Start to Finish: Publish and Sell Your First Board Game

Making games is hard. It’s really hard. Making my first game was simultaneously the most confusing and exciting experience I’ve ever had. That’s why I’ll walk you through every step of the process.

 

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Game Development 101
Childhood Version of War Co

A Crash Course in Games

Let’s start from the ground up and talk about all the super simple basic elements that need to be understood to make great games.

Paper Test of Highways and Byways

A Crash Course in Game Development

A catch-all term for everything that is associated with making a game – that includes game design, product development, marketing, promotion, Kickstarter/crowdfunding, fulfillment, and selling..

Five Levels of Communication through Game Development

Five Levels of Communication through Game Development

When it comes to games, there are a handful of truths that are very important to realize. Ideas don’t mean much. Execution is everything. Communication is key.

Self-Publishing

Choose Your Own Adventure: Self-Publish or Not?

Without a doubt, the most compelling reason to self-publish your board games is the fact that you have complete creative control.

What to Expect When You’re Making a Board Game: Time, Money, and Effort

Game development is a lot harder than you’d expect. It takes a lot of time, a lot of money, and a lot of hard work – both mental and emotional.

Paper Test of Highways and Byways

The Art of the Play Test: Designing Tests and Keeping Records

Because the path to seeing a creative project to completion is so vague and subject to change, you can’t focus on your plan. You have to focus on your methods.

Wall Clock

How to Master Time (So You Can Make Games)

Staying organized and managing your time well are critical to self-publishing a game. There are a lot of things to do, a lot of things to track, and a lot of time that needs to be spent.

The Board Game Industry: Powers That Be & The Hype Machine

This is not a post about what you need to do, think, or spend to make a game, nor is it a post about board games themselves. This is a post about the players in a much bigger game: the board game industry itself.

Bankrolling Your Game’s Development

Creating board games can be an expensive affair. A lot of people do not want to admit this to themselves.

5 Games to Make You a Better Board Game Dev for $64.63

To help you get started in your board game development journey, I’ve made a list of five classic board games which you can pick up, all combined, for just $64.63.

How to Choose Your Board Game’s Theme

Games, at their core, might just be a series of mechanics and rules, but themes keep us from feeling like we’re playing out the logical conclusion of mathematical functions.

Game of Darts

A Crash Course in Marketing and Promotion

Marketing covers a wide array of activities that convince people to care about and eventually buy your game. Marketing is best understood as an ongoing process that breathes itself into everything you do as a self-publishing board game developer.

A Crash Course on Kickstarter for Board Games

“You mean you can put your business idea on there and people will just pay for it? OMG!” Well, yeah. That is how it works when you look at it from a distance. Yet up close, this initial impression almost entirely wrong.

A Crash Course on Board Game Fulfillment

Success is not the endgame of Kickstarter projects. Many people think that when a project is funded, that’s it – it’s a victory. This couldn’t be farther than the truth. As many as 84% of Kickstarter projects fulfill rewards late.

A Crash Course on Selling Board Games

Selling is one of the most nerve-wracking and technical parts of getting a small business off the ground. You must absolutely master it to achieve the financial success you desire when self-publishing a game.

How to Work Alone in the Board Game Industry

There are a lot of advantages that come with working alone. You get complete creative control. On contentious decisions, you always get to make the final call.

How to Work in a Team in the Board Game Industry

In order to give you a sense of what it’s like to work on a team, I’ve reached out to the three members of Undine Studios – Ben Haskett, Sarah Reed, and Will Reed. They made Oaxaca: Crafts of a Culture.

Performing a Board Game Autopsy: Learning from Your Mistakes

In a business context, autopsies don’t help us diagnose death, but rather failure. It is a way of helping us learn from our mistakes and adjust our behavior accordingly. A business autopsy is when you use evidence to determine why and how a project failed.

Designing & Developing Your Game

How to Design the Core Engine of Your Board Game

The core engine of a board game is what’s left when you strip a game of mechanics and obstacles. The core engine is a mix of the objective of your game and the feelings you want it to evoke.

