Nov 052010

So we are working on getting our “Wizard Fudge Dice” product out there, which will include a preorder as soon as I can feel solid on a timeline for their deployment. They’ll be a 3-color, 12-die set priced at $13. The end result will look something like this:

So what goes into that?

First you get a mold made by your die manufacturer. This will cost you a few thousand dollars. In our case, Grey Ghost Games had the mold made, so we are paying them a few cents per die extra instead of paying the mold cost.

Once the manufacturer has the mold, they can process your order, which will need to be a few tens of thousands to be worth their while. In this case we had ten thousand of each color made for a total north of $4000. (Depending on materials and other factors your cost per die will probably come in in the mid teens of cents per die.)

Your dice will arrive in boxes like these that’ll weigh a good forty odd pounds each:

I say “arrive” like that’s just the next step and it’s easy, but that’s not so. Your manufacturer is likely overseas, and the slow boat from China is not a myth, and customs is no joke. I confirmed my order in terms of materials and colors around, I think, May… And got the dice in late October. This isn’t POD, and as such you’ll be facing reality based timelines of six months on production as often as not.

Inside those boxes will be these plastic wrapped blocks of 200 dice to a block, each block weighing shy of two pounds.

So now you have your dice, and you’re ready to roll, right? Nope. Packaging, my friend, packaging. In this case we are talking about those black capped “crystal” plastic display boxes that can hold 12 per box. They will run you 40 to 50 cents per, if you’re doing 30,000 dice you’re looking for 2500 of them. Your manufacturer for those can take a month to get them done, if you don’t have a supplier who already has them on hand.

You’ll get a few boxes full of boxes that look like this, plus separate smaller boxes with the black plastic lids in them.

And don’t forget the little paper inserts for the boxes to identify your product. Bring a file of em to your copy shop of choice, about 25 per page, and have them print 100 copies and do the cutting for you, 30 or so bucks and a few days.

Now you have most of your physical components, so you’re done.

Except for the procedural stuff.

You need to do assembly, which hopefully you can finagle friends into doing for you with bribes of pizza and free dice. I’ll be trying the finagle thing in another couple weeks, on a free weekend after I’m sure to have gotten all of the plastic boxes I need (haven’t yet).

You’ll also need to figure out how to pack these things (and in what size boxes) in order to minimize breakage and scuffing in transit. That’s another cost that I don’t have a number on yet.

Also factor in the time and monetary costs for your shipping. It’s possible you’ll be doing this more than once. Add a week and the cost of shipping for each time. In my case, shipping comes to me (site of assembly) and the ships again to the warehouse that handles filling orders.

So far, that’s about what it looks like what goes into it.


  22 Responses to “What goes into making a dice product?”

  1. Yeah, yeah. That’s all great.

    So when do I get my dice? 😉

  2. No chocolate frog with the wizard fudge? What a rip off!

  3. Why the decision to go with plastic boxes, as opposed to, say, plastic baggies or maybe cardboard? My perception is that people don’t really value the plastic boxes all that much. Sure, it doesn’t look as shiny on a store’s shelf, but people looking for Fudge dice will likely buy them without much care to the wrapping, and people not looking for Fudge dice won’t buy them no matter how nice the packaging.

    • You’ve pre-dismissed a number of reasons, so hm.

      I asked a few retailers what sort of packaging was friendliest to their store setups and available space. The plastic boxes turn out to be far easier to store, display, and stack than the baggies, which have a bit of a “cheap/poor quality” connotation to them. So I feel I am giving the product the best chance in all of its potential markets by choosing something that marks it as more of a professional thing.

      You’re right that direct consumers in many cases won’t give a crap. But I can’t make a decision in a vacuum, depending solely on direct sales, when I’ve got this kind of cash outlay to recover through multiple sales channels.

    • Plastic bags if not packaged well, can lead to the dice being scratched and scuffed up in transit and sitting on the shelves of the store.

      Cardboard boxes hide the product or force you to print a full color picture on the box so customers can see the product. – I prefer to see exactly what I am buying.

      I’m sure there are other options (cardboard with a plastic product window), but I think the stacking boxes help out the hobby stores the best because they already have a section of their store that can accommodate that package type.

