Just designing the entire layout, gameplay, and gaming components are not enough for the game to function. You need that extra bit of security by putting everything you’ve designed into a physical picture and seeing if it actually works. The creativity that you put to paper, will now be used to create something tangible and you can analyze if it actually works according to your liking or not. All of this constitutes the Prototyping Phase while publishing your board game.
The main objective of the Prototype Phase is to validate the design of everything in your board game and to test if it actually feels as expected, whilst trying to create an appeal to the audience through how it actually looks. The prototypes, once finalized, are then sent to other board gamers’ or reviewers so that they can provide their inputs on how they feel about the game. It will be surprising to see how many suggestions might come out during this stage, the number of tweaks you might end up making, and how you would have to come up with quick solutions to any issues in the prototype.
During this phase, your aim should be the design the board game box, board, components, and all the fine details that should not go unnoticed. You will have to make some major, final decisions on the colors, shapes, tones, output, finish like a glossy or matte finish, and so on. You must keep in mind that everything you decide needs to ultimately appeal to the audience and needs to look attractive or captivating enough to woo them. It needs to catch a customer’s eye when they are casually scavenging through a board game store or even scrolling online for that matter.
Although this phase is vital in the creation of your board game, many fear the expenses involved, as this phase can be quite expensive with multiple iterations if you are not thorough with the design phase. Making a few copies of your board game will be priced exorbitantly. Thus, preparation done during the design phase and settling on the final designs as soon as possible is key. You need to make sure that at least the majority of the components, if not all, are design-ready.
There are many distinct ways in which you can go about this entire phase, the most basic and standard one being creating something by yourself and trying to build the game using what you already have available at home. You can use cardboard, cards, coins, tokens, or any other material that could closely substitute or resemble the real game components. Even in the early phases of the creation of your game, people like to deal with some components to see how things are panning out during gameplay. There are websites that provide such primary components that you can choose to buy for your gameplay and prototyping. We used a website called “Spielematerial.de” during the prototyping for our board game, Ettana. They have a vast library of many gaming components like wooden pieces, discs, dice, cubes, tokens, playing cards, etc which you can order and use during the initial trial and error phase, as well as in the subsequent phases if you choose to. We also did try out making prototypes using “Boardgamesmaker.com” which is based out of China. They are good for standard size/shape boxes, boards, cards, tokens, and tiles. They have quite an exhaustive list of components that you can definitely check out. We had fewer hassles while uploading our design files, hence furnishing us with a reasonably smooth and easy prototyping process. You can always split and buy different components from different websites and companies, according to what floats your boat.
We usually split this phase into three different stages for easy execution. The first stage is about making a few low-quality copies to validate the outcomes of the design. The copies from here can be used for testing, marketing, promotions through social media, photography, and videos, advertising, etc. One key factor that we recommend most people to do, is to keep the rule book printing process separate, instead of printing it with the other components. You might not be 100% complete with formalizing the rulebook as the rules might still need a lot more testing. You can settle on one place to print all the board game components, while the rule book can be printed anywhere in your vicinity, through a print shop, or even at home if you have a printer so that it reduces costs and is more reasonable to go through.
The second stage of this phase needs the prototype to be almost final or completely final. There should not be any more tweaks or changes here. If there are some flaws, or something did not work out, they need to be sorted out before this stage. You can go for a lower-quality prototype if you like. If you choose to go for higher quality, the expenses will automatically increase. Generally, if you compromise on the quality of the material, it might work out a tad cheaper. We usually make more copies of the board game during this time, as it can be given to reviewers, influencers, board gamers, or anyone who you prefer should test the game out. When you do share it with them, ensure that the review posts are made in sync with your Kickstarter campaign or release date.
You can also check with your manufacturer if they can help you out with this stage so that you can keep it closer to production quality. The number of prototypes you would like to make depends on you, as some like to use it for certifications as well. A point to keep in mind is that a low-quality prototype cannot be used for certifications. Thus, it could be helpful to ask the manufacturer for some production quality prototypes that you can use for certifications.
When your prototype is 99% ready, besides making them in of production quality for certifications, they can be used to assess the weight, quality, quantity of the game and prepare for logistics as the size and weight of the product actually matter for the shipping costs. It is important to assess these criteria, as the board game gets closer to the final stage of publishing. You can have as many prototype phases as you want, like the first prototype, second prototype, and third prototype, till you reach the ultimate product that is ready to hit the markets.
The third stage of this phase is when you actually end up going for the production process and decide you want to start manufacturing, you start off with making a pre-production copy. In this process, you have one last chance to validate if everything is perfect and exactly how you want it because changes cannot be made after this step. If there are any kinds of issues, they need to be overturned here.
This phase is characterized by the decisions you are going to make and how much you are willing to spend on prototyping at the end of the day. If you have just a small budget kept aside for prototyping, you need not go through the whole process, but finalize your product and take one final design route for it. You need to be very well prepared with all your game components and designs before you dive into the prototypes. It will save you a lot more time, energy, and money. So if you are confident about the final game and super design ready, you’re good to move into the board game production phase real soon!
Stay tuned to our blogs to check out the next step on this rollercoaster on how to publish your own board game!