As you know, we make games. We like making games. Games are fun. Making them is fun. It’s also a lot of other things too!
We thought this week we’d share with you some of our experiences of making tabletop games, from coming up with fresh new ideas for some cardboard entertainment right through to negotiating contracts and navigating the seven seas of shipping.
Stage 1 – Coming up with ideas
Getting chocolate wasted and scribbling away on some paper is definitely the best way to start. Get a good batch of friends and a good range of games great and small together and fire up the game design quattro. The most productive starts we’ve had have been surrounded by games, whether throwing ideas around while at Thirsty Meeples, or while strolling the avenues of Essen Spiel. Getting ideas on paper in an unstructured way is pretty easy, but converting that into structured rules, concepts etc is the challenge!
The next step is to start giving all those crazy ideas some meat to their bones, giving the game some vague rules, component lists etc, beginning to shape the outline of the game. The best thing we’ve learned here is to start at the ‘top’ of the game, by defining whether it will have phases or individual turns, what kinds of things players will be able to do, whether its coop or competitive etc, then burrowing into the detail of each section so that we don’t end up getting intimidated by the size of the task!
Stage 2 – Market Research
Once you’ve got the shape of your idea into more of a structured game, with an idea of what kind of mechanics you’ll use, the theme, the story behind it (whether a blend of cats and cacti or a gritty and gruesome sci-fi world), you’ll want to start looking at what other people are doing, what’s popular at the moment? What kind of games do well with the theme you’ve chosen? What kinds of games do well with the mechanics you’ve chosen? Are there any similar games on Kickstarter right now? What can you learn from them and how do you mark your project out as unique and interesting? What price range do you want for your game, a $9 microgame? A $25 card game? A $100 heaviweight monster?
Stage 3 – Prototyping
Now you know where you’re game is going, your idea has structure, and you know what makes your game special, it’s time to make it! Pull out the scissors and glue and put together a draft version. It will be awful. It’ll make your friends wince and it will have more holes than the love child of a sponge and a Swiss cheese. If you get to this stage with a more solid idea, however, there are some great prototyping services:
Stage 4 – Playtesting
Once you’ve got that juicy prototype in hand, it’d probably be helpful to try it. Get to your local board game cafe, your nearest library, game store or other place where board gamers might congregate and try it out! Board game geeks tend to be a sociable bunch, so ask some strangers to try out your game! Have a think about the key things you want to know about your game from these playtesters, which parts of the game are you least sure about? Which parts of the theme, mechanics or branding do you think are the things you want to know most about what backers might think?
Stage 5 – Product Development
So you’ve got a game, it’s been given structure, maybe a nice design, it’s been tested and refined so that it’s a great game. Now onto the hard stuff – making it a product. The obvious thing that people miss on with Kickstarter tabletop game projects is that however much the project is about creating a community of incredible gamers, it’s also about delivering something people actually want. Try playing around with the graphic design (download GIMP, a free photoshop-style programme), or 3-D design in SketchUp to create an impression of what your game will actually look like and feel like. Bear in mind that some things are really expensive to create, like miniatures, custom sized tokens, specialised printing etc. Talk to manufacturers before you even think about launching a campaign, so you know exactly what’s possible and how much it will cost you.