Making your first board game is really difficult. For me, it was both the most exciting and the most confusing experience I ever had. That’s why I’ll walk you through every step of the process.
You are making a creative work. Bringing your ideas to life for the first time comes with unexpected delights and disappointments. Never is this truer than in board games.
For your reading pleasure, Start to Finish comes in five parts. Click any of the icons below to get started, or simply scroll down 🙂
Board Game Development 101
I stumbled into this industry with vague dreams and a desire to make some cash. I’d like to save you the trouble I had when I started making board games.
Board game development is everything that makes a game – game design, product development, marketing, promotion, crowdfunding, fulfillment, and sales.
In game development, sometimes you can say exactly what you mean – such as in the rule book. But mostly, your game needs to be “felt” more than “learned.”
Self-publishing board games can kill the magic of game development for you, depending on what drew you to it in the first place. So should you self-publish?
Let’s say I’m a new board game dev. Hardly know a thing about making games. I ask you how long it’ll take to publish my first game. What would you tell me?
Play testing is time-consuming and it’s really easy to run out of people to test with. You need to make every single play test productive and worthwhile.
Lots of people make board games. Most people quit. You don’t have to be one of them. Time management skills make a HUGE difference!
The weird feeling of selling stems from selling bad stuff or selling to the wrong people. You have to come to peace with it to ride the Hype Machine.
How to Design & Develop Your Board Game
Rules provide directions on how to execute activities within a board game. They explain, limit, and clarify so our game mechanics work.
Writing good board game rules boils down to learning the art of instruction and communication. Write the rules you’d want to read!
Telling stories is one of the most essentially human instincts. Whether or not we mean to, we tell stories through games.
Storytelling is a human instinct. Whether or not we mean to, we tell stories through games. Embrace storytelling no matter how thematic your game is.
Board games are more than just what’s in the box. They’re the marketing, the advertising, and the footwork of the game developers who made them.
Tokens you can’t tell apart by touch, tiny text, random placement of game symbols, poor contrast, paper money…all of these can make games less accessible.
This is one of the hardest categories for a modern designer game to do well within – how do you make a game cognitively accessible experience.
When under-represented groups look at a shelf of board games and see only white men staring back at them, it makes them think “is this for me?”
It’s easy to forget your own rules for a living, breathing project! Once a game is released, though, the rule book is both for teaching and for reference.
Choose the right materials, understand the basics of board game manufacturing, and legal and distribution requirements… Let’s make game specs!
Asking for art can be one of the most daunting parts of the game development process. So let’s talk to a real board game artist to see how to do it right!
I will usually start my search on Deviant art in the Job forums. 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.
Artists are very important to creating a board game. Making sure they are happy and understand the needs of your project is critical to your game’s success.
You will have to print 1,000 copies or more if you go with offset printing. That means finding a great board game printer is absolutely necessary!
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.
Board Game Marketing & Promotion
Choosing a marketing strategy is a tricky beast. Marketing is all about finding, keeping, and pleasing customers. Simple to explain, but hard to master…
One of the greatest forms of marketing, my personal favorite, is content marketing. You market yourself by sharing information with potential customers.
We’re in an unprecedented era of creativity made possible by the internet and low barriers to entry. There’s a lot of noise, and you want to get noticed.
You need to make people interested in what you have to say and what you have to offer. How do you do that? Simple: generate traffic. Let’s talk about how.
You have to slowly build your reputation. Twitter lets new board game devs draw attention to themselves with fewer barriers than ever before.
You can find the most people in North America on Facebook, making it the world’s de facto online water cooler. It’s huge for board game devs.
I’m a big fan of mailing lists in board gaming. Sending email newsletters to well-targeted mailing lists is one of the best ways to engage customers.
Board game conventions have a certain mystique to them. The potential of reaching out to so many customers is enticing, and besides – they’re a lot of fun!
Board game conventions are the flashiest events in board gaming. They are wonderful gathering places for board gamers. But are they a place to sell games?
Whether you use Tabletop Simulator or video cameras capturing gameplay on the physical tabletop, a live-stream can be a great way to share your game online.
Having your board game reviewed for the first time can be nervewracking. A board game review doesn’t have to feel arbitrary and mysterious, though.
Reddit: the word that strikes fear into internet marketers everywhere. That’s part of the magic of Reddit, though – it’s not to be bought and sold.
Press releases sound really fancy and formal. It’s not. They’re just well-crafted emails that you send to bloggers and journalists.
How to Recover from Failure in Business
When you take on big, risky creative endeavors, you take on a lot of risks. You will find yourself out of your comfort zone. Sometimes, things fall apart.
Let’s talk about six really common ways board game Kickstarter campaigns fall apart. You don’t want to commit one of these six deadly sins.
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.
When we take on projects that are bigger than we are, failure becomes part of life. Success comes from what you learn from a string of failures.
If you’re making a board game for Kickstarter, you’ll find lots of advice. That’s great, but they don’t answer the question of “why spread the word early?”
In 2012, as many as 84% Kickstarter projects were fulfilled late. So what’s happening and how can we prevent you from suffering the same fate?
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.
There’s no shortage of complex tasks that come with a Kickstarter. One task, in particular, seems to get more attention: creating the perfect campaign page.
After an enormous amount of work creating, testing, and promoting your board game, it’s time to order a print run. How exciting!
Fulfillment is one of the trickiest parts of any board game Kickstarter. That’s for good reason: the devil really is in the details.
Fulfillment is the trickiest part of any board game Kickstarter. Your inventory goes through freight, customs, and warehouses…all before your customers.
Kickstarter success is a holistic process, not a particular moment when things click. Well, usually. The one exception to that rule: Kickstarter launch day.
Stretch goals! Everybody who goes to Kickstarter with hopes of publishing their board game desires to not only fund, but to achieve many stretch goals.
You’ve spent months, if not years, leading up to your board game Kickstarter. But with great money, comes great responsibility…
Even if you can’t get your game into stores, you can always set up shop online, whether through Amazon or through your own site. Perfect for pre-orders!
Not only are board game boxes beautiful, they are also iconic. People love looking at a pretty board game box – just check out Instagram sometime.
So you’ve designed a board game. Perhaps you’ve even begun to make arrangements for publishing. But how do you price your board game? Read on for insights.
Unless your Kickstarter is a blockbuster, you won’t raise enough to print the game, quit your job, and fly to Hawaii. It’s just stop one on the hype train.
“I love advertising!” That’s not a sentence you hear spoken out loud often. There is a good way to advertise board games online, and we’ll talk about that.
You’ve finished your game. Now there’s one massive question: “what next?” How do you sell your board game outside of Kickstarter?
You want to make a brilliant board game. But what do board game retailers care about the most?
If you want to get your board game into retail, it helps to set small, achievable goals. What could be a more achievable goal than getting in one store?
If you want to get your board game into retail distribution, you’ve probably heard the advice “go to cons.” But what exactly do you do at board game cons?