” boxes in which the top (the “lid”) slides over the bottom portion.

You can “print” on the large pro box by adding one of the wraps: the top wrap or the bottom wrap.  You don’t have to order either.  In that case, your game will come in a plain black box.

Many people will order at least a top wrap.  The top wrap will print on the “face” and two of the sides.  In the following picture, you can see that the green grass and blue sky continues down one of the sides and the “bottom” side remained black.

For Tectonic, I did not order a bottom wrap and the “bottom” box came in plain black:

No. Each box wrap only covers the “face” and two of the sides. As such the other two sides of each part of the box will be black. Again, in this picture, you can see that the print continues down the side, but not the “bottom” of the lid:

Can I order a game without a box?

Yes.  It will come in the shipping box. Individual components, like cards and chits, will be in plastic baggies.

Why did my queue position go up?

There a few common reasons that your queue position might go up:

  • An urgent queue order was placed
  • The Game Crafter logged a corrective order for a game that was already shipped and are trying to get the customer a correction.

Will a parts only order ship sooner?

Probably. Parts only orders get added to the queue just like any other order. However, once a human looks at the order and it is easily fulfilled, it may ship ahead of those games waiting for printed components.

I already ordered my game, can I make changes?

You can make changes to your game, but your order will ship in the form it was originally ordered. At the time you placed your order, the system takes a snapshot of your game. So, if you make changes to your game and want the updated version, you need to cancel your order and re-order.

How much will shipping cost if I bulk order my game?

Community Member, AnSR, created an example Bulk Order Fulfillment spreadsheet that contains a huge number of the zip codes so that you can get an estimate for shipping.

Just create a fake BOF using the spreadsheet. Then you can see the estimates. Just don’t “complete” your order.

How do I know if my stuff will fit into my chosen box?

The Game Crafter has an internal estimating system that sums up the space required for all of your components.  If the estimated space exceeds the space inside the box, it will show you a warning like this one:

Even if I get that warning, can I order my game anyway?

Yes. While you probably should reconsider your box size, any bits that do not fit will be shipped outside your selected box in the shipping package.

What box do I need for the Quad Fold Game Board?

Historically, there was only one box choice for games with the Quad Fold Game board or similar sized boards: the Large Pro Box.

On June 10, 2015, The Game Crafter introduced the Large Retail Box.

What is the Large Retail Box?

In addition to the Large Pro Box, the Game Crafter now offers a Large Retail Box. Like the Large Pro Box, it the Retail Box can hold all of the game boards and the booklets and a whole mess of other things.

Unlike the LPB, the Large Retail Box:

  • is made of substantially thicker (twice as thick?) of card stock
  • is larger and rectangular
  • is printable on all sides (top and bottom).
  • is “telescoping” but separates half way up the side of the box (see the photos).

One note: unlike the LPB, the Retail Box uses the same template for both the top and the bottom.

ib-lrb ib-lrb2

What does a Medium Game Box look like?

The medium game box is pretty different than the “pro” boxes. It opens from the top like a tuck box and so it does not have a telescoping lid and bottom. It also has an interior foam partition that can hold four stacks of poker cards.

Here’s what it looks like when I used it for my game, Legacy: Build Your Family Tree:
Game Box, open Game Box, partially open
Game Box, stacked

A note about booklets: the foam goes from the bottom to the top. You won’t be able to fit a larger booklet in there without serious trouble. Any booklet will have to fit into 1/2 the box so that it sits in one of the wells.

How small is the Small Pro Box?

It’s pretty small. Here’s a pic with a banana for scale.

Small Pro Box with a Banana for Scale

If I order today, when will I get my game?

The Game Crafter has a page that gives the then-current shipping estimates: status page. Typically, games are printed within two weeks and are then shipped. There are no guarantees.

The Game Crafter also offers an Urgent Queue which doubles the cost of your game, but usually ships the very next day.

How do I get help with an order?

