FINDING A MANUFACTURER
There are several manufactures dealing specifically in board gaming. There are many opinions and reviews out there about each. I encourage you to do your due diligence and get a quote from every one.
LongPack Games (http://www.longpackgames.com/)
This is who I use. LongPack is a well-known manufacturer and have produced many popular games. I’m a very happy customer. The quality and professionalism is high and the price is very fair compared to the rest of the industry. I like their website and customer service. They have a design pamphlet with all the necessary printing specs, which made things super easy.
They also itemized their quotes, which I loved! I could specifically see what each component cost instead of just a general cost for the whole game. This allowed me to make better decisions as a designer going forward since I knew what each individual piece cost. I learned more from looking at my quote than I ever imagined.
Panda Games (https://pandagm.com/)
This is probably the most popular among the hardcore designers. I went about halfway through the process with Panda. They also have a good website, good service, printing specs available, and many say have the best quality games. I will note that they are expensive. Like unnecessarily expensive. In a world where publishers always need Kickstarter to raise money and customers always complain board games costing too much, it’s like helloooo. You can solve both problems at once rather easily.
Why is Panda so expensive? Well you’re paying for an intermediary. You’re not dealing directly with the Chinese manufacturer. You’ll be given an American or Canadian contact, an English-speaker. This rep will help you on your journey. They have the answers or can get the answers. I think most designers are intimidated by the manufacturing process and don’t understand all the specifics, so having a rep can be quiet nice. But this service comes with a markup in price.
To be clear, every manufacturer will assign you a rep / account manager. You will obviously have a point of contact. Some account managers will expect you to know your shit while others are more helpful. But a Panda rep is like the middleman between you and the manufacturer’s account manager.
Panda also has a Minimum Order Quantity (MOQ) of 1500 units instead of the industry standard 1000 units. That can be a big hurdle.
WinGo Games (https://wingo.games/)
When I originally did all my quotes, WinGo was the cheapest. They were even willing to make an exception and do a low MOQ of 500 units. I went down the path a little bit with them. Their customer service was pretty good. But I want to say at the time I just wasn’t super impressed by their website, or their portfolio of produced games. But looking now they seem pretty legit to me.
I got quotes from these companies as well but didn’t go far enough down the road to form a real opinion:
Bang Wee Games (http://www.bangweegames.com/)
DoFine Games (http://www.dofinegames.com/)
Ninox Games (http://www.ninoxgames.com/)
Shuffled Ink (https://shuffledink.com/)
Whatz Games (http://www.whatzgames.com/)
When dealing with manufacturers, here is a list of things to consider:
Duh. But also look how the price changes at different order quantities. Also see if they'll do an itemized quote so you can see the individual costs.
There are two parts: timeliness and clarity.
For timeliness, you want a manufacturer that responds in a reasonable amount of time. You’re trying to give someone your business, you shouldn’t have to wait too long for a response. You will want to be in constant communication throughout the whole process. Always asking questions and making adjustments. So find someone who responds in a timely fashion. Customer service is really important. (Side Note: Keep in mind the time difference between your countries).
For clarity, you want someone who can effectively communicate in English. If the two parties can’t properly communicate, especially when dealing with sometimes flimsy and loose terminology, then that’s a problem. I will never negatively judge a person’s competence because of their broken English. Hell, they mastered one language and are now onto a second. They’re probably smarter than me. Than I. Than me?
See what other games the manufacturer has produced. Their website will usually showcase their portfolio, unless their ashamed. You can also simply buy one of their games and see the quality first hand. If they’re producing marquee games, then that’s a great sign. They’ve built a reputation.
I personally judge a lot of mainstream companies by their website. Your presentation says something about yourself. Granted they’re in the business of making board games and not websites, but I appreciate companies who take their image seriously and aim for high quality in all avenues.