How much does it cost to ‘design’ a board game? ( Non manufacture )

This post has been put together to offer guidance on how much it will cost to mockup/prototype / “graphic design” a board or card game.

Answering “how much does it cost to design a board game” is a very broad question that I will endeavour to break down and answer in smaller bite-sized steps.

There are many factors that can influence the ‘design’ ( graphic design look and feel ) stage of the game.

How much does it cost to 'design' a board game?

It should be noted that the combined cost of prototyping and designing a game is not a small undertaking.

Jump to case examples

“It depends on what is required to bring your board game to life! That will be what determines the budget.”


How much will it cost to have your board game ‘designed’? ( Graphic design )

It is difficult to answer without knowing the scope and size of a project.

For the services that I can offer, and it should be noted prices and tariffs are worked out on a case-by-case basis. This is a rough example of pricing.

– Projects scales can range between £5200 – £1200 spread out over the course of 4 or 5 months. This is a rough number and total budgets can influence the size and how a project is broken down.

If when you refer to ‘how much does it cost to design a board game?’ you are also referring to making and manufacture, this can push the budget well into to around the £10,000 mark. If not more.

It should be noted that I don’t manufacture games. But I do work with prototype makers.

Typically speaking if you are looking for a graphic designer to work on a large board game from scratch – depending on the designer skills, knowledge, and services you may be looking around the £5000+.

But this all depends on what is to be done. Written below are circumstances that will influence the cost of designing a board game.

Boardgame design prices

It should also be noted that these numbers are not formal quotations. They are a rough price guide on what to expect when undertaking to design a board game prototype.

You can read more about my board game design services for further information.

Factors that will influence the cost

The pricing mentioned above that a game ‘may’ cost £5200 to design is a simplification of what it is that affects the cost and ultimately the outcome of creating a board game prototype.

Factors that will influence the cost of the game:-

  • Has the look and the feel for the game already been established?
  • Is this a design from scratch?
  • Have you already created a very rough paper mock-up?
  • Has the content already been written?
  • Are there many different cards and desks?
  • Is there a rule book? Or is it just a sheet?
  • Does your board game come with a board and box or is a small card box?
  • Do you have a logo?
  • Are there characters in the board game?
  • Does the game require some interesting typography?
  • Will the game require illustrations or cover artwork?

Using some of the questions above may now give you an idea of how games can become costly to design by professional designers & artists.

Some cover illustrators alone can charge £1000’s for their services and that’s before using the graphic designer to put all the artwork together and create the visual look and feel of cards and boxes.


Developing the look and feel for your game

One of the main areas that I personally cover is the early design and concept design for the game’s look and feel. The concept and Creative Direction to be precise. This important and early stage if you have aspirations of making a retail-ready game.

This stage can require less attention if you making a game for private use. This design and development stage can occupy 70% of the project. And when you spread this across numerous components, cards, pages of a rule book it quickly becomes evident where the budget can be spent.

Vector character design for your game

A board game design project can encompass multiple disciplines into one. And character design and vector illustration are just one of those disciplines. Character design alone is a field in itself, that requires planning, research, and drawing to make the best characters possible for your board game.

My services cover both the early sketch and concept art to fully copyrighted and licensed game-ready character artwork!

You can read more on my character vector illustration services for more details.

Is it a card game or a board game?

Creating the visual look and feel for a card game vs creating a top and bottom box board game can have a large influence on design cost. More often than not, designing 2 or 3 decks of cards can be a smaller budget project than say designing a full board game with cards, rule books, leaflets, tokens, etc.

*It should be noted, if you have 1000’s or cards with 10 different faces, that may expand the “board game budget”. That’s a lot of cards!

Card size illustration scale

Rulesheet vs Rulebook | How this can quietly affect the board game budget

I have come to find that a ‘rulesheet’ for a board game can often evolve into becoming a booklet.

And, designing a single A5 page compared to designing a small booklet for a board game requires more time, more focus, more work, and… typically – more editing and tweaking.

Why does this stage often expand to what was initially discussed?

