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How to Make a Board Game

Have you ever found yourself deeply immersed in a board game with your friends, and thought, “I wonder if I could create something like this?”

Creating your own board game can feel like a daunting task. It’s easy to hear the words “board game design” and imagine complicated blueprints, endless nights of playtesting and a process that can leave you, well, less interested in board games than you were before you started.

The reality is that knowing how to make a board game is a skill, and like any other skill, with the right approach, you can learn it.

In fact, many of our most successful board game designer customers started out in exactly the same place as you — learning from the beginning.

The purpose of this guide, and our entire Hero Time University section, is to walk you through the process of making a board game from beginning to end, all without overwhelming you with complicated terminology or too much information.

Think of it as “Making a Board Game 101,” with our team of design, marketing and board game industry experts as your professors.

Before we get started, let’s get two important things out of the way:

First, creating and publishing an original board game is a serious commitment. You don’t need a huge budget or decades of experience, but you do need a clear vision and the time to execute it to its fullest.

In other words, there’s lots of work involved, including work that you might not even think about before you start the process of creating your game.

Second, creating a successful board game isn’t only about your creative vision — it’s also about making sure your board game finds its place in the board game market and reaches your target audience.

This means that you’ll need to spend some of your time working out who you want to reach with your game and making sure it’s an appealing commercial product.

We’ll walk you through all of this in the sections below, helping you develop your knowledge and transform yourself from a board game enthusiast into a skilled board game creator with your first game to your name.

If you feel like you need more help with any one step in creating your finished game, feel free to get in touch with us for one-on-one help.

To get started, use any of the sections below or navigate to specific Hero Time University pages using the sidebar on the left.

Types of Board Games

A simple but effective way to find inspiration for your very own board game is to understand how existing, successful board games fit into specific categories, as well as the mechanics that make them so much fun to play.

Many great games are all about area control, while others pit you against your fellow players in a game of social deduction. Some games are classic roll-and-moves, while others take you and your fellow players through a specific campaign or event.

Understanding the different types of board games can help you discover your idea and give you the knowledge about game mechanics to turn it into a more concrete concept.

It can also help you work out things like your game’s player count (how many players can play it at once), the basic gameplay and high-level design information.

Our guide to types of board games shares 39 common types of board games and explains how popular, successful games have used these mechanics to become modern classics.

Designing Your Board Game

Making your board game starts with great design. Designing your board game is a process that covers everything from base mechanics to artwork, your game’s rules, and even the pieces you need to manufacture to physically bring the game to life.

The design of your game directly impacts everything from how it’s played to how much it’s going to cost to manufacture, making this an absolutely critical step in your game’s development.

It also involves finding out what the key “fun factor” of your game is — the “core fantasy” of the game, which will keep players coming back for more.

Our guide to designing your board game explains how you can take your board game idea and create an actionable plan to turn it into a real, working prototype that’s ready for production.

Game Design Resources

  • Stages of the board game design process. Learn the game design process from beginning to end, as well as key stages to guide you on your design journey from an initial idea to a more refined game concept.
  • Popular strategies for games. Learn 10 common game strategies, as well as how effective design can help you stop players exploiting aspects of your game’s design and/or mechanics.
  • Board game playtesting. Playtesting is a critical part of designing a game that can stand the test of time. Learn how playtesting works, as well as why it’s so important before manufacturing your game.
  • Rulebook editing. A good rulebook lets players jump into your game while making every rule and mechanic clear. Learn how to create a good rulebook so that playing games is fun, not stressful.
  • Patenting your game. Should you patent your game? Learn about the legal process involved in patenting your game, as well as whether or not it’s worthwhile for your new game.

Publishing Your Board Game

One of the most frequently asked questions we receive from board game designers is whether they should self-publish their new game or use a publisher.

There are several ways to publish your game, including self-funding it, using a platform such as Kickstarter, or working with a game publisher. Our guide to publishing your board game explains your options in detail to help you decide on which is best for your game.

Game Publishing Resources

  • Game publishing channels. Popular channels for selling your game include Amazon, crowdfunding, creating a website and working with distributors. Learn about publishing channels and how they can help you publish and promote your game.
  • The x5 rule for selling games. Using the x5 rule can help you price your game right and make a profit. Learn about the x5 rule, as well as how you can use it to work out your game’s ideal retail price.

