30 top practices for creating a board game

Here you are alone with your idea for a board game , without really knowing where to start. Should I create alone, should I share this idea, what resources do I have at my disposal?
In order to improve your chances of succeeding in your game design, I have compiled a list of 30 practical tips for creating a board game.


1 – Read my advice on allitebook.xyz

You know, everything needs a start. And if there was a beginning, I would tell you that you are exactly at the right address. So I congratulate you.
I try to compile the resources I find on the internet, based on feedback from other authors and also my own adventure in game design.

2 – Write down all your ideas

This may seem trivial but it is essential, I assure you.
The brain is capable of storing a lot of information. But it will be difficult for you to sort it out. It’s for this reason that I have taken to jotting down all my ideas as they arise using modern tools from my smartphone (which follows me everywhere) such as Google Keep and the voice recorder. Unless you prefer a good old school notebook?

3 – Play other games

It is by forging that one becomes a blacksmith. You have to cultivate your passion for the game, stay on the lookout for new techniques and new designs. My advice : regularly buy games and/or play in a club or association.

The games you are looking for cannot be found in hypermarkets. Some are available in toy stores but to find what you’re looking for, there’s nothing like talking to a specialist at an original game store near you.

4 – Sketch your first prototype

You have your sketches, you can start the creation phase of your prototype. Make it quick and easy. Hey, I don’t want to scare you, but you will at least design a dozen versions before arriving at the final perfectly balanced prototype.

My advice : use only paper and a black marker. It is more than enough.

5 – Create a reusable prototype

Did you follow step 4? Perfect, after several hours of testing, you can proceed to design a more resistant prototype to support the countless hours of play that will follow.

My advice : you have to be equipped and have some gear. Computer, printer, glue, 250g paper, graphic design software, laminator…

6 – Test and re-test your game

First, I advise you to test your game in the family setting. It’s a reassuring setting, and early reviews will help you improve on areas you haven’t seen.
However, this is not enough, and sometimes counterproductive because the family necessarily has a complacent look at your creation. You will therefore have to test your game with friends and then submit it to the club.

Finally, the final step: hand the rules to unknown players, without saying a word, and analyze their reaction.

7 – Innovate, please

I beg of you, do not reuse the age-old principles of hyper-commercial board games such as “goose games”, “chess” or “Monopoly”.
The collectible card system is also worn and worn out.
Your concept should be innovative enough , starting with the set. My credo is the board that is built as the game progresses, so as to provoke discovery each time.

Quite the opposite, it is quite possible to innovate in the Legacy system , where each game played will definitively modify the behavior of the next one, until the outcome of the scenario. Such as Pandemic Legacy or Risk Legacy. This type of game has a lifespan, but according to the impression of players, the immersion is total and the game enjoyable. I haven’t had the chance to test yet.

8 – No longer use the die to determine a move

I throw the dice, I move forward 5 squares… sorry, but it’s has-been.

When I talk to you about innovation, that also applies to mechanics. Rare are the games offering a movement system by throwing a single 6-sided die. We no longer base a game on the random aspect of movement, it’s outdated.

9 – Do not try to simulate reality too much

I give you an example. A cow needs grass to create milk. Instead of creating “grass”, “milk” and “cow” cards or tokens, use small colored wooden cubes. They are widely used today to symbolize resources. It is a very effective abstract method and does not detract from the charm of the game.

10 – Do not abuse the effects of game turns

Avoid basing your mechanic on anxiety-inducing and frustrating effects for a player such as “losing your turn”. It doesn’t make the game better.
In the same way, avoid the elimination of a player in the middle of the game. It’s even more frustrating. Unless it happens only a few minutes before the end of the game.

11 – The rules of the game must be understood quickly

Some players will enjoy spending over an hour reading the rules, and the small exceptions at the bottom of the page. Certain players only. Everyone else (myself included) appreciates clear and fast rules, with nice diagrams.

My advice : break down a typical game by stage, so as to immerse the players in the atmosphere as soon as possible. Then distill the advanced rules as the game progresses.

12 – Optimize movements

If players start the game the same way each time, then start the game at that precise moment. No need to reproduce a linear and boring diagram.

13 – Factor decisions

Yes, a little math!

I’ll give you an example: if for one cube, I can buy one card, and for two cubes, I can get 3… buying a single card is less interesting.
So reduce the player’s decisions to those that are most profitable for him.

14 – Balancing must be transparent for the player

Balancing, what is it?

Balancing in a game is to achieve fairness between each player. Neither should have the advantage over the other. The easiest way is to provide the same resources to all players, this is symmetrical balancing.

For non-linear balancing, and this is the art of balancing, you have to adjust all the parameters to ensure an optimal experience.

Example: Alfred has a card of a warrior who advances by 3 and has a strength of 5.
Jacques has a magician who has advanced by 5 and has a strength of 3.

The idea is that the balancing should be rendered seamlessly, but not necessarily linear. This should not be the player’s objective.
Example of linear balancing:

– skip step 1 to gain 1 experience point (XP), skip step 2 to gain 2 XP and so on.

Another non-linear balancing style could be:

– skip step 1 to gain 1 XP, skip step 2 to gain 3 XP, then step 3 to gain 5.

15 – Stealing from an opponent is more effective than winning by gambling

That’s an interesting idea, isn’t it?

You can break the linearity of an endgame with this practice. A player can win by stealing an opponent (cards, resources). It’s more fun and above all it generates interaction.

16 – Identify special or extraordinary cases

Special scenarios may occur and can ruin a gaming experience. Even if there is a 1 in 100 chance that it will happen again, inevitably it could happen again. It is therefore necessary to solve the problem in order to avoid frustrations and ruin a gaming experience.

There is no miracle recipe for discovering them, other than playing, and playing again.

