Sunday, March 14, 2010

Game card production options

I've had some luck creating home-made versions of cards for my games using a variety of stuff, from completely hand-made, hand-written parts, to laser or ink-jet printouts on cardstock, to pre-perforated business card forms (pretty cheap from Office Depot, and they separate easily and shuffle surprisingly well).  I've used color ink-jet printing, which can get expensive but is pretty high quality, and color-laser printing, which can get super-expensive if you do it at a place like Kinko's, but is generally very high quality (but it doesn't always stand up to repeated play - the toner can flake off).  But if you want to take a step further, to a more professional look, there are now a few print-on-demand options.

For cards, the simplest custom printing option is probably business card printing.  Business cards are a bit smaller than normal game cards, but you can get them printed in bulk for very cheap.  If your deck doesn't have a lot of different cards (either a small deck, or a number of repeated cards within a deck) you could order one set of business cards for each card type in your deck, and then collate them.  That's labor-intensive, but it doesn't have to be cost-intensive.  It's also very scalable - for example, has both regular and square business cards at 250 for $20-22, while 1000 is only a dollar or so more.  And there are hundreds of business card printers online.  For a custom project, or for a deck with many unique card types, you might be able to contact a local print shop and get those made up easily - business cards are very common print requests for these companies. Some of the drawbacks are that usually, business cards are a little thinner than "real" cards, they aren't plastic-coated so they don't slide past each other as easily, and they don't have rounded corners, which means they catch on each other when you hold them in your hand.

There are also actual custom playing card printers, which give better results.  For game printing, I've heard of folks using Artscow (custom cards here), TheGameCrafter, SuperiorPOD, and Guild of Blades Retail Group.  These companies print real decks of cards.  I have experience with TheGameCrafter (detailed in an earlier post), and I should (hopefully) have some cards from SuperiorPOD next week for comparison.  Many folks I've read online have sworn by Artscow.  I don't know much about GuildOfBlades - they've not been taking on new projects recently, says their website, so I didn't look into them for my recent print-on-demand projects.   However, their pricing looks very competitive, and it scales downward for bigger print runs, which isn't true of the other POD folks.  They (like TheGameCrafter) have an order fulfillment option.

So, there's a quick guide to some different card printing options.  Let me know if you know of other good ideas!

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