Secret Base Blog

Packaging your game when using Send From China

As a kickstarter creator handling fulfillment yourself it’s VERY important to understand your packaging options with Send From China - as a few creators who have used SFC have recently discovered. Read Brian Henke's excellent write up of his experience with SFC on Jamey Stegmaiers excellent blog.

SFC handle a large volume of direct mail sends through various shipping and post partners they broker good deals with through sheer volume. They handle all sorts of goods. Games are just a tiny % of what they do.

SFC ship out most single items in bubble wrap envelopes of various sizes. BOXES ARE NOT STANDARD, they are OPTIONAL. SFC are pretty clear on this – as I was in my third post.

But some creators have recently sent out games in bubble wrap without realising this, and finding large boxes are suffering some high damage rates.

This creates headaches all round. So what are the solutions?

Bubbles vs boxes?

The risk of damage to your item creates a key decision point. Do you send your thing in a bubble wrap envelope or pay extra for a box?

Bubble wrap envelopes

Bubble wrap envelopes are provided by SFC and are:

  • cheap eg mine would be US12c and
  • light eg mine would be 25 grams.

These are not thick bubble wrap and will likely just prevent scuffing and help resist against light pressure applied to the package. The risk here is that a certain % of items will be badly damaged as they move through the 3 - 5 points on the supply chain between SFC and the backer.  Replacing & resending significantly damaged items to the backer costs you for the product and the postage costs. 

With envelopes, the probability of significant damage depends largely on your game box's inherent structural integrity. This is influenced by material, box size and fill.

Compare one of those strong little Citadels sized FFG boxes with a large square FFG box. Bothhave the same cardboard thickness but the centre of the smaller box is much closer to the corners and edges of the box than the centre of a large box, and they tend to be tightly packed - so they generally have better structural integrity. I guess a large box with a solid plastic moulded insert and a board laid across the top may have better strength than a more airy box too. A tightly packed tuckbox will have solid internally generated structural integrity, but a loosely packed one will tend to crush etc etc.

Here are some recent SFC bubble wrap shipping examples I know about.

zero2 750

One Zero One from Grail Games was a solid little square box made from 1.5mm grey board, and suffered negligible damage during shipping in its bubble envelope (I think maybe 2 issue from 920). My copy was pristine and you can read more about the whole process here.


El Luchador Fantastico Grande by Senyac Games. These were tall tuck boxes containing cards and dice. But the tuck box had a few too many millimetres of space in it and about 20% of boxes were slightly crushed so that the sides of the box were a little v shaped outwards. Only 2 backers requested resends though.

Good cop, bad cop from Overworld Games is a small box and solid game that went in bubble wrap envelopes with no damage resends from over 800 backers.


New Salem from Overworld Games was a mid-sized greyboard telescope box (11”/28cm x 19”/24cm), and it suffered a 9% returnable damage rate with a total damage rate of around 15%. I’m not sure how thick its greyboard is or what internal strength was.  The publishers sent the second half of their 800 out in boxes and got no further complaints about boxes.

Viceroy from Mayday Games used SFC to fulfil to many of its non-US backers. Viceroy comes in a mid size box made from relatively thin greyboard (1mm?) – so it has limited structural integrity. My SFC bubble wrapped copy was a little dented along multiple edges and the box top was suppressed a little. Not enough for me to care greatly, but for some it might be. About 3% of the bubble wrapped sends suffered damage and the publisher ended up replacing those and sending the rest of the games in boxes. Mayday don't blame SFC for this, but the thinness of the game box.

Shipping Boxes

Shipping Boxes dramatically reduce the probability of significant damage. You can expect your damage rate to be under 1% with a solid box. But they:

  • need to be specially ordered to size because SFC really only have large boxes suitable for multiple sends.
  • cost more than envelopes to buy (US 20 – 40c each)
  • require an additional handling fee of 2.5 RMB / US24c during the pick and pack
  • weigh more (mine would be around 140 grams)

Now, SFCs low prices are based on exact weight, not weight classes. So every single gram you add to your package costs more. Boxes add a lot more weight than bubble wrap envelopes and that is where the real cost is.  A box for Monstrous would be 140 grams compared to 25 grams for a bubble wrap envelope.

But there is a mid-range option.

