How to List Your First Game on Board Game Geek

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Board Game Geek is the online mecca for board gamers. There is no site like it. It’s extraordinarily popular and an immense repository of all the board game data you can imagine. It’s an agreed-upon gathering place for gamers to an extent that most other hobbies cannot relate to. I cannot overstate the importance of Board Game Geek to the board game community.

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Now, you don’t have to post there every day to succeed. In fact, there’s plenty of benefits to be reaped simply by lurking on the website. However, ignoring it is foolish. I think that many game developers make the mistake of ignoring Board Game Geek because of its intimidating design. Please don’t make that mistake.

Board Game Geek
Hey, at least it’s not a generic WordPress theme!

I could go into the nuances of Board Game Geek as a social system. I could also go into detail about how to best use the data available on the site. I’m not going to do that. That could be an entirely different article…which I may very well make one day soon!

In this guide, I’ll be showing game developers how to get board games listed on Board Game Geek. As I write this article, I’m going to assume this is your first board game, that neither your team members nor your publishing company are entered into the database, and that you have a Board Game Geek account. (If you don’t have an account, sign up here.)

Before you get your game listed on Board Game Geek, it’s helpful to understand their data model. You can enter Board Games, People, and Publishers. Board Games reference People and Publishers. People include artists, designers, and other staff involved in making a Board Game. Publishers are the companies that publish Board Games. A good Board Game needs People and Publishers, as well as a lot of other information.

Here’s where it gets weird.

You need to make People and Publishers first…but you can’t have People and Publishers without games. You have to submit the People and Publishers entries first. Then you have to reference the People and Publishers in the Board Game entry. Then you submit the Board Game entry. Lastly, you go back and edit the yet-to-be approved People and Publishers entries to reference the new Board Game entry.

Clear as mud? Great! Let’s continue!

Another important consideration is when you submit your Board Game entry. You need to wait until your game is very close to complete and preferably publicly reviewed. However, if you’re going to be doing a Kickstarter campaign, you need to make sure you make a Board Game entry at least a week or two before the Kickstarter.

Alright, let’s get started…

Step 1: Submit Entries for All Designers and Artists

Navigation: Misc > Add to Database > Person

Create Person on Board Game Geek

For each designer and artist involved in the creation of your game, make a Person entry. The most important fields to fill out are Name and Description. The credits sections can be filled out after you’ve got a Board Game entry pending.

You don’t have to fill out the Note to Admin field, but you may choose to mention that you are making a Board Game entry and linking it in the credits shortly after submitting this entry. You may also choose to type nothing but a smiley face. It’s up to you.

Step 2: Submit an Entry for the Publisher

Navigation: Misc > Add to Database > Publisher

Create Board Game Publisher on Board Game Geek

If your publisher doesn’t already exist in the Board Game Geek database, create a Publisher entry. This would apply to your company, if you have created your own company with intention to self-publish. That’s what I did by publishing War Co. through Pangea Games, which I own.

The most important fields to fill out are Primary Name and Description. The credits sections can be filled out after you’ve got a Board Game entry pending. Again, the Note to Admin field doesn’t have to be filled in.

Step 3: Submit an Entry for the Board Game

Navigation: Misc > Add to Database > Board Game

Create a Board Game Entry on Board Game Geek

Here is the real beast that you have to slay to get your game listed. The fields you need to fill out include are spelled out below. The rest is optional, but you should include it if you can.

