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How Do You Get a Board Game Published?

Cliff posted more than 7 years ago | from the from-idea-to-boxes-and-pieces dept.

Real Time Strategy (Games) 123

cyclomedia asks: "I've been dedicating a little of my time to devising a strategy board game, pitched somewhere between Checkers and Chess but probably not as deceptively complex as Go. Without giving too much away I can tell you that there's a nerd factor within the game itself, possibly leaning the possibility of marketing towards the Games Workshop end of the spectrum, but without the 80-sided dice and Orcs. The next step in my plan is to see if I can actually create a prototype made of coins, stickers and cardboard, and then to attempt to teach the rules to my wife (she's a Trek fan, hence the marriage). If I get past that stage, presumably I can't just show up at Hasbro with my jerry rigged setup and expect an enthusiastic response. So, what do I do?"

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Do it, but be persistent (4, Informative)

Renegade Lisp (315687) | more than 7 years ago | (#17766448)

The game publishing business seems very conservative. Many of the games that became classics over the last few decades were initially rejected by all of the major publishers: Mastermind, Monopoly, you name it. Even Sudoku took more than twenty years until it finally hit home.

A friend of mine developed the board game Friedrich [wikipedia.org] , a strategy game about the Seven Years' War. It took him fifteen years to arrive at the final version, building very elaborate prototypes, and playing hundreds of games with friends who were acting as beta testers. The game was rejected by all major publishers he showed it to, mostly on the grounds that "it takes too long to play" (3-5 hours at least). After he'd mentioned that, every discussion was immediately over. My friend finally decided to publish the game himself, founding his own game publishing company. The game quickly achieved almost a cult following, both in Germany, where it was initially published, and in the US. I think some 4000 copies have been sold so far. It won the prize for the Best Historical Simulation by the American Games magazine in 2006.

So I'd say: Be prepared to go a long way, but it may well be worth it.

Re:Do it, but be persistent (1)

larien (5608) | more than 7 years ago | (#17766510)

Germany has a good board game following - many of the best games originate from there. This means you have an audience who will be interested, but also some intense competition.

Re:Do it, but be persistent (2, Insightful)

KingSkippus (799657) | more than 7 years ago | (#17767890)

With all due respect, my god, that game looks complicated. No wonder major publishers turned it down.

If you have a game with lots of rules and intricacies, I suspect you'd just about have to publish it yourself. I think that the big manufacturers are more interested in games that have mass appeal: games that are really simple to pick up and play, that take maybe five minutes to learn the rules and jump in, and that can be played by (and are at least somewhat interesting to) at least mid-teenagers.

I'm not saying that there isn't a market for other games, just that such games will never reach the mass appeal of something like Monopoly, Sorry!, Trivial Pursuit, and so on. And if one of the big companies is going to invest the money into manufacturing, marketing, and distributing your game, it's reasonable for them to expect to have to have at least a big enough market to recoup that investment and pay its CEO.

So if you go to publishers and they turn you down flat, don't take it personally. Someone like Hasbro is probably not the ideal company to publish your game anyway. If I were you, I'd seek out smaller publishers.

Oh, and you mentioned a "nerd factor" and your "Trek fan" wife. Keep in mind that if your game includes someone else's intellectual property to any great extent, you're going to have to deal with licensing issues as well.

And speaking of intellectual property, for god's sake, make sure you patent your rules, copyright any materials in it, and trademark your logos and designs. I am not a lawyer, but if you're serious about selling your game for profit, you really need to invest the money into seeing one first. If your game is as good as you think it is, you definitely don't want to see your game being sold on store shelves by someone like Hasbro after they tell you that it sucks and would never sell.

Re:Do it, but be persistent (1)

Clock Nova (549733) | more than 7 years ago | (#17768628)

Those big, complex games may have limited appeal, but thank god someone publishes them, or else I'd never have gotten to play Kingmaker, Republic of Rome, or Machiavelli. Now those are great gamee.

Re:Do it, but be persistent (1)

numbski (515011) | more than 7 years ago | (#17768130)

The first thing I want to say is - bravo for persistence.

The second is, wow that sucks. 15 years to get it to market, 4000 copies, margins being what they are, say after all expenses he makes $3/copy sold.

$12,000.

Not so good. :( But hey, it's still on the market, and could still sell many copies for years to come.

Re:Do it, but be persistent (1)

Suppafly (179830) | more than 7 years ago | (#17769106)

If you consider it a hobby and not a job, its not too bad.

Re:Do it, but be persistent (1)

pluther (647209) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772830)

$12,000 over 15 years? Still more than I've made on half a dozen short stories, a couple of dozen non-fiction articles, and the two plays that've been produced in the same time frame...

Re:Do it, but be persistent (3, Insightful)

Thansal (999464) | more than 7 years ago | (#17768148)

Depending on how complex your game is I would suggest tlakign to some of the indy publishers.

There are companies like Cheapass Games [cheapass.com] , Loony Labs [looneylabs.com] (thoguh I think they do all their stuff in house), Playroom Entertainment [playrooment.com] to name a few off the top of my head.

Also, the simpeler you can make the physical pieces of the game the better off you are I think. Can the "board" be cloth or some such? Will the pieces idealy be simple or complex (checkers, WH40K pieces, or soem where inbetween)?

The other thing to do is to go to Cons (SF/F and gaming). So long as they have a gaming room (for board/card games) you can find a good number of people who are in the field. Most of them will be Reps, but even they are good to talk to, and some times you will run into the actualy developers (or other people more closely tied to the company), especialy at larger cons. Just make sure you have a working copy of your game (I would suggest tryign to make it look good, over trying to emulate a proffessional distribution).

Good luck!

Re:Do it, but be persistent (4, Funny)

Thansal (999464) | more than 7 years ago | (#17768194)

Oh, and when you type up your rule book, make sure you don't have as many typos as I do in my posts.

