Finding a Manufacturer and How to Be Better Than Me

With the production period behind me, now is a good time to talk about my experience with getting Mothership manufactured by WinGO which should hopefully assist you with choosing a manufacturer yourself.

Shortlisting Manufactures

Selecting a manufacturer was tough. I waded through the massive list over at James Mathe’s blog and settled on six companies that looked good (EDIT: That blog post is gone now, here’s a new list of manufactures). I chose them based on their minimum print run, cost estimate, general feel of their websites and some quick Google searches. QPC Games, Longpack, MeiJia, WinGO and Ninox to name the ones I can remember.

Then I wrote up a large, detailed ‘quote sheet’ complete with pictures and specifications of all the parts I needed. That PDF was sent to those companies and I waited eagerly for their reply.

Every part in every detail.

Mothership is a big game. I expected big costs but I was surprised at how much they varied. For 1000 copies, I was quoted $20,000 all the way up to $45,000 USD. That was a huge surprise to me. My cognitive bias’ started to kick in now as I considered “What’s wrong with the cheaper companies? Why is this other one so expensive? Why did that one take so long to reply?”

For 1000 copies, I was quoted $20,000 all the way up to $45,000 USD.

As a side note, over the course of this project I have emailed hundreds of people. If I wanted someone’s business and they never replied quickly enough, I dropped them. Service was a huge part of my selection process and anyone who didn’t seem to want my money was quickly passed over.

All of the companies listed above had fairly quick turn around times for their quotes, which was about 1 to 2 weeks.

Why I Chose WinGO

Initially my decision was based on the following:

  1. Price was right
  2. Email turn around time was great (my timezone and China are similar which helps).
  3. People in the community knew of Kickstarters they had produced and said the quality was good
  4. Really good first impression from the representative (my rep was Alison)

After that was out of the way, I gave the quote to my accountant along with a heap of data about predicted costs and waited for him to crunch the numbers (money is a huge topic for another post).

Before and During My Campaign

If your going to crowd fund a board game, please be more organised than me. I thought I knew every nook and cranny of Mothership, but as the realities of fitting a big game inside a box became evident, I soon learnt how quickly things can change.

My accountant’s estimate of the entire project was around the $28k mark. “Sweet,” I though. I then wrapped my campaign page in a neat little bow and launched. As I worked through all the components more thoroughly during the Kickstarter month I responded to backer feedback as planned…

…”oh this looks cool, let’s add this as a stretch goal, that won’t cost much.”

…”wow backers are really responding to this feature, let’s create a new render for that part and make it cooler!”

…”a few more cards? No problem? A few more space ships? Yeah okay! A space for each ship on the tray? How hard can it be!”

Mothership Tray

It looks great now, but the tray was a nightmare to get off the ground.

I’m dismissing the finer points of my thought processes here, but essentially that’s how it went down. Every new part, new card and tray change had a flow-on effect that increased weight, complexity and above all, cost. “Peter, you’re an idiot, I could have told you that,” you might bawk. Yes, that was obvious to me at the time, but I still underestimated the cost.

The tray was great example of this. I had the coolest tray rendered and ready to impress only to find out there were technical limitations to what I was asking based around the vacuum molding process. Once the tray was revised, the box needed to be bigger. Now that the box was bigger, the weight was higher. Now that the weight was higher, every package cost more to send. Now that the box had unusual dimensions, fulfillment teams had to order special packaging to post it, therefore costing me more.

See how it all fits together?

My Top 3 Tips to Not be Like me

Are you going through this right now? Here’s my list of tips to consider:

  1. Part out and consider all components thoroughly. Engage your manufacturer before hand to consider potential limitations to your design.
  2. Plan out all stretch goals and be ready to flexible to feedback…but not too flexible. Feature-creep is a huge issue that can cripple your game post-campaign.
  3. Try your best to have all files ready to send to your manufacturer after your campaign. The shorter your pre-production, the better for everyone.

Common Sense

I wish the advice I’ve written in this post was more insightful than it really is…most of it is common sense. If you’re going to follow through with a huge project, make sure you have the resources to finish it.

Don’t let the vocal minority dictate decisions for the silent majority.

But in the heat of the moment, during the campaign, you make rash promises with the intent of appeasing your supporters. Don’t let the vocal minority dictate decisions for the silent majority.

Stick to your plan. If your plan actually sucks though…well that’s a post for another day.


  1. Ray says:

    Hi, Great article, thanks for it! How did you find the transition between WinGo and your fulfillment company? Did everything arrive at the fulfillment company ready to ship? Any other gotchas about how WinGo/Fulfillment fit together?
    Thanks again!

    1. Peter says:

      Hey Ray! Really good actually. The fulfillment companies organised shipping agents to transport the games to where they needed to go. If was going to do it again, I’d get one agent to ship the goods to all the destinations.

      I had no problems with getting it to the fulfillment warehouses which is good. It’s hard though, you kinda have to just trust these people that you email that they will get your 1000 games to where they need to go.

      Since you mentioned ‘gotchas’ I would recommend specifying exactly how you want your games to be packaged. And make sure EVERYTHING is labeled with an SKU. Every baggie of spare parts, boxes, EVERYTHING. It will make your life easier, trust me.