The fields you should definitely fill out include:

  • Primary Name: Use the name of your game as you’d like it to appear on the Board Game Geek listing.
  • Description: A couple of paragraphs to describe your game. Use other listings as reference material when writing your description.
  • Year Published
  • Minimum Players
  • Maximum Players
  • Minimum Age
  • Playing Time
  • Category: The specific type of game, chosen from a list. No free text.
  • Mechanic: Mechanics involved in playing the game, chosen from a list. No free text.
  • Designer(s): Reference the pending Person entry or entries of your designer(s).
  • Artist(s): Reference the pending Person entry or entries of your artist(s).
  • Version Nickname: Anything you want it to be.
  • Version Publisher: Reference your pending Publisher entry.
  • Version Artist(s): Reference the pending Person entry or entries of your artist(s).
  • Year Published
  • Product Code (if you have bar codes – if you don’t, please see a reputable bar code reseller such as Buy A Bar Code)
  • Dimensions: The size of your game.
  • Weight
  • Languages: Chosen from a list.
  • Release Date: Pick an anticipated release date if your game is not out yet. You can edit this later if you have to.

Step 4: Edit the Person and Publisher Entries to Reference the Board Game

Navigation: Click here to find your pending Person entries. Click here to find your pending Publisher entries.

Phew. That’s a lot of data. Now all you have to do is go back to each Person and Publisher entry to reference your pending Board Game entry.

For each designer, edit their Person entry by clicking [Add Board Game Designer Credits] and clicking on your pending Board Game entry.

For each artist, edit their Person entry by clicking [Add Board Game Artist Credits] and clicking on your pending Board Game entry.

For your publisher, edit the Publisher entry by clicking [Add Board Game Credits] and clicking on your pending Board Game entry.

There you have it! It’s a lot of information to absorb, but following these steps is a surefire way to have your game listed on Board Game Geek in no time. Keep an eye out for emails from the Board Game Geek admins once you submit your entries. They may require some modest changes.

If you do this and you find that the process works a little differently for you, let me know what you find and I’ll revise this guide. I want to keep it up to date!

Please share your experiences in the comments.

Setting Up Social Media as a Board Game Dev: A Primer Course

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You probably found me through Twitter. I have data that says so. My first game, War Co.,  succeeded because of social media. As I write this, I have over 10,000 followers between the War Co. and blog Twitter accounts and over 25,000 followers on Instagram.

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I didn’t go to any cons. I didn’t go to any stores. I didn’t have a Board Game Geek account until last year. In fact, I knew very little about modern board games until last year. The passion I felt in my heart led me to design War Co., which introduced me to this thriving, wonderful board game community that I would have otherwise never known about.

I put the cart before the horse in my game development journey, but I got it straightened out because of social media.

Social media didn’t just pay for my dreams. It also taught me everything I needed to know. It put me in touch with incredible people, brought articles to my attention, and told me which games were good to buy.

I know how powerful social media is and I know how to use it. In fact, I’m even a published researcher on the subject of viral marketing. That’s why I’m writing this guide. I’m going to tell you how to use social media effectively for your board game project.

Setting up Social Media: Before You Speak Your First Word

If you sign up for Twitter or Instagram or some other social media site to promote your game, you probably want to get a ton of followers. Getting a ton of followers is hard, time-consuming work – there’s no way around this. However, you can make your life much easier if you start out looking professional. Professionalism isn’t about the size of your team or your number of followers. It’s about clarity of purpose, attention to detail, and consistency.

Don’t throw things together and put them online. That’s asking for trouble.

Step 1: Choose your message

You probably have a rough idea of what you want to say. You need to have a good idea of who you are, what you are trying to say, and what you want people to do. It’s amazing how many people fail at this. Open up Twitter and look at random people’s bios. They rarely tell you much about the person.

People know my name is Brandon Rollins. I don’t hide behind the brand name of War Co. People know I’m a game developer, people know I like sci-fi, and people know I want them to buy my game (wink, wink). Clarity is vital.

Step 2: Choose your audience

I couldn’t sell War Co. in a nursing home. No one would care. A kindergarten class won’t listen to your advice on 401(k) investing allocations. A big-city liberal Democrat would have a hard time engaging in political discourse in the Appalachian region of Tennessee.

“You see, kids, that’s why you always have to check the stock’s P/E ratio before you buy it on a short sell!”

