Creating a Board Game: An Extensive Guide to Creativity & Success

Board Game

Creating board games can lead you down a path of riches and fame (well, not really), or more importantly the process can be incredibly fun and extremely rewarding. Doing it yourself can start off as a little confusing and daunting.

Creating an Idea

Have you ever thought that you could make a game better than those found at the store? Well, why not get out there and do it? The first step is your idea that you make grow and change until it is something real.

Take out a pen and some paper and write down a synopsis of the game you want to make by creating a story and make it as detailed as you can. As you are doing this you will find that more ideas will come to you - write them all down! When you are done, you should be able to answer these questions:

  1. What genre your board game falls into
  2. Whether your game will be tile-based (tile games are pieced together as you play them much like Betrayal at House on the Hill by Avalon Games.
  3. If you need other pieces to your game like chips, dice, figures or cards

You story is done, complete with your notes, so now it's time to build an outline. The outline will eventually become your rulebook, but for now it will aid you in filtering out the junk so you can tighten up your idea. Create your outline as linear as you can. Despite creating board games being a creative endeavor, it is also very analytical. You need to get from point A to point B. Everything in between needs to be precise. There should not be any questions as to how the game runs from the first roll of the dice to the end when the other players can gloat over their superiority.

Make your outline appear very similar to the following:

  • Objective of the game
    • How do players win the game?
  • How many players minimum and maximum can play the game?
  • What are the contents of the game?
    • Do you need dice?
    • Are there cards?
    • How many figures are there?
    • Does the game require betting chips or other marking devices?
  • How does the game begin?
    • Do players have to roll the dice? Do they start by how old they are or some other way?
  • What can players do on their turns?
    • Do they roll the dice to determine where they can move their pieces?
    • Do they draw cards?
    • At what point is their turn over and the next person goes?
    • Are there things opposing players can do on their opponents' turn?
  • How to win the game? (similar to the objective but will tell in detail how to achieve it)

The outline above can also double as the beginning of your rules. See how it flows to the pertinent information. From the end of this outline, you can go into more detail. Describe the characters (if there are any), describe the scenario if you have one, and elaborate on game board icons and what certain cards do or what dice rolls mean what.

Putting Your Plan in to Action

Now that you have your idea ready to go and you have determined every nuance of the game, you are now ready to implement it. Decide how you want your game to look. Is the art important, or can it be icons connecting together? Do you want a thick board like professional board games, or can you go the inexpensive route and use heavy card stock?

Design Your Look

This is an important decision, as it will determine how you make your game come to life. If you want it on the cardboard backing that big companies use, then you will have to buy a board that fits the size you like. Once you have that, purchase sticker paper from an office supply store. Design your game board in a graphics program like Photoshop using the sticker dimensions to determine your cut lines so that you can disassemble the graphic and print a piece that you will connect to the other on the game board. If you want to go cheap, then simply print on full sheets of card stock. You can line them up on the table to play the game, or you can glue them to foam board that you can pick up in most art supply or craft stores.

Other Components

Dice and other pieces can be bought online from board game manufacturers, or you can scavenge them from the games lying around your basement.

Cards for Your Game

If you require cards for the same, then the same principle applies as it did for the board itself. Find thick card stock and download a playing card template unless your cards are custom size. Photoshop makes a great tool, and if you combine that with the power of Microsoft Publisher or Quark Xpress then you can create some stellar components.

The Rules

With your outline in line, design your rulebook using a program like Publisher where you can create double-sided printings and booklets using the newsletter setting.

Creating Board Games that are Commercially Viable

If you want your game to go further than your home, then consider using a board game manufacturer. These places deal with companies like Mattel and Milton Bradley and can offer you valuable insight on your game and assist you in designing it with their process in mind. A lot of them will help you market your game to distributors. Before you sink your fortune into manufacturing your game, have a prototype made and let your friends play the game that would end up being your final version. Their input can be invaluable. Also, remember always to copyright your idea before moving forward!

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Creating a Board Game: An Extensive Guide to Creativity & Success