Designing your own boardgame

While most of this site is about video games and online games, I'm also a big fan of boardgames, so I thought I'd include a page about designing your own boardgame for fun.

When I first started to invent boardgames, I tended to find a game that I already liked and then adapt it to a particular theme.  For examples, Talisman was one of my favourite boardgames as a kid, so I invented a variant on that.  As Talisman is a fantasy game, it's very easy to adapt it to say The Lord of the Rings or some other fantasy adventure, where you simply replace the cards with your own, so you end up with a Lord of the Rings Talisman game.

This has some immediate advantages:

  • You can always create it as an expansion set to an existing game.
  • You know the boardgame works because you've already played a very similar variant.
  • You're more likely to be able to persuade your friends or family to play it, because they already play the game it's based on (presumably).

However adapting an existing game also has a couple of disadvantages:

  • If you ever wanted to publish it for real that will be virtually impossible due to Copyright and Trademark laws (A book or film like The Lord of the Rings will be trademarked, as will virtually every character in it, meaning you can't even have Gandalf wandering into your game without gaining permission to use his name and image).
  • You don't get the pleasure of pure originality.

Coming up with an original game idea

So, if you're starting a game from scratch, where do you get the inspiration?

You know yourself best and will know whether you need time by yourself, or if you're best discussing a potential idea with others and working on a project as a team (video games tend to be the product of 100's of people, so there's no reason a boardgame shouldn't be!!)

Here's a few tips that I've found work for me:

  • Start with basic sketches of the board and minimum number of pieces.  See if it works before you spend hours turning it into an artwork.
  • Sleep on it!  If you think about something lots during the day it's amazing how often the brain will present an original idea to you the next morning.
  • Don't be scared to discuss it or show it to other people.  There are lots of game ideas out there and it's very rare that one's stolen.  Emailing it to friends or family also helps prove you invented it when you did!
  • Play lots of games.  Play lots of different types of game.  Go to game shops and look at games online.  There might be one idea for how a piece moves in another game that you can incorporate into yours, even though it's completely different.

Enjoy designing your boardgame !!