Inventing Board Games
In theory, inventing board games is fun. In practice, the process can involve a great deal of hard work.
It’s not enough to come up with a good idea. Board games are like any other product. Assessment, manufacture and marketing are just three of the elements a board game inventor must take into account.
AssessmentMost board games are for two or more players. An inventor must therefore make a prototype of his or her game and play it with friends and family.
The other players must be serious about the game and considerate. They must make suggestions and provide as much feedback as possible. The inventor must be prepared to accept these comments, take notes and act on them.
What this means is that a board game inventor must have an open mind and be ready to take criticism. Similarly, the other players, who are in effect guinea pigs, must have the time and patience to help the inventor.
SWOTTo assist this process, an inventor should draw up a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis of the game. It’s vital to be honest about a board game in each of these four categories.
Strengths and weaknesses are relatively easy to identify. Playing a board game can highlight these.
Opportunities and threats refer to business and marketing. An inventor must ask questions such as:
- Is the board game unique?
- Will the game work abroad?
- Will the media take an interest?
- Is there potential for spin-offs such as mobile phone apps and video games?
GuidanceOnce an inventor is satisfied with the assessment of a board game, he or she must decide whether to license it to a board game maker or set up a company to manufacture it. Whichever route an inventor chooses, it’s wise to consider the following guidance first of all.
CostThe most relevant piece of advice is about cost: a board game must look good but must not be expensive to make.
Cutting costs isn’t just about increasing an inventor’s profits, however. It is about providing a satisfactory commercial margin for:
- The factory that makes the pieces of the game, the board and the box
- The distribution network, including the wholesaler
- The advertising agencies
- The retailers
StyleAnother point to bear in mind is the style of the game. Board games compete to catch the attention of consumers. Everything about a game must have an appealing style.
Part of this style is a board game’s name. This is crucial. It must sum up the game and be easy for people to pronounce and remember.
RulesFinally, the rules of a board game must be clear and concise. They must cover all eventualities that may occur during a game. And they must do so as simply as possible.
An inventor should write out the rules. He or she should then ask someone who has never played the game to read them. If the rules don’t make sense, the inventor must rewrite them until they do. Any hint of confusion in the rules alienates manufacturers and consumers.
CrowdedAny inventor who hopes to license a game to an established board game maker needs to prepare thoroughly. The board game market is crowded and competitive.
This doesn’t mean that a good idea won’t succeed. But having a good idea isn’t sufficient.
PresentationAn inventor must make a clear and compelling presentation of the game to the manufacturer. The first presentation should be in writing, and the letter must be precise. It should not ramble on.
Furthermore, an inventor should not make the mistake of saying that the manufacturer can change the game. Board game manufacturers rarely have time for this. They may make changes but they prefer submitted games to be as near complete as possible. This way, they can have confidence that an inventor has thought long and hard about his or her game.
If the letter goes well, the manufacturer may invite the inventor to a meeting. Again, it may be necessary to do a presentation. The key point for an inventor to remember at this stage is that a manufacturer wants a great game that is easy to market and that will make money.