Probably the most annoying part of designing a board game is keeping in mind that all your components will eventually need to fit inside a box. And simply making your box ridiculously huge is not a good option. That will increase your shipping and storage costs. So for your box size here are a few things to consider:
Remember, if your box is listed as 300x300mm, that’s the top cover. The cover slides over the bottom, thus the bottom is smaller than the listed dimensions. All your components need to fit into this smaller half of the box.
If your outer lid is 300x300, then your inner lid is 294x294mm. This 6mm difference derives from the thickness of of the outer lid (2mm) and the necessary gap (1mm) between the box bottom. This gap provides the wiggle room necessary to actually shove down the lid. If there was no gap, the lid and bottom would be skintight, making removing the lid extremely difficult.
In this scenario, you would have 290x290mm available space within the box, because the walls of the inner lid are 2mm thick. So your insert tray would be 290x290mm.
My manufacturer recommends that any boards be 14mm less than your box dimensions. So your biggest board could be 286x286mm. This is to make sure there is enough wiggle room to actually remove the boards from the box. If the boards were flush with the box, you wouldn't be able to grip them. This extra 4mm of space allows you to pry out the board using your finger tip.
When it comes to the box height, the box lid and bottom cover are included in the height. So if the height is 80mm, you actually only have about 76mm of room.
Make sure to leave room for your punchboards. Even though the consumers will punch-out the pieces and throw away the frame, the frame still needs to fit within your box during shipping. Unless you’re paying extra for the manufacturer to pre-punch everything.
Also consider if your boards are resting on top of the plastic insert or within the confines of the insert. If you want your boards within the plastic insert, they must be shorter than the walls of the insert.
United States Postal Service
Many designers try to fit their game within a USPS Medium Flat Rate 2 shipping box. USPS Flat Rate boxes are free, come with tape, are priority shipping, and the price is always the same. This makes shipping easier if you’re shipping by hand. The interior dimensions (what actually fits inside) of that box are: 13 5/8 x 11 7/8 x 3 3/8 inches.
Fulfillment by Amazon
If you’re selling on Amazon, you’ll want to keep their dimension parameters in mind. Amazon organizes products by size tiers. When charging shipping and storage fees, Amazon will go by these tiers.
Amazon has two overall categories: Standard and Oversize. Board games are nowhere close to oversized products, so we can ignore that.
Amazon further splits Standard products into two categories: Small or Large.
Median side: 12 in 14 in
Shortest side: .75 in 8 in
Max weight: 12 oz 20 lbs
Small Standard is basically what fits inside a padded envelope. Most games will apply to Large Standard. Be sure to keep your dimensions within those parameters. If you go over, you will be classified as oversized. Super expensive.
Amazon assigns two weights to every product: the actual weight and the dimensional weight. They will use whichever weight is higher to calculate shipping costs. The dimensional weight only applies to products over 1lb.
Dimensional Weight = (Length x Width x Height)/139.
Your product’s weight will directly affect the shipping fulfillment fee, but not storage fees.
Your product’s dimensions will directly affect the storage fees. Bigger the box, the higher the fee.
Once you have your game manufactured, you‘ll need the manufacturer to ship you your game. They’ll load your game onto pallets, put those pallets in a shipping container, and that container will get shipped to you. The goal is to have the least amount of pallets possible, because that reduces shipping costs. So you want your game to fit onto these pallets in the most effective way possible. You don’t want any wasted space.
Your manufacturer can also stack your units directly into a shipping container without pallets. You can fit more units this way, but it’ll be a pain to unload once the container arrives. You’ll also be shipping your units on pallets when stores place bulk orders. So make sure your product is designed with palletizing in mind.
You’ll then most likely send in your units to Amazon on pallets as well. Amazon only accepts pallets that are:
- 40 x 48in (which is a very common dimension)
- No taller than 72in (including the pallet which is about 6 inches)
- Can’t weight more than 1500 lbs (including the pallet which is about 50 lbs)
- Must be a 4-way pallet (meaning a forklift can pick up pallet from any direction)
- Each individual case/carton on the pallet must weigh under 50lbs.
- Each individual case/carton cannot contain more than 150 units.
You can obviously do whatever size box you desire, just try to make sure you’re using all the shipping space available to you. I create diagrams to help me visualize the process:
Now the math has already been done for you. Most games in the board game industry are 300 x 300 x 80mm (11.8 x 11.8 x 3.15in). That’s pretty much the biggest, most ergonomic size you can make a standard board game. And here’s the math proving that:
You have your game box (300x 300x 80mm), which will need to be case-packed. Can't have your units just free flowing, they need to be in a sturdy, stackable carton. You'll do five units per carton (you'll see why). The dimensions for five boxes are 300 x 300 x 400mm.
You'll also need to account for the thickness of this cardboard carton (usually .25in). And account for the necessary wiggle room between your five units. If the games are skin-tight you won't be able to slide them out of the carton, there'd be nothing to grip, you'd have to tear apart the carton. My manufacture recommends taking your base dimensions and adding 30mm.
This would give you carton dimensions of 330 x 330 x 430mm (13 x 13 x 17in). Which when stacked on a 40 x 48in pallet, fits rather nicely:
And when stacking vertically:
You might be thinking: why not go all the way to the edge? Well you technically can. But your product is safer if it's fully on the pallet. Things get hectic between all the warehouses, storage racks, forklifts, and manhandling. The base of the pallet acts like a bumper when being moved around. If you bump anything, you want the wooden pallet to take the hit, not your merchandise. Most pallets aren't even a true 40x48in, they degrade over time. So you can do all the correct math and your cartons still might hang off the edge a few millimeters depending on that particular pallet. It's best to end up a bit short and make sure everything is fully on the pallet to protect the product. Plus, you're counting on the packers to place your cartons absolutely flush with one another, which probably won't happen. There might be a couple millimeters in between each carton.
In the end, your game can be whatever size you want. Just keep in mind the pallet size and how many units per carton. My manufacture recommends a carton not weight over 35lbs. You or a warehouse worker will have to handle that carton one day, so not too heavy or it’ll drop (or blow out your back).
But I was thinking if we reverse engineer this, the most effective case size would be 16 x 13.3 x 13.2in. This would still allow for relatively large industry-sized games and could fit 225 per pallet. Main drawback is that your game box height wouldn't be 80mm, more like 72mm. And you'd be right at the edge of the pallet.