Point is: your message needs to resonate with your audience. Choose your audience wisely. If you can’t choose your audience, change your message until it works for them.

Step 3: Choose your platforms and learn them

There’s dozens of social media sites out there, but here’s the big ones: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, Reddit, Pintrest. The list goes on and on. Figure out where your audience hangs out. For board game devs, you’ll find people on all of these, but some communities are better than others. Do your homework. This is always changing.

Don’t just pick a platform and get started, though! Observe how people communicate. Read, watch, and listen. Take note of what the most influential people do. Learn what all the settings and buttons and switches do. Figure out the mindset of your audience on each particular platform and customize your message. You don’t want to come across as tone-deaf – that’s where a lot of big companies fail. People don’t often want to be sold to.

Once you know how a platform works, get set up. Use great photos and make sure your page looks professional.

Is this thing on? – What to Say After Setting Up

Step 4: Build a backlog

The first thing you should do once you are set up on social media is post regularly for a couple of weeks. Don’t worry about anything else. Just use the platform for a couple of weeks to build up a backlog of material that people will see when they find you.

Step 5: Start talking to others

Once you’ve got a couple of weeks behind you, it’s time to start engaging people directly. This comes in a lot of different forms. You can follow people who you think would be interested in you. You can comment on other people’s material. You can make prudent use of hashtags on applicable platforms. The goal here is to become visible.

….Just don’t be a weirdo who goes on other people’s pages and says “check out my page!” That’s dumb. A lot of well-meaning people totally blow it by doing that.

This takes time. This is the elbow grease you need to succeed. Keep at it. Your first 1,000 followers are the hardest to get. Then you start gaining people organically (read: without gritty, hands-on work). I find that once you reach 10,000 people on most platforms, people starting coming to you. Even when you reach 10,000, you will still need to engage people directly. Plus you will have added difficulties on top of that. I’ll get to that in the next section.

Have real conversations with people every single day when you’re starting out.

Iterate. Change your approach. Find the right way to talk to people. You won’t get it right in the first month or even the first year. I’m still learning, changing, and growing every day and I’ve got nearly 40,000 people between all my channels. (I’ll give you a little hint, though. People love images.)

Going Viral – Advanced Social Media Techniques

After a couple of months, you’ll probably feel like you’ve got your feet under you. Now it’s time to move on to more advanced tactics.

Step 6: Schedule, Automate, and Outsource

You’ve probably noticed by now that staying on top of social media is kind of a pain in the ass. You don’t have to be online all the time. You can actually come up with posts in batches and schedule them throughout the week with software like Hootsuite and Iconosquare. Even if you have to pay for some of this software, it’s often worth the money.

Some people even go so far as to automate following, unfollowing, liking, and even commenting. Be careful with stuff like that. Read the Terms of Service of your platforms before you do anything like that. I personally do not automate my accounts with bots. Many people do. It’s your call. Be considerate and ethical.

Alternatively, all the things you might choose to automate, you can simply outsource to employees or freelancers through sites like Fiverr. I don’t do this either, but I’ve thought about it. Point is, if you feel yourself buried under grit, that’s a sign that you need to give the dull stuff to someone else and focus on what you do best.

Step 7: Gather Data

Most platforms have robust tools that gather data on your posts and people’s reactions to them. Facebook has Insights and Twitter has Analytics. Instagram recently started gathering data as well (but it’s frankly annoying to parse on a mobile device, which is how you have to access the network for the most part). Oftentimes, you can export and save this data to look at in Excel, where you can do heavy analysis.

Step 8: Tweak Your Message

With or without spreadsheets, though, you can benefit a ton by looking at what people like. Twitter Analytics let me know which of my “War Machines Company” jokes were getting liked and retweeted and which ones were falling flat. Iconosquare’s data for Instagram let me know what people like to see on Instagram (mostly art with a clear object in focus with a lot of intricate detail).

With the data I gathered, I started changing up my style. My social media channels had been stagnant for a little while, but reacting to data about my social media dramatically improved engagement – likes, retweets, etc.

