Components & Materials
All manufactures have slightly different standards. I’ve listed general specs for a basic understanding. This will help you speak their language. And help you determine the quality of your components.
Cards come in many sizes. Cards are printed onto a sheet. So the size of the card will determine how many cards can fit onto a single sheet. You pay by the sheet. It’s good to use up a full sheet (or half a sheet which is easy to separate). You need to understand you’re paying for the full sheet. So if the sheet comes with 60 cards and your game only uses 50, you’re still paying for those 10 cards that got tossed.
Thickness (sometimes called weight) describes how firm and sturdy the card is. If we’re discussing in generic terms of paper: on the thin flimsy end is tissue paper, in the middle there’s photo paper, and on the other side of the spectrum is cardstock and then basically cardboard.
Thickness is measured in grams per square meter (gsm). In general for playing cards:
While small, the difference can actually be noticed when holding different weights. High-end card games like Magic: The Gathering will want a thicker weight. But this isn’t something you really need to spend your money on. Average thickness gets the job done.
Cards have what is known as a core. Don’t think of a playing card as a single sheet of paper, think of a playing card as an envelope. There’s a space in the middle that needs to be filled. The core is what fills that space. The core exists to make sure you can’t see through the card and know what the other players are holding.
Cores are graded by color: white, grey, blue, black. Some manufacturers grade their cores differently. Blackcore is the best. Having black in the middle of your card ensures no one can see through. You can put a flashlight up to the card, still ain’t seeing through. This is what casinos use to make sure no one cheats.
Flashlight test with my finalized whitecore cards and my prototype blackcore cards:
I personally believe having a dark core is the most overrated aspect of all game manufacturing. In normal lighting, whether your indoors or outdoors, you can’t see through a whitecore card. Don’t pay extra for blackcore, you’re not a billionaire casino owner. No one will notice. Unless you plan on playing on the surface of the sun.
Most cards have either a glossy or matte finish. Glossy gives the cards a shine while matte a duller look. Depends on your taste.
You can also add a linen texture, which gives the cards a stitching pattern. Many people consider this to be premium quality. It’s a luxury that casual gamers won’t notice or appreciate. But admittedly, it is nice. It can help add to the theme of the game.
Most boxes, boards, and punchboards are made from what is known as greyboard (sometimes referred to as chipboard). Greyboard is like a compressed, recycled paper material. It doesn’t sound sexy but it gets the job done.
The industry standard thickness is 1.5mm. If you want a more premium feel, do 2mm thickness. Doesn’t sound like a big difference but it is. If your boards are larger, you might want to increase thickness so they’re not flimsy. If your box is big or your game weighs a lot, you’ll want to increase the box thickness as well.