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Board Game Minimum Order Quantities

Manufacturing has startup costs and constraints. Those startup costs determine board game minimum order quantities. In this article, we put a capital “I” in “FYI” – here’s the nitty gritty manufacturing backround on why custom board game manufacturing has non-zero minimum order quantities.

What is an MOQ? How does it apply to board games?


Generic Tray

Paper Insert

Creators often ask about the Board Game Minimum Order Quantity for their project. (We commonly call it the “MOQ.”)

We wanted to take a few minutes to explain the mechanics behind an MOQ. They’re very important to understand when designing your game. The information outlined below can help you make decisions about your game design to make it efficient and cost-effective within the parameters of the custom manufacturing world.

When you open the box of a board game, you’ll often find lots of components. Each component has been manufactured with specialized processes, and each of those manufacturing processes is a little bit different.

Those processes will often come from different machines, with differnt setup times, and likely even different vendors. (Printing companies don’t own injection molding machines, for instance.) . Some manufacturing processes have dedicated tooling required – sometimes that tooling exists and sometimes it doesn’t exist and has to be made. Almost all processes require “secondary operations” like cutting, gluing, etc. required to finish the piece. The amount of complication in each of those manufacturing processes has a large role in the price of the component and also the MOQ.

Additionally, small-scale game manufacturing isn’t vertically integrated – that is to say, an order with cards, punch outs, dice, a game board and a box may require several different specialty vendors. Each of these companies has their own capabilities and the best sense of what is most cost-effective for their particular processes and components.

Setup times and manufacturing process drive component-level minimum order quantities (MOQs)

Take a printed playmat, for instance. It has a very low setup time, a relatively quick manufacturing process, no tooling required, and simple secondary operations to finish the piece. The mats are worth a few dollars each, and the vendor will take an order for 500 units to get a $1,000 order. Easy.

Those cool plastic trays that you see that hold cards? This isn’t nearly as simple. Those manufacturers need a 3D model of your tray, tooling (generally gesso covered copper, but sometimes aluminum), a couple of test rounds to check fit, and then a production run. Vacuum forming isn’t an expensive process, but it does require dedicated machinery, and you have to take that machinery out of production for those test rounds. At the end of the day, the trays by themselves don’t cost very much, so you have to buy a lot of them to make the run profitable for the vendor. The first unit costs $2,000 and the second unit costs $.20 – so a 2,000-unit run is worth $2399, but 83% of that was set up.

Set up costs are often the hidden expense on a manufactured good, and the reason for a minimum, just as it is in offset printing. The vendor would rather find an order for 100,000 pieces and leave the machine running for three weeks and go on vacation! Therefore the MOQ on thermoplastic trays is higher.

As a result of these constraints, you’ll end up being charged as much for 500 units on a thermoplastic insert as you would for 2,000 because the vendor has determined that the price on 2,000 units is the minimum it’s worth to offer that good. Maybe you’re willing to pay for 2,000 inserts but only have 500 manufactured. That would be up to you! If your passion for that particular custom item is that strong, we can work with you and get what you need.

At the end of the day, it’s really pretty simple. Paper products are cheaper than plastic, and stock items are cheaper than custom items. If your game requires a lot of custom plastic components, your game will only be cost effective at a high quantity. However, if you use standard pieces and paper-based components your cost will be far more modest and your minimums will be more attainable.

Below, you’ll find a general guide to what quantities are required per component.

Items with MOQs less than 500 units

All of our printing is done with the offset method; so we don’t offer any items at all at lower than 500 unit quantities. We can’t do professional-quality printed hardboards or cards or packaging or much of anything below 500 units.

500 units

  • Custom card decks
  • Printed packaging for card decks
  • Custom game boards
  • Custom tokens and punch-out pieces made from paper or cardboard
  • Some “stock” plastic game pieces
  • Standard Dice (White, Opaque)
  • 2 piece Boxes
  • Custom paperboard tiles, screens and accessories
  • Printed playmats
  • Notepads, score pads
  • Play money
  • Instructions
  • Plastic bags to hold pieces

500 units is a fine production MOQ for simple board games. If you want something that’s not listed here, and you want to keep your MOQ to a minimum, it’s worth your time to read what we’ve written in the past about the non-printed piece problem.

Component Assortment

1000 units

  • Custom plastic miniatures
  • Cloth bags to hold game pieces
  • Custom colored game pieces
  • Stock or made-to-order-from-existing-molds plastic parts
  • Custom-engraved dice
  • Dice in custom colors
  • Custom molded spinners
  • Custom molded parts trays

1,000 units is the most commonly-encountered MOQ that we find with Chinese component manufacturers. For plastic parts (spinners, parts trays) this is a function of the setup time on the injection molding machine. A machine may take four hours to set up and dozens of wasted parts to get injection quantities and tempratures “dialed in” – after that, the production run may only be a few hours. Generally, manufacturers prefer to run their machines on longer runs (e.g. many days at a time) rather than constantly tearing them down and setting them back up again. That’s the primary reason that long runs of plastic parts become very inexpensive compared to shorter runs.

Hidden Benefits

2000 units

All of the above, plus: Custom plastic trays

Plastic Trays

3000 units

All of the above, plus: Custom plastic miniatures larger than 35mm or non-figure based shapes

Generic Assortment Large Mini Figures

5,000 units

All of the above, plus: At 5,000 units almost any customization is possible.

Skermished Packed

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