Board Game Pieces

Every board game is made up of pieces — tokens, game cards, dice, wooden pieces, boxes and even the folding game boards that you’ll use to play games.

As you create your board game, you’ll need to design all of these pieces, from sizing and colors to the specific materials used for each piece.

Our board game pieces section breaks these down piece by piece (excuse the pun) to help you understand the entire process of making cards, boxes, models, dice and the other components that players will use to play your board game.

Game Pieces Resources

  • Game boxes. Game boxes come in several types and sizes. Learn about your options for packaging your game, including box materials and how much each type of box costs to manufacture.
  • Playing cards. Playing cards are the main part of almost every game. Learn about how cards are made, the standard sizes of playing cards and common types of paper used to create playing cards.
  • Playing card finishes. Playing cards have a finish, and your choice of finish can have a big impact on your game’s appearance and cost. Learn about the different finishes used for playing cards, as well as when each finish should be used for your game.
  • Foldable game boards. Game boards are used as a game map, points tracker, layout and more. Learn about foldable game board materials, game board designs and other key information to help you make the right design and manufacturing decisions.
  • Game tokens. Tokens include map tiles, characters, items, chits and other items that are used to play your game. Learn about how these are made, as well as what you’ll need to know when you design and manufacture tokens for your game.
  • Wooden game pieces. Game pieces come in a variety of standard shapes, as well as a multitude of custom shapes. Learn about how pieces are manufactured, as well as how the shape of your game pieces can impact the cost of making your game.

Costs of Manufacturing Your Own Board Game

Board games can vary hugely in terms of cost, largely as a result of the degree of customization that’s possible. Because of regional differences in costs, different manufacturers might give you totally different quotes to manufacture your board game.

There’s no one-size-fits-all price that applies to board games, but there is a logic to how games are priced. Our detailed section on board game manufacturing costs explains how these work to help you anticipate the amount much you’ll need to invest to bring your game to life.

Manufacturing Costs Resources

  • General costs of making a game. Learn about the typical costs involved in the game manufacturing process, as well as how they’ll apply to your game.
  • Printing costs. Printing is a significant part of game manufacturing costs. Learn about how raw materials, printing plates and calibration can affect the cost of printing for your game.
  • Cardboard costs. Cardboard is vital for games. Learn about the costs associated with cardboard for your game board, score trackers, tokens, characters and other essential game components.
  • Gluing and cutting costs. Gluing and cutting can be performed by hand, automated or semi-automated. Learn about these options and the impact different types of processes and machines can have on the cost of your game.

Board Game and Card Game Art

Great board game art isn’t just about making your game aesthetically pleasing — it’s also about giving it a distinct personality and character. Good design means your board, game cards and other pieces look great, and that your game is easy for players to understand.

It also means your game is designed with the printing and manufacturing process in mind — an aspect of board game design that’s critical for producing an excellent product.

Our board game and playing card game art section covers everything you need to know about the art side of designing your own game, with detailed videos from Chris Whitpan to guide you through every step of the graphic design and illustration process.

Game Art Resources

  • Potential artists for your game. Finding the right artists for your game can be a tough process. Our list of artists contains three incredibly talented artists you can hire to make your game a visual success, each with a different style.
  • Most common game artwork mistakes. Art mistakes can seriously affect your game, including the manufacturing process. Learn common mistakes first-time game creators make, as well as how you can avoid them.
  • Artwork setup guide. Setting up your artwork the right way is critical for making sure it prints properly and your game looks the way it’s supposed to look. Learn how to set up your artwork for optimal printing and a great-looking final result.

Manufacturing Your Game

Manufacturing your game can feel like a minefield of potential problems, which is why it’s critical to develop a strong understanding of the manufacturing process before you start this step in the board game creation process.

In our manufacturing a board game section, we’ll walk you through the process of choosing your board game manufacturer, working out the exact specifications of your game, creating a sample version of your game, and finally, manufacturing your retail game effectively.

