Designing a Board Game

When I was a teenager I decided I wanted to become a filmmaker. I often forget, but when I was even younger I had dreamed of designing board games for a living. This idea had almost entirely left my realm of creativity as I grew up and focused more and more on video/photography work, until: my friends Bud & Courtney started to have us over for board game nights. Bud taught us all to play Magic the Gathering and this really fun game called Betrayal at House on the Hill; those games sparked my creative juices and after a few sessions I was fiendishly researching my possibilities.

Betrayal at House on the Hill.

Although there are a lot of possibilities out there for those that may want to get into game design and publishing (those are two different things, but you can potentially do both), the one I landed on and ended up sticking with was The Game Crafter. This wonderful site is much like other print-on-demand sites that us creatives have gotten used to. There are vast options to choose from as far as miniatures and you upload your own designs for cards, mats, etc. The outcome is nearly unlimited possibilities.

I immediately got started building a prototype for a card game that I had been thinking up while playing MTG. The game was a little more real-world historically based and featured some interestingly different mechanics. As I was working on this game, however, I stumbled upon the Contests that The Game Crafter has to offer. I figured it would be a fun challenge to try and make a game that fit into the confines of that contest; so I did. The result is Wealth of Nations.

The game is inspired by games like RISK or Catan, with a heavy focus on gathering resources to work towards secret objectives that each player has. I spent full 10 hour days for nearly a week working on a prototype and testing the mechanics. Eventually I uploaded all of the artwork and pieces to The Game Crafter and ordered a printed prototype. Then I waited…

While I can say that The Game Crafter is a fantastic service, there are two major downsides. The cost, while not astronomical, is not entirely inexpensive; this is to be expected with a service that needs to print your game on demand rather than in bulk. They do offer bulk discounts, although they seem minimally effective. The other downside is the wait time after placing an order; my shipment said it was estimated to ship by a certain date. That date rolled around and now the shipment said it was estimated to ship another week later. As that date got closer and closer, that estimated ship date kept moving back one day at at time. Finally it did ship; once it had shipped it arrived in just a few days.

I teststed the game with Rachael first; she beat me at my own game after a few hours of a clumsy first play through. A lot of kinks were worked out and then I invited Bud & Courtney to come play. The two of them played without any input from me; I just handed them the rulebook and box and said, “have at it.” Although there were still some kinks, they thoroughly enjoyed the game; after just a few rounds they had already become incredibly competitive. Courtney ended up winning. The same circumstances happened when my sister and her boyfriend came over and tried the game. My sister won — do you see the pattern here?

The deadline came and I submitted the game. A few people reviewed the game and made some notes on what to improve. The game didn’t make it past the semi-finals, but I hadn’t really expected to win. I was just proud to have made a functional game that fit the confines of the rules set forth by the contest and that people actually enjoyed playing it. I ended up adding an Expansion to make the game playable with 2–4 players instead of the 2 players the original version of the game features.

Prototype for an upcoming game based on Blue Card Web Series

After watching the other games in the contest succeed or fail, I’ve learned a lot about game design. I certainly have some ideas for more games, but now that freelance work has kicked back in and I took another full-time job those games will take much longer to produce. If you’ve ever been interested in designing a table top game, board game, or card game I can absolutely recommend you check out The Game Crafter; on top of their great resources, they have a dedicated and friendly community there to help you though the process. If you’re interested in checking out Wealth of Nations, you can do that here.

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