Cardboard is vital for board games; it is used in components such as the board game box, playing board, score trackers, tokens, characters, and many others.
However, most creators don’t really understand the additional costs these cardboard components add to their game. Even more so, they don’t really understand why the cardboard prices vary so much between factories.
In this article, I will try to set the record straight and clearly explain the price of cardboard with their different quality, thickness, and size.
*This article is a continuation of the previous two articles: Printing Cost, and Overall Cost Structure. And although I add a short recap, I strongly recommend rereading the previous two articles if you find this article overwhelming. You can learn more about Hero Time Board game manufacturer here.
The different grades of cardboard
If you are making a box, a player board, or tokens, in addition to the printing costs in the previous article, there are also the pieces’ cardboard costs. Generally, there are three levels of cardboard that can be used for a board game:
Standard B quality,
A quality dense/high dense,
and Double-A Extra high density (as far as I know, only Hero Time uses extra high density).
* Unless you manufacture at Panda Games or Print Ninja, don’t take for granted the grade factories tell you as many factories and their salespeople can’t really tell the difference themselves; they buy off the shelf whatever wholesalers give them.
To learn more about the capabilities of these different grade cardboards, you can view the following two videos
The cost of these different grades of cardboard
Standard B Quality = 700USD per ton
A quality Dense/High Dense = 1070USD per ton
Hero Time’s Extra Dense cardboard = 1230USD per ton.
These costs however are not static and they change every quarter. It follows the Producer Price Index of Wood Pulp.
To assess what these costs mean for your games in specific, we first need to decide the thickness of the cardboard you want to use and the sheet’s size suitable for your game.
The Sheet size suitable for your components
In the last article, we covered the price of printing on different sheets of paper and showed the standard paper sizes used in your game. To review, we buy from the paper mill a standard size sheet of 88.2*118.2cm, and then we have six ways of cutting it most cost-effectively:
29.4*29.5cm (total print area 26*26) - (10*10inch)
29.4*39.4cm (Total Print area 26*36.cm) - (10*14inch)
39.4*44cm (Total Print area 36*41) - (14*16inch)
44*59cm paper (Total print area 41*56) - (16*22inch)
54*78cm (Total print area 51*75cm) - (20*29inch).
The large size paper is 59*88.2cm (Total print area 56*85cm) - (22*33inch)
The thickness of the cardboard
Overall, there are three thicknesses that board game creators like to use for their game:
700-1000gsm (1.25-1.5mm thick),
1200gsm (2mm thick),
2000gsm (3mm thick).
As mentioned in our first article, cardboards are priced per ton, and we calculate each sheet’s weight by gsm (Gram Square Meter). Each master sheet size 88.2*118.2 is a square meter, and one ton equals 1,000,000 grams. So:
If you choose the thin 1.25-1.5mm(700-1000gsm), we can fit around 1000 master sheets in one ton.
2mm thick (1200gsm) means we can fit about 800 master sheets in one ton.
3mm thick cardboard (2000gsm) we can fit 500 sheets in one ton.
See what thickness of cardboard you need for your game in the following video:
The size and cost of the sheets used in your game
After deciding the thickness of your cardboard, the quality grade, and the sheet size needed for your game, you can calculate how many master sheets fit into one ton and check how many smaller cardboard pieces you can make out of those sheets.
To make it easier for you, I have compiled everything into on price table for reference. In this table, you can see the cost per piece according to its quality and GSM. You should add this cost to the printing cost mentioned in "How Much Does it Cost to Make a Board Game - Printing Costs"
*as mentioned in our first "How much does it cost to make a board game" article, you should also consider the waste and defect product, which vary between 10 and 20% depending on your pieces’ complexity. If you want the 2mm cardboard and cut it into six pieces, the price per ton should be calculated for 4000 pieces instead of 4800. We have already included it in the table.
*You probably came across the newest Blue Core cardboard in our videos; this is the latest cardboard type on the market and is perfect for tokens and player boards. The blue core cardboard is a thin cardboard 1.5mm (1000gsm), but it has a 2000gsm A quality cardboard durability. Its price is 1400USD per ton, but it is only relevant for large orders of 10 tons and up.