      So little plastic boxes for all.

  4. Thank you for this blog post! It brings back such fond memories of trading friend assembly labor for pizza… I dug out a blog post describing the first assembly parties for Icehouse when we got our first injection molded pieces. Check it out here:

  5. Fred, great stuff as usual. Even if one wasn’t a member of the gaming hobby, it is still fascinating to see how the end product is actually made up of so many different (and expensive) steps. And man, that block o’ dice was some serious dice porn. Phew!

    You should get the guys in your upcoming Gamma World campaign to box the dice as they play. That’ll be their reward for getting to game with you! 😉

  6. That brings back memories of assembling stuff for Placebo Press. Oi!

  7. As always, I love the transparency.

    I also curse my hemisphere-challenged nature which means I can rule out helping with Dice Boxing.

    (Hell, I’d probably be geographically challenged even if I lived in the continental USA, but being in the south pacific puts an extra frisson on “not happening.”)

  8. Sounds like using a manufacturer in China caused a long delay and major headaches. Is there a reason you went with the manufacturer in China as opposed to a local manufacturer, or are there just no die manufacturers that can / are willing to make orders like you wanted? Was it just a cost issue or were there other factors?

    On a related note, if those of us who are game design hobbyists wanted a small-scale run of custom dice made, are there any resources for that?

    • Standard headaches, standard delays, honestly. It’s what you get for going overseas.

      The fact of the matter here, as hinted but perhaps not explicitly above, is that I am borrowing time on someone else’s mold to produce these dice. Grey Ghost Games owns the mold, and got that mold through Koplow dice suppliers, and Koplow works with the Chinese manufacturer in question. So most of those decision were made for me. I imagine it’s possible (though not something I’ve researched) that the dice COULD be made in the USA, and probably faster … but likely at a significantly higher per-die price point. If I was doing this solely myself, I might have looked there anyway.

      Game design HOBBYISTS — folks looking to get custom dice for themselves, not necessarily for resale or even small-scale corporate-scale manufacture — should probably look at what they can get out of a Chessex custom dice order, but with the expectation that an all-six-sides custom piece (like a fudge die is) will be pricy.

    • I have done the research… and it is not possible to make custom dice (in bulk at an affordable price) in the USA.

      I have tried. The first set of Treehouse dice I made about 4 years ago were ‘printed’ in the US, but the blank slugs came from China, and the next year when I went back to this US supplier for more, they had changed management and their prices had tripled. The first run was expensive, but acceptable, but at 3 times the price it just didn’t work. Subsequent Treehouse dice have been made in China, I simply did not have a choice.

    • Thanks for weighing in, Kristin! Hurrah for Maryland-based advice and transparency. 🙂

  9. Wow, you’re not kidding about custom dice being pricey! $6 a die for all six sides customized is pretty steep!

    I guess I’ll stick with die blanks for now…

  10. Excellent…just excellent. I remember when you first brought this up on
    Thanks for making this happen Fred.

  11. Thank you for the post. I think my gaming group would be interested.

  12. The boat is slow from China, even for companies that do a fair amount of business overseas.

    My company has at least 8 containers on the water coming from China at any one given time and the lead time is 39 days on average. Of course that lead time can go up for any number of reasons. A customs inspection can easily delay an order an additional two weeks.

    Squeezing in production is particularly troublesome if you don’t have pull with a manufacturer. We have one product that is seasonal and it is the only business we do with that factory. They routinely bump our orders every year because we’re a small portion of their busness.

    It’s interesting to see that the challenges of outsourcing are not unique to different industries.


  13. Great post! I love hearing about this stuff. Did you consider plastic blisters or metal tins? I have seen both work quite well in retail. but the little plastic box and slip of paper is quite nostalgic. but it does hurt when you try to put it in your pocket. not that I really care about the packaging I’m just excited to get the dice, my game is also compatible with fudge dice though it’s an exploding dice pool mechanic.

    • Considered but rejected. The packaging I used made it possible to do the hand assembly of the product in-house with volunteers (blisters may not), and allowed someone to see the product without opening it (metal tins wouldn’t).

  14. Thanks for the post. Interesting and cowing stuff.

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