      1. Ray says:

        Nice, that’s good to hear. I had read some horror stories about stuff arriving at fulfillment warehouses in less than ready to go condition.
        Do you mind sharing what fulfillment company you used or an agent who ships all the way to the buyers?
        Also, echoing the comment on reddit, Why attach a sku to everything in the box? At what point would this have been handy?
        Thanks again for all the info,

        1. Peter says:

          So I used happyshops for Europe, Aetherworks for Aus / NZ and fulfilrite for USA.

          SKU labels on every product your shipping makes it easy for the people picking and packing to identify what is supposed to be posted. Smaller companies don’t require this, but fulfillrite actually required either an SKU or barcode on everything before they would even accept it into inventory.

  2. Nuronv says:

    Lots of useful little bits. Thanks for posting

  3. This is a good bit of sharing. I’ve gone through similar steps and also settled on WinGo. Out of curiosity where are you located? I am in Australia so we are finding in time zone manufacturers to be the best ones to use to avoid the 24 hour delay in emails.

    1. Peter says:

      I’m in Melbourne, so yeah being in Australia is great. Getting replies within the day is helpful, and they have skype too for chat.
      WinGO is good, just make sure you’re specific on what you want, hammer them on the smaller details and make sure they understand. The language barrier wasn’t bad, but I did need to make sure they understood certain things a few times.

  4. Nancy says:

    Wow! This is very helpful and insightful. Thanks for the well-written article Peter. It kind of makes me think twice of trying to create a board game now lol. At least I know I can’t do it on my own.

  5. Great write up Peter. It is always interesting to hear this side of things. Lots of helpful tips in there as well for others to take advantage of.

  6. Robert Kroning says:

    I have a half-thought-out idea for a great board game – really! – but no time left, or inclination go the DIY route. Can you suggest how to find someone to take it off my hands? I’m in Oregon USA.

  7. Josephine Roch says:

    Hi Peter. It was good reading your article and experiences.
    My name is Josepine and I am from Malaysia.
    I have created a new game and just don’t know what to do to get it manufactured and out into the market.
    I don’t think there are any manufactures of game boards here. So I have to look for outside source.
    Many questions, first of all
    1) how do you secure your game from being copied by someone else?
    2) Where is this Wingo company situated?
    3) What is SKU?

    Do you think you can see me through this complicated process. It’s the first time I’m doing this but I
    have full confidence in my game board.

    Josephine Roch

    1. Peter says:

      Hi Josephine!
      Thanks for your feedback. To answer your questions:
      1) I know this is going to sound strange, but outright plagiarism doesn’t happen often in the board game community. When it does, the company gets absolutely lynched. Check out this video as a good example:
      Definitely do some research on it yourself tho.
      2) WinGO is based in China, most board game manufactures are.
      3) An SKU is just industry slang for ‘unique code name for a single product.’ So for my game, the SKU was ‘MTHSHP’ and my expansion was called ‘VORTEX’.
      For support in making your board game, I recommend getting involved in the Board game Geek community and Reddit for all board game design help.

  8. Daniel says:

    How did you go about creating a quote sheet?

    1. Peter says:

      @ Daniel – First you need to have a spreadsheet of every item in your game and their dimensions, materials etc. Then for the quote sheet, write out in heaps of detail every part with pictures, renders, graphics, what ever you got. Basically, you want to that sheet to be able to answer every question the manufacturer might have about your game and each part.

  9. Hi
    This is great info. I do not have a game yet but have been thinking of doing one. But decided to look at how hard it would be to get made. Your words give me encouragement
    Thanks for sharing Peter.

  10. Hersh Glueck says:

    Hi my name is Hersh, and last year I have established a board game manufacturing plant in China. . I read your article, and I think there is a reason why prices varied so much. It can happen for a few reasons.
    1. the raw materials used are way too cheap. There are such a large variety of raw materials and the difference between top and low quality is astounding.
    2. some factories with high prices may have not estimated your game 100% correctly. There are many extremely heavy and complex Kickstarter projects and giving an exact quote for this kind of game can take around 15 or more hours of calculations and communication between the various factories. Now imagine you are a factory and you get 10 of these quotes a week from people that do not necessarily end up funding successfully, there is a huge waste of time there. Therefore, some busy and large factories will just throw together a high and safe quote without checking it in detail.
    To solve this problem by the way, I am trying to build a fixed price per component and types. It is a very complex and difficult project as it involves so many different types of components and variations.
    3. Some factories in their operations have invested quite a lot of money and need to cover that investment.
    4. The more expensive factories will have in house employees. People they pay on a monthly basis. These steady employees take their job really seriously and you can be sure that the game will come out perfect. On the other hand cheap factories will have part time employees that don’t really care and are just paid very little per hour.

    I hope this list helped a little.

    1. Peter says:

      That is actually a fantastic post, thanks Hersh for taking the time to explain all that!

  11. Ivy says:

    Hello Peter,
    The James Mathe’s blog you mentioned at the beginning can not be visited anymore, please check it.

    1. Peter says:

      You’re right! It looks like he shut down his blog. That’s a shame, it was a treasure trove of information. I’ve updated the post with a new link to a different list. Thanks for the heads up!

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