The Problem with Linen

When choosing specifications for the standard edition of a Taste for the King we considered providing the game with a linen texture on the cards and box. Linen gives a nicer feel when shuffling cards. It also gives a more premium look to the box. This is a no-go for the foil edition of the cards because mixing the foil and linen textures tends to lend to easily chipped ink on the cards which was well warned and documented on the manufacturer’s website. Due to the scoring mechanic of the game, which utilises marking cards with a dry erase marker we had some reservations about using a linen texture on the game. However, we personally prefer the texture of a linen card stock and as such despite our reservations we decided to produce the first production prototypes with a linen texture on them as we couldn’t find any specific warning against the texture for use with dry-erase marking on the manufacturer’s website/documentation.

When the prototype came, we streamed an unboxing video and after showing off the box and card art, one of the first things we tried was to use the dry erase marker on the scoring cards. At the time, the initial impression was that the cards wiped clean well. However on subsequent playtests where the cards stayed marked for a longer period of time, it became apparent that linen texture on the cards was not optimal for the scoring mechanic of the game as ink tends to get trapped in the small grooves of the linen texture, eventually leaving an evident stain on the cards.

The game is intended to be manufactured by The Game Crafter in the US. They are a print-on-demand manufacturer which will allow for post-release sales directly to customers. While we are generally very happy with the level of service, production quality and customisation that TGC offer, there are some inherent limitations with using a print-on-demand manufacturer, most notably that due to the low run nature of the productions they have certain restrictions that presumably make it easier to make quality-assured products. In this specific case, that is that linen is applied to the surface of parts on a per-project basis. This means that either all cards, the box and other linen-appropriate parts have a linen texture or none of them do.

As a result, we have a few options. The first is to remove linen from the game entirely. This produces smooth cards that are easier to clean. This also has the unintended side-effect of lowering the cost of the game about 5% but the game loses a slight premium feel.

Another option is to provide transparent card sleeves with the game. This will ufortunately increase the cost of the game in two ways, first the box size will need to be increased to accomodate the sleeves. Secondly the sleeves themselves have a cost. The game requires 8-36 sleeves. If players want to sleeve all their cards, for increased longevity, they will need all 36 sleeves. This loses one of the core benefits in utilising a linen texture, shuffle feel. However, the visual appeal of the texture still comes through the plastic of the sleeves.

If players want to sleeve just the cards due to be marked (the scoring cards) they only require 8 sleeves, however this may limit game design choices for future versions of the game, such as expansions that could see non-scoring cards marked during play.

The Game Crafter only supplies sleeves in packs of 100 (at time of prototyping/writing). Either way they choose to sleeve their cards, this leaves players with a large number of spares for other games. As a result we would prefer not to rely on sleeves to make the game fully functional.

We will be ordering a second prototype without the linen texture shortly and will see how this compares to the foil and linen versions of the cards

Finally, our choice for using The Game Crafter is largely to allow would-be customers to purchase the game at any time without having to wait for retail shops or ourselves to have a bulk order run. This gives us the added safety, as a startup, of not having to invest large sums into bulk orders that may take months or years to sell through. However, we are planning on releasing the game through Kickstarter. Part of this is to give backers a discount, benefiting from the reduced production costs of a bulk order. However, while The Game Crafter offers decent discounts at scale production timelines might increase with larger orders and as such we will be investigating the costs involved with larger-scale offset printers for the fulfilling Kickstarter rewards in case the campaign goes unexpectedly well.

We’d like to hear what our audience has to say about their preference for linen cards and the proposed solutions for the production of the game. Feel free to join the official Discord server or reach out to us on Twitter.

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