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Article #12 – Demystifying Game Components (Sourced Components)

Continuing where we left off in Article #11, we present Article #12…

Sourced Components

What is it?

These are components that your manufacturing company will order for your game from sources other than the primary printing & assembly factory for inclusion in your game box.
These items range from sand-timers, to spin dials; from acrylic gems, to poker chips; from wooden tokens and chits, to dice; and even include custom metal components – Basically everything that is not printed.  Sourced is short for Out-Sourced; but “sourced” sounds classier, and less… “out”.


Wooden Components (Standard & Custom)

What is it?

Wooden pieces that can be used as any number of symbols, icons, tokens, or markers in any number of games.

Wood ComponentsHow is it made?

Wood cut and machined to size, then painted in bulk in solid colors. Silk screening is also an option to have multiple colors on flat surfaces (such as the stylized painted Meeples you’ve seen online).

What are my options?

Cubes, Rectangles, Meeples, Cylinders, Hexagons, Houses, Sticks, and Standard Pawns are all fairly common, and won’t require anything special.  Then there’s the option of designing your own custom tokens.

What are my size limitations?

Depends on the shape chosen, but these bits are usually rather small.


Don’t get custom components unless you require one. Wizards of the Coast published Lords of Waterdeep with a pile of small wooden cubes as their token markers. You can too.  …Upgrade as a Stretch Goal?


Plastics & Metals (with a focus on custom)

What is it?

Plastic or Metal pieces that can be used as any number of symbols, icons, tokens, or markers in any number of games.

If you need a ton of total volume (lots of big pieces), then Plastics are usually the way to go. Note that the MOQ (Minimum Order Quantity) for custom plastics is often higher; often 3000 instead of 1500.
If you need a bajillion custom shapes, then Metals are usually the way to go.  The MOQ for Metals can be way less than plastic’s.
This is largely because mold set ups for metals is often easier and cheaper; but the materials are more expensive.

How is it made?

Plastic ComponentsCustom molds are made from your art (Physical Sculpt, or 3d CAD File). Then the material (plastic, resin, pewter, bronze, etc.) is poured into the moulds, the pieces are removed, and the process is repeated a bajillion times until you have a ton of custom pieces. Simple designs (chits, etc.) will cost less than complex ones (minis), but either have very high moulding fees.

What are my options?Metal Components

Usually just Plastic or Resin; Pewter or Steel. Some companies may only deal in one or another.

Between Plastic and Resin, the final product differential is kinda minimal, but there are those would argue heavily for one or the other.

In metal you have Pewter or Steel (or alloy), and this choice depends on the purpose & quantity.  Pewter is far softer, so make coins of Steel and Minis of Pewter (posable!).

What are my size limitations?

Very tiny (a 25sq.mms.) to fairly large (Your son’s Thor toy). Most minis are 22-35mm scale (+/-). Choose the scale that best fits your game.


Do your research.  Prices vary heavily around here, and can make for very expensive games.

Find a way to replace custom plastic ideas you have with standard plastic or wood shapes.

Our TKA Mini (shown above) are approximately 35mm scale with proper human proportions on all body parts.  We also had the original run made in solid Bronze, with a retail run made in lead-free Pewter.  Anything is possible if you look in the right places.

If you are planning to have minis, read our KSAC on Mini Making; it covers both plastic & metal minis, and much of that information will apply to any custom shape.


Box Insert

What is it?

The plastic tray, or cardboard dividers/sheet, that comes in your game box to help sort the components.

How is it made?Cardboard Inserts

Cardboard ones are designed by rectangular compartment size, cut, and laid across each other like cardboard Lincoln Logs (divider) or folded into position (custom folded); they are very rarely printed on.
A layered Lincoln-log style box insert can have a printed sheet of paper put beneath it as a guide for what components go where.Plastic Inserts

Plastic Inserts are either Vacuum Molded (for simple layouts) or Injection Molded (for detailed layouts).

What are my options?

No Insert at all – Free!  (The King’s Armory & Euphoria)

Cardboard Divider – Simple & Cheap. (A case of wine)

Cardboard Fold – (Solar Flare’s Thrash-Car) – Depending on complexity, it may require a die cut.

Plastic Vacuum Mold – Simple & pricey; as there a mold cost. (Apocalypse’s Tsunami)

Plastic Injection Molded – Complex & a pretty pricey; as there is a bigger mold cost. (Settlers of Catan & Dominion)

-The color of the plastic is an option as well, but black is classy unless you’ve got good reason for a thematic color.

What are my size limitations?

The size of your box. It must fit exactly inside your box. If the insert moves around, then it defeats its own purpose.


Only get one if you need it. Cardboard inserts work, but are a little chintzy (in appearance and in practice); while the Plastic ones are very expensive. For plastics there is a molding cost, and then a cost per insert; ie: for Vacuum Molding for a “big box” game, you’re looking at $1,200 for a mold, and as much as .75 cents PER insert; so you’re kicking up your manufacturing cost per game by about $1.50 each and thus MSRP by $4.50 to $9! But if you’ve got a game like Catan, and can afford it, that insert is very handy as they keep your components safer.


Dice (Custom & Standard)

What is it?

Polyhedrons that have numbers, letters, or symbols on the various faces. These are used for randomizing aspects of your game.
The standard dice, based on the Platonic Solids, are: d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, d20.  A full set of dice has 7 dice, as there will be two d10s so they can combine as “Percentile Dice”.

How is it made?d6

For standard dice plastic (or “High impact acrylic”) is poured into a mold, and a dice comes out. The numbers (letters, symbols, etc.) are then painted (by hand or machine, depending on the design).

Custom dice are either laser-etched or a custom mold is made.
Complete Set

Laser etched dice are just that: etched (engraved) with a laser.  This results in dice that cost about 1.50 to 2.50 each, depending on quantities and is good for runs of 1 to 1000 or so; the set up fees are hidden in the dice cost.

Custom moulds can be made for larger quantities.  The result in dice that cost about .28 to .56 cents each, depending on quantities, and is good for runs of 1000+ or so; the set up fee for a custom mold is about $1,000 to $1,500 per unique die and is paid upfront.

What are my options?

Standard dice, custom Laser Etching, custom Moulding, or silk screened (multi-color painted).Metal custom

Silk Screened dicePlastic or Metal.

Color. You can usually get dice in any solid Pantone Color you can hope for; though if you stick to the standard colors (Red, Blue, White, etc.), you might save a couple cents per die (thus a couple hundred bucks on the project).  Multi-colored dice like Chessex’s (shown in “Complete Set of 7 Dice”) are very expensive to Source, and even more expensive to customize; but possible.

Dice OpacityOpacity.  You can do normal (opaque), gem (transparent), and occasionally a blend.

Beyond that you can have almost any design you can imagine put on them; see Q-workshop’s crazy designs to the right. If those can be made, yours are going to be easy (and probably cheaper).Dice Detail


What are my size limitations?

Standard sizes are 16mm and 18mm. You probably have dice already, measure them, and ask your dice manufacturer to match the size you like (noting that each polyhedron will have slightly different max dimensions from its neighbor in the same set).


Laser Etch for small runs (50-1000ish of a single dice, etc.)
Laser Etch if you have a ton of different custom dice in the same game (as making a bunch of molds will kill your budget).
Make a Mold if you only have 1 or 2 dice designs but lots of that same dice (once a mold is made, the per dice cost comes down).
Silk Screen if you want multiple colors on the dice.

The more common the dice, the cheaper the customizing cost:  d6s are by far the cheapest, d20s are next, while d8s and d12s are the most expensive.

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