Last year I started to play more board games. I wanted to find an activity that would allow me to socialize a bit more and that would also satisfy my love for games.
Then I came up with an idea for a card game. As a video game designer, I often come up with ideas, but this one was different; this one was simple, clear, and most importantly, I could see it not taking over my life.
The thing about video game development is that it can become pretty demanding physically and emotionally. If you have a specific vision for your game, there’s a good chance it will require lots of time and technical resources. Don’t get me wrong, I love the challenge and video games will always be my first love. But when you work on the same thing for 2 to 4 years without ever collecting the fruit of your labor, can you really say that it doesn’t affect you?
I’m not saying that making a board game is easy, it’s not. But their scope can be smaller, they can be little side projects that can take your mind off video game projects. And being able to release something in the short term, even if it's a small card game, will make you happy.
Why should I make a board game?
If you are a game designer, there’s a good chance that the perspective of designing something other than a video game already sounds appealing. It can definitely improve your craft by broadening your understanding of games.
But that is not the only reason why you should make a board game. If you think about it, all you need to make a prototype is a design idea and a nearby dollar store. You don’t need the latest graphics card, a professional rigger, or to understand a dev kit, you just need yourself.
At first having another project on your plate might seem like something that would hinder you more than help you. I think it depends on your point of view. I can tell you from my experience that making my first game as an indie developer took a lot out of me emotionally because of how long it took to complete it; there were times when I would grow impatient. But today I think I saw that project from the wrong perspective.
Maybe making a game should not feel like a sprint, or not even a marathon. Maybe making a game should feel like a stroll in the park. We often don’t want to think of a project that way because we want to finish the project as soon as possible; either because we are running out of resources or we want that sweet positive reinforcement we get when delivering a successful project. But that same feeling might make us rush, cut corners, and most importantly lose our original passion for the project.
Once we understand that, we can also understand what a small board game side-project can do for us. It allows us to have that necessary positive reinforcement in the short term while keeping us engaged on our main video game project.
At least that’s how I’m feeling right now with my card game project. It feels good to know that I can clearly see the progress of one of my projects. I’m able to finish the card game within a year and that feels good. I want more of that.
Where do I start?
Once you have a good idea of the design of your game, you can start putting together a prototype with basic materials such as pen and paper. You can do this alone or with others.
You don’t need to turn this into a commercial project but it wouldn’t be such a bad idea if you do; after all Polygon reported that data from Kickstarter shows that tabletop games in 2018 were on the rise while video games were not.
If you have a background in video game development as I do, everything will seem like uncharted waters. Here are a few things that you should know and that can help you get started:
- Go play board games. Either with your friends or maybe at a local meetup. This can help you understand how the design of a board game is different from a video game, and you’ll have fun at the same time.
- Make a small game first; the scope should be smaller than your video game project, that’s the whole point. Avoid making those big games with 100+ miniatures, manuals that look like bibles and 8+ hours of gameplay.
- You can re-use your video game IPs and start off with fans you already have.
- There’s a popular online forum called Board Game Geek, where you can find tons of resources on the subject. There’s even a Works In Progress section where you can gather feedback as you make your game.
- Making high quality prototypes of a board game is easier than ever today with site such as Print & Play and The Game Crafter.
- And once you’re ready to do a final print, professional printing companies such as Ad Magic can help you with that.
While I took some time to do some research, I must admit that I still don’t know everything about the board game scene. I did finish making a card game but we still need to go through our Kickstarter campaign and see what we can do beyond that. Hopefully I can cover this topic further in a future post.
If you are game developer and the idea of making a board game seems appealing to you, I think you should start. Just remember to manage your time carefully and take it one day at a time. What you will get out of it can be very rewarding.