Game Inventor's Guide

I've invented a board game - now what do I do?

An article by William Maclean, the creator of all kinds of fun and games.

You've invented a board game, you don't know too much about the business side of board games but your board game is just plain brilliant and the rest of the world will love it. You'll be a millionaire in no time. Yup, this is it, the big one. But where do you start with your board game? It's a commonly asked question. This page might be an interesting read....at least it's free! If you think you're on the wrong page, you'll find the home page here.

THE HUMBLE BOARD GAME

Let's start with the basics.....

Every Christmas, the shelves of every toy shop and department store bulge with bright shiny boxes containing the latest and greatest board games. There are board games of virtually every conceivable sort and suitable for just about everyone - fast moving board games and slow strategic board games, board games about love and board games about war, children's board games and adult's board games. And each board game on those shelves is the end result of somebody, somewhere having a brain wave.

An unexpectedly large number of people from all walks of life suddenly have an idea for a board game. Many simply leave it at that but some have the enthusiasm and optimism to want to make more of their board game. Some people have devised board games based around a hobby or interest, others dream up educational or themed board games. Many of these inventors are convinced that they have designed a world-beater that will be the successor to Monopoly (TM) or Trivial Pursuit (TM). The bitter reality that you need to realize right now is that unfortunately only a lucky few actually do.

Behind every successful board game there are thousands of hours of creative and commercial endeavour. (It is worth bearing this in mind if you have other time consuming activities such as a job!) A board game is a very accessible and fairly ordinary product. In much the same way as a toothbrush. Ask yourself, early on, "if I had invented a new type of toothbrush, would I be equally excited about the idea? Or would I be put off by the lack of fun? or the technical expertise required? or the realization that there are already plenty of toothbrushes on the market?" If the prospect of making a success of a toothbrush does not excite you, then you should look hard at why you think it will be different with a board game. The fact is that many of the same principles apply to any new product launch. Whilst the board games market has its own idiosyncrasies, all too many newcomers underestimate the colossal amount of (often tedious, repetitive and detailed) work that needs to be undertaken to get a board game from the initial idea to the shop shelves.

BOARD GAME PREFACE

When I designed my first board game and set out to see what I could do with it, I found helpful information pretty scarce. To me this was both astounding and frustrating. Therefore this report has been written in order to provide newcomers to the board games world with enough basic information to assess the merits of their idea and hopefully to put them on the path to profiting from it. As all board games differ, this report will not completely cover every concern for every reader - sorry! -but hopefully it will help you with a lot of the issues that you need to consider. I have written the report to cover the two major markets that I operate in - the US and the UK - and if you happen to live outside these two special countries then you'll just have to fill in any blanks for yourself.

However having had innumerable discussions with aspiring board games inventors during recent years, I have set out to answer the questions that most frequently arise and provide a context within which you can set yourself and your idea.

AN OVERVIEW ON INVENTING A BOARD GAME

In essence there are two fundamental decisions that have to be made by somebody with an idea for a new board game. This section aims to set them out in a simple and straightforward way.

First of all the board game idea needs to be thoroughly evaluated and assessed. On the basis of these deliberations the first decision needs to be made: Is it really prudent to progress matters further? Or should the project be abandoned on the spot?

This may sound a little harsh but there are literally hundreds of loss-making board games in existence. Certainly many would never have seen the light of day if they had been properly evaluated in the first place. Equally there is no doubt that a number of potentially highly successful board games have never come to the market because the idea was written off without being properly examined.

The most profitable way to approach many board games is to concentrate on minimizing losses. Going by the statistics alone, it is likely that you will profit most from your idea by playing and enjoying it with your friends and family and not investing any hard cash in it. Going for financial gain involves spending time, money and effort that could, in many cases, be spent more profitably indulging in other pursuits.

However, if the assessments of the board game give you reason for optimism, the second decision needs to be addressed: Do I want to try and licence my board game to an established board games manufacturer? Or would I prefer to try and launch the board game myself?

It could well be the case that if you have got as far as reading this report, you will already have made these decisions. If you have not, it would be wise to read through the whole report and come back to these two decisions as the basis for proceeding further.

