Although it's a long-standing industry that evokes our childhood, board games have never fallen off the radar and have gotten a second wind for those looking for off-consumer entertainment.
In this article, we will look at the popularity of this industry and determine the use and importance of plastic in it.
As an experienced manufacturer, we recommend you reading our content about wholesale toys if you are interested in learning more about this subject.
If you are considering making your custom board game, you will be interested in reading this article as we will talk about designing, manufacturing, and distribution.
Likewise, you will find some examples of board game manufacturers, and you will see that we are up to your task, even adapting our manufacturing in these moments.
If you want to learn more about how we’re handling this situation, we invite you to read our article: Plastics manufacturing during COVID-19.
If you’re looking for the right supplier to manufacture your custom board game project, promotional products, or plastic containers wholesale, do not hesitate to contact us, We’re sure that our team can provide all the guidance you need.
Custom board games: tradition and popularity
The first board game we are aware of was found in Ur in Iraq dating from 3000 BC. Since then, it has been proven that many cultures around the ancient world played them: Egyptians, Romans, Indians, Greeks, Arabs, and Vikings.
Later on, other games such as chess, draughts, backgammon, and dominoes remained popular in the 18th Century. From then onwards, many new board games were introduced and kept their popularity in the 19th and 20th centuries (1).
The board gaming industry has seen a significant shift in recent years. Now more than ever, there are unlimited options for gamers and designers. Indeed, some of the most popular games available today are indie board games.
A survey applied to 500 players in 2017 found that although the average household may have had a small set of games in decades past, thousands of them can be found in today's gamers' homes.
Custom board games market trends
But how much was spent on board games? These are the figures for 2017 (2):
- 6% spent less than $100.
- 15% spent $100-$199.
- 19% spent $200-$399.
- 16% spent $400-599.
- 21% spent $600-$1,000.
- 22% spent more than $1,000.
- 1% was unsure.
The size of the board games industry has the potential to rise by $5.81 billion in 2020-2024 (3). However, the market's growth momentum will slow down during the forecast period due to the decline in year-over-year growth.
Also, game developers have made licensing deals with famous movies and TV franchises to create stories and character updates. These advancements in quality and gameplay have fueled the growth of the global market for board games (3).
It's becoming increasingly common for creative individuals to design and self-publish their custom board game.
What are game boards made of?
Although board games from various parts of the world are different in form and content, components such as board, miniatures, cards, and dice have similar materials: die-cut cardboard, paper, and plastic.
Components and materials for custom board games
It's the main component. A large part of the game is played on it, and the rest of the elements are placed. It is made of plasticized cardboard and should not exceed a size of 100x70 centimeters.
These are plasticized cardboard pieces that vary in thickness, shape, and size according to the needs of each set. They can also be made of plastic.
They are usually in the form of detailed characters, precious stones, castles, villages, roads, etc. They come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, and you can find both hard and soft plastic pieces. It makes the production of a board game more expensive, and they are usually ordered from companies focused on this type of material.
One of the most used elements in board games. Its quantity varies in each game, and the four most used sizes are (4):
- American Standard, 56x87 millimeters.
- Mini American, 41x63 millimeters.
- European Standard, 59x92 millimeters.
- Mini European, 44x68 millimeters.
Over 300 grams of good-quality plasticized card paper is used, and, if it is for a card game, it has a black inner layer to prevent it from becoming transparent (5).
It is made of cardboard of normally 1.5 mm, and to that thickness is added the paper, which makes robust and compact boxes.
They are covered with a thin plastic film that protects the print, instead of the traditional varnish, preventing it from deteriorating and making them more resistant to liquids and impacts. Commonly a matt laminate is used, which gives a silky appearance (4).
If you're interested in creating your own custom board game, do not hesitate to contact us.
A recent survey showed that 57% of respondents had between 1 and 25 board and card games, while 22% had between 26 and 50 (2).
What's the process of creating a board game/card game board?
You have to take these considerations to create a board game: The design and the definition of its components and manufacturing with the appropriate materials and processes, and the distribution. Let's go through them one by one.
Custom board game design
Think about the theme and dynamics of the game. In this way, the components needed will start to emerge: playing cards, dice, board, tiles, miniatures, etc. According to the components you need, the prices begin to be determined.
The first prototype is usually made of cut out paper, without drawings or details of setting, improvised pieces, and homemade elements.
In this process, the first rectifications of the mechanics arise, the suppression of others and even, new mechanics that work better. The designer must take care to reduce the number of components as much as possible. A game with many pieces is more difficult to produce.
The first prototype will be improved and become a second prototype, and so on until we reach what is called the final prototype. This prototype will have a graphic design and illustrations close to what the finished game is intended to be (4).
Custom board game manufacture
This technical phase is divided into three steps:
The printing is done on offset machines that ensure optimum print quality. The large sheets are printed on the 70×100 size machine and the complements of the sets, cards, adhesives, or aids on the auxiliary GTO machine (6).
Preparation of components
For cardboard components such as boxes, modified automatic punching or die-cutting machines are used to produce cards of different sizes. For this purpose, there are two processes: lamination and plasticization.
The only difference between laminating and plasticizing is the thickness of the plastic. The lamination is about 50 microns, and the lamination is 100 to 200 microns (1 micron = 1 thousandth of mm), so the plasticization is much more rigid.
Both laminating and plasticizing machines are capable of working with almost any type of paper, although not all models support all formats. Plasticizing machines work by heat. There are small plasticizers and large format models for posters and large products.
Laminating is a process that is done by a thin adhesive layer of plastic, typically cold. It only protects one side. It is a protective element against humidity, dust, chemical agents, or direct sunlight.
