The Board Game Designer's Guide - Taking Your Game From Idea to Ideal

I'm writing this blog to help other board game designers avoid the mistakes I've made on my journey as a game designer. I'm sharing what I've learned to help you design better board games faster.

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Point Your View Over Here!

Joe Slack
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Excerpt from the #1 best selling book, The Board Game Designer's Guide:

https://www.amazon.com/Board-Game-Designers-Guide-Process-eb...

Another thing you may notice when you play a variety of games is the use of different perspectives. Instead of just being able to play as the human hero, many games allow you to play on the side of evil, as an animal, or from some other viewpoint you might not expect. For example, what if you were to retell the story of the “Three Little Pigs” as a board game in which the player plays the role of the wolf?

You may also get ideas for re-theming a game. Put characters in a different world like a fish-out-of-water scenario. Bring characters out of stories from the past into the future, or vice versa. Take a common theme and place everything underwater, or in space. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination!

Games are also a great opportunity to allow players to take on roles they normally wouldn’t dream of. Allow players to take on the role of a villain or monster, instead of the typical knight in shining armour. Have players cast in the role of mob bosses, or some other underworld character.

A great example of this is Burgle Bros. This is a cooperative game where all players take on the role of thieves working together to rob a bank. This takes players out of reality and into a fantasy world where they can act out in ways that they would never normally even consider in the real world. This can be really exciting and appealing to a lot of players.

Taking on a different point of view can lead to some really outside the box thinking. A great example of this is Vast: The Crystal Caverns. This asymmetrical game allows players to take on a variety of different possible roles. You can even play as the cave! In the role of the cave you to try to swallow the adventurers before they can escape. This is a fantastic example of thinking in a really different way.

What role would you like to take on in a game? What’s something you’d never dream of doing in real life, but would like to do vicariously through game role play? Can you design a game where players are a building or inanimate object?

Let me know what different perspective you've taken or want to take with your game?

www.crazylikeabox.com
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Thu Feb 1, 2018 6:38 pm
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20/20 Vision (for your game)

Joe Slack
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Excerpt from the #1 best selling book, The Board Game Designer's Guide:

https://www.amazon.com/Board-Game-Designers-Guide-Process-eb...

It’s important to know from a fairly early stage in your board game design what the vision is for your game. Once you have this figured out, you’ll want to write it down, so you can always refer back to it. When you have to start making hard decisions about what to cut or change in your game, you will use this as your compass. In this way, your game will retain its “soul.”

You want to figure out what the key elements are for your game. What’s your game about? Most importantly, what are the feelings and experiences you want players to have when they play your game. I’ll go into this crucial aspect of your game in more depth shortly. For now, think about what parts of your game you will not waver on. While other elements may be added and removed as you’re going through the process, you’ll want to hold firm on the aspects you won’t compromise on.

Always remember that it’s your game. Ultimately, you make the final decisions about what changes and what remains in your game.

So, what's the experience and feeling you want players to have when playing your game?

https://www.crazylikeabox.com
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Fri Jan 26, 2018 3:06 pm
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Your Game - The Next Step

Joe Slack
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Excerpt from the #1 best selling book, The Board Game Designer's Guide:

https://www.amazon.com/Board-Game-Designers-Guide-Process-eb...

When you're designing a game, you have to put in the hard work. You have to be able to focus on what needs to be done next.

One trick I’ve found that keeps me on track is noting down my next step after I’m finished playtesting, or am done working on a game for the moment.

The next step should be tangible and actionable, like “playtest starting with seven cards each rather than five,” or “figure out a way to speed up each player’s turn,” rather than something generic like “work on this game.” That way, the next time I sit down to work on it, I don’t have to waste time thinking about what needs to be done. I just look at the next step and keep moving ahead.

It doesn’t have to be the same aspect of the game every time you embark on it. You can really work on any part, such as brainstorming names, playtesting, trying out a suggested idea, or anything else to move your game forward. You must make sure however, that whatever you’re working on is aimed at improving the game, not just wasting time (like spending hours online looking for the perfect icon – yes, I admit I’ve done this…).

So, what's the next step you're taking with your game?
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Wed Jan 10, 2018 3:16 pm
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Best Seller

Joe Slack
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Wow! I can't believe it.

The Board Game Designer's Guide became a best seller in it's first week!

I've heard so many stories from everyday people who enjoy board games but never thought of creating one until they read my book, and from people who had designed a game but put it on a shelf somewhere because they didn't know what to do with it. They now have the knowledge and information they need to take their game to the next level!

