People enjoy playing board games in different stages of their lives. It is an engaging family activity to play with children. Probably, most of us had a fun time playing various board games when we were children. Then we grow up and start playing them with our young friends. For years, board games have been keeping their popularity in the entertainment field. It is not surprising that nowadays people also try to bring those games to the digital environment. Board game design gained more attention with the increasing interest in Euro-Style games. Hence, I wrote this article to help people get information about how to design a board game.
Similar to mobile game development, the board game creation process varies depending on the idea. There is no specific set of stages that every developer should follow. However, I can share with you some general steps that will assist you in understanding the overall process. I will go through idea generation to launching and sprinkle some tips in between. Lean back in your chair, relax, and be ready to start reading!
The game design process is challenging and requires dedication. Board game development has two stages in general. In the first one, you brainstorm and decide for original features like the theme, story arc, characters, or rewards. The second stage is more technical. You should put the creative elements in action with the help of coding, testing, and launching. I will advise you on some options to learn about how to design a board game. To contribute to your learning process, I will also give a brief description of the design process.
Some online courses offer lessons to learn about board game development. Some of them are not free, but you can also find a basic course which is unpaid or costs less. For instance, in the Udemy platform, you can enroll in a class for building board games for only 13 euros.
If you want to be a board game developer, you should excel in soft skills for programming languages. Java, Python, C# are some of the most popular ones to design games. Alternatively, if you want to engage in more designing processes, like character building or story development, you should know software solutions like ZBrush, Autodesk, or Quest. One can get these skills through online courses or traditional education.
Another way to advance your game design skills is by reading books. There are several famous books on game development. For instance, the Art of Game Design: A book of Lenses can be a helpful guide for beginners. However, you should keep in mind that books are only compliments to the learning process. It is excellent to enhance knowledge through their help. You need to engage in practical lessons more.
Probably the funniest way to learn board game design is by playing. Try to play as much as you can to understand the way board games work. Analyze the themes and see if you can use the features in your game. But be careful- do not hang up on playing too much. As soon as you got the necessary information, pass to another game. It is a great strategy to enhance your understanding of board game mechanism and design.
Besides sharing the ways for learning board game creation with you, I want to contribute to your development further. Hence, I also want to describe the game development process briefly. In this way, you will have more background and start your journey comfortably.
Any game development process, including strategy, casino or unity game development starts with idea formation, moves to technical steps, and ends with launching. Board game design is the same. Its difference is the elements, like characters or rewards, it involves.
The more attractive the theme, the more engaging is the game. There are several ways to find an enjoyable theme. You can take a real-life event and apply it to the board game. Monopoly, for example, involved real-estate issues to the board games. Alternatively, you can inspire from books or movies. Let’s say you like Breaking Bad. If you create a board game based on this TV series, your central theme can be a drug empire.
The benefits of this type of game are vast. Firstly, there is already an established audience for series. The fans will love trying your game. Besides, the story and characters of your game are already ready. You can create characters like actors. Another way to come up with an exciting idea is by playing various games. While playing those board games, think about which features of them you can add to your own game. Types of games will also give you some ideas. You can get more information in the subsequent sections.
Once you come up with the central theme, you need to think about the details of board game development. Try to write down every element that comes to your mind. Firstly, the ideas will be vague. If you explain the game to 5 people, they would understand five different concepts. But, it is a reasonable beginning point. What you need to do is developing the ideas until they are crystal clear. Here you should think of several elements, including:
Players- the number of players and their leading roles.
Duration- how long will it take to finalize one round?
Rewards- rewards can be various. They can include points, prolonged time, or gateway to cool things.
Cooperation- will the players be able to co-op to create synergy?
Story arc- adds more excitement to the game.
Tactics and strategy- is it possible to create short term tactics and long-term strategy in your game?
One of the factors that make board game design distinctive is the eye-catching design. Probably you already noticed that board games mostly have bright, colorful visuals. Cards usually have very well-thought designs. If you have the artistic capability, you can create the designs by yourself. However, often, this process demands a lot of skill and creativity. Hence, it is better to let experienced artists deal with design. One cannot be an expert in both programming and design at the same time. Choose your side and let others finalize the work for your idea.
Game Balancing is an integral part of board game development. Without the right balance, the game will be meaningless. In simple terms, balance means having elements with the same power. Imagine you are playing a card game where one card type is superior to any other. This issue is an example of an uneven balance. The player that has that card will win in all cases.
Sometimes people think tuning the balance is needed after testing the game. They believe testing reveals an uneven balance problem. However, game developers must balance the game before coding. Otherwise, destroying much of the code lines due to imbalance will only be a waste of time and energy.