Whatever you eventually conclude, you will need to take a good number of matters into consideration before arriving at that conclusion. The rest of the report is structured to provoke thought on the issues involved. Unfortunately, given the diversity of types of board games, there is no single recipe for a successful board game. Only you will be able to judge the relevance of each point in relation to your own circumstances. Nonetheless it would be wise to consider all the issues as objectively as possible in order to arrive at a fully reasoned conclusion.

WARNING DISCLAIMER

The author makes no guarantees as to the validity of the information contained within this report. Individual board games and circumstances vary and readers should be careful not to rely on the information or points of view contained within the report. It is advisable to seek out further advice appropriate to your particular circumstances and you should not depend on a report such as this one which covers the generalities of the board games world.

The report is intended purely as a stimulus to inspire further thought and not as a definitive source of information or guidance. The author disclaims all liability for any matters of any nature that arise as a result, (whether directly or indirectly), of this report. You are therefore very strongly advised to take all necessary steps to ensure that your particular project benefits from relevant specific advice and is not guided in any substantial way by the information contained herein.

 

 

WHERE TO START WITH YOUR BOARD GAME

You need to begin with an honest appraisal of the board game as you see it. Many inventors look at board games ideas through 'rose-tinted spectacles' and it is important to see the board game for what it actually is in an objective rather than subjective way.

An example of a 'SWOT' (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis follows. It  is an excellent way to consolidate your own thoughts about the merits of the board game. It is best to draw up your own chart and fill in absolutely everything you can think of for each category, no matter how incidental or superfluous it may at first appear. You would then have a single point of reference that contains all your hopes and fears. This can be invaluable when you get caught up in the intricacies of detail later in the project.

You will also need to examine carefully exactly what it is that you hope to achieve from the board game. It is a good discipline to try and encapsulate your objectives in a single sentence. An example of this might be: "My aim is to analyse the virtues of my board game objectively. If I am convinced of its potential, then my aim is to successfully launch my board game into the domestic market within the next two years."

This may all sound rather basic and simplistic but I have encountered a great deal of people who have got an idea for a board game but haven't the faintest notion what they are trying to do with it. This gives a poor impression which generates a lack of interest in the board game they are trying to push. It is absolutely imperative that you establish a particular direction for the project as you will need to appear confident and focused later in the process to get the most out of people you deal with.

EXAMPLE 'SWOT' ANALYSIS  TO HELP YOU ASSESS YOUR BOARD GAME IDEA

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Strengths                                                           Weaknesses

*It's fun                                                              *It takes bit long to play

*It's innovative                                                   *It's takes a bit long to explain how it works

*It's competitive                                                *It may only appeal to like-minded people

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Opportunities                                                  Threats

*Finding a unique market niche                          *Possibility of idea being copied

*Will appeal to the media                                  *You may not have the personal commitment to see it through

*Would work in overseas                                 *Insufficient knowledge of board games markets industry may lead to mistakes

************************************************************************

ASSESSING YOUR BOARD GAME

The importance of ensuring a thorough and objective assessment of your board game cannot be stressed highly enough. At the beginning you should be careful not to be distracted too much with thoughts about packaging and presentation, but rather you should concentrate your efforts on the board game itself, how well the play flows and how it is received by the players. Professional board games designers look carefully at the 'mechanics' of a board game (i.e. the different elements of the board game itself), and examine how well each part of the board game works and is received. It is the general view that the importance of an eye for detail in this area cannot be overstated.

It is quite likely that your ideas about the board game's graphic design will develop further once you start playing it. Consequently it is much better to get the board game itself right first and think about the presentation later. It will save time and effort as well as giving you the opportunity to incorporate any new innovations more easily.

In the first instance it may be best to create a home-made version of the board game and play it with friends and family. The chances are that if they don't like it then nobody will! A good board game will be enjoyed whether it is hand drawn on paper or neatly packaged up in a smart looking box. However conventional wisdom has it that no amount of fancy packaging will make a real success of a bad board game.

Don't worry if your artistic abilities are not your strongest quality. A home-made prototype is testing the board game idea and by virtue of it being a prototype, nobody will expect too much of it. You can use bits of paper stuck onto cardboard for a board, coins will suffice as playing pieces and bits of paper can be used if cards are involved.