If you have trouble with an order, or you have a question about the status of an order, there are a few ways to get quick help:

  • Email info@thegamecrafter.com and include your Order number
  • Send a “support” email by clicking the green, “Support” button on the left of the home page.  Include your Order number.
  • Try to find a TGC staff member in the TGC chat.

Why was my order delayed?

I can’t be sure, but a common reason for a delay is a question concerning potential unlicensed use of copyrighted materials.

I have booklet questions. And, how do I add a cover/back cover to one?

Booklets are nice ways to include game directions, especially inside tuck boxes. There are a few things to know about booklets:

  1. Pages are always in multiples of four. If you have fewer pages, you will get blank pages.
  2. You save one image file per page
  3. You indicate the page order when you add pages.
  4. The cover is the same as page 1.
  5. The backcover is always a multiple of 4, e.g., 4, 8, 12 and so on.

What booklet should I use for my Poker tuckbox?

The Small Booklet fits perfectly.

Can I add a small booklet to my [some number] Poker Tuck Box when I have added [the same number] of cards?

Not without getting the not-enough-space warning. Booklets take up space. Not much, but some. An 8 page small booklet is close to the size of 2 cards.

If I “publish” my game up on The Game Crafter, how many will I sell?

I guarantee you’ll have sold one game: the purchased prototype you made. TGC is not magic. Whether you sell any copies of your game depends: how much you’re promoting your game, the quality of your game, the price of your game, the reviews you get, etc. It is incredibly unlikely that you will sell a copy of your game to some random person just browsing TGC. It’s possible, but unlikely.

Congratulations. There’s a 30 day waiting period, then you get paid.

TGC pays by two method: either Paypal or Shop Credit. The default is Shop Credit, but you can change that on the Payout settings page.

What are some color-blind safe player colors?

The Game Crafter has a limited number of meeple colors.  When picking which colors to use for players, you should think about offering color-blind friendly pairings.  I have run all the meeples through two different color-blind simulators to assist:

Normal colors (no filter)
Same colors with a red-blind filter (simulating Protanopia)
Same colors using a Blue-blind filter (simulating Tritanopia)

These were simulated using Coblis.

How come I can’t download my files out of the new editor?

You can. There’s a little button below each image (circled in red in this screenshot):

If you click it and nothing happens, your pop-up blocker probably at it. Look for this or something like it in your browser’s address bar:

If you see that, click it and then select the “Always allow popups from www.thegamecrafter.com” option from the options.

Do the cards shuffle? Do I have to cut them myself?

They are real cards like you’d get with any other game. They shuffle well. They are pre-cut. When they are delivered, they’ll be in plastic baggies and ready to use.

Can I visit The Game Crafter and get a tour?

The Game Crafter is located in Madison, WI. They offer the ability to pick up your prints without shipping.

That said, they do not offer tours of their factory. The whole process is considered a trade secret.

Where can I buy Starving Artists?

This is the single most important question on this page. Starving Artists is the famous paint-by-cube art game by Fairway 3 Games. You can pick up copies on Amazon or right on this site Buy Starving Artists.

Starving Artist won the Survival Contest on The Game Crafter. The Game Crafter also produced all of the pre-production and review copies.

Where’s the old file system so that I can download all my pictures?

In the new editor, the file system was hidden. You can easily download images attached to your game assets (like cards and boards) by clicking the download button.

If you want to view your files through the file system, TGC has made it temporarily available. You can follow this link.

Do you have a list of Local Game Shops where I can sell my game?

Not really. But you’re welcome to find one from this really terrific Google Map listing all of the FLGS on the Reddit Board Game Wiki: Map

Acknowledgements

Header image by David Goehring from Flickr.com, Creative Commons 2.0: Attribution.

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4 thoughts on “FAQs: Getting Started with The Game Crafter

    1. There are no minimum order quantities. The pricing page even tells you the per unit costs for varying levels of purchases.

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