In this combo-post, we’ll get an introduction to the Battle Box Kickstarter that launched today and a look at the sometimes confusing world of shipping and delivery logistics that tabletop publishers and customers wrestle with.
Jonathan Hightower, a self-identifying efficiency nerd, is behind both. Hightower’s day job is in a white-glove logistics company, and he’s 15 years of experience doing this. The Battle Box is a cleverly designed dice container that lets you sort, display and roll your die all in one.
Whether the time taken to roll handfuls of dice is part of the charm for you or a frustration, the idea behind the Battle Box is simple. Sort your dice, keep them sorted and save time.
Not mentioned in the Kickstarter is the use I first thought for the Battle Box; convention play. If you’ve ever tried to run a convention game, you’ll know just how much time is lost and, worse, how many dice go missing over the event. There are retailer pledges in the Kickstarter, but I think events should consider them as well.
A single Battle Box costs only $12 but goes only to the United States and are made there.
Shipping efficiencies come into play at the four battle box tier ($47), which might be suitable for dice displays in shops. There’s even a chunky $1,080 option for 96 of the boxes!
Impressively, the estimated delivery is November this year.
I talked to Jonathan about the project before launch, got into the shipping challenge, and was delighted to discover he was an expert. Since many Kickstarter organisers get in touch with Geek Native, I invited Jonathan to write about it and to use the Battle Box as an example.
It’s the Box, Not Just What’s In It
by Jonathan Hightower
Once a Kickstarter for a physical product is fully funded, there are three major processes involved in delivering the product to the hands of happy customers:
Manufacturing, fulfillment, and shipping. Shipping, in particular, can be an unexpectedly high cost for some items.
How would you like to pay $14 in shipping for a $12 product?
As the person behind the Battle Box (http://www.battlebox.us), I am currently face-to-face with this challenge, and it’s one that might sink my Kickstarter.
The Battle Box is a dice-rolling aid for D&D/TTRPG players.
Most of the time in combat, players have to roll dice for each attack, its damage, and bonus damage from having a weapon coated in poison or on fire or being used to sneak attack.
Rolled together, the dice must be sorted, and the appropriate modifiers added. Rolled separately and in order, there’s a good bit of time spent doing multiple rolls and adding everything up.
The Battle Box solves this, as it’s a transparent box with 5 separate dice compartments, each large enough to roll multiple dice with a few shakes, and a slot for a removable label on the top to put everything needed for an “I attack with my flaming sword!” in one spot. Add up 15 to 30 seconds per turn x 5 players x 10 or 20 rounds of combat, and a D&D session gains an extra 15 to 30 minutes.
Did you catch the keyword in the preceding paragraph? Large. A clear plastic box is really light, but it’s bulky, at approximately 12″L x 3″W x 3″H.
Transportation companies, from small-parcel carriers up to freight companies that deal with large products (my day job), usually charge in dollars per pound based on the origin and destination of a shipment. However, they all also use what’s called “Dimensional Weight.”
As an example, if someone wanted to ship a pallet-sized box full of inflated helium balloons, it might only weigh about 60 lbs., the weight of the pallet. It takes up the same space on a truck going across the country as a crate of auto parts that weighs 600 lbs. Now imagine an entire truckload of those pallets of balloons.
Nobody wants to move a truckload of balloons 2,000 miles for 1/10th the cost of the truckload of auto parts.
Dimensional weight is used to price those light-weight but bulky shipments so that companies can charge an appropriate price for their services.
The exact method used by different companies varies, but it’s generally based on a “dimensional weight factor,” where the length, width, and height in inches (in the US) are multiplied to determine the number of cubic inches and then divided by the Dim Weight Factor. For freight companies, it’s often 200 or 250. For UPS, it’s 139, meaning UPS will rate a box at a higher weight than freight carriers because they work with lighter products in general.
Here’s how it calculates out in real life: the Battle Box weighs a couple of ounces, and it’s only 12x3x3 “H. Custom-made boxes are expensive, so we end up with a widely available shipping box that’s 12x5x5 “H or 300 cubic inches. 300/139, rounded up, is 3 lbs.
The average cost to ship 3 lbs. from the manufacturer to different points in the US, with fuel, is $14.22. The cost to ship is now higher than the entire cost of everything else put together.
4 Battle Boxes in a 12 “x10 “x10” box gets rated as 9 lbs. It ships within the US for $17.74 on average, which brings the cost down to only about $4.43 per box.
Unit costs keep going down as quantities go up. By the time a ship quantity of 48 in a box is reached, the box actually dims out at “only” 48 pounds, and we’re down to about $1.14/box in shipping.
Unfortunately, that’s a ~$500 order and is only likely to come from retailers/resellers or someone who’s planning to run a convention or host a lot of games.
Now you know how dimensional weight works and why shipping costs for something “light and not that big” can be high.
International shipping is generally even higher. A box of 12 Battle Boxes was the smallest number I could find that was close to economical. Shipping to Canada ends up being about $55, London about $80, and Paris or Berlin in the $95-$105 range. This doesn’t include import duties (taxes); I spoke to one gamer in the UK who ordered a $1 wooden dice from Australia; its duties would have been $20, so he let Customs keep it. If you’re wondering why so many Kickstarters are country-limited, this is why.
Caveat: It’s actually been cheaper to ship from China to the US and some other countries than within the US due to some outdated and very controversial rates and policies. This is set to change, but it’s been another advantage that Chinese manufacturing has held over US suppliers.
Pun intended: The size of the product and its packaging can be a big challenge.
Picture credit: Claudio Schwarz.
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