If you are planning to incorporate an unusual device into the board game and it is too complex to make a dummy of it yourself, then you may want to consider whether the commercial cost of creating such a device will be too much for a board game to support in the marketplace.

There are no tricks to assessing a board game. Initially the best thing to do is try it out on the people who you think are most likely to enjoy it. Look at their reactions and judge how much they are enjoying themselves. For example, are they enjoying the board game? Or are they becoming distracted by other things? In different stages of almost any board game, certain rules will apply, certain developments will occur, certain interactions may take place between players. How much are the players enjoying each bit? How could the less good bits be improved?

You also need to try your game out on people who you know will be less sympathetic to it. If they give you a bad reaction then you might feel a bit humbled and humiliated but it's wise to face up to the tough tests sooner rather than later.

Ask the players afterwards what they think of it. If they are friends, make allowances for comments that might be designed not to hurt your feelings. For example if they say "Yes, it's good fun" do they actually mean it really was good fun or do they really mean "I think it's OK but I wouldn't rush out to buy it." It is extremely important to test it out on as many people as possible. By doing this you will not only benefit from having other people's thoughts on your idea, but you will also get a fairer overall picture of how it will be received by the public at large. If for example you are a football fan and have developed a football board game, try it out on people who are not so keen on football and see if they enjoy it. If they don't you might want to alter it so that non-footballers can enjoy it too.

If you feel that an opinion from somebody who knows the board games trade would be a useful input into your assessments you can turn to a board games consultant for an informed opinion. You could also try your local board games shop and see if there are any experienced personnel who would be prepared to have a chat about it. The latter is often a good starting point and certainly much cheaper than the former!

THE BOARD GAME INVENTOR'S FAILINGS

(Classic traps to avoid!)

Whilst there is no such thing as the typical board games inventor, there are a number of characteristics which occur on a fairly regular basis. Some of these prove to be weaknesses and are worthy of mention if only because it takes you (as well as your idea) to put an idea on to the shop shelves.

1) A Secrecy Paranoia

Undoubtedly you don't want to give the board game away, as it were. However it is not uncommon for inventors to be fiercely secretive about their board game ideas. This is a questionable approach as 90% of us need to discuss ideas with others in order to fine tune the final format. You can start with those you know and trust, but if they know little about the board games market, this can be a very dangerous opinion to rely on. At some stage you will have to spill the beans to people in the board games trade and you may as well seek the advice of those in the know earlier rather than later. It is true that there are a small number of unscrupulous people who may want to take your idea, but the majority of people in the trade will respect your rights to the board game and will not prejudice your position.

Board games consultants are often the best bet if you are truly worried about letting other in on your idea. Their interest is primarily in the fee they will charge you. And because a good number of their customers will be referrals from others in the board games business, a reputation for honest dealing is vital to the survival of their consultancy.

2) Over excitement

Unfortunately you are not alone in coming up with an idea for a new board game and your enthusiasm for it is unlikely to be equalled by those in the board games trade. Regrettably there are a number of cynics in the board games trade who will take the 'seen-it-all-before' attitude! Therefore you need to present you board games idea clearly and articulately to gather their attentions. You should consider what will be of interest in your board game to others - many extremely enthusiastic board games designers have missed good leads by highlighting the wrong aspects of their board games.

3) Target Market

Your target market and its size is terribly important. If you have a specialist board game, let say for example a driving test board game, then you will need to consider how many people will be in the market for this type of board game. All too many designers decide that there are thousands and thousands of people out there who will be desperate for their board game when in fact their markets are quite small and very difficult to reach.

4) Selective Deafness

This is a feature of several first-time designers that I have met over the years. If lots of people tell you your idea is flawed then do listen and act accordingly! Selective deafness can prove extremely costly in terms of both time and money. 

 DESIGN AND PACKAGING OF A BOARD GAME

Once you have thoroughly tested the board game itself, you will want to address the issue of packaging. Packaging in this instance means the total package that will hopefully be perched on the shop shelf in the fullness of time. Packaging involves a variety of interrelated elements which for the sake of simplicity have been covered under separate headings below:

This section applies most pertinently to those who are considering launching their board game themselves. However people interested in pursuing a licensing arrangement would do well to contemplate the issues raised as some will have a bearing on their own projects.