When in the very early stages of the game project, a client may have written a rough set of rules to play from. This set of rules are often a basic first draft and is often ‘just enough to work with.

As they playtest their game, read and re-read their draft and have it proofread professionally, they find more space and time is required for the rules.

The rules are improved basically. ( Written rules often require the most editing throughout a project. )

It then becomes necessary to fit all of the text into a booklet, as a single a5 sheet of paper isn’t enough anymore to fit all of the text on.

In other words, the rules expand into something else because it has been given more time and attention.

Last minute changes – this can affect the cost to design your board game

The more content – specifically information and components is laid out from the outset, the easier it is to gauge a budget time for a project. If all of the information stays the same throughout the whole project, the more likely the budget will stay closer to the original estimate.

But, I will let you in on a little secret, information, components, and game plans rarely stay the same. More so for larger projects.

As a board project evolves and improvements move from the original seed of an idea. The more budget and resource and time is given to a project. Some board game projects aren’t small!

Rail Game Example
Example of a past project

How much do designers and artists charge for a board game?

Each artist, and designer is different. And ‘ design a board game’ eg create all the visuals for a game is a very broad area. It really does depend on some factors such as how many images or pieces of artwork there is to create.

As a very rough idea on how much do designers or artists charge to create the visuals for a board game. These can be influencing factors.

  • Who will retain the copyright
  • Experience, knowledge and skill of designer or artist
  • How big – in terms of time, the project is
  • And generally how much content is there to create
  • Their geography
  • The designers or artist studio overheads ( expenses )

Written example typical project sizes ( budgets )

More often than not, when I see a board game assignment come through, they are of a larger scale. And larger scale projects require larger budgets for time.

This is not to say that I won’t work on a smaller game. It is often the case that I am involved in the game as a whole, but I am happy to work in varying capacities on a project.

Working on a board game with clients from concept to prototype is an exciting prospect that I love to dive into. I have more information on my Creative Direction and board game services than I have mentioned previously.

*It should be noted, that if you are a start-up thinking of embarking on creating a full board game with lots of components and cards – It is not a small project undertake. Especially if this is a game you have aspirations to take to the retail market.

Below is a rough table of how a project and budget ‘might’ work but each project is treated case by case scenario. If you would like to get a more accurate estimate, please get in touch.

**I am not a manufacturer, I am not able to itemise a lot of the design and journey into a checklist. Creating a retail-worthy game is rarely that straightforward – sorry!

How much does it cost to ‘design’ a board game? Potential cases

My personal commercial experience and skills are covered in the paragraphs written below. It essentially outlines some of my own skills when working on a board game project for a client to create a board game prototype or a core look and feel for the early game.

Initial Concept

Creating the core concept look and feel for a board game or card game. This is one of my main areas of focus. This covers the early ideas and the Creative Direction. Once some of the initial concepts have been established, this will move the project to the next step!

Adding a touch of character design to your board game

Using a trusty pencil and paper and Adobe Illustrator I can draw characters for your game. This is another service that is covered ‘under board game’ design. You can read more on vector illustration services to see how I may be able to help.

Creating the artwork for the box

Creating the box, which would technically come under ‘packaging’ often becomes the main part of a project. Especially if you want to sell your game!

Creating visuals for the inner literature

For example cards, rules, tokens, 2D miniatures. These can be a subject in themselves that require a lot of time and attention. Or if there is not too much inside the game box, not much at all!

Here are some examples of casess / scenerios that may give you more of the idea of project size and scope that will influence the cost and outcome.

Example of budgets and scope. This is not an itemised list but it will hopefully I’ve an idea of some past cases for budgets for a board game and projects.

