My Manaforge prototype is here! Yay! It feels really great to have an actual, professional copy of my game in my hands. Of course this isn't the final version, but it looks so much better than my homemade one as it is; just think how the production version is going to come out.

I took a bunch of pictures of the game as I was opening and unpacking everything. Check it out in my gallery on the Manaforge page.

Here are some thoughts from my whole experience, both impressions of the prototype and my experience with the ordering process:

The Good:
  • The game arrived nicely plastic wrapped and everything. Definitely pro-looking; it could be a commercial product just like that.
  • The box cover looks awesome! I'm hoping this will grab a lot of attention when I take the game out for demos.
  • Upon opening the box, I found all of the game components had already been separated and bagged. Even the tokens had already been punched and bagged. Very nicely organized.
  • The center game board is a perfect thickness and strength; it feels like a board you would find in basically any commercial game.
  • I was a little skeptical about the player mats, since I had to order those as 'boards', so I was worried that they would come out as thick as the main board. But instead, the mats came printed on token-thickness chipboard, which gives them plenty of weight and strength without making them compete with the main board on thickness. Perfect.
  • The illustrations on the cards are amazing. It makes me very happy that they look as good in my hand as they do on my computer screen.
  • The 'first player' marker is cute. :)  I haven't really decided what I want that to be in the final product (thinking maybe an anvil or wizard's hat), so I just told them to use whatever was convenient. I ended up with a simple unpainted wooden pawn that I think does the job very well.
  • The lady I communicated with at Print and Play Games was quite helpful. I gave her a description of the components I needed, and she came back with a list of what I should order from their website. She was also good about answering questions on pricing and giving hints as to where to make small cuts in the components to reduce the production cost.
  • Ordering from the website was mostly painless. Once I had a list of what I needed to get, it was just a matter of adding the components to my shopping cart on their site, including choosing the sizes of the various bits and uploading the graphical assets. All I had to do was purchase everything as one order and they combined it all together into one game.

The Bad:
  • The image on the outer box looks a little dark in bad lighting. I don't know if it's the image itself or some side effect of the ink they use, but it really only looks best in well-lit areas.
  • The box material feels slightly light; I worry that it might be a little more flimsy than a typical commercial box.
  • The selection of blank dice colors is a little underwhelming. I know they can't possibly have every dice color anyone will ever need, but I was hoping for some lighter colors.
  • The colors on the dice stickers came out a little off. In particular, the 'wind' color is supposed to be a slate gray, but the stickers are more of a lavender color. I think this might be my fault; looking at the asset files I sent them, I think the dice file was in RGB color format instead of CMYK. I didn't look closely enough at the template file I downloaded from them; I think that was RGB too and I just didn't notice. Oh well, just goes to show how important color space is for printing. I'll be sure to fix that for the next prototype.
  • The color on the background of the rulebook pages is yellow. It's supposed to be a parchment beige, but my rulebook looks positively jaundiced. I'm reasonably certain that one went out in CMYK, so it shouldn't be a color space issue. I'll have to see about getting the background color tweaked.
  • The cards are not well centered. A few of the cards in particular, it's obvious how poorly aligned the cuts were. (Actually, I think it's not the cuts so much as the front-back printing that was misaligned. They probably did the best cut they could with the result of a badly-aligned print run.) They're not kidding when they say to be mindful of the cut and bleed areas.
  • Stickering 40 dice is a lot of work. :P
  • The final price of the prototype, shipping included, was slightly less than $100. Ouch; I wasn't expecting cheap but I didn't know it was going to be that much.
  • The Print and Play Games website has a large banner that proudly announces a 48-hour production time for most games. Well, what is not immediately obvious is that 'most games' does not include anything with custom-sized components, and the player mats in Manaforge had to be custom sized. I placed my game order late Monday night, and I was hoping it would ship out on Thursday so I could have it for a special event over the weekend. Instead, it went out later in the day on Friday, and I didn't receive it until Monday. Not a huge delay, but enough to make a difference. :(
  • Also, when the game shipped, I got a notification that the game was "complete". Nice to know, but that didn't really tell me very much. I didn't know at the time if the game had been shipped out, and I didn't receive any sort of shipping information; I had to assume that it hadn't been sent yet. It was only when I found it waiting for me when I got home on Monday that I knew what had happened. I'm sure they would've given me an update had I asked, but I shouldn't need to; the ambiguity in their status information was annoying.

That's all I can think of at the moment. Overall, it was a positive experience ordering from Print and Play, and I will be giving them business again when I go to order a larger batch of games for demoing. It's just that their process has a couple of glitches that might trip you up if you're not expecting them.

Demo time! Who wants to play a game? :D


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