When considering the design and packaging options available to you, it is often a good idea to go to a large board games shop and examine other packaging ideas already on the market. This will give you a feel for what is 'in' at the moment and may also guide you away from any particularly zany ideas which would not sit well on the shelves alongside other board games! Consider colours, shape, size, weight etc. Watch shoppers looking at a shelf of board games and consider why a particular person is looking at a particular board game. This sort of experience often helps designers to develop their own ideas in the context of how the market operates and where their design should fit in.

DESIGN AND PACKAGING OF A BOARD GAME

SOME OF THE ISSUES

1) COSTS  OF A BOARD GAME

Think carefully about the costs of 'the bits' that make up the board game package. As a very broad guide you can typically expect to multiply your production costs by four to arrive at the final retail price that the consumer will pay. Careful consideration of the costs of all the packaging is important at this stage because the costs can start to mount up very quickly. Prudent cost-related decisions taken at this stage can lead to a competitive price advantage when your board game is on the shop shelf beside all the others.

2) COMPONENT PARTS OF  A BOARD GAME

Hopefully by this stage you will have a board game that plays well. The parts involved will differ from board game to board game but might typically include a box, a board, some cards, a die, a tray to fit all the bits in, etc. Now you need to begin to think about which components you want to include in your board game and how you want it all to fit together.

Specific areas for consideration might be:

a) If there are cards included in the package, do you want to have them in their own box (in which case you will be incurring additional costs) or can you have them packed loose?

b) Full colour printing is more expensive than black and white or single colour. What parts of the packaging really need to be printed in colour and what parts can comfortably appear in black and white?

c) By designing particular sizes of some components (such as the board and cards for example) to suit the production processes, you can cut the wastage generated during production and thereby cut your costs.

d) Some playing pieces are offered as standard by production companies. To manufacture unique pieces will cost extra money - do you want to make your board game specially individual or will you use standard pieces?

e) What kind of overall appearance do you want to give? When considering the component parts, you must bear in mind that overzealous cost cutting might lead to an assortment of components that do not look quite right when presented together as a total package.

f) What size of playing pieces, dice etc are best suited to the size of the board?

g) What box colours will give the right impressions to potential buyers when it is sitting on the shop shelves?

h) If you have already decided on a retail price, will the components you have included in the package give the impression of being worth the money?

3) THE STYLE OF PACKAGING OF  A BOARD GAME

What sort of people will be playing and buying your board game? Will they be male or female? Will they be children or adults? Will they have a particular sort of taste or interest? Will they be from a particular sort of background? Or from a certain area?

If the nature of your board game enables you to guess the sort of person that is likely to be buying it, then it is important to style the presentation of the board game in such a way that it will appeal to that sort of person. So in the broadest terms, if it is a child's board game you might choose to have bright colours that will attract the curiosity of a child. If on the other hand it is an adult's board game, you might prefer to have something that a little more understated.

It is also important that you do not try to be too intricate with the style of packaging that you use, especially on the box. Neither the player nor the buyer want to be confused by the look of the board game as it tends to build an impression of complexity and user-unfriendliness. Think of the presentation style used by some of the most popular board games like Pictionary (TM), Monopoly (TM) or Trivial Pursuit(TM) - the appearance is clean, simple and straightforward. Compare it with the other designs that you will see in the toy shops and the importance becomes apparent.

4) THE NAME OF THE BOARD GAME

The name of a board game is often one of the earliest considerations given to a board games project. Certainly the name is important but it should not be too close to the top of the list of priorities when a board game is in the design stages. Time is much better spent in the early stages ensuring that the board game itself is entertaining rather than puzzling over the best name for the board game.

However when you are considering the name of the board game it is generally thought that a name that reflects the nature of the board game is best. Take for example Pictionary (TM) - it evokes ideas of both words and pictures which is exactly what the board game involves.It is also advisable to have a short catchy name rather than a long-winded one. Again look at the names of the most popular board games - not many of them are very long. A trend has been to use a 'subtitle' to give further information at first glance and there is something to be said for this, particularly in a new product. For example Pictionary (TM) - 'The board game of quick draw' - adds a useful piece of additional information to the initial impact.

