ANSWERS: 1
  • "Okay, so you have an idea for a new board game (or a card game, or a dice game, or a parlor game, whatever). You probably intuitively know that the first thing you need to do is make a very rough prototype so you can try out your idea. After you have made your first prototype, you will probably think of improvements or changes, so it's best not to spend a lot of time and money making the first rough prototype. Let's assume (for the purposes of this lesson) that your concept is for a board game, and that your game requires a board, some playing tokens, some dice, and some cards. Your first board should be "quick and dirty." It just needs to be functional. For dice and tokens, you can just borrow parts from another board game. Way back in 1977, I designed an original board game. My final prototype was a thing of beauty, developed over many hours' worth of hard work. I certainly didn't go to all that trouble for the first prototype! For the board, I began by just using a big sheet of construction paper. I tried to do a reasonably neat job of laying out the playing area - since this concept involved a circular board, I used a compass, so it didn't look too crude. But I didn't worry too much about it looking professional at that point. I borrowed tokens and dice from a Risk game, and I used index cards for the cards. Then I invited friends to come over, told them how the game worked, and we played it. The rules need to be written down, because a game inventor can all too easily forget what he'd intended, making up rules on the spot during test play. As you play in these early stages, keep notes of comments and suggestions made by the players. You'll also find that some rules aren't clearly enough spelled out, and need clarification. That Was The Easy Part Prototyping and tweaking the game is the easy part. Now things get a little more challenging... it's time to make a nicer prototype. But before you get started making your nicer prototype, it's important that you have your ultimate goal clearly defined. If your goal is to sell your invention to a game company, then the prototype just needs to clearly communicate the fun and innovative aspects of your game. If your goal is to self-manufacture the game, though, then you now need to determine the final desired look of the product and all its parts. You might even want to get professional help with that. The Board There are several different approaches you can take with your board prototype. The one I chose was to cannibalize a board from a Risk game, and spraymount a new face on it, showing my final desired board layout. Using today's home computer printing technology, you can print your board on sheets or on banner paper. You'd have to paste them together onto the board, and you'd have to make sure that your pieces line up properly. Re-positionable spraymount is a good thing. If you don't want to use a cannibalized board, and you're handy with your hands, you can make a board out of foamcore or another stiff material that's easy to cut (that leaves plywood out of the picture, and linoleum...). After mounting your game board on the face of the foamcore, cut it apart in neat squares. Then you can put flexible cloth tape over the seams on the back (where you want the board to fold outwards) and long-lasting flexible clear tape over the seams on the front (where you want to fold the board inwards). I suppose if you don't like the look of the tape, you could print the seam on some full-sheet label stock, and have a printed seam. You can also make a cheaper folding paper board, or roll it up like a poster. Nowadays we have Kinko's, which can take computer graphics and enlarge them professionally to a variety of sizes. You should think about what you want, and explore various options to create it. Look for board games to cannibalize at toy stores and discovery stores. Visit arts/crafts stores, office supply, and plastic supply stores. See what kinds of materials are there, and picture working with them to make your particular project. Staff at arts/crafts and plastic supply stores are usually very helpful about what the materials are like to work with, so ask. Don't be afraid to try several things until you find a solution you like. Once you've finished making your prototype and are in the business phase of your project, you'll pine for this creative phase and all the fun you had. So while you're in it now, experiment and have fun! http://www.sloperama.com/advice/lesson20.html "I design abstract strategy board and competitive solitaire card games - with Hijara in N.Y. Games Magazine Top 100. Having been down many if not all of the roads listed, I would recommend your lessons as required reading for anyone with designs on game production and marketing. Ambition, enthusiasm, creativity, flexibility, originality, tenacity, professionalism and good old common sense would be my watchwords for, if not passwords to success . . . and don't take "No" for an answer! May I offer a fourth method of promoting games . . . self manufacture AND licensing (without and agent) to a game Co. I had a booth at N.Y. Toy Fair 2003 yet took the time and trouble to walk the aisles and meet the presidents of other game companies which profited me by licensing six games to three companies. My 'secret weapon' is that I am an international flight attendant and not only do I have a captive audience to test play my games, at 35,000 feet, but I am able to research games and their trends around the world. As a result, I package and promote my products as convenient travel games - whereas the game companies are all doing their usual generic, primary color, small game in a big box marketing ploy. Onward and upward . . . as I am virtually computer illiterate, finding a Co. to program my games for interactive electronic entertainment is my next challenge." www.gamesaboveboard.com

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