How to Play-Test the Core Engine of Your Board Game

First things first, in order to test the core engine of your game, you need something playable. It doesn’t have to be fun, challenging, or meaningful. Your game, during this very early stage of development, just needs to be an activity which can be completed by following instructions.

How to Design the Mechanics of Your Board Game

Game mechanics are how we bring the core engine of a game to life. Jesse and I will explain further.

How to Play-Test the Mechanics of Your Board Game

How do you know when a mechanic has been tested well? How do you know when to keep a mechanic as-is, refine it more, or drop it entirely?

How To Design the Rules of Your Board Game

Rules provide directions on how to execute activities within a game. They explain, limit, and clarify. Game rules are how we regulate the mechanics of our games so that they are consistent with the messages we want to send to players. I’ve brought in Sean Fallon, the mastermind behind Rift Shifters and Paths so that you can get two viewpoints instead of just one.

How To Play-Test the Rules of Your Board Game

Guidelines for writing good rules really boils down to learning the art of instruction and communication. I’d say the main tool set for understanding and wielding that art form is empathy.

How to Tell Great Stories Through Board Games

Telling stories is one of the most essentially human instincts. Whether or not we mean to, we tell stories through games. It’s best to embrace storytelling no matter how thematic your game is and perfect its tone. Through art, physical components, and clever use of language, board games can transcend their parts and become rich experiences.

How to Test Your Storytelling Powers & Make People Connect with Your Board Games

Telling stories is one of the most essentially human instincts. Whether or not we mean to, we tell stories through games. It’s best to embrace storytelling no matter how thematic your game is and perfect its tone. Through art, physical components, and clever use of language, board games can transcend their parts and become rich experiences.

Bringing it Together – The Board Game as a Project

Games are more than just what’s in the box. Games are also the marketing used to promote them – the advertising and the footwork of the game developers who made them. Games are also the Kickstarter campaign and the stores they’re kept in. Games are the community that talks about them on forums and plays them at conventions. Games become everything that people claim that they are.

How to Develop Visually and Physically Accessible Board Games

The most common one is colorblindness. Other common inaccessibilities are tokens you can’t tell apart by touch, tiny text, random placement of game symbols, poor contrast, non-standard dice with special faces, paper money, and so on.

How to Develop Mentally and Emotionally Accessible Board Games

This is one of the hardest categories for a modern designer game to do well within – the more strategically and tactically interesting a game is, the harder it is for it to be delivered as a cognitively accessible experience.

How to Develop Inclusive Board Games

People need to see people like them reflected in a cultural product before they see it as being for people like them. When under-represented groups look at a shelf of board games and see only white men staring back at them, that creates an accessibility barrier.

How to Make the Perfect Board Game Rule Book

With a rule book, the format is often more formal and factual but I believe it can have fluidity in terms of its structure. Specific rules/information may be conveyed in bullet point and/or through specific technical paragraphs. However, there may be some storytelling to convey the reason or meaning behind a particular series rules and mechanics.

How to Create Board Game Specs and Files for Your Printer

You need to choose the right materials, understand the basics of board game manufacturing, and legal and distribution requirements. Once you understand all that and agree on specs with your desired printer, you will then need to make files according to their standards. It’s a lot to take in.

 

How to Create Specs for Your Board Game Artist

Commissioning art can be one of the most daunting parts of the game development process. I’ve written about How to Find an Artist for Your Board Game, but this time, I thought you’d like hearing from an actual artist! That’s why I’ve brought in James Masino.

How to Find Artists for Your Board Game

I will usually start my search on Deviant art in the Job forums. I feel like there are many great undiscovered artists there, and those artists definitely deserve a chance to prove themselves. I will also use another website called Artstation.

How to Manage Artists on a Board Game Project

Artists are some of the most important people you will work with when you’re creating a game. Making sure they are happy and understand the needs of your project is critical to your game’s success. To help understand this subject, I’ve brought in both Sean Fallon of Smunchy Games and James Masino, who did the art for War Co. and Highways & Byways.

