How to Price Your Board Game

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Cardboard costs a lot of money! Board gamers are accustomed to handing over hundreds of dollars at a time on board game shopping sprees. If you look on /r/boardgames or Board Game Geek, you can find no shortage of “shelfies” where people have hundreds of board games. You might even get the impression that board gamers are not price-sensitive at all…

 

 

Price matters. The amount you choose to charge for your board game says a lot about your game. Naturally, as the price goes up, fewer people will be interested in purchasing. But how does that explain $150 monsters like Gloomhaven?

Before you set out to apply a price to your board game, ask yourself these questions:

  • How complex is my game?
  • What components does it come with?
  • How long does it take to play?
  • How physically large is the box?

Price isn’t merely the amount of money that someone has to pay to get a copy of your work. It’s one of the most useful pieces of information about your game available to a board gamer. It is shorthand for the above questions. Along with your box, the theme and mechanics of your game, and the reviews you receive, board gamers will make a decision to buy or not to buy.

Different price points have different psychological effects on people. A $19 game is an impulse buy – people usually don’t think too much about spending that amount of money. For that price, they expect a small game without a whole lot of parts. On the flip-side, people are perfectly okay shelling out $100 or more for a giant game like Gloomhaven or Food Chain Magnate. Those games come with lots of parts and are complex, long-lasting games. There’s a lot going on there!

When choosing a price for your game, you’ll need to do something I often advise: look at similar games on Kickstarter and Amazon. Make sure you take into account the complexity of your game, the components included, the length, and its physical size. I even recommend you go to a local gaming store to look at the boxes, still shrink wrapped, and compare them to their prices. That can tell you a lot about how board gamers value games.

Naturally, any price you come up with will need to cover your manufacturing costs. A general rule of thumb to follow is “five times your landed cost.” That is to say, your game should cost gamers five times as much as it costs to print and ship the game to your warehouse. For Kickstarter campaigns, you might be able to push this down to “four times your landed cost.” As always, though, run the numbers and don’t rely on rules of thumb without closer analysis.

Still, I must reiterate: don’t merely think of price in terms of monetary exchange. It’s an important part of signaling the kind of game you have created and how much is in the box. The value of a game is not just its parts, its art, or the amount of hours you can play it before getting bored. The value is in the eye of board gamers and their expectations.

Here are a few examples:

 

Santorini – $25.98 on Amazon

 

 

Santorini is a sharp game. It’s a very intelligent abstract strategy game in which you competitively build towers in an effort to be the first person to stand atop one. It’s a really simple concept that has all sorts of profound strategic implications. From its simplicity comes its complexity.

It has great plastic components – these neat towers that stack and give the game a great physicality. For goodness sake, the box is linen! Yet here stands for a mere $25.98 despite having really good components. What gives? Are they trying to be competitive with pricing? Is the manufacturing cost deceptively low?

I don’t know the answer for sure, but my belief is that they keep this game under $30 to attract the right audience. It’s considered a light game, and while it can accommodate 3 or 4 players, it’s really best for 2. The game doesn’t have the sheer grittiness or complexity that more hardcore gamers crave, but it has a light, poppy appeal that makes it a great gateway game. That’s why they price it under $30 – to keep it in gateway game territory.

 

Twilight Imperium – $109.99 on Amazon

 

 

Twilight Imperium is notoriously complex. It’s for 3-6 players and games routinely exceed 4 hours in length. The sheer amount of components can easily fill a large table. I lifted the box once in a gaming store, and I can swear its heavier than the stones I used to build the retaining wall outside my house. This game is a monster!

This game is huge – game length, player count, component count, and box size. The price tag merely reflects what the game is. Now, yes, Fantasy Flight does have to charge a lot of money to break even on all those parts. That’s true. This game, however, scratches a very specific itch for board gamers who love heavy games. That’s why they’re willing to drop a fat hundred bucks on it. Buyers perceive a great value in the game which justifies the three-digit price tag.