Re:Do it, but be persistent (1)

Asmor (775910) | more than 7 years ago | (#17770302)

I actually talked to one of the guys at Looney Labs over email a while back... This is the response I got (back in November '04, so who knows if things have changed since then?)

Hi Ian,

Thanks for giving us the chance to consider your game (sounds like a fun
concept), and we wish you the best of luck in finding a publisher.
Unfortunately, it cannot be us.

Looney Labs is still a small company and our own ideas greatly exceed our
capability to publish new products. It is difficult for us to imagine ever
running out of ideas and our company was founded with the mission of
publishing our own inventions, not those of others.

But there are a few companies out there who do publish games by independent
inventors. The best advice we can give you is to read a recently-published
book called "The Game Inventors Guidebook" by Brian Tinsman
(http://www.looneylabs.com/OurStores/product.html? ProductID=162). The link
includes a detailed review of the book.

Good luck,
[name withheld to preserve her privacy]

Re:Do it, but be persistent (1)

Thansal (999464) | more than 7 years ago | (#17770498)

yah, I figgured as much, Andrew Looney has created a vast nubmer of games in his own right, and I know there are a few other people working there. I just tossed the name out there as one of the indy developers I know of.

however that book is a nice looking refference.

#1: Do your research (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17766464)

As you obviously have no idea what you are going on about.

Games Workshop uses 6 sided dice in their system, and as far as I know, there is no such thing as an 80 sided die!

Re:#1: Do your research (1)

RedWizzard (192002) | more than 7 years ago | (#17766598)

You can make any dice with an even number of sides using the same type of shape as a d10 (a trapezohedron [wikipedia.org] ). For example: the d34 [dicecollector.com] . You'd have to make it pretty big to work well with 80 sides, however.

Re:#1: Do your research (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17766676)

Sorry, what I meant to say was that there is no system that I know of that uses an 80 sided die.

Teach me to post before my morning coffee, eh?

Re:#1: Do your research (1)

cyclomedia (882859) | more than 7 years ago | (#17767032)

i've used a 100 sided dice in the past, it was about 2 inches in diameter and made up of hexagons/pentagons, you had to roll it on a perfectly flat surface to figure out what you'd rolled, mind.

oh wait, quick hunt around the net: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zocchihedron [wikipedia.org]

obviously 80 was a number i pulled out of my ass, sorry about that

Re:#1: Do your research (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17775426)

You can make an 80-sider by subdividing each face of a 20-sided die into four triangles. The middle triangle of the four is very slightly bigger than the other three so it's not "perfect" but it's probably better than the 100... The only problem is there's no application for an 80-sided die.

Re:#1: Do your research (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17767060)

You can get D100's and they are hardly huge.

Re:#1: Do your research (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17772612)

Just make sure it isn't a shining trapezohedron. You don't want to accidently summon Nyarlathotep.

I always thought Lovecraft made up that word...

Ask on slashdot. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17767504)

If you have a question like this, the first thing to do is to submit the question to slashdot. That website is full of clever people, so they will surely have an answer for you.

Re:#1: Do your research (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17768604)

I don't know why this guy got modded down, because he's right. Games Workshop doesn't use crazy-sided dice; their games sometimes use 6-sided dice with funny symbols on, but 90% of the time they use standard d6s. Maybe the submitter was thinking of D&D?

Re:#1: Do your research (1)

r0ach (106945) | more than 7 years ago | (#17768922)

I know for a fact there is 100 sided die, so I'd imagine there most likely is an 80 sided one. Check out the Gamblers Warehouse in Las Vegas.

Other way... (3, Interesting)

jackharrer (972403) | more than 7 years ago | (#17766482)

You can try different approach. Try publishing your game on Net. Something like printable table (in pdf for example) and some cutout pieces. Let people play. If it's good enough, and people like it you can approach some game publishers. Not to mention that this approach will give you loads of beta testers, for free. So you will be able to improve a game in a process. Use Slashvertisement.
And as everybody knows, it's better to have a game you like in nice box with good quality pieces, so they will buy it afterwards, thus guaranteeing some sales.

And be patient, very patient... I wish you luck!!!

Re:Other way... (2, Insightful)

Max Romantschuk (132276) | more than 7 years ago | (#17766500)

You can try different approach. Try publishing your game on Net. Something like printable table (in pdf for example) and some cutout pieces. Let people play. If it's good enough, and people like it you can approach some game publishers.
Then again, some publishers may be put off byt something being published already. I'd rather have people over and play instead... But I may very well be wrong. I like the idea from a FOSS standpoint!

FOSS... (1)

cyclomedia (882859) | more than 7 years ago | (#17766962)

i love the idea of doing it in a FOSS fashion and can easily envision a MOD scene evolving around the game as it is extensible. In favour of that is also my lack of spare time what with being a full time worker and parent. Against that idea is that i DO have kids to feed and would like to indulge in at least a little capitalism :-)

Perhaps there is a middle way, maybe i can just copyright the fundamental concept and then license sets, mods and expansions for sale - but allow plenty of fair use to create your own sets. That would still need to be some proof of consumer-demand to get people to want to license. On the other hand, setting up a web site with the rules and how to make your own sets, along with an AJAX powered version to play online would be great, but i wouldnt want to get into an argument about licensing terms because i changed a neuance of a rule at a user's suggestion and they then want a cut. (though saying that, being a software beta tester doesn't grant you a share of the software co's profits, so there is a precedent i suppose)

Anyway, i'm not being pretentious about any plans for global domination and the comparison to chess and go was just in terms of the rules. Also i'm fully aware that not having a tested prototype doesnt help my situation but i'm not planning on pitching it to $BigGameCo tomorrow. Hence me asking for advice about which path to follow, before i step out the door.

