Making a board game on a budget – Part 2: the board game world

In this series of blog posts I will tell you the history of how my first game Apocalypse Frenzy came to be, while at the same time I will give some tips on how you can create your own board or card game.

In Part 1 of this series we discussed the first step towards making a board game: having an idea. But what if you don’t have an idea? And if you do, what’s next? Well the good news is, that the answer is the same in both cases. The next thing to do would be to get to know the board game world.

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Who remembers this old school game?

I grew up with a family and friends who liked to play board games. During my early childhood I played games like Memory, when I learned to write I went on to Scrabble, and even later games like Risk and Cluedo/Clue went on the table. Then my friend showed off this new game he bought: Settlers of Catan. I quickly became a fan and bought the two-player card version with all the expansions, and I even made my own expansion to play with friends. Later on I learned how Settlers of Catan revolutionised the board game industry, introducing a new era of modern board games. Although the game still relies heavily on dice, it made use of many clever mechanics that were (at the time) a giant leap forward from the more traditional board games like Monopoly and Risk.

 

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Settlers of Catan introduced a whole new era of board gaming.
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Ticket to Ride: Europe is easy, colourful and exciting!

Settlers of Catan and other family-friendly modern board games like Ticket to Ride or Carcassonne are great games to roll into the exciting world of board games. You do not have to lose a whole Saturday for a single game anymore (ever tried to conquer Australia in Risk?), nor do you need to watch on the sidelines how other players slowly beat each other while you are already eliminated. Board games have improved a lot and there are way more than the 3-10 games you played during your childhood. Boardgamegeek.com has a list of over 90000 games by now. And on Kickstarter, board games raised nearly 6 times more money than video games in 2016.

 

What makes board games appealing, and what gives them an edge over many video games, is the social aspect. There are many board game stores and board game evenings. Try to google if there are any near you, if you don’t live in a very small village there’s a good chance there are. Board game stores usually host regular game nights for popular card games like Magic, Yugi-oh and Pokémon, while on sites like meetup.com or on social media you can look for more general board game evenings and events. There are also many board game videos on youtube (for example TheDiceTower, with over 150000 subscribers) and there are podcasts you could listen to while travelling. And then there are several board game conventions, the biggest of which is the yearly SPIEL in Essen, Germany.

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Meet people and play games at a board game convention! (Photo from Spellenspektakel Eindhoven, Netherlands)

I learned all of this while I was designing my first game: I had no idea the world of board games was so vast! But ideally, you should explore this awesome world before you start designing your first game. You could also use it to develop your idea, or to gain fresh and new ideas. Here are some milestones you can set for yourself before starting with the rest of the game design process:

  • Check out the Top 100 of board games on boardgamegeek. Learn about or preferably play 10 of them.
  • Watch 5 board game review videos on youtube.
  • Read the descriptions and examples of the most common board game mechanics.
  • Learn about the difference between eurogames and ameritrash (just google the terms).
  • Check out some board games on Kickstarter.
  • Visit a board game store (no not a toy store, an actual board game store). Ask an employee what game they recommend for you based on your preferences.
  • See if there are any board game evenings or conventions near you and attend at least one board game evening and one convention.

These are just examples of milestones you can set for yourself to get to know the world of board games. I did these things on the fly, but a good preparation is key. Notice how most of these actions are free, or only cost travel expenses: this blog series is meant for those who wish to make their own game while not spending too much money, and it is certainly possible.

Once you are familiar with the world of board games you are ready to make this world a bit better and larger by creating your own game!

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