Writing Your Own Board/Card/Party Game


We made our own game. This is part two detailing how we did it.

Time to cover some of the more important bits in the early process. Don't bother about business plans and profit margins or any of that nonsense yet - if you haven't written the game (thoroughly) then you don't have anything to sell. However, bear in mind that the more complicated your game is, the more costly it will become - both time and money wise.

First things first.

Who is it for?

We were asked this a million times during writing. The answer "everybody" won't satisfy business types who like to think about marketing and demographics. So we narrowed it down to

1) Families at Christmas

2) 20-30 year olds who like drinking games

3) Children

Really, we were making it for 1) our family and 2) our friends. After that, the aim was to keep it open for everybody - any age, any ability. I think we mostly achieved that.

Turns out, a handful of games weren't very suitable for kids under 10 because they involve mobile phones and things like "who has the most keys on their key-bunch" so we changed them as soon as we could. Regardless, kids apparently LOVE it.

I found out much later (I'm not big on research) that there are about a bajillion other board games out there - lots of them very new and coming through Kickstarter and such places. It's a bit daunting to see, actually. I also realised that most of them are made by and aimed at Board Game Enthusiasts. These games often involve strategy, complex rules and many different components. Game Off is not like this. It's more like Pictionary. But totally different.

Anyway, gamers are serious but not that numerous. Game Off is not really aimed at them. Although, they do fall in the category of "everybody", so in fact, maybe it is.

How does your game work?

This section is where all of your big decisions lie. For example, in Game Off we had to make these decisions -

1. Do we need a board?

2. Do we need a timer/any other items?

4. How long should the game last?

5. How do you win?

All these questions are linked to money in the end. The more stuff you have, the more it will cost.

We also had to come up with a set of absolute conditions. They are:

1. Replayability. Meaning, if you play it again tomorrow it will have a different a outcome and responses.

2. Time Limit - got to be quick. Ideally less than two minutes per card, so between 30 - 90 mins per game (depending on how many players).

3. Equality - Every battle game to be contested by two players who have to perform the same task.


Nobody likes reading the rules. What they don't tell you is that nobody likes writing them either. Hateful things. Much harder than you expect. You have to be brief AND you have to explain every detail of the game AND have an answer for every query that might pop up. Our solution was to have two versions: The Simple and The Detailed. See the graphics for the simple version here


These are your friends. They are barriers which keep your decision making linked to the real world.

For example, you will almost certainly have to decide how many cards do we need?

Well, make a prototype and test it, silly.

We started off with fifty cards but quickly found that it wasn't enough. In the end we settled for 120. Why? Because the manufacturer can fit maximum 120 cards onto one printing sheet. It would have cost us a small fortune to have just one card more.

Your parameters will be time, money or style based.

More examples:

Card sizes - you can choose normal or poker. Poker cards are slightly bigger. We went for this because it meant more space for the silly words.

Dice - we needed a way of choosing who your opponent is. We considered a spinner type device and a couple of other things but ended up going for a pair of dice. Works a charm. We had to pay something in the region of £800 to have the tools made to build our Left/Right dice.

Timer - we decided not to go for a timer because it would have cost more money to produce. Instead, we re-wrote all the timed games so that they ended when someone shouted "Stop!" or "Happy Birthday". --->

Box Size - this was a pretty big decision. You can have a box tailor made, or go with one off the shelf. You can have a plastic insert to keep all the bits nice and tidy, but it will cost extra. We went for a small box, off the shelf, with no insert. The reasons? Less waste, cheaper price, practical size. We had public criticism that the box is too small. My response - the game is 120 cards and two dice, how big do you need it? Stick it in your bag and shushhhhhh.

Thinking about it, money does have a big impact on the creative decisions you make. For instance, if you look at something like Exploding Kittens, there are less than 50 cards in the box and nothing else. It really is a thin game. But the box itself is fairly large, well made, has a plastic insert and so they charge £20 per box - and sell TONS. Honestly, it's not good value for money (or a good game - the rude version is extremely disappointing). It could fit in a bit of cardboard like a regular set of playing cards - but then they would be hard pressed to ask for a fiver for it. With Game Off, we went for a more modest price and box. Doesn't seem right to make something more expensive for no good reason. But then maybe I'm not a good businessguy man.

Elsewhere, the advice you will receive is all about re-writing and testing. It's good advice. I'm sure we've been through Game Off about a billion times and there are still little mistakes. We tested it probably twenty times before starting the manufacturing process. That's probably not enough testing actually, but what the hey, we were in a rush to get it on sale for Christmas.

It's important to say this actually - you will sell 90% of your stock at Christmas. You will start to understand just how much Christmas has become a festival of consumerism and you'll realise just how much the big companies rely on it. Sad, in a way. But now you're one of them..

Till next time,


p.s to know more about Egon (there is a card about him, it's all very meta), go here

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