Budget case table for design project (1) ( Small card game )

As an example. A card game as such with the items listed above would be a smaller budget than say a board game with a large box.
Case 1Project BriefBudget / SizeOther Information
Design a few characters4 or 6 charactersPotentially smaller budgetCovers earlier sketches and vectors
Put together box artwork +Look and feel already put together by anotherMedium budget to create a retail ready ‘prototype’ boxSome content already supplied, design a nice box for the game
Create the look and feel for the gameCreate the whole look and feel for the gameLargest part of project an important step in part of the design journeyImportant also if you want a uniformly designed and styled game
Create an illustrationCreate vector cover artDepending on illustration complexity* – medium to large part of budgetAn eye catching illustration for the box cover or cover design
Create a single leaflet for the rules1 a5 page of textOften smaller end f budget and time requiredMight be a simple plain page with some text
A written example of potential project format

The table above should give you an idea of how some of the time may be allocated on a smaller card game project. But this can be varied. It all depends on the complexity of the game and what is really involved in bring all these individuals elements together!

Below is another case table for board game budgets. Both of these tables are hypothetical but are based on past experience.

Budget case table for design project (2) ( Medium-sized board game )

Something of the scale would be more expensive to create.
Case 2Project BriefBudget / SizeOther Information
Design 10 characters10 + characters
plus lots of ideas
Potentially larger budgetCovers earlier sketches and vectors
Put together box artwork +Establish a look and feel for the box – from scratchMedium budget to create a retail ready ‘prototype’ boxA board game vs a card game will be more expensive
Create the look and feel for the gameCreate the whole look and feel for the gameLargest part of project but an important step in part of the design journeyImportant also if you want a uniformly designed and styled game
Create 3 or 4 illustrationsCreate multiple vector illustrationsDepending on illustration complexity* 3 or 4 = much larger time allocationCreating illustrations can take a while to complete
Create an 8 page booklet1x 8 page bookletMore content is needed for 8 faces for a rule book. Nice cover graphic, diagrams, more text / editing / tweaking
A written example of potential project format

Hopefully, this second case scenario gives you an example and difference between the two levels of budget and my involvement. Typically, the more I need to create – the larger the budget and along with polishing and editing all of the design and illustration content.

Case 1 is a smaller budget because it is a smaller project that requires less. Case 2 is a bigger project that requires more.


The creative the journey | the ‘real thing’ that is billed

* It should be noted, that the items in the board game are not strictly the reason for the budget being smaller or larger. But, that being said, the more elements there are to your game. Eg cards that need artwork, box covers, etc the more likely it is that the budget will be more expensive.

It’s a longer road!

I myself cannot, and do not charge for the items themselves. For my design services, I charge for the journey and the money is the fuel to get the project where it needs to be. The items, just help to offer markers and waypoints for the project.

It depends on what is required to bring your board game to life! That will be what determines the budget.

Read more about my design services – link takes you design services page.

How much does it cost to ‘design’ a board game?

The conclusive answer of how much does it cost to design a board game, is sadly – it depends. It depends on the size of the project and what is really involved in creating the board and how much there is to design,

Many board game design projects can sit around the £4000 – £5000 mark but each budget is unique to each game brief.

Keep in mind that if you need a designer and illustrator for a game that you will also need to factor in manufacturing and potentially marketing your game.

* This s not an official estimate, for an official estimate please get in touch. Rates can also change!

How much does it cost to make a board game for Kickstarter?

Considering all of the above to design to create a photo-ready prototype you may be looking at the following figure.

( Game design budget ) + Prototype Manufacture £100 – £300 + Plus shipping ad set up (£40 ) approximately.

This should give you a photo-ready prototype for a Kickstarter campaign.


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How much does it cost to ‘design’ a board game for personal use?

If you are thinking of creating a board game for personal use, the more of the game you can create yourself, the lower the budget you will need to design the game. This method won’t strictly make it a retail-ready game by going down the do-it-yourself route, but you never know!

Some people want to create a board game just to figure it out and get into the industry and for that, I commend you. You may find this article helpful – how to draw on a computer starter steps.

To answer how much does it cost to design a board game for personal use, or for yourself. It depends on how far you wish to take it.

If you want to get pen and paper and create a white paper box. This can be perfect for a prototype and playtest model. Or you can try to learn some digital drawing skills.

Or you may also be interested in reading some of the information on creating a fan game first before jumping in with both feet.