The plasticizing process works with thicker plastic and adheres to the layers by heat. It protects both sides. There are two main techniques of plasticization: hot and cold.
A pressure-sensitive self-adhesive is used in cold plasticization, while a heat-activated adhesive is used for hot plasticization. Cold process is recommended when a hot process can damage the support or the material to plasticize.
Hot plasticization is more economical than cold plasticization. A temperature of between 75 and 130°C is used in hot plasticization, while in cold plasticization, the rollers reach a maximum of 50°C (7).
The plasticizing roller is used to heat and direct the film to the paper sheet. One side of the film is coated with adhesive, so the roller applies pressure, and the material is adequately plasticized (7).
Plastic components are manufactured by plastic injection. In this method, melted plastic is injected into a customized mold, generally made of two parts. When the material becomes cool and solid, the molding plates separate, and the piece is released. If the piece is complex, it may need to be assembled.
Some plastic pieces will require other processes, such as tampography or pad-printing, which means transferring a 2D image into a 3D object and give details like an expressive face to be applied to the plastic piece. It is, basically, the same logic to toys manufacturing.
After the product is shaped and assembled, the final step is decoration. Any painting, print or engraving will be produced on this process.
Once all the components are prepared, all that remains is to combine all the parts. The product is put in its box, packed and palletized ready for distribution (6).
When you already have a game ready, the most logical option is to submit it to a board game publisher for mass production and distribution (4).
Now, there are more places to buy games since online shopping shows no signs of slowing down. In the previously mentioned survey applied in 2017, 323 out of 545 respondents said they purchase games through Amazon. Meanwhile, 482 people said they shop at their local game store, and 41% purchase games through Kickstarter.
Other popular responses included big box stores and conventions (2).
Taking the proper considerations for your board game project can save you not just money, but time.
Top board game manufacturers
Now, who are the most important manufacturers in an industry this big an important? These are the Top 5 Board Game Manufacturers in the World in 2019:
It is a French game publisher that started in 1995 with a few games, including Jungle Speed, Wooly Bully, and The Werewolves of Miller’s Hollow.
Established in 1980, it is one of the largest toy companies (8) and leading board game manufacturers in the world. It markets iconic brands such as Doggie Doo, Wordsearch, Triominos, Rummikub, Pop the Pig, Rolit, Domino Rally, Robofish, and Gooey Looey, and many others sold under the flag of Goliath.
Grand Prix International
Headquartered in Bangkok, Thailand, it offers a wide array of services to its domestic and international clientele. They also publish auto-related print media, including Motorcycle, Grand Prix, and XO Autosport magazines, along with lifestyle magazines and YuadYan newspaper.
It is one of the top 10 toy companies in Europe (8) and across the world. Hasbro has been dominating the board games and puzzles through its ownership of Parker Brothers, Avalon Hill, Wizards of the Coast, and Milton Bradley.
It has been recognized as the European market leader for its high-quality Jigsaw puzzles, which are sold throughout Germany and the continent by its subsidiaries in major western European countries (8).
In addition to being successful board game manufacturers, these companies are generating employment sources as many of these companies sub-contract manufacturers for the manufacture of the pieces of their games.
This industry is so successful that 5.9% of the population who likes them declared to own between 76 and 100 games, and 10.9% owned more than 100 (2).
Given the extraordinary world event that we are experiencing, some concerns arise in all industries. Here are some tips:
As a golden rule, aim for the Minimum Viable Product when developing your game. Standardize as much as possible in components, cut out everything superfluous or unnecessary, and minimize the economic and ecological impact of your production.
Bring to market a product with high play value, social and environmental responsibility, and the lowest possible price. Perhaps with a more modest box, a contained board, standard tokens, and generic dice.
Although online sales of board games have risen due to the confinement and temporary closure of physical stores, in the same survey conducted in 2017, 42% of participants say they will buy less online when the health alert ends. Only 17% say they will buy more through digital platforms than they did before the confinement (2).
Physical stores, when they can come back, are likely to have a surge of customers looking for more human experience through their retail marketing. Sharing so much time at home is attracting new players (2).
For nowadays independent creators, the prospects for success in a free game board industry are strong, and board game manufacturers are taking advantage of this ever-growing market with innovative products.
If you’re looking for the right supplier to manufacture your custom board game project, give us the opportunity to help you. We’re sure you won’t regret it.
 Tim Lambert. A brief History of Board Games. A World History Encyclopedia, 2019. Accessed May 10, 2020.
 Print Ninja. Board Game Industry Statistics. Print Ninja Blog, 2017. Accessed May 10, 2020.
 Technavio. Board Games Market by Product, Distribution Channel, and Geography - Forecast and Analysis 2020-2024. Technavio Blog. Accessed May 10, 2020.
 Germán Palomar Millán. Los juegos de mesa. Creación y producción (in Spanish). Repositorio Institucional de la Universidad de Granada, 2012. Accessed May 13, 2020.
 Agrpriority, ¿Qué materiales utilizamos en nuestros juegos de mesa? (in Spanish). Agrpriority blog, 2015. Accessed May 13, 2020.
 Asociación Cultural Jugamos Todos. El proceso de creación de un juego de mesa (in Spanish). Asociación Cultural Jugamos Todos, Blog, 2013, Accessed May 14, 2020.
 Graphic Zone. Conoce los procesos del plastificado y sus diferencias (in Spanish). Graphic Zone blog, 2013. Accessed May 15, 2020.
 Technavio. Top 5 Board Game Manufacturers in the World 2019. Technavio Blog, 2019. Accessed May 16, 2020.