Origin Story: The Craftsman Series

Origin Story: The Craftsman Series

Posted by Derek Liam on 22nd May 2020

When I first officially became a designer for The Broken Token, our most requested organizer at the time was for Firefly: The Game. This was quite fortuitous in that it was, at the time, my favorite game. In fact, I had been thinking about how to organize it for well over a year.

I knew quite quickly that in order to meet the expectations our customers had for a Firefly storage solution, which are the same we hold for all our organizers -- room for expansions, faster set-up and teardown, sleeved cards, and vertical storage -- I had to think literally outside the box. Firefly also has a different challenge in being a real beast in tabletop real estate. Since I played it mostly as a college student in a studio apartment, I was well aware of that challenge.

As my first design in an official capacity, I really didn’t know what was possible, which meant the freedom to design what I thought was best. We can figure out the rest.

I knew that we had successfully created external wood boxes with our Case For Humanity line. This was the Kickstarter project that really got the company going. So my first attempt included a full replacement crate that was about twice the size of the original game box. This gave me the flexibility to really flush out the internal features for the organizer.

Since it was fairly unexplored territory for us, we really didn’t know if people would balk at the price tag. It was several times more expensive to produce than anything we had made before it. Also significantly harder to assemble. With those challenges in mind, we decided it was prudent to brand it differently than our other products so that customers would better know what they were getting into. Thus our Craftsman Series was born. Our Big Damn Crate continues to be one of our best selling products, so it’s safe to say it was a successful experiment. We now offer a Craftsman Series solution for 16 different games, not including our special editions or high capacity card cases.

The option to create our own outer bounds for an organizer has led to a lot of innovative, interesting, and useful design solutions. The “Big Damn Crate” can be used in several different ways, including keeping 80% of the components in the crate while you play, significantly reducing the footprint of the game during play. The “Arkham Museum Crate” for Elder Sign similarly plays mostly out of the crate. When it came to the “Flash Point: Fire Rescue Crate,” it made storing the incredibly numerous game boards possible in a way that didn’t hinder getting to the other game components.

The challenges to successfully launching this completely new type of product were numerous. Until that point, we were packaging all our products in standard size poly bags from Uline. None of the available box options Uline provided would fit this organizer and crate as well as we liked, so for the first time ever we had to source a custom box. We also had to design an outer label for that box for the first time. The instructions were also a new challenge. The crate was big and relatively complicated that our usual folded single sheet instructions would not work.

This is where working with such a talented and hardworking team really made the difference. Our production manager at the time did a lot of the leg work on sourcing a box. Our graphic designer (who is still with us 5 years later) did an incredible job making the instructions into an attractive and easy to follow booklet. After only a few months of development, we felt ready to launch this new experiment, with rather modest expectations. We felt confident in selling enough to make it worth our time but did not anticipate quite the reaction it received.

Quite immediately after we launched the unfinished product kit, we received lots of inquiries about customizing the crate. Part of the Case for Humanity Kickstarter was a custom stain color for your card box. In hindsight, even for the Kickstarter, we underestimated how many people would want a more finished product. As quickly as we could, we put up a How To Stain video so people could finish their crate themselves, but there was a significant number of people who expressed interest in spending more in an already completed crate.

Within a couple of weeks of launching the Big Damn Crate, we introduced our Mighty Fine Edition, a limited run of 200 assembled and finished crates. We decided to limit it based on our experience with the Kickstarter; we knew it would be a challenge to keep up with the production of such a product. But in the end, it was successful enough we did it again for Rising Sun, Flash Point, and Galaxy Trucker with similarly customized Limited Edition runs.

[Editor’s Note: In the future blog post, we’ll share more from the team of artists who customize our Limited Edition crates.]

Despite their increased price point, our Craftsman Series continues to be successful and a clearly viable option for many of our customers. This makes it an option for many future designs when it makes sense to do so. In the very near future, we will be adding Terraforming Mars and Spirit Island to the Crafstman Series line. This added design flexibility opens us up to endless possibilities that we explore every day. Stay tuned for the next generation of organization solutions coming to you from The Broken Token.