Mary PrasadUnited States
Have you ever wondered how board games are made? This article will give you a glimpse into the making of many popular board games, including the products of Rio Grande Games, Kosmos, Abacusspiele, and Amigo Spiel.
After attending the Spiel game convention in Essen, Germany in October 2008, my husband Snoozefest (a.k.a. Ravindra Prasad) and I stayed in Germany to travel around. A friend of ours, Tom Hilgert, kindly arranged for us to tour Ludo Fact GmbH and Ludo Packt GmbH – those being, respectively, a game production company and a logistics firm that manages the inventory and shipping of games. The tour took place on November 7, 2008. Our tour guide, Gertrud Geiger, sales leader at Ludo Fact, did a fantastic job explaining how the factory works.
Facts, Facts and More Facts
Ludo Fact is located in Jettingen-Scheppach, Germany about 25 miles from Augsburg, a city you may remember seeing on the game board of Thurn and Taxis – a game which was likely made at Ludo Fact. Owner and President Mr. Horst Walz started the company in 1995, taking the name from Latin: Ludo from "ludere" (play) and Fact from "facere" (make). Mr. Walz wanted the name to reflect his main business, the production of game boxes and playing material.Assembly line, boxing up the game inserts and pieces
Today Ludo Fact can produce 2,500 game boxes per hour, per assembly line, with some variability depending on the number of components in the games. This production rate results in an average of 40-50,000 units per day, and over the course of a year, the company produces somewhere in the neighborhood of ten million games and puzzles. Its busiest season is from August to February when employees often work six days a week. The company employs about 170 staff members, with 30 or so in the offices (sales, purchasing, planning, etc.) and around 140 in production. Those numbers may fluctuate depending on the season. Currently, approximately 100 publishers from roughly 20 countries put their trust in Ludo Fact, and Ludo Fact plans to increase these numbers in 2009. (Whew! I was running out of ways to say "approximately.")
Fun Fact: When a game wins the Spiel des Jahres (Germany's "Game of the Year" award), the publisher must be able to quickly produce hundreds of thousands of games. Ludo Fact has been able to meet these requirements to the satisfaction of their clients.
Ludo Fact is a full-service company, producing game boxes, game boards, puzzles, and die-cut punchboards, in addition to purchasing game components (e.g., wooden cubes, pawns, cards) from all over the world to be included in games as needed by its clients. This gives customers "one-stop" shopping convenience and the ease of one point of contact for everything from determining prices to nailing down a delivery schedule.
Once the games or puzzles have been boxed up, they are handed over to Ludo Packt, a logistics company established in 2000. The Ludo Packt warehouse can store as many as 15,000 pallets and fills about 20 trucks a day. During its peak season, the company ships at least two containers a week just to the USA; a 40 ft. (12.19 m.) container can hold about 26 pallets (6.56 ft. high/2 m.), or if filled only with game boxes (i.e. with no wooden pallets), about 40 pallets. (More on pallets later.)
Ludo Packt offers clients state-of-the-art web access from which they may generate dispatch orders, as well as view their stock availability and dispatch information. The company also provides special services such as supplying shop-floor ready displays directly to the client's retail customers or adding promotional material, display holders, and other items to their shipments for trade fairs.
Fun Fact: Rio Grande Games alone ships 30-35 containers a year with about 40 pallets in each container.
Ludo Fact receives printed paper and cardboard from outside sources. These are fed into machines specifically made for gluing and will eventually become box tops, box bottoms, game boards, puzzles, or game pieces.Stacks of cardboard and printed papers await gluing
Large customized dies are used to cut cardboard – after it has been glued – into game pieces or puzzles.Dies for cutting cardboard piecesClose-up of the die used for cutting Elfengold
Some of the boards will be partially or fully punched out in order to fit into game boxes. Below you can see Ubongo boards as they come off the die-cutting machine. Of course the game boxes are not that big!Stacks of Ubongo boards, off the die-cutting machine
Different machines are used for making boxes, depending on their size. I've included a shot of the small game box production machine with some of the cases of papers in the background. The machines for making box tops and bottoms do both the gluing and assembling so that a full box top or bottom comes out of the machine.Small box production machine; can you spot Bohnanza, No Thanks, Rage, Hornochsen, and Hick Hack in Gackelwack?
Empty boxes are stacked until they can be assembled with game pieces, inserts, and rules. Note the workers assembling a game in the photo near the beginning of the article.
Once the games have been put together, and the lids put on, they are shrink-wrapped. Here is the same game from the assembly line going into shrink. Can anyone identify the game?Into the shrink-wrap machine!
Next the games are stacked and placed into corrugated cardboard boxes. Here's that same mystery game.Placing games into the corrugated cardboard boxes
The corrugated boxes are in turn stacked on a pallet (the wooden base) and put into another machine that wraps them for shipping. Pallets vary in size from about 4.27 to 6.56 feet (1.3 to 2 meters) for UK and the U.S.Pallets of boxes, ready to go out
Some pallets are loaded onto trucks while others are placed into temporary storage racks. Note the worker in the truck, near the bottom right of the photo – this will give you an idea of just how tall those racks are!Pallets in temporary storage, waiting to be shipped
Ludo Packt will ship all sizes of boxes, even single games. You can see some of the smaller items in storage at the bottom of the racks in this next photo.Rows of boxes and pallets in storage. Can I just have one box? As a souvenir??
I want to thank Tom Hilgert for arranging the tour, Gertrud Geiger for being our tour guide and for providing most of the information in this article, and Jay Tummelson for providing additional information when my memory failed me!My husband Ravindra Prasad and our friend Tom Hilgert outside Ludo Fact, empty-handed...
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