Non-Printed Piece Problem

More bad news than you can throw two D6 at – the non-printed-piece-problem needs to be considered very early in your game design thinking. Here, we step you through the way to think about manufactured, or non-printed, pieces. We present a list of contraints and alternatives to consider for your custom board game.

We look at the non-printed piece problem in two ways. There are the “easier” items: for instance, we can, for the right MOQ, create custom pawns/game pieces and custom dice. You can see the details about creating custom miniatures, and custom dice here.

Generic Plastics

Other items are more difficult.


Fire Helmets

Fire Helmets

Many first-time game makers build complexity into their gameplay that creates challenges for quoting and manufacturing.

To help explain, let’s walk through a simple example of one of these tough requests and the complexities involved.


One day, a potential customer excitedly inquired how much it would cost to put a fire helmet into their game. There wasn’t more explanation than that.


We didn’t know if they needed a life size fire helmet. A game piece shaped like a fire helmet. A cheap plastic fire helmet.


We didn’t know if it was meant to be a playable piece in their game. Was it meant to hold their game? Did they want a box shaped like a fire helmet?


The lessons for you and for us are the same – we are experts at supplying printed pieces for games. We are really quite good at supplying stock and custom miniatures, stock and custom dice, and a few other non-printed things. If you want to get outside those items, feel free to inquire – but you should expect that the project is going to require a lot of your research.


The following are other examples of items that would seem easy but are actually difficult, and some reasonable alternatives.


Tape measures: Length, color, scale (metric or imperial), branding, overall size, and mechanism of function all have to be defined up front. Then a vendor has to be found, price and MOQ have to be approved, and multiple rounds of samples back and forth to the customer are generally required. (“The ridges on the thumb slide aren’t sharp enough.”) This back and forth adds months to the process.

demonstrating the non-printed piece problem with a tape measurer

Alternative: If you need a tape measure, you should solve the problem by printing a ruler on paper or on paperboard – something that we can and have provided in the past.


Whiteboards: Size, color, weight, durability, frame style, board thickness, and quality all have to be defined. Whiteboard markers are notoriously bad; even though the request might be for whiteboards the request will eventually come for a whiteboard marker (and an eraser!), too.

demonstrating the non-printed piece problem with a white board

Alternative: Here, we propose that a pad of paper would serve much the same function, and will be much easier for quality control, cost, weight, and size in the final game.


Custom spinners: A fancy custom spinner like in the game of “Life” has to be sourced or designed/molded. Instead consider a stock plastic spinner arrow combined with a punched paper board.

demonstrating the non-printed piece problem with a plastic spinner

Alternative: Even better: Dice. Dice are easier, and that’s why they are so widespread.

Other workarounds: You’re welcome to inquire about a non-printed piece to see how we could work around it! “I have a game that needs a custom spinner” is an easy problem for us. “I have a game that involves balancing flaming books on your head” is a more difficult problem for us.


Ultimately, if your heart and game design are set on a specific thing – a tape measure, a specialty pencil, etc. – we recommend that you find the exact thing that you want yourself. (That is, source it yourself on Alibaba or another sourcing engine.) Once you have acquired the custom piece, we can assemble it with your game (a kitting charge will apply) or you can assemble it yourself.


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