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Tips for Students: Building Better Board Games

Highlights from Expert Series

The following article shares highlights and insights from one of our Expert Series events, which are exclusive for Young Scholars and their parents.


Building Better Board games is an overview of the design process. It’s filled with tips and tricks to help new game designers improve how they design, playtest and produce finished board games. It discusses where new ideas can come from and gives examples of how playing other games can help you improve your own designs. It covers details on the importance of playtesting and breaks down all the different ways designers should put their games through the ringer.

This includes great detail on testing your games by yourself, with your family and friends, with fellow designers and complete strangers. It also covers ways to engage your players better by making them feel clever and in control of their decisions while playing. Making sure your game is a joy to discover and not something that will play itself or frustrate a player when it doesn’t work the way they expected is an important skill to learn and this talk gives you some important things to think about when designing a game.

Another important part of the design process is also learning to deal with failure and frustration, it’s important that new designers know they aren’t alone and its okay not to have all the answers. Advice for dealing with and avoiding these frustration points are shared. Finally, the end of the talk gives a brief overview of options to explore once a design is finished. These options include everything from self-publishing your game through various websites and crowdfunding to learning how to prepare to pitch your game to a publisher.

Tips

  1. Play more board games. This will help you expand your knowledge of systems and solutions.
  2. Make sure your games don’t play themselves, give your players meaningful choices to make.
  3. Playtest, playtest, playtest!
  4. Network with other designers.
  5. Don’t take negative feedback, failure and frustrations personally. Its part of the process.
  6. Define your personal goals to help you finish designs.
  7. Learn more about self-publishing or working with publishers if your end goal is to share your game with the world.

Things students can do to explore this topic further

  • Listen to game design podcasts like Ludology and Board Game design lab.
  • Watch GDC talks from other designers on YouTube. These cover video games and board games.
  • Watch reviews and playthroughs of board games that interest you.
  • Join or start a local board game meetup. I would suggest at least meeting monthly if possible.
  • Explore games online for free and Board Game Arena a Yucata to expand your knowledge of types of games.
  • Seek out other designers so you can play each others games.

Building Better Board Games Resources

General Info

Books

Podcasts

YouTube Reviewers (To learn about new games before/instead of playing them)

Major Conventions

  • GenCon
  • BGG Con
  • Orignins
  • PAX Unplugged

Playtesting Specific Conventions

  • Unpub
  • Protospiel
  • ProtoATL

Print on demand – Make a single copy of your game
https://thecleverbusiness.com/print-on-demand-tabletop-board-games/

Speaker Bio: Danny Devine lives in Reno, Nevada with his wife and 2 children. While he works full-time in the casino gaming industry, he has been designing board games professional for nearly 10 years. In that time, he has had 9 published games with more on the way. Danny is also an illustrator and graphic designer and has created the artwork for many of his own games as well as others. 

Permission Statement

This article is provided as a service of the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to supporting profoundly gifted young people 18 and under. To learn more about the Davidson Institute’s programs, please visit www.DavidsonGifted.org.

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Please note, the Davidson Institute is a non-profit serving families with highly gifted children. We will not post comments that are considered soliciting, mention illicit topics, or share highly personal information.

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