5) THE RULES OF  A BOARD GAME

The only point that needs to be made here is that it is imperative that the rules are as clear, complete and concise as possible. The last thing that any newcomer to a board game wants to do is be confused by the rules. Yet first time board game designers are prone to taking bits of their board game for granted because the are so familiar with it. Remember that whether the newcomer is a player or a prospective licensor, give a good impression and get them into the board game more quickly.

THE BOARD GAME MARKET

Who buys board games? Well it depends on the kind of game of course but generally you find that they appeal more to people who are well educated and family oriented. They could be any age but most likely, they be aged between 25-44. The market has a heavy seasonal bias towards Christmas in terms of consumer purchasing patterns. And particularly with family board games it is most likely that the housewife (if there is one in the family) will be the purchaser.

The market size for board games is tough to quantify exactly but in the US the board games and puzzles market is worth around $381 million, according to figures released in early 2001 (and interestingly, this represented an increase on recent years). In the UK, I estimate the board games and puzzles market is worth around 50 million per year (at retail prices).

In both the US and the UK, the majority of board games are sold via the large retail groups. For example, in the US think of Walmart, Toys R Us, Target etc while in the UK think of Toys R Us, Woolworths, Argos and friends. Smaller board games companies find it difficult to provide the range, margins and product support demanded by the large retailers and therefore if you are considering launching your own board game, take care to establish which retailers you will be able to distribute your board games to and whether or not they are likely to sell sufficient volume to make your enterprise profitable.

THE BOARD GAME MARKET

SOME OF THE ISSUES

The first point worth noting is that the person who plays a board game may not be the purchaser. So when designing your board game you will need to consider that it will need to appeal to both parties in order for it to be successful. An example of the sort of thing that might arise is that if your board game is designed to be played by children, it is a fair bet that it will be the parents who will be buying it. Therefore you may wish to ensure that the board game is absolutely 'childproof' in terms of pieces that may be swallowed etc and to make this point clear on the box (it's usually wise to have a disclaimer on the side of any board game box which contains brightly coloured plastic pieces that could constitute a choking hazard for children). A parent looking at the board game in the shop will be reassured that there is no risk to their loved-ones and this may give you a selling edge. Equally a parent might be deterred by the nature of a board game even if a kid might love it, a hypothetical board game called "Beat up little sister" is an exaggerated example to make the point!

The next point is the Christmas peak in the market. This leads many larger retailers to orientate around Christmas and select product lines well in advance (up to a year in advance in some cases) and they will probably want to see finished product, not prototypes, if you are new to the market.

Therefore if you are taking the entrepreneurial route, the trade selling needs to be done some considerable way ahead of the consumer selling. It also means that you need to carefully plan your cash-flow projections.

If you are considering licensing your board game, you should reckon that the board games manufacturers will want to launch the board game in January next year at the latest. This will mean that your royalties will not begin seriously until after the next sales peak, i.e. next Christmas.

Market size is often something that board games designers dwell on, usually with optimistic hopes of taking 'just one percent of the market'. One percent is actually extremely ambitious and it is much better to begin with the question "how much money will I be happy to make from this project" and then decide whether the market can provide you with that sort of return. If everything exceeds your expectations then so much the better, but one should not aim too high to start with.

LICENSING A BOARD GAME

Every year thousands of board games are sent in to board games publishers (i.e. a companies that take a board games idea through production to the marketplace). The vast majority of these board games are rejected. This is not intended to deter you, but it is important to understand the competition you face in order to give your own submission the best opportunity.

The majority of board games present at the moment are either very old board games or new board games containing old ideas or board games loosely based on popular TV shows. There is little in the way of genuine originality and board games publishers are likely to jump at a board game that is original, fun and highly attractive in the market. The problem is, of course, coming up with a new idea that has all of those qualities!

MAKING YOUR APPROACH

Before agreeing to a meeting, virtually every board games company will want a written submission first, outlining the board game and why it is good. There are dozens of board games publishers/manufacturers out there and a good selection of them are featured in the appendices. It is worth calling first to establish who is in charge of product development and writing to them in person. You may also find when you call that they do not want to hear from you at all! (Many written submissions are replied to with a terse explanation that unsolicited approaches are unwelcome for legal reasons).

Remembering that the product development department may have several submissions to process on any one day, one of the most important considerations is getting the presentation of your submission right.

