How to Make Your Own Board Game
Maybe you've got an idea for a board game. How do you get from idea to prototype to testing to product to selling the damn thing?
Well, pretty much that in exactly that order.
I'm going to list the bits that surprised us and what to look out for.
Bam! You've stumbled upon the idea. Maybe it came in a flash, maybe it grew over some years. Doesn't matter. If you're here, then the important thing is that you think it's an idea that has legs. Maybe you're interested in spending some real energy on it. Important things to consider right now:
Don't just tell people about the idea. Unless that person/those people are willing to get on board. Write up the idea as best you can. Get serious in your mind about it. You won't know if it's truly a good idea or not for a short while yet. There are some steps to take first.
Are you really ready to follow this through? Do you have the time, the energy, the drive? Do you have anyone who can support you - whether it's financial, emotional, technical or creative? You will likely need support for all of these things.
Are you prepared for failure? This is the easy one. Failure means you have a go, spend some time, perhaps a bit of money and find out that it's not a go-er. Worst case scenario is that you spend up to £10,000 and a year, bring it to market and then it bombs. It's bad, but if you know that's the risk, that's ok. (This was our mindset at the beginning of Game Off. We genuinely expected failure - after all we had no experience and no clue what we were doing. Still don't really).
Are you ready for success? This is the big one. Success means that this becomes your life now. It's like having a child. Every day, every year it grows. It requires more and more attention. And love. And investment. If it succeeds, it will be a full on business with full on responsibilities.
Piece of cake. Whatever you are making, you should have the ability to mock up a crude version of the real thing. Cardboard, cards, drawings, tokens - EASY.
The hardest thing of all is the instructions. No kidding, they are the most boring bit to read and the most difficult thing to write. They encompass every detail of the game but you have to keep them succinct. It makes sense in a way - the instructions are the total sum of what the game is. You have to have them definitely 62% fleshed out by the time you come to your first testing.
Other things to consider at this stage:
Streamlining. This pertains to everything at all times. It's probably the most important thing to consider in the invention process. You don't want any fat on this baby.
- What is the fewest number of items that you really need?
- How big does the box need to be?
- Does it really need a board?
- Does it need a timer/dice/spinner/tokens?
- How big do they need to be?
All of these things eventually come down to money.
There's a reason the bigger, more complex games have an RRP of £30 and the smaller ones £15. Manufacturing cost.
*Note: The main criticism of Game Off is that it comes in a small box. I take it on board, but if it wasn't in a small box, it wouldn't exist at all.
First testing is when you'll get to find out if your idea is ready for more work, or ready for the bin. There's zero chance you have the perfect product at this point, but it might just be brilliant regardless. So get your friends/family/honest people together and play it.
Things to look out for/be aware of:
Are people people playing it in the spirit that you intended? If yes, very good.
Do they understand the rules? Can they be simplified? Are there holes? You should hopefully spot these fairly quickly.
Initial responses to Game Off were largely positive, once we started playing. Before that however, there was a lot of skepticism, some confusion and some people just thought we were mad. Others didn't seem to care at all. In some ways, it felt like I'd just told people I was joining a cult. And I was dead serious about it.
You might find during testing that it's better sometimes if you sit it out and make notes from the side. I have a tendency to interject when I see issues and interrupt the flow of the game. This is especially true if you are scrutinising your work. Which you should be.
The idea is solid. The prototype clean. Testing a success. Time for the leap.
Things you need to set up:
Graphics. If you can't do it, you'll have to find and pay someone. Expect £2000 and three months.
Manufacturing. Europe or China are your choices. You can do everything by email. Quotes will vary depending on how many you order. Minimum order is around 1000 units but you won't be able to sell and make any kind of profit until you order something like 5000 or more. But that's for you to figure out.
Be aware of "extras". Examples include a unique size/shape box, uniquely shaped/printed items (including dice) and that plastic insert you often find. All of these will have tooling costs. A good example is the L/R dice in Game Off. That cost us £800 just to pay for the tool to make those dice. Stings a bit, eh.
Barcodes. Affordable. Go to https://www.gs1uk.org/ Don't go anywhere else, or I promise you will regret it.
Copyright. Doesn't exist for games. You can steal and use whatever you want. Not names or images which are protected by....
Trademark. You will need two trademarks. One for your game NAME, one for the IMAGE. Cost £170 each. Go here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/trade-mark-forms-and-fees/trade-mark-forms-and-fees
CE Mark. Now that Britain has left the EU, this will not apply. From January 2023, they will need to have a UKCA mark. At the moment, I don't know much else about it. I don't think the Government knows much about it. If you want to sell in the EU, they will need a CE mark. To be eligible for these marks, they have to be made to certain standards. If you are having them manufactured properly, the manufacturer will have this sorted. Hopefully.
Shipping. If your games are made outside of the UK (which they will be, since nobody in the UK makes games of any sufficient quality or price), you are going to have to contact a shipping consultant and deal with some amount of paperwork including and EORI number. Brexit has been truly unhelpful.
Warehousing. https://www.whichwarehouse.com/warehousing.html . Amazon will store some of your games. For a new product, they will only take in 200 to start with. This is a bit of a pain. So you will need other warehousing for the bulk. There are many places to choose from. They will need to be able to help you organise a courier to take your games from their warehouse to Amazon fulfillment centres. Unless you don't want to go with Amazon in which case you will need a specialist...
Who will store, pick, pack and send your games out to customers. For this, they will want a guarantee you will sell a certain amount. This means you will have to have your own website store, Shopify, Ebay or similar. None of these places will have brilliant sales right off the bat. You might want to seriously consider starting with someone like:
Kickstarter. A good way to get going. You'll need a plan for afterwards though. This is helpful info regarding point 10 there: https://www.kickstarter.com/help/resources
Social Media. An entire world full of problems and opportunities. Massive, expensive, difficult, but you have to try it anyway. This one's on you. Our own social media presence is rubbish.
Don't forget to register your company https://www.gov.uk/limited-company-formation/register-your-company and..
You will need an accountant pretty soon too. https://trustedtraders.which.co.uk/for-traders/articles/how-to-find-an-accountant
Look to begin with someone like Kickstarter. There are others, so assess them too. Don't assume it will be easy. Nope. It will require videos, images, salesmanship, and months of planning. Some companies spend hundreds of thousands on Kickstarter campaigns alone. Kickstarter take 10% of all the money that comes in.
Amazon. This has worked for us. I feel like we got lucky too. It's straightforward to set up a seller account. It's also a lot harder selling on Amazon than it is buying on Amazon. It's dog eat dog. All of the other games are your competition. Sponsored ads might help, but they can also be a place to spend ALL of your money. In the end, they are the biggest shop in the world. If you can piggyback on that, why not? https://sellercentral.amazon.co.uk/
Ebay, Etsy, Shopify, Website Store: These are all similar in that you have to organise the storage, picking, packing and sending, as mentioned previously. My gut says that Shopify is the main one to look out for in the future.
Licensing your game to another company. Such as Ginger Fox. https://gingerfox.co.uk/
These types of companies will take the load off you. They are able handle everything AFTER you have a prototype made. They can sort manufacturing, sales and all the hassle. They will offer you about 50p for every game sold and suggest that a top game sells 10 to 15 thousand units per year. Your game will have to be VERY GOOD for them to be interested.
I mean, what are you waiting for? Get to it.