Double bubbles

A bubble wrap envelope with an additional sheet of bubble wrap around the game box inside is an option you can request from SFC. Its my view that if you have a solid box this should eliminate most minor edge of box damage, and help resist more serious damage too.

At SFC they charge for bubble wrapping your items by the hour, and they will wrap all your items in one go prior to shipping them. This is likely to cost around 8 – 16c per item, so lets assume a 12c average. If you go for this option, get a quote from your account manager as charges may vary based on the size of the wrapping job.

The bubble wrap sheets are 35cm x 120cm, weigh 35 grams and cost .47 rmb (US 7c) per sheet. So for a mid-sized box you will get about 2 layers of additional bubble wrap, which takes it to 3 layers including the envelopes itself.

So you are looking at adding an average of about 20c per game to effectively upgrade from 1 to 3 layers of bubble wrap.

Here's how it looks when wrapped:

Monstrous bubbles 1

Monstrous sitting on a 35cm wide x 120cm long sheet of bubble wrap

Monstrous bubbles3

Monstrous wrapped twice around with a 35cm wide x 120cm bubble wrap sheet.

Monstrous bubbles 2

Monstrous wrapped in bubble wrap next to the unwrapped version. it adds about 1cm of padded protection divided between the top and bottom.

Risk vs cost

So now you face a choice between potential cost of resends (and the product) and the known costs of the various shipping packaging options.

Lets assume:

  • you have to resend every damaged box requested by backers,
  • the game has a manufacturing cost of $3,
  • weighs 500 grams,
  • comes in a medium sized game box (Munchkin to Smash up size) with good structural integrity,
  • 1000 packages need to be sent.

Do you;

  1. Send all packages in boxes – the most expensive but lowest risk option (up to 1% damage resend rate).
  2. Send all packages in bubble wrap envelopes (up to 8% damage resend rate).
  3. Send all packages in bubble wrap envelopes, with bubble wrapped product inside, (up to 3% damage resend rate).

Lets look at costs for those 3 scenarios.

1. Game in a Box

640 grams: 68.2 RMB / USD$9.75 + cost of box eg US 30c + 1.5RMB / 24c handling = $10.29

Total send cost $10,290

Estimated damage resend rate 1% = $103.

Product value 10 x $3 = $30

Total send and resend = $10,423

2. Game in a Bubble Envelope

525 grams: 53 RMB  / US$8.34 + cost of bubble envelope eg 12c = $8.46

Total send cost $8,460

Estimated damage resend rate 8% = $676

Product value 80 x $3 = $240

Total send and resend = $9,376

3. Game in a Bubble Envelope with extra internal bubble wrap

560 grams: 55.4 RMB  / US$8.68 + cost of bubble envelope eg 12c + 12c extra bubble wrapping fee (+/- 4c depending on complexity of the wrap) + 8c for bubble wrap sheet = $9

Total send cost $9,000

Estimated damage resend rate 3% = $270

Damaged product resend value 30 x $3 = $90

Total send and resend = $9,360

So in this scenario option 3, bubble wrap inside bubble wrap envelope, is marginally cheaper than bubble wrap envelope alone option when you include all the costs except your time. And it’s over $1000 cheaper than sending it in a box.

Tips for packaging with SFC

Keep in mind the damage estimate percentages above are estimates and may vary. And none of this factors in the customer loyalty impact of receiving damaged goods. So you should do your homework, make your decision and factor in the appropriate costs BEFORE you set your campaign reward tiers if they bundle in shipping. But here are my thoughts.

  1. Small strong boxes (FFG smallest), or tightly packed tuckboxes can ship in a bubble wrap envelope. The significant damage rate is likely to be very low (1%). If in doubt, upgrade to option 2.
  2. Medium sized (Munchkin or Smash Up) reasonably strong boxes can go out in bubble envelopes with an extra layer or 2 of bubble wrap inside. The damage rate should be 2 - 4% and you save a lot on shipping weight costs for your entire fulfilment run.
  3. Weaker medium sized or large boxes (eg FFG square) should ship in a box. The damage rate for these should drop from 8 – 10% to under 1%.

I’ll be going for option 2 with Monstrous. I will report on damage / return rates once shipping is complete.





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Rampaging through stores in early 2016.

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