It's available on Kindle on Amazon and the paperback version will be coming soon!

https://www.amazon.com/Board-Game-Designers-Guide-Process-eb...

All the great feedback has got me thinking about some really big goals for this year, including running my first Kickstarter campaign and going beyond my book to help other game designers.

So, what are your board game design goals for 2018?
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Thu Jan 4, 2018 9:25 pm
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You're Like a Scientist!

Joe Slack
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Excerpt from The Board Game Designer's Guide - being released December 2017. Sign up here to be notified when my new book is released: https://tinyurl.com/bgdesignersguide

As a game designer, you’ll always be testing new ideas. Think of yourself as a scientist. You come up with a hypothesis, such as “my game will play better if players are allowed to do four actions on their turn instead of three.”

Then you test this to see if your hypothesis is true. If not, no big deal. Just go back to the previous version or try something new. That’s what game design is all about. Test, test, test. Each test will bring you closer to a finished game that people are going to really enjoy.

Try playtesting your game with new people. Ask for feedback on a specific aspect of your game. If the group is willing, see if you can try it one way, then another, then maybe a third way, and so on, until you’ve figured out the right formula. New people have new ideas, so there’ll always be something additional to ponder.

Talk about your game with other people. It could be with friends, board game enthusiasts, or other designers. This will generate more ideas and possible solutions for any challenges you are facing. Don’t allow yourself to get stuck. Talk it out. Keep your game moving forward.

Remember that your game is getting closer to completion every day. As long as you keep putting in the time and effort, your game will keep improving, and more and more people will be asking when they can buy a copy. That will definitely keep you motivated to make this effort a priority.

Are you stuck somewhere in your design process? What works for you to get out of this and keep moving forward?
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Wed Dec 6, 2017 3:20 pm
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Should You Design Your Game By Yourself or With a Partner (or Partners)?

Joe Slack
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Excerpt from The Board Game Designer's Guide - being released December 2017. Sign up here to be notified when my new book is released: https://tinyurl.com/bgdesignersguide


Is it better to partner with someone or go at it alone?

As with just about everything, there are pros and cons to whatever approach you take. If you make your game all by yourself, this allows you more flexibility, control, and the ability to work on this whenever you have the time.

Having a partner on the other hand, will help keep you accountable and split the workload (which is especially helpful if each of you has different skills that will help make the game even better). But this will also mean splitting the rewards.

So what’s the best approach? That’s really up to you.

Just because you create your first game on your own, doesn’t mean you can’t collaborate with somebody in the future, or vice versa. You can always try out both approaches, and you may have to work on different games with different people before you find a good match.

Whatever you decide, always keep in mind that it takes many people to make a great game. You may be the designer, but you must also rely on playtesters, other designers, and whomever you work with along the way to get your game published, to ensure that your game isn’t just good, but the best it can be. It really does take a community to make an amazing board game.

So, what approach are you taking with your current game (or games)?
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Wed Nov 29, 2017 2:51 pm
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Play Lots of Games!

Joe Slack
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Think of this as research. By playing a wide variety of games, you’ll broaden your knowledge, while having fun at the same time. That’s the kind of research that everyone should be lucky enough to do!

If you only play party games, then try a more complex Euro game. If you mostly play Euro games, try a cooperative game. With so many different types of games available, you really need to get a feel for what’s out there.

By playing many different games, you’ll also learn about different mechanics that designers use, both by themselves, and in conjunction with other mechanics. This will give you a good feel for how games work, and how designers introduce challenges and interesting decisions for players.

You’ll see mechanics you’ve never seen before, and applied in ways you’ve never imagined. You may pick up some mechanics that will work well in your game, or ones you might want to try in future designs. You’ll also see which mechanics help or even slow down and hinder a game. With this knowledge, you’ll become a better game designer.

You’ll also discover what games are popular and get a better understanding of why this is the case. You’ll see what types of games appeal to the hard-core hobbyist, the casual gamer, and the mass market. You’ll see why people are talking about certain games so much in forums and meet ups, and you’ll make your own judgments about whether these games appeal to you.

By playing a wide variety of games, you’ll also figure out what types of games you enjoy the most. This is really important to figure out early on, because the games you will be creating are also the games you’ll be playing a whole lot. Through the process of designing a game, you’ll play your game over and over, in different iterations, and with different people, so you’d better like it!

