WHERE TO START WITH YOUR BOARD GAME
You need to begin with an honest appraisal of the board game as you see it. Many inventors look at board games ideas through ‘rose-tinted spectacles’ and it is important to see the board game for what it actually is in an objective rather than subjective way.
An example of a ‘SWOT’ (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis follows. It is an excellent way to consolidate your own thoughts about the merits of the board game. It is best to draw up your own chart and fill in absolutely everything you can think of for each category, no matter how incidental or superfluous it may at first appear. You would then have a single point of reference that contains all your hopes and fears. This can be invaluable when you get caught up in the intricacies of detail later in the project.
You will also need to examine carefully exactly what it is that you hope to achieve from the board game. It is a good discipline to try and encapsulate your objectives in a single sentence. An example of this might be: “My aim is to analyze the virtues of my board game objectively. If I am convinced of its potential, then my aim is to successfully launch my board game into the domestic market within the next two years.”
This may all sound rather basic and simplistic but I have encountered a great deal of people who have got an idea for a board game but haven’t the faintest notion what they are trying to do with it. This gives a poor impression which generates a lack of interest in the board game they are trying to push. It is absolutely imperative that you establish a particular direction for the project as you will need to appear confident and focused later in the process to get the most out of people you deal with.
EXAMPLE ‘SWOT’ ANALYSIS TO HELP YOU ASSESS YOUR BOARD GAME IDEA
*It’s fun *It takes bit long to play
*It’s innovative *It’s takes a bit long to explain how it works
*It’s competitive *It may only appeal to like-minded people
*Finding a unique market niche *Possibility of idea being copied
*Will appeal to the media *You may not have the personal commitment to see it through
*Would work in overseas *Insufficient knowledge of board games markets industry may lead to mistakes
ASSESSING YOUR BOARD GAME
The importance of ensuring a thorough and objective assessment of your board game cannot be stressed highly enough. At the beginning you should be careful not to be distracted too much with thoughts about packaging and presentation, but rather you should concentrate your efforts on the board game itself, how well the play flows and how it is received by the players. Professional board games designers at Board Game Design.com look carefully at the ‘mechanics’ of a board game (i.e. the different elements of the board game itself), and examine how well each part of the board game works and is received. It is the general view that the importance of an eye for detail in this area cannot be overstated.
It is quite likely that your ideas about the board game’s graphic design will develop further once you start playing it. Consequently it is much better to get the board game itself right first and think about the presentation later. It will save time and effort as well as giving you the opportunity to incorporate any new innovations more easily.
In the first instance it may be best to create a home-made version of the board game and play it with friends and family. The chances are that if they don’t like it then nobody will! A good board game will be enjoyed whether it is hand drawn on paper or neatly packaged up in a smart looking box. However conventional wisdom has it that no amount of fancy packaging will make a real success of a bad board game.
Don’t worry if your artistic abilities are not your strongest quality. A home-made prototype is testing the board game idea and by virtue of it being a prototype, nobody will expect too much of it. You can use bits of paper stuck onto cardboard for a board, coins will suffice as playing pieces and bits of paper can be used if cards are involved. You can any game boards, dice, game box or general game parts you need at BoardGameManufacturing.com.
If you are planning to incorporate an unusual device into the board game and it is too complex to make a dummy of it yourself, then you may want to consider whether the commercial cost of creating such a device will be too much for a board game to support in the marketplace.
There are no tricks to assessing a board game. Initially the best thing to do is try it out on the people who you think are most likely to enjoy it. Look at their reactions and judge how much they are enjoying themselves. For example, are they enjoying the board game? Or are they becoming distracted by other things? In different stages of almost any board game, certain rules will apply, certain developments will occur, certain interactions may take place between players. How much are the players enjoying each bit? How could the less good bits be improved?
You also need to try your game out on people who you know will be less sympathetic to it. If they give you a bad reaction then you might feel a bit humbled and humiliated but it’s wise to face up to the tough tests sooner rather than later.