Post more of what people want to see, but stay true to your overall message. Continue to iterate your approach, just like you would a game when you’re developing it.

This is a high-level walk-through. Every site you use is different and specific advice is very time-sensitive. I haven’t even covered paid advertising!

If you have specific questions or comments about your social media plans, I’d love to respond in the comments.

3 More Rude Awakenings I Had Starting a Board Game Business

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I’ve written before about some of the rude awakenings I experienced when starting a board game business. So many of our sorrows are born of the disparities between our expectations and reality. It’s my hope that by spelling out the specific things that happened to me, I can prevent you from being surprised and disappointed by some of the harsh realities of game development. Through that, I hope you’ll be free to experience the incredible satisfaction of creativity and the sheer fun of getting into the gaming industry.

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And now, without further adieu…

1. Taxes are everywhere.

Other than death, taxes are the one certainty in life…but the extent of taxes I encountered during the creation of War Co., the Kickstarter campaign, manufacturing, and fulfillment were nothing less than stunning. I can’t imagine it being any different outside of the United States. For everyone who buys cards from inside my own state of Tennessee, I owe sales tax. For anything I import into the state of Tennessee, I owe use tax. For any profit I earn, I have to pay business tax. If I pocket any of that profit, I have to pay income tax on that.

Oh, and that’s just domestic taxes. Whenever cards are shipped from the United States to other countries, they’re subject to value-added tax, customs tax, and administrative fees on top of customs taxes. I cover all this on my end so customers don’t have to deal with the hassle.

You get used to it after a while, and it’s not enough to choke the life out of a small business like many hand-wringing individuals may fear. In fact, some level of taxes is a fair trade for the services which facilitate owning a business. The trouble is that they’re hard to calculate and the actual amount you end up paying is a surprise early on until you build robust ways of predicting it.

I’ve learned how to cope with taxes through experience and careful bookkeeping. Staying organized has helped me stay on top of this.

2. Shipping is a complex beast.

I’ve dedicated not one, but two articles to the complexities of shipping. I think I said it best in a prior article when I said:

For a moment, consider all the variables that go into fulfilling a Kickstarter campaign. Your manufacturer has to receive parts from their suppliers. They have to send the product to you or your distributors in bulk. Then they have to separate the rewards and send them to individuals. The whole time, your rewards or their component parts are zipping back and forth in boats, cars, planes, and trains. They cross country lines multiple times, go across oceans, fly thousands of miles, and are handled by multiple different companies. Your rewards are subject to all kinds of laws and taxes that you can’t possibly understand all at once. No one can.

That realization sink in yet? Good. Don’t let it dishearten you, because it’s not actually that hard to deal with. You just need to respect the complexity and variability of what you’re doing. That’s the beginning of understanding.

The two articles linked above show you how I’ve overcome the challenges of fulfillment. It’s worked pretty well for me, and I’m actually a couple hundred dollars under-budget!

3. Most of my time is not spent designing.

I love game development. I also love running a business. Yet shockingly, the amount of time I spent developing War Co. was far less than the amount of time I’ve spent running social media campaigns, preparing for Kickstarter, getting the game manufacture-ready, fulfilling the game, and performing general day-to-day business functions.

For every hour I spent on War Co., maybe fifteen minutes went to developing and play-testing the game. The idea of the creative genius sitting alone in his or her room, creating perfection is a myth. Creating something great comes through a good idea filtered through rework and the opinions of hundreds of other people. That “something great” is then propped up on an infrastructure of business processes like accounting, promotion, fulfillment, and sales.

Time spent on design is crucial, but you can’t ignore the entrepreneur and manager aspects.

This is an industry of immense possibility and potential. It’s a blast, and I encourage you to get involved and make your dreams come true, too. But there’s no sense in being delusional about what it’s going to take. There’s a lot of hard work and relearning along the way.