Re:Other way... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17766822)

To piggyback on that comment about publishing on the Net, I'd say learn something like Flash or hire a Flash programmer and whip up a Flash version of the game to put on the Net.

People are lazy and are more likely to try something they can play immediately than a cut-out board....

of course, you'd then have to wrestle with how you were going to make the flash game multiplayer.

Print Cheaply (2, Interesting)

twoallbeefpatties (615632) | more than 7 years ago | (#17767226)

It may also help to follow the example of people like Cheapass Games and print your games on inexpensive material - very plain cardboard and the like, don't include dice or tokens in your packaging and encourage people to scrounge an old monopoly game for those things, and etc. The game itself may not hold up well to pressure, but if it's a good game, then maybe you'll get a grant to print it on heavier material anyway.

The looks, the looks, the looks! (3, Interesting)

Max Romantschuk (132276) | more than 7 years ago | (#17766484)

I know nothing about the board game business... ...but team up with someone who can draw and/or design well. Scanners and inkjets are dirt cheap these days. If your prototype looks like a product instead of a school project your chances of getting published should be orders of magnitude better.

Playability is important, but without looks you can't appeal to Joe Sixpack.

Re:The looks, the looks, the looks! (0, Flamebait)

Rakshasa Taisab (244699) | more than 7 years ago | (#17766554)

I know nothing about brain surgery, but make sure you team up with someone who can cut... and doesn't drink too much.

Re:The looks, the looks, the looks! (1)

Max Romantschuk (132276) | more than 7 years ago | (#17766576)

Not knowing the board game business does not imply that I know nothing about pitching ideas and marketing. You've never seen an IANAL-comment on Slashdot? ;)

Re:The looks, the looks, the looks! (1)

Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) | more than 7 years ago | (#17766590)

You've never seen an IANAL-comment on Slashdot? ;)

IANAL, but you have to defend your copyrights or you risk losing them...

(Incidentally, that's actually true, if you're Disney and your idea of defending your copyrights involves lobbying.)

Re:The looks, the looks, the looks! (1)

Max Romantschuk (132276) | more than 7 years ago | (#17766608)

IANAL, but you have to defend your copyrights or you risk losing them...
You mean trademarks?

Re:The looks, the looks, the looks! (1)

Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) | more than 7 years ago | (#17766646)

whoosh

Re:The looks, the looks, the looks! (1)

JabberWokky (19442) | more than 7 years ago | (#17766778)

Point, missed.

--
Evan

Re:The looks, the looks, the looks! (1)

foniksonik (573572) | more than 7 years ago | (#17768942)

While this is true I doubt very much that Joe Sixpack is interested in a strategy boardgame. However... use RISK as your baseline for graphics. Looks professional but not overly complicated visuals anywhere except the packaging (which you can get past by picking a nice font (fonts.com) and sticking the name big in red on black... always looks nice a dramatic).

Re:The looks, the looks, the looks! (1)

AvitarX (172628) | more than 7 years ago | (#17769406)

I can second this.

My limited experience involves working at a print shop.

We had a customer who designed a game and has now quit his job on the proceeds. He spent 1000's of dollars building prototypes over the course of a year or two. Unfortunately I don't know what he did with publishers or I could really be helpful.

I really doubt he would have gone anywhere without the nice look. he publishers probably get 1000's of pitches a month, make yours easier to publish (more complete) and they may actually look at it.

Have you tried? (4, Informative)

91degrees (207121) | more than 7 years ago | (#17766494)

presumably I can't just show up at Hasbro with my jerry rigged setup and expect an enthusiastic response.

Stop being so presumptious. Write to Hasbro with a brief concept of your game and see what they say. Get the game finished and balanced first. No publisher is interested in a half designed game. But don't worry about production values. Graphic designers can be hired by the publisher. And find some other people to help playtest the game. You might want to try a few other publishers as well [boardgamegeek.com] .

Re:Have you tried? (1)

Almo2001 (1056138) | more than 7 years ago | (#17769358)

None of the Hasbro family of companies (Hasbro, Parker Brothers, Avalon Hill, etc) will talk to individuals. They only talk to "toy brokers." Watch out for them. One of them, Davidson and Associates, makes their money charging people for "research" and have an amazingly poor track record getting games to manufacturers. Check with the Better Business Bureau before giving anyone any money. I'm almost finished with a large boardgame myself, with 6-8 hour playing time. My plan is to publish on the web. Publishers get more interested once you've proven a game is sellable.

Come back when you have something (5, Insightful)

Lord Bitman (95493) | more than 7 years ago | (#17766520)

1) You haven't made a prototype
2) You haven't taught it to anyone else, meaning
3) You haven't even played the "game"
4) You're already comparing it to chess

How about seeing if it's any good before you start thinking about selling it?

5) You don't want to give any details, because
6) You're worried about people stealing your idea
7) Which you haven't even shown to anyone else, which means
8) You haven't even done any basic steps towards finding out if it's worth stealing

How about embracing open development? Or at least a little less closed than "I need to do everything myself. If I ask the opinion of others, they might steal my idea! Which is definitely on par with chess! But not go, because I read that was awesome"

Do I sound hostile? That's because I am giving you advice and you don't want to hear it. Why did you ask for it?

Re:Come back when you have something (4, Insightful)

r3m0t (626466) | more than 7 years ago | (#17766640)

I see a lot of people faulting this person over his comparison to chess.

"pitched somewhere between Checkers and Chess but probably not as deceptively complex as Go"

He (she?) obviously meant it in terms of the simplicity of the rules, and perhaps the amount of thought required for each turn. He doesn't expect it to become the next chess.

That said, if he hasn't even played the game, the whole discussion is pointless.

He should also try to explain the game to somebody with less patience than a wife. Some critical friends, for example.