Ask the players afterwards what they think of it. If they are friends, make allowances for comments that might be designed not to hurt your feelings. For example if they say “Yes, it’s good fun” do they actually mean it really was good fun or do they really mean “I think it’s OK but I wouldn’t rush out to buy it.” It is extremely important to test it out on as many people as possible. By doing this you will not only benefit from having other people’s thoughts on your idea, but you will also get a fairer overall picture of how it will be received by the public at large. If for example you are a football fan and have developed a football board game, try it out on people who are not so keen on football and see if they enjoy it. If they don’t you might want to alter it so that non-footballers can enjoy it too.
If you feel that an opinion from somebody who knows the board games trade would be a useful input into your assessments you can turn to a board games consultant for an informed opinion. You could also try your local board games shop and see if there are any experienced personnel who would be prepared to have a chat about it. The latter is often a good starting point and certainly much cheaper than the former!
THE BOARD GAME INVENTOR’S FAILINGS
(Classic traps to avoid!)
Whilst there is no such thing as the typical board games inventor, there are a number of characteristics which occur on a fairly regular basis. Some of these prove to be weaknesses and are worthy of mention if only because it takes you (as well as your idea) to put an idea on to the shop shelves.
1) A Secrecy Paranoia
Undoubtedly you don’t want to give the board game away, as it were. However it is not uncommon for inventors to be fiercely secretive about their board game ideas. This is a questionable approach as 90% of us need to discuss ideas with others in order to fine tune the final format. You can start with those you know and trust, but if they know little about the board games market, this can be a very dangerous opinion to rely on. At some stage you will have to spill the beans to people in the board games trade and you may as well seek the advice of those in the know earlier rather than later. It is true that there are a small number of unscrupulous people who may want to take your idea, but the majority of people in the trade will respect your rights to the board game and will not prejudice your position. Upon request, we can send you a non disclosure agreement which means “we not speak about your game to any outside 3rd party people”.
2) Over excitement
Unfortunately you are not alone in coming up with an idea for a new board game and your enthusiasm for it is unlikely to be equaled by those in the board games trade. Regrettably there are a number of cynics in the board games trade who will take the ‘seen-it-all-before’ attitude! Therefore you need to present you board games idea clearly and articulately to gather their attentions. You should consider what will be of interest in your board game to others – many extremely enthusiastic board games designers have missed good leads by highlighting the wrong aspects of their board games.
3) Target Market
Your target market and its size is terribly important. If you have a specialist board game, let say for example a driving test board game, then you will need to consider how many people will be in the market for this type of board game. All too many designers decide that there are thousands and thousands of people out there who will be desperate for their board game when in fact their markets are quite small and very difficult to reach. Think wisely!
4) Selective Deafness
This is a feature of several first-time designers that I have met over the years. If lots of people tell you your idea is flawed then do listen and act accordingly! Selective deafness can prove extremely costly in terms of both time and money.
DESIGN AND PACKAGING OF A BOARD GAME
Once you have thoroughly tested the board game itself, you will want to address the issue of packaging. Packaging in this instance means the total package that will hopefully be perched on the shop shelf in the fullness of time. Packaging involves a variety of interrelated elements which for the sake of simplicity have been covered under separate headings below:
This section applies most pertinently to those who are considering launching their board game themselves. However people interested in pursuing a licensing arrangement would do well to contemplate the issues raised as some will have a bearing on their own projects.
When considering the design and packaging options available to you, it is often a good idea to go to a large board games shop and examine other packaging ideas already on the market. This will give you a feel for what is ‘in’ at the moment and may also guide you away from any particularly zany ideas which would not sit well on the shelves alongside other board games! Consider colors, shape, size, weight etc. Watch shoppers looking at a shelf of board games and consider why a particular person is looking at a particular board game. This sort of experience often helps designers to develop their own ideas in the context of how the market operates and where their design should fit in. The talented designers at Board Game Design can create any design you have in mind as well as use our great knowledge for the marketing of the packaging.
And last but not least, just GO FOR IT!
Stay tuned as our next blog series talks about the marketing behind your game! A MUST READ for all game inventors out there!