How to Design a Board Game

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Have you ever wanted to make a board game? Have you ever thought to yourself while playing a board game, "I could make this so much better"? Are you just curious about board game design? If you answered yes to any of the above questions, this is the Instructable for you. In this instructable, I will help you bring your game from an idea to a working prototype. Still interested? Let's start.

You'll need:

An Idea for a game

Arts and Crafts Supplies

Unsuspecting guinea pigs(Friends and/or family willing to help)

Step 1: It All Starts With an Idea...

The first step in designing a board game is getting an idea. This idea could be about a game mechanic, a theme, or anything else, really. What matters is your idea.

Step 2: Think About It

After you’ve had your genius idea, you’ll need to make it a game. However, before you start making the game, you’ll need to figure out how to do that. How many pieces do you need? How many people can play at once? Do you need a board? Who is your target audience? This part of the process helps you figure all that stuff out. This may be a bit overwhelming and discouraging. It helps to start by thinking up a loose framework of the rules. You don’t need to make the game perfect right now, you just need to find somewhere to start.

Step 3: Commence Creating!

Once you've worked your ideas into a semi-cohesive plan or rule set, you can start making the game. Contrary to the title's exclamation mark, this is not the fun step, but we'll get there soon enough. Look for pre-made things that would work as various game pieces. (i.e. dimes and pennies for tokens, dice for point counters, that sort of thing.) This makes the next step a lot easier. Don't worry if you can't find everything though. Anything you can’t find, like special cards or a board, can be used as an excuse for the best part of making a game.

Step 4: Game-related Arts and Crafts

Don't worry. This is the fun step. It's also the step where you make the remaining game pieces, like custom cards, point markers, or any other components you may need. Find some index cards, glue, scissors, and a pencil. This, ladies and gentlemen, is Game related Arts and Crafts! If you have an idea for a new card or the rules while making the game, implement your idea. It’s almost impossible to not get a new idea for the game while making components for it. Each new card, board tile, or other component helps define the rules and adds flavor to your game. The more creative you get this step, the better. Just make sure you remember how the changes you make affect the game. By this point, your game should be playable.

Step 5: Patience, Young Padawan

As exciting as making the game can be, don’t let yourself get carried away. Your components will undoubtedly be changed or removed, meaning any art you put on them at this point will be a waste of your time. Wait until you know a piece will be in the game's final version before making it look nice.

Step 6: Show Off Your Game

Alright, this is it, you’ve spent hours (or minutes, simple games can be good games too) working on your big idea and making it into a game, and you’re ready to show it off. By show off, I of course mean “have friends and family desecrate your pet project”. Playtesting is an important part in making any game, and without it your game won't be nearly as good as it could be. The first step in playtesting is to find some unsuspecting, opinionated friends or family to play your game. Ask them to give you honest feedback on your game. If they tell you your game is fine or good, they’re dirty rotten liars and shouldn’t be trusted. Write down or remember any feedback they have, as well as any observations you make.

Pro tips: It helps to incentivise your playtesters when they play your game in case you need them again(i.e. provide snacks). Another good idea is to limit how long you play for. Twenty minutes or so is normally a good time. Even if your game is two hours long, it might help to shorten the length of play if your game sucks and you need your playtesters to come back to test a different version. However, if your game is amazing and your playtesters genuinely like it, play for as long as you want.

Step 7: Revise and Rewrite

After you’ve subjected your game to the horrors of people’s opinions, try to modify the game to fix any issues your playtesters had. You may be tempted to ignore any suggestions and claim your game is amazing, but you need to incorporate at least most of them if you want to improve your game or have the same people play it twice. I've found that 9 times out of 10, the playtester was right. Repeat the playtesting process multiple times, preferably with different groups of people and tweaking the game afterwards. You shouldn’t expect to get an honest, “good game” or, “good job” until at least your 4th or 5th playtest.

Step 8: Repeat

Once you've gathered feedback and changed your game accordingly, repeat the playtesting process. I know I touched on this in the last step, but this is how games go from terrible to good. If you neglect to playtest multiple times, you probably will end up with a game that isn't that fun or well made.

Step 9: It's Time...(Sorta)

Once your game is devoid or mostly devoid of issues, you can make your game look decent. You can finally add art, make better cards, and get actual pieces. Another important step is to write the final draft of the rules. From there, you might even want to get your game published. While that sounds super cool, that’s a whole other, much longer, Instructable. If you decide to publish your game, be warned that most publishers have their own artists, so your art most likely won't be seen by people who buy your game. I guess the game industry isn't big on game maker art. Anyway, your game should be a well oiled machine which people like by this point. Thanks for reading!

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    Penolopy Bulnick

    4 days ago

    Lots of great information! Do you have any pictures of a game you created?