Re:Come back when you have something (5, Funny)

mwlewis (794711) | more than 7 years ago | (#17766882)

He should also try to explain the game to somebody with less patience than a wife.
You must not be married.

Re:Come back when you have something (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17775008)

Or he has a 'condition' that requires his wife have a lot of patience.

Re:Come back when you have something (2, Insightful)

ockegheim (808089) | more than 7 years ago | (#17768718)

Or for a real acid test, write out the instructions as you would expect them to be in the published game, get some friends to play it with nothing but the instructions and video them. That's all the help someone buying the game will generally get.

If you're heavily involved with something, other people will miss things that seem blindingly obvious to you.

Re:Come back when you have something (1)

palad1 (571416) | more than 7 years ago | (#17770232)

He should also try to explain the game to somebody with less patience than a wife.
Does this person even exist?

Just for the record (2, Informative)

Toby_Tyke (797359) | more than 7 years ago | (#17766548)

I'm pretty sure every game system currently published by Games Workshop uses only regular six sided dice. I think the last game using anyhting else was second edition 40K, but that went all-D6 with third edition.

Oh, and Blood Bowl uses some custom dice, but they're just D6s with pictures instead of numbers.

Re:Just for the record (2, Informative)

BadMrMojo (767184) | more than 7 years ago | (#17768662)

Oh, and Blood Bowl uses some custom dice, but they're just D6s with pictures instead of numbers.

Also a d8 for scatter.

1 2 3
4 _ 5
6 7 8
I am so lame it hurts.

Re:Just for the record (1)

Toby_Tyke (797359) | more than 7 years ago | (#17768756)

Ah yes, I forgot about that one.

Come to think of it, Necromunda might still use some odd dice as well.

Re:Just for the record (1)

Thansal (999464) | more than 7 years ago | (#17769566)

It is actualy easier to use a D8/D10 for scatter simply by having the bottom or top point set as the pointer, and if I remember you need to assign a number (or a few) as "hit".

Re:Just for the record (2, Insightful)

josteos (455905) | more than 7 years ago | (#17775806)

Replace a d8 with 3d6, using the fact that 2^3 = 8:
die 0:
  1-3: +0
  4-6: +1

die 1:
  1-3: +0
  4-6: +2

die 2:
  1-3: +0
  4-6: +4

Add them up and you get a number from 0-7. Add +1 to make it 1-8. Or modify die one to evaluate to +1 | +2.

Yeah, my friends never got it either. Probably didn't help that I kept referring to 'die 0'.

Just to be pedantic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17768792)

Blood Bowl uses a d8 for scatter, and I think Warhammer still uses the direction and misfire dice (custom but still six-sided) for catapults and the like - it's been a while since I played it though, so they might have changed that one.

Good news. It's easier than you think. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17766568)

This was one of three products my Junior Achievement company did one year. Design the boardgame. Find a printer or printers to get the stuff made. Put the boxes together yourself, sell. That's how we did it. Was it inspired? No, it was a six sided monopoly game. I think our unit price was something like just under 5 bucks in 1990 dollars, we sold it for 25,20,15,10,5, and finally free to everyone in the JA company.

You want to make the game and get it out there, well that's no trouble. Making the game and selling it to someone and getting them to put it out there, that's a little harder. The real trick is probably refining your design in a response to what you learn from other people who check out your game.

A better place... (5, Informative)

timftbf (48204) | more than 7 years ago | (#17766584)

...to ask the question would be the Board Game Designers' Forum - http://www.bgdf.com/ [bgdf.com]

You're almost certainly not going to be talking to Hasbro or GW - you're going to be talking (if you're lucky!) to people like Rio Grande, Uberplay, Kosmos, Mayfair, JKLM... If those names don't mean anything to you, get yourself over to http://www.boardgamegeek.com/ [boardgamegeek.com] and start reading :)

Re:A better place... (1)

karrde (853) | more than 7 years ago | (#17768112)

I wish I had moderator points right now, because this is your answer.

I have several friends who have published, or are about to be published. It's not an easy task, and if you don't break out of that not telling anyone you'll get nowhere.

Re:A better place... (1)

edis (266347) | more than 7 years ago | (#17769872)

I second parent post - you should be looking into specialist game publisher, (neither Hasbro nor Mattel are likely to be your supporters), probably in Europe, who would help you polish and promote your product, if it is really somewhat promising. Before you do that, it might be beneficial to test and strenghten very idea of your game, if still possible, best would be to have actual group of people trying to enjoy gameplay, watching them. Excellent idea, quality publishing and promotion means, that publisher would help you with - those would be essential, I believe.

Good luck!

Re:A better place... (1)

wwphx (225607) | more than 7 years ago | (#17769986)

There is also a Yahoo group, http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/boardgamedesig n/ [yahoo.com] , excellent resource. And there's the Protospiel conventions, upcoming is Protospiel West, http://www.protospielwest.com/ [protospielwest.com] , which is tomorrow. I don't recall when the original American Protospiel event is, but I'm sure you can find it. And don't forget the Chicago Toy Fair, which has lots of games.

And yes, I am a game designer and publisher. www.SpareBrainsGames.com.

Rule #2142 of start-up business... (3, Insightful)

Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) | more than 7 years ago | (#17766604)

If the only thing you have is an idea you're afraid someone might steal, then you don't have anything of value.

Re:Rule #2142 of start-up business... (1)

pubjames (468013) | more than 7 years ago | (#17767536)

If the only thing you have is an idea you're afraid someone might steal, then you don't have anything of value.

I agree. If someone won't tell you their idea because they are afraid you might steal it, they probably don't very often have ideas and that's why they are so protective of it. If they don't often have ideas, they probably aren't very creative and so their idea probably isn't that good anyway.