How to Find a Board Game Printer

Since you will most likely be using offset printing to make your board game, you will have to print 1,000 copies or more. Because of the high costs of board game printing and the importance of product quality in establishing your reputation, it is absolutely necessary to find a good company.

How to Order and Test Samples of Your Board Game

Whether you are printing review copies, looking to test your game with better parts, or simply see your ideas come to life in a beautiful way, ordering print-on-demand samples can be really handy.

 

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 Marketing & Promoting Your Game

How to Choose & Use a Board Game Marketing Strategy that Works

Marketing is a tricky beast. At its root, marketing is all about finding, keeping, and pleasing customers. This is simple to explain, maybe even obvious. Yet beneath the surface, you have a business function and area of study that is rife with different methods and schools of thought, many of which contradict each other.

How to Use Content Marketing to Sell Board Games

One of the greatest forms of marketing, my personal favorite, in fact, is content marketing. The term “content marketing” gets thrown around carelessly on the Internet way too much and with little meaning attached, but the basic idea is simple. Content marketing means you market your brand or your product by sharing information with potential customers.

How to Rise Above the Noise of the Internet & Get Noticed

If you are a board game developer like me, you are simultaneously privileged and burdened to live in this current time. We’re in an unprecedented era of creativity made possible by the internet and low barriers to entry.

How to Generate Traffic for Your Board Game Website

You need to make people interested in what you have to say and what you have to offer. The best proxy I know for measuring people’s interest online is what we’ll be talking about today: web traffic.

How to Get Big on Twitter as a Board Game Dev & Revisited in 2018

Marketing is a slow dance. You have to very slowly build your reputation. Twitter is great because it lets new developers draw attention to themselves with fewer barriers than ever before. But it’s still a long, slow climb from Attention to Action. You have to have a great game, a great website, a good business case, and so on. You can’t tweet yourself to the Top 100 on Board Game Geek. Trust me, I tried.

How to Build up a Facebook Page as a Board Game Dev

Facebook is the biggest social media site in the world. In fact, at the moment I’m writing this article, it’s the third most popular website in the world, bested only by Google and YouTube. You can find the majority of people in North America on Facebook, making it the world’s de facto online water cooler. Basically, it’s the world’s biggest hangout spot.

How to Build a Mailing List and Send Newsletters as a Board Game Dev

I’m a big fan of mailing lists. Sending email newsletters to well-targeted mailing lists is one of the best ways you can spread the word of your business and keep customers engaged. I spoke about the value of mailing lists earlier in How to Generate Traffic for Your Board Game Kickstarter or Website, but today I want to dive into the details you need to know to get started.

How to Get Big on Instagram as a Board Game Dev

Instagram is very particular about how you can use it. You can only post photos and you must use a mobile device. On top of that, it’s populated largely by young people who are resistant to advertising. For those reasons, many marketers don’t know how to approach Instagram. As it turns out, it’s not as hard as it looks.

How to Get Started with Board Game Conventions as a Board Game Creator, Part 1

Board game conventions have a certain mystique to them. Many board gamers absolutely adore going to big conventions such as Gen Con, Essen, or UKGE. As such, board game developers often find their own interest in conventions piqued. The potential of reaching out to so many customers is enticing, and besides – they’re a lot of fun, right?

How to Get Started with Board Game Conventions as a Board Game Creator, Part 2

Board game conventions are the flashiest events in board gaming. Some are gigantic like Gen Con, Essen, and UKGE. Others are close-knit and local, but still lots of fun. They are wonderful gathering places for board gamers. It should come as no surprise that many game creators go to conventions to pick up customers.

How to Live-Stream Board Games

Live-streaming board games can be done with digital tools such as Tabletop Simulator or video cameras capturing gameplay on the physical tabletop. No matter how you choose to do it, live-streaming can be a great way to build an audience and share your game with the world.

An Inside Look at the Board Game Review Process

Having your board game reviewed for the first time can be nervewracking. It’s difficult to send your brainchild to a critic who can influence the way your game is seen when it comes time to Kickstart or publish it. Much of the anxiety that new game developers experience when sending their games off to reviewers comes from the opaqueness of the process.