 

Ticket to Ride – $44.99 on Amazon

 

 

Ticket to Ride is an old classic. If you’re reading this blog, you’ve probably played it. It’s a great game. It’s what many gamers would describe as a “medium-sized game.” Appropriately, it is priced at a middle of the road price: $44.99. Anything $40-50 generally implies that a game takes about an hour to play, can entertain 2-4 people, and doesn’t skimp on components. All of these things are true for Ticket to Ride, and the price justifies this.

 


 

Pricing board games is about far more than simply breaking even on manufacturing costs. It’s yet another way to signal values to prospective customers. Board gamers are accustomed to looking at games, and have internalized an intuition about what to expect out of games priced in a certain way.

Have you ever bought a game because of the price tag? Have you ever walked away from a game because of the price tag? Share your thoughts, experiences, and questions below!

 

How to Make a Beautiful Board Game Box

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Box art is incredibly important in the board game industry. Not only are board game boxes beautiful, they are also iconic. People love looking at board game boxes – just check out Instagram sometime. There are whole accounts dedicated to showing off board game boxes!

People judge books by their covers. This is true for board games, too. The naive designer may lament that board gamers are only looking at the surface, not seeing the mechanics or the potential for incredible gameplay. It’s a valid complaint, but the simple fact is that board game boxes are a huge part of board gamers’ decision-making process when it comes to making purchases. Your board game box is the most important art you’ve got – make it count!

 

 

(If you’re looking for regulatory or legal requirements for packaging, check this article instead: How to Create Board Game Specs and Files for Your Printer.)

Board game boxes serve not just as beautiful objects for their own sake, but also as critical means of communication between you and your potential customers. That includes the obvious stuff you normally see on boxes – the name of the game, the designer(s) and publisher, the age range, play time, and player count. But that also includes the messages you send about your game through your art. Through symbolism, you need to communicate most or all of the following information:

  • The complexity of your game
  • The “weight” of your game
  • The amount of components your game has
  • How long it takes to play
  • The theme of your game
  • The “hooks” that make people want to buy the game

Your box communicates not just through its cover, but also its size, and the information you provide on the back. People associate light games with small boxes and heavy games with big boxes. When gamers see a thick box, they expect a lot of components. If the art is whimsical, they expect it to be light-hearted. If the art is gritty and detailed, they expect it to be complex or dark.

The perfect game doesn’t exist. Games are only perfect for specific gamers. You need to attract the right kind of gamers by giving them all the information they need to know whether your game is right for them. Many gamers – wittingly or unwittingly – use their intuitive sense of what a game is or isn’t based on how it looks. That means you need to imply the essence of your game with your packaging. You have to send the right signals.

This is a really complicated concept. There is a field of study called semiotics, which is dedicated to understanding how people interpret signs, symbols, and metaphors. You don’t have to be studied in what they call the Saussurean tradition to understand how this works in board gaming. All you have to do is look at similar board games that sell well.

Look at the boxes of games similar to the one you’re making. You want it to be as similar as possible in the six qualities I listed a few paragraphs ago. Use Kickstarter and Amazon to look at some board game boxes. Look at them until you get a sense of what your own game box should look like. Copy the style you see, but still express your own personality.

When in doubt, follow the “Instagram rule” when designing board game boxes. Put a clear object in focus, use lots of detail, and make sure there is a sharp contrast between the foreground and background. That way, people will stop scrolling and look at your box online. In the store, it’ll catch their eye.

 


 

As you can see, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to designing board game boxes. For that reason, I’ll be looking at the board game boxes of the five games highest up on the Board Game Geek hotness list. I’ll be analyzing each one and explaining what I think it works. By sharing my methods, I hope you’ll be able to develop your own 🙂

 

Gloomhaven

 

 

Good grief, look at this monster of a box! It’s wide, it’s deep, and it’s tall. Just seeing this on the shelf, you know you’re getting in for a heavy experience. With a weight of 3.77, this is definitely considered a heavy game on Board Game Geek. It’s usually priced at $150 or more, but you get a lot of parts.

