“Everything begins with a simple idea. But that simple idea is what will take you a long way”
Did you know that ideation is the first step to any project or endeavor? Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Meta (formerly Facebook), ideated and worked on the creation of Facebook out of his dorm room while studying at Harvard University. That beautiful thought might come to you out of the blue but you could wish to pursue it and accomplish something. The same applies to creating and publishing a board game. Without ideation, there is simply nothing to work on. But it definitely takes the right kind of ideation, to know that “This is it!”. We at Mad4Fun Games believe that ideation is the foundation to publishing an abstract strategy board game and it is just the start of a long journey, that ultimately propels you to the next steps in the process!
Ideation of a board game is truly a broad arena that one should cater to. Thus, many sub-steps need to be kept in mind during the ideation phase. To start off, no one can develop an interest in board games without actually playing and investing their time in a lot of them. Playing board games, card games, or any form of tabletop game helps you analyze the kind of gameplay you want, the mechanics you’d like to indulge in, and the concepts/ideas you would want to work on. It is also a form of background research that takes place while you play it, so you know how you should go about creating your game as well. The gameplay should also be something that interests people so that it doesn’t drag on and bore them. Truth be told, you never know when inspiration might strike you!
A game theme is very important in the whole ideation process, without which you would not even have a real game to call your own. The concept behind the game is what makes the game theme. We created Ettana with the concept of handlooms and annas which became a crucial element in our game’s theme. It is the basic idea that you want your game mechanics to revolve around and usually, it is what helps your game stand out from the rest. At times, a game theme could eventually lead you to the idea of the game and how you want to go about it, or you might just have a game in mind but you relate it to a theme to help portray it in a better way to the audience. The game theme should always be neutral and simple to work around so that it stays enjoyable.
With the intent that the game does not get boring, it is crucial to keep in mind that the game should have different variations that it can be played in. When different strategies and tactics can be used depending on the situation in the game, it gets more exciting for the players, and there is never a dull moment. Through variations, you could also have different setups of the game, so that it can be played in multiple ways. The possibilities to play and win should be endless.
“How many players can play your game?” is a question you need to ask yourself right at the beginning. Is it a 2 to 4 player game, 3 to 6, or can even be played solo? A lot of games are being published, that cater to solo playing along with the traditional group play. Once you have all your game mechanics in place, you need to decide on what the game objective or end result is. It could either be collecting a certain number of cards, getting to a certain position, collecting a certain number or highest number of points, and so on. Remember to not make the game objective too complex or confusing for the audience by adding on multiple things that they need to achieve to win. It needs to have the least ambiguity and be simple to calculate if it involves points. Checking everyone’s points at regular intervals during the game could also help everyone stay aware of who’s leading. If your game supports the idea of just strategizing to win without knowing how many points the other players have, it is witty to walk down that road as well.
Game components entirely make up the game, and knowing where/how to apply each component during the game is necessary. How many dice do you want to introduce and when do you roll them? It variates strategy and the decisions you will end up making at different points in the game. Rolling a die comes with its own set of luck, but how that luck defines the game is something you could look out for. It is your decision if you want to base your game entirely on luck or not, but it could also be nice to do away with a common misconception that dice rolls don’t always assure a win. It is usually the right balance of strategy and luck that takes you to the end, so that is something that needs to be kept in mind while ideating. Some other components you can include are cards (unique or repetitive), cardboard tokens, meeples, tiles, etc according to your liking, but the purpose and number for every component need to be well-defined in advance. Introducing the idea of trading components like money and resources during the game, always induces an element of fun, as long as it is of least dubiety and the denominations aren’t confusing.
The board for the game is one of the key aspects that need to be looked into. According to your theme and gameplay, would you prefer having a single board, individual boards for each player, or you piece the board together every time you play, using the square/hexagonal cardboard components? The size of the board should be published keeping in mind the sizes of dining tables or any form of tables where people usually play tabletop games. It should not be too large or too small for the area.
What attracts most people in a game? The elements of fun, strategy, intrigue, thinking, creativity! The game should make people want to play it repeatedly and increase their interest in it over time, instead of boring them out. Thus, the gameplay should make sure that these criteria fit in somewhere or the other to indulge the audience in an air of enjoyment. The age limit for the game needs to be decided beforehand through prior testing so that kids of a certain age can be included as well.
Bottlenecks are very common if the game has not been ideated well. There should be absolutely no bottleneck situations in the game that you cannot move on from or keep you stuck. The game must move on for better or for worse, for each player of the game, unless they are eliminated by the rules. The number of cards, tokens, dice, and other components should be perfect in number according to the game’s progression.
While closing the game, players need to know that the game is coming to an end and that someone is winning. Something has to clearly trigger the situation that the game is ending. It could be a hint through resources getting over, a few more rounds for completion, or a calculation of scores after a certain point. There should be no ambiguity in the fact that the game has ended with at least one player emerging as the winner.
Last but not the least, testing! Testing inside out and upside down with every bit of your energy and time is not even a request, but a mandate of sorts. Every game requires a highly extensive amount of testing before affirming its ideation. Testing with a certain number of players so you know how many can play at a time, testing the game components, the gameplay, the game objective, making sure the rules are in place and staying assertive of smooth playthroughs of the game are of utmost importance. The time that is dedicated to testing proves how serious you are about your game, and completely diminishes all the flaws and bottlenecks possible. Usually, people spend solely 8-12 months testing the game and the idea. Throughout the testing phase, you might end up tweaking the game, changing certain things that you found out will not work, introducing new components or ways to play the game, or reducing the time duration of the game. The balance of play often goes unnoticed during the testing phase, i.e. the game should not end with the players’ scores being too far apart or the game being too one-sided. A good pre-emptive measure during testing includes checking if the game ends close for all players, often in terms of points/scores. It is those fine margins that act as a booster to motivate players to try and win in the next rounds. Finally, everything you do is a series of trials and errors to make your game conclude with rules that are needed to play the game. These rules can also be tweaked and clarified according to the game needs, or situations you come across during the gameplay. The rules evolve as you keep playing and testing over time.
As aforementioned, this is just the starting point in the inception of a game! Only when you’re done with the complete ideation of your game, can you move on with the next steps to publish it. There is a long journey of phases and steps that must be completed and adhered to while creating your own board game, which eventually leads to its final publication!
Stay tuned to our blogs to check out the next step on this rollercoaster on how to publish your own board game!
A series of blogs to share our experience in Board game publishing
19 Dec 2021
- [+] Dice rolls