How to Use Reddit as a Board Game Dev

Reddit: the word that strikes fear into internet marketers everywhere. It’s an extremely lively website that hosts innumerable diverse communities and has a unique culture that makes it seem impenetrable to the self-promoter. That’s part of the magic of Reddit, though – it’s not to be bought and sold. It’s a place for discussion.

Why & How to Make Press Releases for Your Board Game

Press releases sound really fancy and formal. The phrase “press release” comes with a sort of gravitas that conjures up images of very official sounding businesspeople doing very official sounding business tasks. Extra, extra – read all about it! In reality, press releases are well-crafted emails that you send to bloggers and journalists – in our case, those in the board game industry.

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Recovering from Failure

How to Diagnose Failure & Move Forward as a Board Game Developer

When you take on big, risky creative endeavors – whether as a hobbyist or an entrepreneur – you take on a lot of risks. You will find yourself out of your comfort zone, over your head, and unable to satisfy every demand. This can be tremendous for your personal growth because it pushes you well past limits that you thought were unbreakable. It also exposes you to the risk – nay, inevitability – of eventual failure.

Passion isn’t a Pitch and 5 Other Ways to Misunderstand Board Game Kickstarter as a Marketplace

Today, I’m going to be covering six really common ways board game Kickstarter campaigns fall apart. This is based primarily on my observation of Kickstarter as a market in 2018, not necessarily how it was in the past. The market is shifting and maturing, moving inexorably toward large companies with established intellectual properties. That’s not a bad thing – it brings more people into the hobby board game world we enjoy! It definitely changes how you have to approach the business, though.

How to Recover From Failure as a Board Game Dev

Failure can negatively impact your reputation, but there are ways you can manage failure to minimize its impact, or perhaps even make you more popular.

6 Ways to Avoid Despair and Move Forward After Failure

Failure is brutal. Nobody wants to fail. Nobody sets out to fail. Yet when we take on projects that are bigger than we are able to complete with our skillsets and resources, failure becomes part of life. Success often comes from what you learn from a string of failures. That’s why today, I’m going to talk about six ways you can avoid despair and move forward after failure.

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Kickstarting & Fulfilling Your Game

Your Board Game Kickstarter: Why & How to Spread the Word Early

“Why spread the word early?” When you start with the question “why start early”, it adds a new layer of context.

Kickstarter Math: How to Deliver Your Board Game On-Time and Within Your Budget

In 2012, as many as 84% Kickstarter projects were fulfilled late. While I suspect that figure has dropped since then, it’s still a running joke that Kickstarter projects always fulfill late. Behind the scenes, a lot of projects also tend to run well over-budget, too. So what’s happening and how can we prevent you from suffering the same fate?

5 Things I Wish I Knew About Law & Tax Before Kickstarting My Board Game

Few things are more confusing than taxes and laws. Instead of leaving you to Google and experiment on your own, I’ll share a few experiences I’ve had.

Start to Finish is a work in progress. Here is a rough list of what’s still to come!
Kickstarting & Fulfilling Your Game
  1. Perfecting Your Kickstarter Campaign Page
  2. Kickstarter Fulfillment: Ordering a Print Run
  3. Kickstarter Fulfillment: Sending Products to Americans if You’re an American
  4. Kickstarter Fulfillment: Sending Products to Other Countries if You’re an American
  5. Kickstarter Fulfillment: Going through a Third Party
  6. How to Have the Perfect Kickstarter Launch Day
  7. How to Keep Kickstarter Momentum through Updates and Stretch Goals
  8. How to Keep up with Your Kickstarter Timeline after the Campaign
  9. How to Take Pre-Orders when the Campaign Closes
Selling Your Game
  1. People Judge Books by Covers: Making Your Board Game Box Gorgeous so People Buy It
  2. How to Set a Price for Your Board Game
  3. How to Sell Your Game at Conventions
  4. How to Keep Momentum after Your Launch
  5. The Magic of Advertising
  6. Other Ways to Sell Your Game

 

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