How to make a board game from scratch - a journey in pictures.

With the Kickstarter finally created for my game, I thought it would be a good time to look back at the development process and see exactly how far we’ve come since the notebook brainstorming days. So here’s a blog post detailing the development process from the beginning to now. Hope you enjoy.

The final product picture first.

It was a long journey to get it to look like this and took way longer than I had originally anticipated because life got in the way. I thought it would take about a year, but it was closer to 2.5 years.

The first ever photo of my “board game.” Using poker chips as game pieces and handwritten index cards on leftover wrapping paper as the game board. I played the game by myself many many times before moving forward with a slightly more presentable prototype.

The first alpha version of the game and my first ever playtest with friends. Using lego pieces I borrowed from my little cousin and index cards cut into small squares. He made me promise to return the pieces when I was done with them ?. Using sharpies and different colored pens to make the prototype a little bit nicer.

Handwritten cheatsheets to explain the game rules.

The beta version of the game. Using cardstock with rounded corners and sharpies to color in the edges. I printed designs onto the back of the cardstock so that face-down cards won’t look so bad. Also upgraded the gameboard to a printed plastic fabric type material. Cards are still handwritten as things were still being changed almost daily at this point so printed cards wouldn’t be economically feasible.

A close up shot during a playtest.

An overview of the entire game board. At this time the game was played on a 9x9 square and was huge.

Upgrading from the lego pieces to golf tees that I colored with sharpies. I also ordered clear plastic “gems” from Amazon and colored them red and blue with sharpies. Do not do this as the ink will rub off on fingers and will piss off your playtesters.

A close up shot of the new pieces and the new black game board (for better contrast and easier readability).

A playtest of the beta version. I also caved and purchased red/blue gems from Amazon as well after a playtester complained of sharpie ink on his fingers. Lol sorry.

It’s really important to get friends with professional cameras to take photos of your game during the development process. This way you have really nice photos to use when it comes time to explain to the internet how to make a board game.

A close shot of the karma system and the multi-character system.

The standing board was a pool of available ability cards you could use at any time. Players would spend a lot of time staring at this board, squinting to try to read everything. Eventually this standing board idea was scrapped.

A shot of the game during playtesting. Looks great thanks to my friend’s pro camera.

Another playtesting session. Making a board game is 10% brainstorming and 90% playtesting.

At this point, the game was called “Our Modern Lives” and it was supposed to be a modern version of “The Game of Life.” Gameplay was based on a karma system where you can do good/bad things and “live your life.”

Moving to printed cards (and upgrading the design thanks to my designer friend).

Shiny new printed cards. (before corner rounding)

The various “ability cards” you could play in the game.

The game name was changed to “Path of Good Intent” to be more reflective of the karma system. I made small character sheets with backgrounds and character details that players can play as. Hence the names on the golf tees and the player sheets.

Another shot of the game in action. I made this printed version to take to a local game designer conference (Metatopia 2018) to get feedback on the game. I didn’t want to take my handwritten cards.

At this point, I was pretty confident in the gameplay and was starting to play around with making the final design. Little did I know how far from the end I was…

At Metatopia I was given some harsh (but true) feedback on the game. It was way too complicated and the theme was way too loose. It was back to the drawing board.

This was probably the lowest point of the development process. My designer friend decided to leave and the game was not in a good state. It’s funny how just a few sentences from strangers can make you look at your game in a whole different light. Just before Metatopia, I was so confident, but just after I was devastated. But as my English teacher in high school said, it’s easier to edit and remove than it is to create something good from the start. So just keep writing and worry about removing the bad later.

It was time to remove the bad.

Removed the standing board of ability cards. Removed the karma system. Simplified the currency system to just one. Made the game board smaller to a 7x7. Starting to hone down the focus of the game to where the fun was.

Gameplay was a lot more streamlined. Rules made more sense and it wasn’t a grueling task to explain everything to new players.

Also important in this process is to get your friend with a nice camera to take some promotional pictures of you “working.”

Created the theme! It’s corporate themed where the goal is to be the first one promoted at the company. Using new designs for all cards and pieces, it’s finally starting to come together.

I used Excel / Google Sheets as inspiration for the ability cards (since they have multiple effects) and I used emails for the movement cards (with yellow sticky notes that indicate where you can move to).

Added art to the ability cards (now called Office Politics Cards) to help distinguish them at a glance. The board was finally cut down to a simpler 5x5 board. I also used smaller plastic pieces from The Game Crafter.

A shot of the game. The game board is yet to be designed.

The finalized game board! A birds-eye view of a corporate office complete with three corner offices.

The first iteration of the game box. It’s a brown briefcase based on the kind I received when I joined my first company out of college.

Added a game sleeve to the briefcase.

Ditched the briefcase idea and just printed directly onto the box. A white box looks much cleaner in my opinion.

The first playtest with the new theme and brand-spanking new prototype from China.

A close up of the final game.

The final product! If you’d like, please follow us on Kickstarter so you can be reminded when we launch later this year.

Thanks for taking the time to read and please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or comments.

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