20 tips on how to make a board game

  1. Know that you probably won’t make any money.
  2. Set a realistic timeframe then add 6 months to it.
  3. Form follows function.
  4. Buy what you need to make a prototype.
  5. Friends and family have skills and contacts.
  6. Get used to writing notes.
  7. Playtest your game constantly.
  8. Get open feedback.
  9. Listen to criticism and develop.
  10. Nail the rule book.
  11. Copy everyone else.
  12. Build a simple static website.
  13. Backlink to your website.
  14. Create all the social media channels.
  15. Like and follow board gamers on social media.
  16. Direct message for help.
  17. Research crowdfunding.
  18. Know the basics of Excel.
  19. Get worst case scenario quotes.
  20. Go to Helpful Links for more in depth information.

Know that you probably won’t make any money – but seriously it’s highly unlikely unless you become the next Cards Against Humanity or Pokémon. If you’re out to create a game and the end goal is to make money you are in the wrong trade.

Set a realistic timeframe then add 6 months to it – creating a game is most likely not your day job and there’s always other priorities that take over, add that to relying on others for their services and you have a growing project timeline. Setting a deadline may encourage you to work harder but it can also put unnecessary pressure on as well, if you are doing this for fun you shouldn’t have a deadline as you don’t need to make it into a full blown project.

Form follows function – get the functionality of your game right before things like theme and graphics. Mechanisms and rules that work will prosper overall, concentrate your time on those and get them right.

Buy what you need to make a prototype – don’t be afraid to invest in what you need, if you see this as a hobby you won’t mind spending the money. Buying the parts allows you to move forward in a more visual way which can help when coming up with additional ideas. There are also virtual creators available to build your game into for playtesting.

Friends and family have skills and contacts – utilise the people around you, they have many skills that are free for you to use. Don’t be shy to ask, once you do you might find a friend that knows a graphic designer, who knows people that are playtesters/reviewers etc.

Get used to writing notes – don’t sit on ideas, write them down. You may notice ideas come into your head at random moments, be sure to have your notepad ready to jot them in.

Playtest your game constantly – this is how iterations are built and how your game evolves. Different people have different opinions and play tactics so be sure to playtest with at least 5 different sets of people. Once the playtested games start giving back minimal feedback for changes you’re about good to go.

Get open feedback – receiving open feedback is the most useful part of playtesting, it would be counterproductive to have testers that didn’t speak freely about areas of the game that needed improving. Make sure to express you want and need the feedback and are happy to have it. Do not respond to any feedback with an answer back as this will most likely shut down any future conversation, instead say you’ll note it down and ask ‘what else?’.

Listen to criticism and develop – it’s great that you are now receiving open and honest feedback, what’s next is to not take any criticism to heart but do take the advice on board to improve. This project will have consumed you by this point so you may take offence if someone doesn’t like what you have done, note down the comments and ask others what they think to consider all the options.

Nail the rule book – you’ll have a good rule book if you’ve re-written it about 17 times. The rules are the most important part of the game, if you have a great game but no one knows how to play then it’s wasted. Spend a lot of time developing this area of your game and take specific attention when others are reading it. Remember the game makes sense to you because you designed it, you’ll need to be as concise as possible without wanting to write 10 pages of rules.

Copy everyone else – if you need help on anything you’ll be able to find it done by someone else, so copy them. Take in the information on other board games, read and compare them, make a list of what your direct competition has done, copy it and make it better.

Build a simple static website – a website is a good link for your social media sites, it makes you look authentic and it’s your own piece of the web. Start with a one page static website so you can get used to the builder and get your brand out quickly then build from there.

Backlink to your website – if you are hoping for someone to see your website when they type your game name you’ll need to use backlinks which show Google you are a legible data source. A backlink is when your website has been input into someone else’s website, for example if you set up a page on Board Game Geek and put your website on it that would be 1 backlink.

Create all social media channels – set up and try all social media channels, one may show more engagement than others. Personally Instagram has been the most receptive for Save the Queen Drinking Game however there has been a huge uptake in TikTok users due to their randomised For You Page meaning pretty much anyone can become viral overnight.

Like and follow board gamers on social media – the board gaming community is extremely helpful and warming (even for a drinking game). Definitely like and follow as many board game pages as possible and follow the hashtags #boardgames #boardgamegeek etc.

Direct message for help – some of the best outcomes will come from a writing a quick message. You are most likely on their page because something has caught your eye so start by complimenting that, then ask your question, you can create some great social media relationships from having a chat.

Research crowdfunding – this is likely the most popular way to get a board game out, you don’t have to have a finished product, you receive money upfront and the backers know the timescales are long and appreciate the project. The best bit about these campaigns are that you set the target goals and if they aren’t hit everyone gets there money back and you don’t undercut yourself.

Know the basics of Excel – you are going to need some basic excel skills, especially when it comes to costs/shipping/fulfillment etc. Adding all the costs up allows you to make a decent judgement on your product price.

Get worst case scenario quotes – be realistic, many Kickstarter campaigns have said that they came away not knowing about this or that cost which eroded their profit. With this in mind, it’s best to have a worst case scenario to work to, if you aren’t making a profit from that scenario it may be wise to rethink some parts to the game.

Go to Helpful Links for more in depth information – there are some great links on this page that go into great detail what to expect when setting up a game, to starting a crowd funding campaign to a free OU course on The Fundamentals of Digital Marketing by Google.

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