Like all online games, board game design also requires programming. For other types, I always suggest several software tools where coding has minimum importance. In this way, people who are interested in game development do not spend much time learning to code. However, with board games, the process is different. I would suggest you choose a tool and put effort to learn the usage. Even the simple board games become complicated when you code its rules. Hence, it will be great if you become an expert in programming. Besides, you will be able to customize the game design and processes if you have a good knowledge of coding.
Testing is one of the most crucial steps. None should expect that their game will be successful if they do not test their game. Firstly, developers should check their codes. There should not be any errors, bugs, or malfunctions in the game operation. After all, neither player likes when the game process slowly or stops suddenly. Besides, you should test the game against consumer preferences. It means that let some people play your game. Then collect their feedback. Sometimes what we expect do not realize as we lack players’ perspectives. Once you received the feedback, adjust the board game design.
You dealt with developing and game testing. Now, you are entirely ready to launch your game. There are several ways to introduce a board game. You can add it to the App Store or Play Market. To do so, you need to upload your game and wait for the approval. If you do not wish to wait, you can launch the game in your channels, too. For instance, opening a website can be beneficial. Then you can add the game to the site and introduce it to the audience immediately.
As mentioned before, an essential part of the idea generation is getting familiar with the kinds of board games. This information will help you to generate a unique idea or broaden your choices. Hence, in this section, I want to share information about some board game design types.
Most of us are already familiar with this type of board game. The game usually consists of a path to trace and reach a goal. In some cases, there also exist points to gather. Generally, the game is chance-based and involves less skill or strategy. The main aim of these games is having a fun time together rather than winning it. Besides, do not put much attention to the theme if you are interested in how to design a board game of this type. It is not necessary to offer an advanced topic and design. It is enough to make a simple game with any theme you wish.
Euro-Style Games-also called German-Style Games- offer less player interaction. In these games, players strive to gain points. Once they collect a certain number of points after several turns, they win. An essential part of the game is resource exchange. It is a kind of negotiation between players when they trade or sell their resources. The famous example of this game type can be Carcassonne. It involves less chance and relies heavily on strategy. Different from the Family Board Game, if you want to choose this type, you should put extensive focus on design and theme. The theme will be your main strength to make the game more engaging.
Another board game design type is Abstract Strategy Games. These games do not have to reflect a real-life theme; instead, it is a kind of game where gamers’ decisions solely affect the result. It seems confusing. Therefore, let me give you an example- chess. In a chess game, the strategy is out-matching the opponent. The gamers are engaged in complex strategic battles. Instead of rolling the dice or creating a deck of cards, the main target is locating the pieces in the right positions.
As its name suggests, the primary aim in Deck-Building Games is building a deck of cards. The cards are symbolizing a currency. Gamers can use this currency to buy more cards and add to the deck. There is a card collection of usually 15-30 card types. Each player generally chooses 10 of them. They try to build their deck by buying new cards from the pool. The game finishes when some kinds of care are used up or when players collect a pattern of cards.
A more advanced version of Euro-Style Games is Strategy games. Strategy game development involves consideration on cooperation, creation of alliances, and competitive play. It is also similar to Abstract Strategy games as players spend hours to form a strategy to out-match. They think about the future actions of the opponent and try to hurt their position. Some examples of this type can be Risk or Arkham Horror. If you wonder how to design a board game like them, you should first generate an engaging and exciting narrative, theme, and design.
You are already familiar with the general board game development and design process. In this section, I want to share some problems that you will face while designing the game. If you consider them before creating the game, your building process will be more convenient.
When you think of the rules of the game and write them done, they can look quite okay. The problem arises when you start coding the rules. The programming languages for coding are exact. They demand precise answers to all possibilities. However, people usually do not consider all options while creating rules. The uncertainty in actions only appears when the program requires explicit instructions. Hence, you may face a lot of issues while coding the rules. I would advise you to be as precise as possible while generating the rules. However, for a human mind, it is highly probable that it will ignore some possibilities. Therefore, be patient and try to solve the uncertainties of programming languages as they appear.
You sit down and spend 15-20 minutes playing the game. You think it is fun and straightforward. I agree with the fun part, but it is not simple. The board game seems simple to humans, but they require extensive work from the development side. Sometimes developers think that if they have simple rules, the process will be more comfortable. However, this is not the case. A human mind thinks in simple terms. When we play, we think of 2-3 strategies while the machine might come up with 60 different approaches. You should code the game in a way that the device knows what will be the results of all 60 strategies. Hence, you should not expect that the game development process will be straightforward if you want to learn about board game design.
If you are interested in board games, there is a high chance that you will generate various engaging ideas. As a result, you might get excited and wish to add all the great features you can think about. However, this action will make your game hard to follow. Board game design requires exciting elements. Nonetheless, gamers should not feel lost among so many factors to consider. Hence, the best game development teams create the right balance of simplicity and complexity. Your game should not be a child’s work, but at the same time, it should not have overwhelming elements.