Uncreative people over-rate the value of ideas. Ideas are easy - creative people have good ideas all the time. The difficult thing is to implement them well. In business, a mediocre idea well implemented is worth a lot more than a good idea badly implemented.
 

Re:Rule #2142 of start-up business... (1)

SQLGuru (980662) | more than 7 years ago | (#17768274)

I somewhat agree with you on this....if the idea is good, you should be able to share the "elevator speech" version of it even in a community like Slash-Dot.

Consider this game idea -

It's a card game you play by yourself. You deal cards out in to seven columns, all face up (the extra make an incomplete row). You are trying to move the cards around such that you can collect an entire suit (Ace to King) in a special location to the side. -- Freecell. That didn't give away any of the "secret" rules but gives people an idea of what the game is.

If you can't share your game at that sort of level, then it probably needs a *LOT* of work.

Layne

Re:Rule #2142 of start-up business... (3, Funny)

lymond01 (314120) | more than 7 years ago | (#17770300)

I once developed a game that had 4-8 kingdoms each handled by 10 lords that were in charge of the armies that could go from hex to hex and discover what was there and use it to raise armies or hold land or even go on singular quests to gain powers which were rated from 1 to 10 in 7 different categories for each lord and when players' armies met they could use their different army races in varying strategies to combat the aggressor using dice and the controlling lord's powers which didn't need to be activated but would just work and the combats would go for two turns then the rest of the board could move so reinforcements might arrive and eventually the goal isn't to destroy your opponent but to claim the Evil Tower Hex where you have to battle the army there to save the land and proclaim yourself King.

It's sort of like checkers.

Re:Rule #2142 of start-up business... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17768906)

To be fair, people who don't have ideas very often tend to be more likely to develop them fully than people who have lots of them. They can get very focused on their "great idea" sometimes for years until what was at the origin nothing special turns into a great project.

Re:Rule #2142 of start-up business... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17769228)

Care to share any examples?

Re:Rule #2142 of start-up business... (1)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | more than 7 years ago | (#17770486)

Have to agree!

Ideas are a dime a dozen. Good ones worth a little more. But it's IMPLEMENTATION that is worth their weight in gold.

Cheers

--
Why do modern MMORPS still have no concept of rock-climing, swimming, or ballooning?

Re:Rule #2142 of start-up business... (1)

Kazoo the Clown (644526) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772492)

Yes, I think Howard Aiken said it best:

"Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats."

Re:Rule #2142 of start-up business... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17772602)

why is it that everyone hates ideas nowadays? its called having a creative mind, obviously this game is in EARLY development... but give this guy a chance for his idea to blossom a little... you could be helping him here, instead of shutting him out for 'only' having an idea... just stop and think for a second, idea's are what have created the most brilliant things in this world, if you were omnipresent and just told all the great inventors to forget it every time they got an idea, we would be nowhere...

Re:Rule #2142 of start-up business... (1)

Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) | more than 7 years ago | (#17775822)

Nothing is wrong with having ideas, but they're just not that valuable. The people who come up with the ideas are far more valuable, but a lot of them don't even get off the ground because they do self-defeating things like (for example) insisting on confidentiality that job applicants (or worse, investors) sign NDAs prior to an interview/sales pitch.

Another common mistake is to get patents [tinaja.com] , only to find out that people violate your patents anyway, and you can't afford to prosecute them, because you don't have any revenue, because you spent too much of your time and money on getting the patents rather than on developing a product that actually sells.

Re:Rule #2142 of start-up business... (1)

Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) | more than 7 years ago | (#17775936)

Oops. Remove "on confidentiality" (so it reads, "...insisting that job applicants..."), and it'll make sense.

Go to some Gaming Cons (4, Informative)

trip11 (160832) | more than 7 years ago | (#17766632)

I would recomend that once you have a playable prototype, look into some local (or non-local if you're serious) gaming conventions. A lot of these have events for YOU. Everyone brings in a game they have designed, it is play tested, and voted on. Winner gets the game developed or something. Well the details can vary but look into it. Not to mention you could just set up your own, independent game and get lots of feedback from people. It might help smooth out some rough spots. Plus there may be booths set up where you could talk to some reps from publishing companies. At least as much as 'hey, who should I write to in your company about a new game'.

I know there is a big gaming Con in Denver Colorado, and Columbus Ohio. But there are undoubtedly more.

One guy's self-publishing story (3, Interesting)

BortQ (468164) | more than 7 years ago | (#17766670)

Check out The Making of VIKTORY II [viktorygame.com] , one guy's tale of creating and self-publishing his strategic board game. He is crazy persistent (and has some past experience) and manages to knock out a pretty professional final game.

Re:One guy's self-publishing story (1)

MarkGriz (520778) | more than 7 years ago | (#17768782)

Here's another: The Making of Chaos Tiles [mathpuzzle.com]

Not as detailed as the VIKTORY II story, but still some good information.

Publish it yourself, online (4, Interesting)

Cheesey (70139) | more than 7 years ago | (#17766688)

Publish it yourself, selling it through a website. Offer a downloadable demo of some sort, e.g. a PDF of a board and some of the pieces. You can start doing both of these things for a very small investment, and you can scale up your publishing infrastructure according to demand.

A friend of mine [randomviolence.net] is doing this at the moment. You can try out his board game by printing some levels and some of the pieces, and then, if you like it, you can buy the actual thing by cheque or Paypal. Seems to be doing well, he's making an expansion set at the moment.

Another thing you could do would be a computerised version of your game, offered for free online. That could be an excellent advert for the board version, but it would take a bit more investment...

Re:Publish it yourself, online (1)

Gromgull (209379) | more than 7 years ago | (#17770492)

Make it into a Volity [volity.net] game! It's a bit like yahoo games, i.e. a multi-game chat/play/game-ladder thingy for board-like games. However, it's an open framework, with clients in java+svg and made multiplayer using the jabber protocol.