The box art itself communicates a massive, complex world. It’s not a happy one, though. The name and color palette suggest otherwise. There is something to look at it in practically every corner of this box. There’s somebody hiding with a dagger in the bottom left, a creature playing cards near the bottom right, and decorative ribbons in the upper right.

Then when you look at the back, it shows off the minis and explains how the game works. This is really important because showing off components has shown to be one of the best ways to get and hold the attention of gamers.

 

Root

 

Photo by W Eric Martin, posted to Board Game Geek under the CC BY 2.0 license. (Source)

 

Root is a different kind of game than Gloomhaven, and the box art immediately makes it clear. Like Gloomhaven, it’s a fairly heavy game and it comes chock full of a lot of components. The box is fairly large, but not nearly the size of Gloomhaven. It’s a slightly shorter game.

Root has a veneer of whimsy – little woodland creatures. Underneath that, though, there’s a complex game with mechanics such as engine building and area control. The game openly displays its darkness, intrigue, and complexity by arming the woodland creatures with dangerous weapons on the box. The size of the box and the price point also help establish the true weight of the game, so no one is surprised by it being too long or complex.

I juxtapose this with Gloomhaven to make a point – you have two complex games with two different tones. There are ways you can communicate the different tones without burying the true complexity of the game in the process.

 

Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig

 

 

Photo by W Eric Martin, posted to Board Game Geek under the CC BY 2.0 license. (Source)

 

This was announced very recently and I’m stoked. Anything Stonemaier Games is worth getting stoked about.

This game is fairly light and the price point hasn’t been released yet. It takes a bit under an hour to play and Board Game Geek gives it a 2/5 on the weight rating. The art painterly and peaceful, unlike the more conflict-driven games that we’ve shown above. You get the sense that you’re in for a more relaxing experience.

 

Vampire: The Masquerade – Heritage

 

Photo by W Eric Martin, posted to Board Game Geek under the CC BY 3.0 license. (Source)

 

Little is known about this game at the time that I’m writing it. The art is minimalistic, showing a symbol, the name, and decorative framing. That’s pretty much all you have to go on. Yet even from this information alone, I suspect the game is going to be set in a dark, gloomy, conflict-driven world. That’s pretty amazing when you realize there’s essentially no art to go off of. That’s the power of symbolism.

Ask yourself: if you saw this in the store, what would you expect the game to be like?

 

Terraforming Mars

 

 

Terraforming Mars is a new sci-fi classic. The name, the font, the picture in the center of the frame…all of these imply the sci-fi theme. If you pay close attention, you’ll notice the art doesn’t depict conflict, but you still get a vague sense of unease. I think it’s because of the prevalance of hard lines throughout the art, which give you a sense that you’re getting into a complex game. It’s subtle, but you can feel it long before you can recognize it.

 


 

Is there a board game out there with great box art that tells you what you’re getting into? Let me know in the comments below!

How to Take Pre-Orders when Your Board Game Kickstarter Ends

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Kickstarter campaigns are rapidly becoming the primary means of sales for many board game creators. Even alone, Kickstarter campaigns can be very lucrative, but there is potential to do more afterward. Even if you can’t get your game into physical stores, you can always set up shop online, whether through Amazon or through your own site.

 

 

Today’s focus will be on creating a shopping site that will collect money for pre-orders after your Kickstarter campaign ends. I am specifically referring to taking orders and payment early in exchange for games that you will send shortly after your Kickstarter games are fulfilled. There are five parts to this process:

  1. Setting up an online shop with your products.
  2. Testing the shop.
  3. Integrating the shop with your website.
  4. Directing people from your Kickstarter to your shop.
  5. Adding clear calls to action to push people to your shop.

 

Setup

For simplicity sake, I’ll teach you how to set up an online shop with the software I use for War Co.: Celery. I use it because the fees are low, the back-end is easy to use, and the interface is pretty slick. That checks all the boxes for me, but I encourage you to do your own research on other e-commerce solutions.