To make the presentation as appealing as possible, you may like to mull over the following points:

* Give the letter a clear and precise tone. Do not write a letter, as some people do, that tries to keep all options open. I have received many letters that offer a broad suggestion for a board game and go on to say that I can change and develop it as much as I like. The problem with this is firstly that I know the writer does not have confidence in the idea and secondly I would prefer to spend time developing my own board games rather than somebody else's to whom I would have to pay a royalty!

* Ensure the appearance of the letter is uncluttered and accessible. A good, clean layout gives the reader a positive first impression and keeps his/her attention.

* Keep to the point!

* Give a brief overview at the beginning highlighting the one or two most important points that in your opinion sets it aside from other board games.

* There should be something early in the letter that attracts the interest of the reader. Whether it be conveying why it is entertaining to play, or explaining that you have played it with hundreds of people who have all loved it, or whatever. Try and put something in there that will make the reader keen not to miss anything in the letter.

Whilst thoughts on packaging, graphic design and marketing may well be high on your agenda, the most important thing to the good board games publisher will be whether or not it is a good board game. The emphasis of your submission should therefore be on including a clear, complete and concise set of rules as the focus of the letter, with other aspects of the submission supporting this rather than overcrowding it.

Tactics that I have seen in past submissions include copies of letters from celebrities/relevant bodies agreeing to endorse the board game, details of market size (if it is a niche market board game) and similar such devices. Whether or not you want to go to this level of endeavour is a matter of personal choice. It will add credibility to the research that you have done into the project but it may prove to be a waste of time.

If you have designed a board, the packaging, the pieces or whatever then this should appear in your submission. However if you cannot present your graphics clearly, you may wish to avoid overdoing this section of your submission.

Different board games publishers deal with different types of board games. Some will do X-rated type board games for adults, others children's board games, other TV board games and so forth. It will be of benefit to visit a board games store and see which companies publish board games of a similar type to your own. These will be the companies to whom it would be worth paying the most attention, although other companies should not necessarily be disregarded.

Exhibitions offer a good opportunity to see the various companies showing off their wares and you may be able to have a word with some of the product development staff and possibly show them a prototype if you have one available (but be warned - others will be pursuing the same avenue).

It is worth claiming the copyright on the rules to your board game. This can be done quite simply by posting them to yourself in a registered letter which you then leave unopened until such time as you need to prove you had the idea first. You can also place the rules with your lawyer if you feel you may need an independent witness. Whenever you submit rules to board games publishers you should then claim the copyright by placing the familiar 'c' in a circle at the bottom of the page followed by your name and the date.

You should note that there is no watertight method of protecting your board games idea. You cannot legally protect a concept or a general idea for a board game. You can however provide yourself with a degree of protection by claiming copyright over the rules precisely as you have written them. Should you wish to discuss the legal position, you will need a specialist copyright/patent lawyer. Generally this quite expensive, but you will find that you can get quite a lot of basic information out of them on the telephone just by implying that you are likely to need their services!

LICENSING AGREEMENTS FOR BOARD GAMES

One of the first questions that everybody wants an answer to is 'how much can I expect in the way of royalties?'. There is no black and white answer to this, it depends entirely on the generosity of those involved, the scope of the rights involved and the format of the agreement.

Licensing agreements vary from company to company and it is up to you to negotiate the best deal you can. Areas to consider for negotiation include percentages, guaranteed minimum payments, advances, length of agreement, timing of payments, territories covered and so on. If you find yourself in a position where you have a licensing deal on the table and you are not sure how best to proceed you should consult either a board games consultant or a lawyer - probably both! The contract is usually a lengthy, detailed and jargon filled document and a professional eye can often help to protect your best interests.

The problem with licensing is that your chances of ever seeing your board game wind up on the shelf are small. The advantage is that for very little financial outlay you could perhaps make substantial returns and this is of course the main attraction. To give yourself the best chance of having your board game produced under license you need to think through every aspect of your approach to the board games publishers and present your idea lucidly, confidently and appealingly.