Hasbro usually does not publish a single game (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17766696)

They will ask you what other games you created.
They will want to see your prototype, docs, etc.
They will ask you for feedback from betaplayers.
They will want you to give up your rights on marchandising material.
They will ask you to pay to get published in gaming magazines under Hasbro's influence.
If you fit in their marketing scheme, then they will offer you a contract where you have to create games on a regular basis.
Maybe up to 1 to 3 games a year.

Choose a smaller game publisher or you will regret you ever released your game.
After creating several games that went well,go see a lawyer then go see a major game publisher.

Talking to game designers at GenCon... (3, Interesting)

Mahy (111194) | more than 7 years ago | (#17766928)

...might be a good idea.

Admittedly, I have only met one game designer, but his strategy was to produce the game himself, and sell it at Cons and Comic Shops.

His key piece of advice: When you sell a copy, document it! Give the buyer a receipt and keep a copy. I believe he said (though please forgive me if I am remembering wrong) that no one really got interested until he had 100+ receipts in hand...demonstrating that the game was already starting to be a success.

Re:Talking to game designers at GenCon... (1)

toleraen (831634) | more than 7 years ago | (#17767576)

Or going beyond just talking to game designers, and actually bring your game to GenCon. I haven't been to a GenCon in a while, but when I was there I played several board games that were still in the "prototype" stage. Several of the games didn't have publishers, and that was exactly why there were there. I can't remember if I had to sign up for those ahead of time or if I just "walked in", but I would think getting a spot on GenCons schedule would at least get you some visibility.

Talk to others who have done this (2, Interesting)

iangoldby (552781) | more than 7 years ago | (#17767038)

You could always talk to the people behind War on Terror - the Board Game [waronterro...rdgame.com] . It sounds like they started from much the same position as you are in.

cheapass games (3, Informative)

kattphud (708847) | more than 7 years ago | (#17767290)

If the major board game publishers jilt you, consider selling your idea to Cheapass Games [cheapass.com] , the creators of such works of subgenius like Kill Doctor Lucky and Give Me The Brain.

Re:cheapass games (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17769524)

Cheapass Games does not purchase games from outside designers. As has been suggested, read up on Boardgame Geek, find out about the smaller game publishers, then go to those publisher's web sites and read their submission guidelines.

Good luck. The hobby game industry is small, competitive, and stingy. For every Alan Moon there are thousands of wannabees.

It's a difficult and closed industry! (3, Interesting)

phyjcowl (309329) | more than 7 years ago | (#17767394)

This article caught my interest because I've been in a somewhat similar situation, though I've been pursuing it for the past six years. Here is my story, if anyone is interested or might have further suggestions.

I spent considerable time writing a two-player strategy board game. In fact, I've spent over five years play testing it with different people and refining the rules until it became quite fun and playable. I've developed notation for it as well, so games can be played by correspondence. It would appeal to any chess freak (of which I consider myself one) though aside from requiring two players there is no similarity. It has a beautiful and unique board that a friend and I designed. My goal in creating the game was to introduce a game that could trigger new and different ways of thinking in a collaborative strategy process toward central transcendence goals as opposed to one of conquest (such as chess or go).

Yeah yeah, it may sound complex, but no more so than chess, in fact it has fewer rules and as any serious strategy game enthusiast understands, it's not so much the rules as the intricacies of play that inspire.

I've researched many board game companies in earnest. I looked for those that produced quality designer games (Gigamic, for example) to large multinationals (Megabloks). I wrote nice introductory letters to them. I included overview teasers of the game concept without revealing too much (just to get their interest but protect my idea), and I included my own game NDA from a lawyer.

The responses I got were typically that the companies wanted me to send the rules but would not sign an NDA (in other words, once receiving the rules, they'd potentially be able to develop it and never give credit where credit was due). That is a reality, an experienced, professional game designer warned me about it.

From the game company's perspective of course, they've got to be careful too. They live in fear that if they see something submitted from outside their company, and just happen to be developing something similar on their own, that they'll wind up getting sued. One company persistantly asked me to send them my prototype (of which I made several) but refused to sign the NDA for this very reason. Some companies have their own NDAs, and I've found that sometimes these are sufficient because they seem to have wording that protects both parties (but not always!). At one point, Megabloks signed an NDA with me and they play-tested my prototype but unfortunately my game was just totally out of the realm of the sort they publish. That's to say that even though game companies may like to get good ideas, most are really closed to anyone that is not already in their industry or better, employed by them.

So I'm still looking, considering saving my money to self-publish it, but it's not cheap and I'm not wealthy. My other dream objective for the game, which I have yet to fully lay out in detail would be to form some sort of co-op that involved a few free and open source developers, which would be interested in making a networked electronic (client/server) version of the game (like all those FICS/chess servers) that exist. I would love to see it spread all over and feel like having an electronic FOSS version would really help popularize it in terms of getting a company interested in distributing a physical version of the game. I've always felt that it would be incredibly appealing to sell a physical board game with an online subscription included and a FOSS version makes sense if not for the philosophy for the simple fact that it would be the most efficient way to jumpstart its spread. I dunno, maybe someone is interested in collaborating on that. :-)

Re:It's a difficult and closed industry! (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 7 years ago | (#17769732)

Perhaps what you actually need, is a second great idea. Idea 2 is something simple and preferably card based.

Card games are easy to prototype, usually quick to play, and accessible to most people. Publishers like them because they can easily retool existing production lines. Once you have that, you've become an established game designer, and other publishers will be more willing to talk to you.

Of course, pure strategy games (which I assume this is an example of) are a hard sell. Even serious board gamers aren't all interested in them. The only one I can think of off the top of my head is Thud, which had the obvious Discworld marketting connection. This is not neccesarily a bad thing. It does mean that you have a very large chunk of this small market.