The first thing you will need to do is sign up for an account. Shortly after that, it will ask for your Stripe information so you can accept payments. If you’ve raised funds through Kickstarter, you already have a Stripe account so you will need to retrieve that information to set up Celery.

 

Shortly after logging in and entering your information, you will get to the main part of Celery. This is where you will set up everything else. The first part of your set up: adding products. Click Products. For each product, you want to add, click Create Product.

 

 

On the Products page, you will enter in all of the following information.

  • Basic Info
    • Name
    • Description
    • Image
  • Pricing & Options
    • Limit units total sold (good for inventory)
    • My product has “Only one size, color or material” or “Multiple sizes, colors or materials”
    • Price
    • SKU
    • Charge Taxes – leave this checked!
  • Install on Your Website
    • Publish – check this when you’re ready

Once you’re done, Save & Preview your item. When you’re happy with it, click Save.

 

 

After you’ve set up your products, click on Settings. Then click on Checkout.

 

 

Fill out the following information.

  • Visual & Appearance
    • Background Color
    • Text Color
    • Button Text
    • Click Save when done
  • Required Fields
    • Shipping address
    • Phone number
  • Optional Fields
    • Allow message from buyer (optional)
    • Message to your buyers
    • Click Save when done
  • Order Processing
    • Lock orders when paid / when fulfilled
  • Confirmation Page
    • Custom Scripts
    • Custom URL
    • Sharing
    • Save each section when done

 

 

Click on Payments. Double check everything here. Is your Stripe account set up? Are you collecting the right currency and are you auto-charging orders or manually charging them?

 

 

Click on Shipping. Click Create Shipping Rule. For each product, set up Country, Shipping Method, First Item, and Each Additional Item as appropriate. For each Country that does not have an explicit shipping rule, it will be charged the “Rest of the World” rate (which you will also need to set).

 

 

Click on Taxes. At this point, you’ll need to refer to your local tax code to do the shipping right. However, the easiest way to get started is to make sure – if you are based in the USA – that you enter the ZIP code where you have a physical presence. That will allow Celery to automatically account for certain taxes.

 

 

Click on Notifications. Enter the following:

  • Seller Information
    • Business Name
    • Business Email
    • Click Save
  • Buyer Email Notifications – when buyers will receive emails
    • Order Placed
    • Order Cancelled
    • Order Updated
    • Payment Charge Succeded
    • Payment Charged Failed
    • Payment Refund Succeeded
    • Fulfillment Order Fulfilled
  • Seller Email Notifications – when you will receive emails
    • Order Created
    • Order Cancelled
    • Order Updated

 

Integrating

Integration can get complicated, but I’ll share the simplest version here. Go to each individual product and scroll down to the Install On Your Website section. For the I want to install as… dropdown box, click “a link I can share.” Then copy and paste the link onto your site. Make sure your product is published first!

Now a word of caution: it’s best to do this on a test version of your website before going live.

 

Testing

Speaking of testing, you need to act as your own customer. Make sure items show up correctly – they should have the right prices and the right tax rates. Have a friend or a fan make an actual purchase on your system and make sure both they and you get the notifications you should when you should.

Don’t shortcut this!

 

Redirecting from Kickstarter

Once you’ve set up your shop and tested it, make sure to set up a call to action on your Kickstarter page. This is easy to do – just go to your campaign page and edit the button on the right side of your campaign picture, as I’ve shown below.

 

 

Calls to Action

Don’t forget to set up calls to action on your own website and social media, too. Clearly labeled buttons and well-made product photos go a long way!

 


 

Setting up a shop where you can take pre-orders is a straightforward task. Once you do it, you can very smoothly transition from Kickstarter campaign to taking pre-orders, which will allow you to take advantage of the continued spotlight and make a little more money.

Do you have any questions about setting up shop? Ask away in the comments 🙂