LAUNCHING YOUR OWN BOARD GAME

There is more to launching your own board game than meets the eye. A number of factors all intertwine to give this option the complexity of a small business - which is exactly what it is. Elements include designing and sourcing the product, financing the project, selling and marketing the board game not to mention the nitty gritty administrative tasks such as distribution, invoicing and so on. Statistically the chances of financial success are not favourable (although it has been done and is quite possible). However entrepreneurial board games people often are motivated by more than simply money and will not be deterred by statistics. If this is you, read on! The following is designed to give you some thoughts about how to proceed.

FINANCING A BOARD GAME

Going to your bank manager and asking for a loan to launch a board game in the current climate is likely to meet with a good deal of skepticism. Depending on the type of board game you have in mind, you will probably require something in the region of 20,000 per board game at minimum. However, if you cannot raise these sort of sums without risking the shirt on your back, it is generally held that you would be much better off not setting out down this path!

PRODUCTION OF  A BOARD GAME

Production options are wide ranging and to the uninitiated it can be a complex and trying aspect of launching your own board game. Some suppliers will provide you with a single specialist component whilst other will do the whole job for you and deliver finished product to your door. The cheapest route will depend largely your particular needs, not to mention your own persistence and negotiating ability. If you have not dealt with manufacturing companies before it would be wise to have a chat with somebody who has.

General points in this area are:

* The importance of clear and thorough production specifications cannot be stressed highly enough. It is a costly error to finish up with a product unfit for the toy shops!

* The size of your initial production run is an eternal conundrum. The more board games you have produced, the less each costs, but the higher the total bill rises. The best starting point is to develop a clear idea of your likely sales figures and avoid producing any more than that.

* Given the present difficulties faced by many print businesses you should be sure that your supplier will be around to finish the job.

* Always ask for an estimate first and ensure that there are no hidden extras that are not shown on the initial quote. The cost of making printing plates and cutting equipment etc can be a nasty shock if you have not budgeted for it.

SELLING A BOARD GAME

The only short cut when it comes to selling to retailers is to use a distribution company. This saves time rather than money as the cut that distributors want is generally substantial. Beyond this it is up to you to make approaches to the individual retailers and cut deals as seems fit. Margins vary but as a small operator with a board game that is new to the market, you should reckon that the size of the margin will be a significant negotiating point as it is unlikely you will have much else to put into the negotiations.

MARKETING A BOARD GAME

Once you have sold the board game in to the retailer, a bit of marketing will help your product off the shelf and speed up a repeat order. Although there are exceptions, advertising is not generally a cost effective way to promote board games. Board games designers and their employees are often found in shops promoting their board games direct to the public. Around Christmas time this can have a very noticeable effect on sales although at other times of year the merits of this approach are debatable. Here again there is no single recipe for success as it depends so much on the type of board game and the target market.

DISTRIBUTION OF  A BOARD GAME

Distribution methods are varied but most tend to employ a carrier to despatch their board games around the country. The main reason for including this in the report is that several board games entrepreneurs I know have failed to budget for distribution in their forecasts and this can be a costly error!

APPENDICES

This document was published as a goodwill gesture to would-be board games inventors. I hope it has been helpful.

The appendices have now been re-drafted and are available as a document of links for a small feeThe fee is charged because it takes a bit of work to run this site and keep the appendices up to date. The contents of the appendices are shown below:

There are two versions of the appendix, one for the USA and one for the UK. Details follow:


US Appendices: (1) Some suppliers who will help you to produce a game (2) Some of the more significant games manufacturers active in the USA (3) Some agents who represent inventors and their products (4) Some additional resources to help you on to the next stage.

To buy the US Appendix, please click on the 'Buy Now' button and follow the instructions that appear in the new window:

Use the button immediately below for the USA document:


UK Appendices: The UK appendices are currently the more comprehensive of the two appendices and include details of (1) Board Games Producers in the UK, (2) UK Magazines and Publications relating to Toys and Games, (3) Trade Organisations (4) UK suppliers of games boxes, components, cards, dice etc. (5) Agents who show your games to manufacturers (6) A bunch of other odds and ends that could be useful to you. Cost: 8.50 To buy the UK Appendix, please click on this 'Buy Now' button below  and follow the instructions that appear in the new window:

Use the button immediately below to buy the UK document:

All documents will be sent by email within about 24 hours of your purchase.

Problems buying the appendices ? Click here to contact me. (Please don't use this link for anything other than problems buying the appendix. Thanks).


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