Re:It's a difficult and closed industry! (1)

phyjcowl (309329) | more than 7 years ago | (#17770234)

Wow, that's great. I had no interest in a game design career--I was just focused on the one particular game, but your point is interesting, maybe coming up with something else would be a good means to that end.

You could try SJ Games.. (3, Informative)

Zawash (147532) | more than 7 years ago | (#17767400)

SJ Games may publish your game - if you have a good concept.. :)
Read the guidelines for submitting card- and boardgames [sjgames.com] ..
Also check out the Author Guidelines [sjgames.com] for submitting other types of content.

(Unfortunately, they seem to be rather busy at the moment..)
Good luck!

Game specs? (1)

segin (883667) | more than 7 years ago | (#17767454)

Post the game specifications. If a FLOSS developer or two implements it as a computer-based version, you have a higher chance of getting it published -- simply because a working version would already exist.

Friend Experience (1)

Taulin (569009) | more than 7 years ago | (#17767624)

A friend of mine also creates board and card games. As mentioned before, the first thing you do is test the hell out of it. Have friends over constantly, and play the game. Then make a pretty good prototype.
Post at sites like http://www.iwanttomakeit.com/ [iwanttomakeit.com] that you are looking for piece/board/instructions makers. Once you have some prototypes, go by your local game stores and see if they will sell it in their stores. Leave a copy of the prototype if you want (make them sign a DBA if you haven't done any copyrights and such), and let them play it, or sell it. There are also companies for $500 or so that will evaluate your game. They are mostly bull, but they give their viewpoint in terms of how major publishers see it, so you can make changes before pitching your game. Finally go to the major publishers. Tell them about all the positive experiences you had. Most important: Don't give up!

GAMA or Germany (1)

Pond823 (643768) | more than 7 years ago | (#17767812)

You could look at joining GAMA (Games Manufacturers Association (of America)) http://www.gama.org/ [gama.org] or Move to Germany ;)

Think book publishing, but way harder (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17767882)

It's just like publishing a book, but waaaay harder.

There are very few big board game companies, and the ones that do exist only publish a very small number of new games each year; in fact, they have internal quotas in various categories, so even if you send them the best game ever, if they've already filled their quota for the year, they will reject it out of hand.

Someone I know almost had his game published a number of years ago, by one of the large manufacturers. It was accepted for manufacture, and he's shown me letters from the company, telling him they thought it was one of the best they'd seen in years, and had the potential to be the next Monopoly. And then the company got bought out by one of their competitors, and the new owners informed him that they had already filled their quotas, so they wouldn't publish it after all.

He went on to have a few thousand units produced and sold privately. He made almost nothing from it because of the cost of manufacture in small quantities like that, but it seems the game was a hit among the people who bought it -- a lot of the sets are still in use, and there's even a privatly run user group which runs meetings and a mailing list for players. Recently he considered self-publishing again using the internet to reduce his costs. I don't know whether that has got off the ground yet, though.

advice from actual designers & publishers (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17768066)

I sat in on several forums at gencon last year, which of course does not make me an expert of any sort, but I can pass along what actual game designers and publishers were willing to tell a bunch of nerds at 9am on a saturday -

The concensus was that getting your game published is generally an inside job. This is not to say that outsiders have no hope; rather, it is to say that the path to enlightenment (getting published) lies through opening dialogue with designers & publishers through established means - online forums, attending trade shows, etc. It's much more a face-to-face industry - people like to know who they're working with.

The single key element that was reinforced over and over was PLAYABLE PROTOTYPE. Common advice was not to spend money on production values for said prototype, but rather to spend that time and effort making the game playable and enjoyable, and to put tremendous effort into making the rules comprehensive and readily understandable. Apparently nothing irks publishers more than getting a gaudy prototype with an incomprehensible rules sheet and unexplained/missing parts, unless it's some guy waving his hands and insisting his game is 'so awesome' without producing a prototype of any sort at all.

From someone with a published game (2, Informative)

SQLGuru (980662) | more than 7 years ago | (#17768108)

First off, these are not my comments, so don't ask any more than this. But I know someone with a published game and someone else who has a game to publish. I sent this e-mail to the former and forwarded the response to the latter. That's about all of my involvement in the process of getting a game published. But since it is on topic, I thought I'd include the response here for you.

I'm in Austin, so the reference to Steve Jackson Game might not be as convenient for you as it is for me, but the concept of getting with people who actually make/sell games isn't a bad thought. Also, an earlier response talked about making it "printer-ware", which my published friend indicates that she and her husband do....in fact, she indicates that she might be open to putting it on her site (instant traffic, just not sure of how much).

Good luck on your efforts, but don't hope for anything quick. Unless it's an awesome game, expect years of effort.

Layne

GAMA (http://www.gama.org/) is the Game Manufacturers Association, and they have some worthwhile resources. We went to two of their tradeshows in Las Vegas; met folks, learned some things. I think Jon also hangs out with RPGnet (http://www.rpg.net/), which is more than just role-playing games, and the Game Publishers Association (http://www.thegpa.org).

It's not too difficult to get yourself an invite to a Steve Jackson Games playtesting session, which is certainly... illuminating. (Heh. That's a pun. Uh, anyway.) Playtesting, however, is kind of gruelling, and there's not much glamour to it. But you can see his shop and talk to his people and get some insight into how it goes.

And, of course, there's us: http://www.invisible-city.com/play/ [invisible-city.com] We put our games up for free on the web. They're print-and-play, or composed of household parts like poker cards and checker boards. We host games by guest designers, too.

Trade shows? (1)

ShadowsHawk (916454) | more than 7 years ago | (#17768372)

I believe they hold board game trade shows. A friend managed to get his published by taking a prototype to the show and renting a booth.