We’ll also teach you about common manufacturing issues to look out for, as well as the precise steps you can take to make sure your manufacturing process is a success.

Game Manufacturing Resources

  • Working with Hero Time. We specialize in manufacturing games. Learn what it’s like to work with us as a manufacturer, as well as how we can help you with every step of the game design, artwork and manufacturing process.
  • Manufacturing process of a game. Learn about the manufacturing process for a game, from designing your files to creating a sample, making adjustments, and producing your game.
  • Mass manufacturers vs. print-on-demand (POD) manufacturers. Learn about mass manufacturing, print-on-demand manufacturing, and which option is the best choice for creating your game.
  • Standard payment structure and lead time. Learn about the financial side of making your board or card game, including payments and lead times, pre-production payments, balance payments, and shipping and fulfillment (optional).
  • Trading card manufacturers. In addition to board and card games, we can also make trading cards. Learn about trading card production and the basics of how manufacturing for trading cards works.

Safety Tests for Games

Board games need to be tested for safety before they can go on sale. There are several major safety regulations that you’ll need to comply with in order to sell your board game in the USA, UK, European Union, Australia, New Zealand and other major markets.

These include the following regulations:

  • Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (USA)
  • CE Mark Certification (European Economic Area and Turkey)
  • UK Conformity Assessed marking (United Kingdom)
  • AS/NZS ISO 8124 (Australia and New Zealand)
  • ISO 8124 (rest of the world)

Some marketplaces, like Amazon, also require new games to have a CPC (Children’s Product Certificate) to go on sale.

As a game designer, dealing with regulations can seem like a headache. The good news is that these safety tests and regulations aren’t as intimidating as they seem, and good manufacturing practices can go a long way towards helping you pass each regulator’s testing process.

This is why it’s so critical to choose a manufacturer that doesn’t just understand how your game works, but also understands the regulatory environment in your target markets.

Our full guide to safety tests for games explains the tests your game will need to pass to go on sale, as well as how these can vary from one country and economic area to another.

Safety Tests Resources

  • Safety testing overview. Learn about the different tests for board and card games, as well as which tests are required to sell in specific regions.
  • Getting a US safety test for your game. Learn about how to get your game tested for sale in the United States, including requirements for physical properties, flammability, soluble heavy metals, lead, phthalates and label requirements.
  • CE mark/certificate for games. Learn about regulatory requirements and tests to sell your game in the European Economic Area and Turkey.
  • UKCA markings update. Learn about UK requirements for selling consumer products, and how they’re required from the beginning of 2023.

Shipping Your Game from China

Once your game is a finished product, it’s time to box it up and ship it. Shipping your game from China to your home country or target market is a multi-step process that involves transporting it to a local port, shipping it to your destination, warehousing and delivery.

There are also other aspects to the shipping and fulfillment process, which can vary depending on where you plan to sell your game.

Our guide to shipping your game from China covers everything you need to know about how to ship your game, from sea freight and air freight options to frequently asked questions related to game shipping and delivery.

Game Shipping Resources

  • Shipping terms for games. Shipping terms can be confusing. Learn what the common shipping terms all mean, as well as the impact different aspects of the shipping process can have on your game’s cost and shipping time.
  • Shipping FAQs. Need help with shipping? Before you contact us, learn the answers to the most frequently asked shipping questions here.

Marketing and Selling Your Game

The best games aren’t just cool ideas paired with great design and game mechanics — they’re also marketed effectively. The right marketing helps your game reach its audience and lets you keep making money from it, allowing you to build a real business around your creation.

Marketing your board game can be a challenging process, but there are plenty of channels that you can use to reach your target audience and make them aware of your game.

There’s no one-size-fits-all way to market your board game. You might choose to sell your game on Amazon or Etsy, make your own website to promote your game, partner with local game and hobby stores, or do a mix of everything.

Our guide to marketing and selling your game covers the As to Zs of promoting your game and reaching your target customers, from the fundamentals of board game marketing to advertising your game successfully.

Game Marketing & Sales Resources

Contact Us for Help With Your Game

Need personal assistance and guidance? We’re here to help you with every step of your board game or card game development journey. Book a call now to talk to our team and find out more about how you can turn your game concept into a reality.

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