Wooden Bits: Lorenz, the big German supplier (you'll find examples in most fluffy titles), are unwilling or unable to supply in small volumes, even through their UK Agent, Child's Play, who seem to be deaf, dead or both. If you know different, or know the magic word to release those little blocks from Lorenz in anything less than container loads, I'd be very keen to hear from you.
IPUR: Failing that, we have IPUR who can provide a large range of high quality wooden pieces and related goodies, such as card hexagons, board blanks, boxes, counters, dobbers, blank dice and so on. IPUR can supply by return post, have an informative colour catalogue and have already supplied a number of readers, with positive reports. To generalise, because IPUR don't cut price for volume, and supply the smallest quantities, you pay quite a bit more for each unit - around 6p for a 10mm wooden block. Nevertheless, they are all we have and we are grateful for that. They exhibit at Essen each year for those who can make it. At the moment we believe they only accept IMOs or DM Drafts, but I am currently investigating Eurocheques and Credit Cards.
Plastic Bits: There are two helpful suppliers of these inexpensive components. The first one is Plastics for Games, a biggish company selling specialist plastic mouldings of dobbers, boats, cars and so on which might be of use in your game. Examples appear in Lionel's Men of Iron and Gibson's new F1 game, if you can get a look at these. They have a detailed list of the entire range and are prompt, helpful and willing to supply reasonably small shipments. The other chap you may have heard of. David Watts of Rostherne Games sells (or at least did until recently) a good range of bits including those plastic locomotives from Railway Rivals at reasonable prices.
Blank Playing Cards: a useful item for game designers, essential if you want to produce a hand-drawn Magic rival. These were available from Waddingtons at one point (no longer, to my knowledge), and are available off the shelf in some odd sizes and colours in the States, but there is no known UK supplier unless you have them cut specially with a custom die. Again, I am open to better information here. Meanwhile, the only supplier is Adam in Germany who charge a few pfennigs per card.
Printing Services: Largely because of the great shake-out and recession in printing, you may do no better than shopping around locally and seeing what the quotes are like. I was pleasantly surprised at both quality and standards, and found that contrary to expectations, commercial printers were often cheaper than Kall Kwik and the like, as long as your print run is large enough. In fact, Sumos 12-18 were printed by a small company just down the road but I am also talking about photocopying, rulebooks, cards, charts, printing of boards, boxes and so on. Remember they don't tend to respond well to small one-off print runs and they probably won't have done game bits before, so tread carefully and specify exactly what you need while trying to translate from Printerese - `You mean dual reversed litho, Eight Facing, on A4 Porpoise Vellum, stitched and hindered'. `Umm, well like this Sumo booklet really'.
The other option, suggested by Richard Breese (to whom I am grateful for much assistance in preparing this article), is to approach Tams Packaging, a company run by Steve Tammadge. Not only has Steve produced his own game, but also Manik's range, Masquerade, Snookcard and Richard's own Chamelequin. The standard of these games is testament to the quality of work and I understand that prices are also very reasonable. He is therefore in a very small class of printers who understand boardgame production requirements. Worth a try I would think.
Packaging: I can recommend either The Bag n Box Man who has an enormous range of cardboard and plastic packaging and Swain's (almost visible from my house!) who are one of the largest and cheapest suppliers of quality ziploc bags in Britain. Thompsons, Yellow Pages or the Exchange & Mart will provide a ready source of packaging companies who can provide everything from pizza boxes to top quality white card containers. There are even companies who will provide plain AH style bookcase boxes for a not unreasonable unit cost, ready for your artwork to be stuck straight on. Another route is to get friendly with a game/packaging company and ask them to overorder, or overprint, a run of suitable boxes and sell you the rest. This helps you as you pay only the marginal cost and them as it increases the print run. Your choice of colour and size may be limited though.
Other sources: Obviously, as a keen game designer, you just look around at all times for likely bits. You can get parts or indeed inspiration from modelling shows and magazines (no, not Rustler), newspaper offers, toy shops, markets, boot fairs, junk shops, garden centres, anywhere really. I have found woodwork, art and craft shops and magazines especially helpful, especially those catering to the greetings card and presentation areas. They are also useful for small wood requirements, protective gear, cutting tools, various specialist papers, mounting boards, A4 coloured paper, advanced glues and of course paints, brushes, inks, pencils and pens. There are numerous craft printers offering die cutting, folding and special runs, even to the extent of providing sample card thicknesses and finishes. These people are well worth talking to for ideas and information and avoiding gaffes, such as which glues wronkle paper, cause inks to run or suffocate the user at 200 paces.
I am not suggesting this lot will enable you to produce colour cards to rival Carta Mundi, but you may achieve what you are after and at significantly less cost than our Belgian chums will charge you -- and as ever, the emphasis must be on keeping the costs within the pain threshold. If there is a real demand for any of this stuff, let me know your level of interest and I will see if there is any mileage in a combined order -- especially for the coloured blocks (those small ones in Die Macher, Vendetta and Banana Republic) which I and several others are still keen to pursue. As ever, any further or more accurate information gladly accepted and questions answered asap.
IPUR GbR, Koetnerholzweg 5, 30451 Hannover, Germany Tel: 05 11 21 12 43
Tams Packaging Ltd, Durham Road, Borehamwood, Herts WD6 1LW Tel: 0181 953 8522, Fax: 0181 207 5399
Swains Packaging Ltd, Brook Road, Buckhurst Hill, Essex IG9 5TU. 0181 506 1892
Bag n Box Man, Unit 1, West St, Shutford, Banbury, OX15 6PH. 01295 788522
Plastics for Games Ltd, Lady Lane Industrial Estate, Hadleigh, Ipswich, Suffolk IP7 6AZ. Tel: 01473 828119, Fax: 01483 828384.
Adam Spiel , Postfach 100127, 61441 Friedburg-Hessen, Germany
David Watts, Rostherne Games, 102 Priory Road, Milford Haven, Dyfed SA73 2ED
SWD: David Watts sells plastic counters in three sizes and an assortment of colours. I have also bought from him both wooden and plastic pawns and small plastic cones that we find useful in games such as Silverton for marking the location of unsold mines and the like. Again, both types of pawns and the cones were each available in at least eight colours.