17 – Simplify the rules

The goal is to avoid exceptions, minority cases and special cases.

In the case where a player is unable to produce an action because of an arbitrary rule, the question must be asked whether this rule makes sense.

It has to be logical and intuitive.

18 – The best is the enemy of the good

Even if your game seems fluid and stable, try to degrease it a little. Reread step 17. It could retain its charm and mechanics while gaining even more gameplay fun.

19 – Create a nice design

Design is actually more important than what players want to tell you. This is the secret of a good immersion.

The idea is to process information as quickly as possible. It will then be necessary to use visual artifices rather than text (icon, pictograms, drawings).

That said, do not skip the steps. I didn’t tell you to complete your graphic design. The illustration is reserved for the editing phase.

20 – Thinking about production costs

Do you know how much the realization of your game will cost before proposing it to a publisher? How many cards does your deck have? Is it necessary to play with custom miniatures?
I will not list all the questions in this chapter. The idea is to make you aware of the overall design costs of your game.

To give you an idea, it is best to meet printers.
For example, they will tell you that cutting a round card costs more than cutting a rectangular card because they will have to use a custom die-cutting die. And it’s very expensive to make.
While cutting out rectangular shapes is done with a paper cutter, it’s faster and therefore less expensive .

To give you a more concrete idea, here is a list of sales prices by type of game in France:

  • Between 10 and 15$: card game
  • Between 10 and 20$: aperitif game with dice
  • Between 20 and 40$: party game, game with friends, games for children
  • Between $25 and $45: family game and modern game
  • Between $35 and $75: game for expert players
  • Around 90$: game containing figurines (Zombicide for example)
  • More than 95$: big game containing tons of tokens and figurines, collector’s game, game pack with extensions.

21 – Be open to criticism

This is the basis for a game designer, you have to know how to listen to criticism. To avoid being offended, try to detach yourself from your acting when you present it. Imagine talking about a friend’s game. This will help you absorb feedback more easily.

22 – Register your game for conventions and events

As I said in step 6, it’s time to introduce your game to unknown players. Nothing like advancing your prototype thanks to their comments.

At conventions, distribute forms. Players will be able to fill them out and slip them into an urn. Some players will prefer this approach to honestly tell you their feelings instead of being complacent with you.

23 – Distinguish your audience

Do you know what the target of your game is? Have you tested your game with children, teenagers, adults?

Do not try to position it in “all public”. A game cannot be enjoyed by everyone.

Have it tested with panels of players of different ages. This will give you a clear idea about the limits of your audience.

The most relevant way to discover the ideal age group is to entrust the game and the rules to a panel. If 8-year-olds don’t understand the rules, while 12-year-olds finished a game happily, you’ve just identified your minimum age range.

24 – Avoid educational games

A point not to be overlooked, publishers do not like educational games too much. It must be said that it is boring, and the children do not like it. In short, these games sell poorly.

25 – Do not decline games based on licenses

Great, you have just created a great board game where Mickey, Donald and his friends have to travel through the Disneyland park.

Er, stupid question, did you ask Disney for permission to produce your game?

You see what I mean ? It is absolutely necessary to avoid basing your concept around a license with copyright, a brand, a sign. In short, all that is called intellectual property (IP) It is impossible to sell to a publisher if you have not acquired the broadcasting rights.

My advice : if your game is based on a license, take inspiration and divert it enough so that it is not recognizable.

26 – Open the game to as many players as possible

Limiting your game in terms of the number of players can be penalizing. Some games are deliberately designed to be played with 2. That said, have you tried with more players? This would improve your chances and the favors of an audience.

27 – Is your game replayable?

Can your game be replayed several times while keeping the surprise?

Games are deliberately designed with a scenario, not necessarily linear, where it is necessary to play several games to overcome it.
The problem is that when the end is known for a group of player friends, the game loses its interest. I am thinking in particular of Time Story. In order to satisfy its fans, the publisher regularly publishes extensions with other scenarios.

Other games like Unlock are what we call “one-shots” and assume this positioning. Once the scenario is exhausted, the flavor and the chili are no longer present since the combination to win a game is known.

Infinitely replayable, or one-shot, each game has its audience.

My advice for starting out in game creation would be to opt for a simple and reusable mechanism, because the majority of players are not ready to invest in a game that will only be used a few times.

28 – Find inspiration on sites and forums

Tapping into your imagination won’t be enough to create the game of your dreams. Share your discoveries and get inspired by the work of other authors on the most popular sites and forums. Here is a short list:

  • Random.GG (English) American Team generator Game
  • TricTrac , French gambling information site
  • Forum TricTrac
  • Ludovox , French board game news site
  • GusAndCo , Swiss community website on board games

29 – To publish or to self-publish?

Ah, hell of a dilemma. Let’s detail the possibilities:

Either you offer your game to a publisher,
Or you start publishing, by creating a company, or by publishing the game on a crowdfunding platform ( Kickstarter , Ulule ),
Or you offer the game in Print and Play (PNP).

In the latter case, it is not intended to earn money. The principle of the PNP is to leave  your models of your game available to the community  so that they can play and test it.

A little anecdote by the way, publishers do not really appreciate going behind a crowdfunding campaign, even if they themselves sometimes use this device.

30 – You are in control of your game

This last piece of advice is deliberately at the end so that it sticks in your mind.
I tell you to listen to the comments of others in order to improve your creation. However, not all comments are welcome. Because some players will offer you modifications according to their vision.

But it’s your game, your idea, your concept . It’s up to you to judge whether this or that remark deserves an addition to your rules.

I hope you have found these tips relevant and will allow you to complete your great prototype. You’re ready for the final step: seducing a publisher and pocketing a contract.

Before leaving us, don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter at the bottom of the page to receive tons of tips and news on board game creation.

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