Here are some suggestions from myself and other designers on games that all designers should try or at least be familiar with:

• Dungeons & Dragons (D&D)
• Magic: The Gathering
• Settlers of Catan (also known as Catan)
• Ticket to Ride
• Dominion
• Cards Against Humanity and/or Apples to Apples
• Agricola and/or Stone Age
• Seven Wonders
• Dixit and/or Codenames
• The Resistance
• Love Letter
• Pandemic (along with Pandemic Legacy)

So get out there and play some games!

What other games or genres do you think all designers should be familiar with?
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Wed Nov 22, 2017 11:14 am
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Of course you should use Kickstarter! Except...

Joe Slack
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There are a number of crowdfunding sites online, but since Kickstarter has really shown itself to be the go-to place for board games, we’ll focus our attention here.

If you’re familiar with Kickstarter, you’ve no doubt seen some of the huge success stories. Tabletop games generally do fairly well on this platform, and there have even some many games that have made millions of dollars here (or have gone on to make millions). However, there are a few things they don’t tell you.

For example, while board games have a relatively high success rate of around 50%, many of the goals are very low and are just barely met. You might have a successful campaign, however you may only bring in $5,000-$10,000 in revenue. Remember as well that this is revenue, not profit – you still have to deliver a game to all your backers.

This amount may not even be enough to cover your first print run. Moreover, while there is minimal risk, at least up until you meet your funding goal, if you don’t budget well or take into account any the possible problems that could arise, you could actually lose money on the project. It’s easy to highlight the big successes, but in reality, 1% of board game campaigns are bringing in nearly half of all the money.

And why do the successful campaigns make so much money? It’s usually because the author is well known, and the project has some really phenomenal marketing behind it. If nobody knows who you are and you haven’t been promoting this game heavily leading up to your launch, you’re unlikely to be very successful.

Oh, and all the stats I’ve mentioned above? They’re based on projects that were completed. Canceled projects are not included in these numbers. So the success rate is also inflated.

Did I mention that if you run a Kickstarter campaign and are successful, you’ll now be running your own business? You’ll have to take on all the responsibilities, and will have to figure out shipping, manufacturing, fulfillment, marketing, and all the other things that go along with running a business.

You must be good at budgeting and considering all possible contingencies, because if you miss one thing, your once-profitable project will now be losing money. You’re taking on all the risk, but also getting all the rewards.

Everyone I’ve talked to who has run a Kickstarter campaign has said it was a lot more work than he or she ever expected. Oh, and you probably also have a day job, right? These are just a few of the things you want to keep in mind.

This isn't to say you shouldn't use Kickstarter. You'll just want to keep all this in mind if you do!

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.

Are you thinking about using Kickstarter for your game? If so, why?
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Mon Nov 13, 2017 2:29 pm
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Are You Looking to Get Your Game Published by an Established Game Publisher?

Joe Slack
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When your game is playing really well and you are looking at ways to share this with the world, you'll want to look at your options.

Maybe you're thinking of self-publishing.

Then again, maybe you're thinking of pitching your game to a publisher...

This is definitely a good option if you want to focus on game design and are not interested in all the business aspects that go along with game publishing. While there is a lot of competition, if you can design a game that fits well with the publisher’s catalog, you could see your game on the shelf of major stores across the world.

While this may not make you rich, 5% of something is much better than a hundred percent of nothing. Now, the royalties you earn on a game may vary, so this is just an example. Remember that going this route also lets you focus on game design and moving on to your next game rather than splitting your time between game design and business.
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Thu Nov 9, 2017 2:58 pm
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So, You Want To Be a Board Game Designer...

Joe Slack
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Are you a person with a board game idea? Or do you want to become a board game designer? The two are very different. It’s easy to come up with a board game idea, or any idea for a product or service for that matter, but it takes a lot more to put that idea into action.

While it may seem easy to create a board game, if you want it to be something that people will really enjoy and keep coming back to, you do have to put in some hard work to get there. Sure, it’s fun work, but it’s still work.

So I have to ask you, why do you want to design a board game? What do you want to get out of this experience?

Are you creating a new game for the fun of it?

Are you designing it for the challenge?

Are you getting into board game design to make money?

Are you looking at this as a possible new career?

Or do you just love the hobby and want to get more involved in the board game community?

All of these are possibilities, although you should know up front that designing board games full-time and making any significant money from it can definitely be a challenge. So above all, you really have to have a love for board games, along with the whole process of board game design.

There’s a lot of fun and a sense of accomplishment that can come from identifying and solving problems for the challenges that come with board game design. I’m a problem-solver myself, so this is another aspect that really appeals to me.

So, why are YOU designing a board game?
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Tue Nov 7, 2017 6:39 pm
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