Marcin Senior Ropka
„I’m in the middle of the game and suddenly my thoughts fly off to an entirely different orbit”. Do you know this feeling? I’ll bet any game that at least once during the game session you felt the need to sit down with pan and paper to deliberate upon more new interesting solutions.
Yes, the familiar feeling, irritating the synapses around frontal lobe. The tickling, clearly pointing at the need to upgrade, change, add or substract. For some, it’s a wonderful feeling. For others a bit irritating. Whenever I talk with people about boardgames, about what do they find attractive in them, at some point the conversation will reach the subject of game creation.
Our geek Wikipedia – Boardgamegeek, lists more than 94000 games and expansions. Our drawers contain probably ten times more ideas, prototypes and parts that, in designers’ minds, will at some point spontaneously transform into a published game and land on the tabletop.
Every boardgamer at least once attempted to create their own personalized version of their favourite game. How many versions of Eurobusiness or Monopoly have been created, how many supplements for legendary Talisman?
How many times we’ve been adding additional army tokens to one of the many of the Dragon’s wargames? And now? How many times we’ve been thinking over the board “I’d do this better/differently”? Naturally, the time passes and board games change and evolve. Once, they’ve been an eccentric pastime of a few friends from the neighbourhood. Now it’s a huge business involving quite large, for such a niche market, sums of money.
Additionally, possibilities opened by the internet, logistics and printing are infinitely broader than 10 years ago. You’d think everyone is now able to think up a game, illustrate it (or hire an artist), create the rules and publish it on their own accord. There’s kickstarter.com, Indiegogo.com and many local crowdfunding platforms and sites where you can show your project to the world and hope it gathers funding. I won’t tell you if it’s better to publish the game on your own or to chat up a publisher. The answer to this question will come later in time. I will, however, return to the one magical word that’s been used a moment earlier.
The magic word is the design. Everyone who had on any occasion participated in creating a game knows, how tedious the process is and how much time and work is required for satisfactory results. The design is everything you need to start with and everything you need to finish. It binds together every expectation about what the game will be, how will it compare to the others, how much profit will it generate for both the author and the publisher? When it comes to designing, testing is an essential part. Not testing among friends, family and colleagues.
Not with girlfriend (or boyfriend), patient wife (or husband) or soulmate. You need to test with people who have arrived to the convention and are now standing in queue to the games room. Test with people you leave with the box and words ‘play it, I’m back in 30 minutes’. And you know what? That’s the exact moment where we reach the second magic word: impression.
Impression is just as important as the design is. Maybe even more, because you only have one chance to make it. On the ones whose opinion you care about the most: your publisher, testers, girlfriend, boyfriend, wife, husband, family or even random people. Remember that you will not enchant them with the mechanics and description… not at the beginning at least. You will, however, make an impression with a neat prototype. Understandable rules. Clear board design. Tokens that are not crooked pseudo-squares cut out by hand from notebook. Cards that can be shuffled without problem. Wooden discs that are not remains of a wooden broomstick…
Everyone has their own designing style. Some prefer pen and pencil, others commission graphics before finalizing the rules. Every style is different, and thanks to that, good, because it’s fitted to this particular designer. I, myself, think however, that the good prototype is one that’s clear and readable. One that doesn’t cause problems during the testing. One that stimulates the feeling of playing the boardgame. That makes an impression of tidiness and order.
Because if the designer prepared it this way, it means he had an idea for the game since the beginning. That he gathered his best ideas and then invested time into making the prototype that will make playing this one game with a publisher easier. I’ve spent too much time looking through badly written rulebooks and wondering “what did author have in mind when he put those colourful beads in there”. And if I have a questionable pleasure of spending my time with those pseudo-prototypes, what of the other publishers?
Board Game Creative Kit, has been designed to make creation and testing of prototypes much easier. It contains more than 750 elements that can be used in almost any way in any type of game. Among its content there are two boards (one folded into 4 parts, other, smaller, into 2), 4 player screens + 4 player boards, 6 punchboards with tokens useful for modular boards. Additionally, inside you’ll find 36 dice (including 12 blank white ones), 24 plastic pawns, 12 bases (that will work great for basing miniatures), more than 260 wooden elements, a fabric bag for randomizing, set of 4 card decks (2x solitaire size, 2x poker size) and a code allowing you to download 5 pdf files with additional digital materials helpful in prototype creation and other useful things. All this packed into a large, elegant box with removable sleeve on which you’ll be able to proudly sign your name and title of freshly created game.
Some of you might think – "why would I need such a box if I can take out parts of any other game and make them suit my prototype?" You can, of course destroy and disassemble your games (I am, to this day, missing my Carcassonne meeples I needed for another version of game X…) but I’m a supporter of using right tools for the right job. And Board Game Creative Kit has been designed as a tool. A tool that will be useful in creating a prototype that makes an impression. And do you know what else? It’s a box of endless inspiration. Just put a few tiles together and the mechanics are already emerging. Throw small and large wooden cubes into a bag and check if an idea for a game with random resources will work. You can write three rules or so on 12 cards, shuffle them and be surprised that you’ve just created a neat idea for a draft mechanic. And did I mention 204 stickers added to the blank dice you can write on?
You can design your own six sided die!
Creativity is The Key