I have recently received files for my game War of Supremacy from a print on demand service. They turned out fantastic. I personally used the Game Crafter, but there are many different websites/companies that will produce prints. You can find more on James Mathe’s blog.
Print on Demand services (PoD) are used to print high quality versions of your game (or book) in small quantities. PoD services are fantastic to produce quality prototype versions of your games. You would not use a PoD for a full print run as they are much more expensive than a full game manufacturer.
I would recommend using the PoD service when you are close to finishing design. Because it is quite expensive, you do not want to make too many changes once you get your copy. Like my previous blogs say on Playtesting and Prototyping you should initially be using whatever materials you can to make and play your game. The PoD is for the end of the development cycle.
While it can be a little expensive, there are several benefits of using these services.
Getting a feel of what your components will look like. PoD services can create all the components of the board game for you. This is great to learn how your cards, game board, dice, tokens, etc will turn out. While all printers are different (and it’s still beneficial to get a copy of your game before the final print run), you get to see a general idea of what the final product will look like.
Getting proper components for your game feels fantastic. It makes your game feel real and ready to go to the public. When I got my copy, it instantly gave me a boost in confidence. I had got rid of my prototype cards and felt good about showing off a nice, almost finished product.
From seeing all your components, you can make adjustments on errors that come out in printing. I found some of my images were too dark and may need to be retouched for the finished print run. Obviously images turn out different per printer, but it at least showed me the images that needed a touch up. Other areas you can see are graphic design on cards or the board. Do they get cut off, or require a change in layout? You can compare size and make sure all components fit where you need them.
Another great benefit of these services is that you can use them to estimate your box size. Having all components there for you (or close enough) allows you to calculate the best size for your box. This will also help you design trays for your components. Some manufacturers require you to 3d print your own tray to place in the box and fit all the components.
These prototypes are a fantastic way to show off to people. You can use these to both get feedback and playtest as well as advertise. Bring it to local gaming groups and conventions. They will look much nicer than old prototypes.
Finally, these prototypes can be used to send to reviewers. It may be expensive printing a large quantity of these from a PoD, but it is beneficial printing out several close to finished products to send. As can be seen on my previous blog, reviewers are needed to showcase your work. Having these close to final products will help showcase the game as best they can, which in turn will promote your game for the kickstarter campaign. You may lose these copies of your game, but it is a small price to pay to get the traffic from the reviewers.