Make a fortune (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17768556)

You know how to make a small fortune in the game publishing business, don't you?

Start with a large one.

cheap ass games (1)

Speare (84249) | more than 7 years ago | (#17769282)

Some old friends of mine in Seattle went through this a number of times, until they just decided to start their own "label" of board games. Their gimmick was to produce great new games that used pieces you probably already have from other board games. They don't ship dice, don't ship tokens, don't ship player pawns, don't need much in the way of special cards. They ship a board and an instruction sheet. (I think you CAN buy a higher-priced complete set from them, if you're expecting to play on a mountaintop in Timbuktu or some parts of Arkansas.)

The point here isn't to give them a free ad, they might not even be around anymore, though they were making an okay business of it last I heard. The point is that they tried a number of approaches and found one that worked for them: self-publishing. Stick to it, get the game out in the hands of a lot of players, and if it's worth anything, it will catch on. Then you can aim to get bought out by the likes of Milton Bradley in a few years.

Keep at it... (2, Interesting)

pdboddy (620164) | more than 7 years ago | (#17769460)

There are lots of complex and long games out there, quite a few games in the 18xx railroading series are complex and take a few hours to play. Settlers of Catan. Risk 2011. The Warcraft and World of WarCraft boardgames. Star Fleet Battles. The board game industry has it's share of "easy" or "quick" games, but it also needs the complex games...

Don't get discouraged, keep playtesting and refining the game and your prototypes, make sure you keep ahold of any patents/copyrights/trademarks that result from the game's creation, and keep pitching it at board game companies til it sticks... baring all that, if you get to a point where you cannot do any more refining or playtesting, and no other company has taken it on, go ahead and found your own company.

http://www.deepthoughtgames.com/ [deepthoughtgames.com] is a low volume board game publisher. They might be able to help you out in getting your game looking "professional", and perhaps using eBay, or another "storefront" website, you can start selling your game, the costs would be relatively low.

Here is a book... (1)

porcupine8 (816071) | more than 7 years ago | (#17770270)

The Toy & Game Inventor's Handbook [amazon.com] . I don't yet know how useful it really is, since I have yet to try and pitch any of my ideas, but it seems pretty good in my totally unqualified opinion.

There's also The Toy & Game Inventor's Guide [amazon.com] , but it's rather old. It's pre-internet, which means the whole world has changed. However, it still has some really good stuff on the legal side of things, so you might see if a local library has it anyhow.

If you haven't already, I would definitely say make a few prototypes and get people to play them. Get honest comments, don't be offended by constructive criticism, and improve it based on the comments.

Do it yourself gaming (1)

PegamooseG (991448) | more than 7 years ago | (#17771072)

I recommend looking into the Game Publishers Association [thegpa.org] (GPA). They have several sources to help small publishers get on their feet to do it themselves. In my opinion, do not worry about trying to get another company to publish it for you. If you have the means, you really can do it yourself. You can find artists and distributors and all sorts of friendly people to help you at the GPA. If you do not have much means, you might consider a PDF release on the web. Sites, like RPG-Now [rpgnow.com] , distribute PDF versions of games. Good luck!

Catan on Xbox Live (1)

popo (107611) | more than 7 years ago | (#17771234)

This is slightly OT, but for fans of Catan its big news:

Apparently Xbox Live will be selling an online multiplayer version of the boardgame
this Spring. 'Pretty sweet.

obligatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17771514)

blah blah blah Jump to Conclusions Mat blah blah blah blah

blah blarg

@ college? (1)

buckadude (926560) | more than 7 years ago | (#17771786)

When my father was in getting his masters (many years ago) his friend created a board game. (it was called Class Struggle and was like Monopoly but with a Socialist mind frame rather than Capitalist) With the help of the College they got it produced and stocked by some local stores. Perhaps this type of thing still happens... I'm not really sure.

Zillions of Games (1)

kallisti (20737) | more than 7 years ago | (#17772958)

If you game fits in the general category of 2 player, no hidden information games, then you might want to try having a prototype made using Zillions of Games [zillions-of-games.com] . This program allows you to define the board and movement rules for just about any combiniation you can think of. The basic game plays most of the classics and you can download thousands of versions from their website or Chess Variants [chessvariants.org]

If your game has hidden information which is only know to one player, then Zillions can't handle that, but if your pure strategy, you should be fine. Programming a Zillions requires learning a lisp-like language, it's pretty easy but has its quirks. One nice thing about Zillions is you can create your own new game and have the computer kick your ass at it, that way you can expose flaws and exploits you might have missed. Plus, it would be easy to distibute to your playtesters.

Self-Publishing. (1)

amper (33785) | more than 7 years ago | (#17773788)

Publishing a board game is a fairly trivial exercise. All you need is a good graphic designer and a good printer. Use the Internet to market your product. Take it on the road to gaming conventions.

Under no circumstances should you consider talking to a large existing corporation. If they decide to steal your idea for themselves, you will likely not be able to mount enough of a legal challenge to stop them.

The thing about games is that the game itself has to be compelling in the long term in order for it to survive. If the game is good enough to do that, why would you want to involve anyone else? If the game is good enough to survive on its own merits, eventually, the world will beat a path to your door.

Re:Self-Publishing. (1)

amper (33785) | more than 7 years ago | (#17773948)

I would also like to mention that I have been involved in the gaming industry in the past (d8 magazine, in case anyone remembers it), and that your post has not only caused me to start thinking about getting involved again, but has also installed in me the desire to be a play-tester for you, if you need them. I've never really though about board games before, as I'm more of a role-playing type, but now the wheels are turning for that type of idea.

Days of Wonder (1)

EvlG (24576) | more than 7 years ago | (#17774878)

Check out Days Of Wonder; some of their games were originally user-inspired ideas, so perhaps they are more accustomed to taking an idea and running with it.
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