This is going to be a long post, so long we’re going to have to break this sonofabitch into not two, not three, but four whole separate posts. It will also be a dryer post that lacks our usual flair for the stoopid. This is utilitarian. Basically, if you’re dreaming of making your own wild party game, crazy drinking game, or absolutely any sort of card or tabletop game, this post will help you. If that’s you then read on, you crazy unicorn. If it’s not you, enjoy falling asleep.
We will break the process down into ten steps. Part One, below, will deal with your first four steps. These are steps of creation: idea to graphic design. Then, Part Two will deal with everything to do with manufacturing, from specs to choosing manufacturers. Part Three will touch on some legal aspects. Lastly, Part Four will deal with the wonderful joys of logistics and marketing. We’ll try to keep all these updated for you as time goes on.
So… let’s go! How in the name of Tequila does one turn a game idea into reality? Into the ridiculous drinking game like you see before you today? Into any old adult party game? Or into absolutely any board game for that matter? The simple answer is that it’s 2022 baby, we have the motherflipping internet! I and we learned how to do it all ourselves, and so can you. I’ll walk you through it, drop other resources for you along the way, and if you have any questions you can always reach out to us at email@example.com and someone will respond to you next time we’re sober.
A quick word from experience, before we start: making The BoozeGames was an absolute bitch. The classic line that goes “if I knew how hard it would be I probably wouldn’t have started it” rings true. No matter how well prepared you are when starting any business, undertaking, or really anything ambitious, you’re forced to learn a lot of lessons. Some of them hard. You’re forced to look in the mirror and see your own strengths and weaknesses, and you often find out your passions and perhaps more importantly your… not passions... It’s a lot. Unless you’re making something quite simple, don’t waste your time unless you’re truly committed and ready to have your problem-solving skills, dedication, and patience tested repeatedly.
Consider this your warning! But enough of that, let’s get moving.
Trust us, we're professionals.
Step One: Make the Bastard
Creating the game (in the sense of all the categories and games within them) was fun and was the easiest part, for me and for us. If you’re dreaming of making a game, maybe this process will be easy for you too. After a lifetime of preparation (being an absolute degenerate for about a decade), writing our first draft took about six months. Six months of research, six months of creativity, six months of collaboration. Every spare waking minute around work dedicated to the creative process. Time flies in this stage. Everything is full of excitement, full of hope, and you’re just creating. Making, dreaming, writing. Lots of work, time, and effort yes… But it’s barely work is it? Our game is also a lot denser than most, so maybe it took a lot longer than normal. But it’s still not as dense as a massive strategy game. So, this step is highly variable time wise.
Anyway. That’s step one. Duh. Draft and write your game!
Then the grunt work begins…
Step Two: Make a Shitty Prototype
So you have a draft completed of your crazy awesome game. Brilliant. Make a shitty prototype immediately. It doesn’t matter how it looks. In fact, you want it to look awful. You need to make sure your game works and you will need to improve it, I don’t care who you are. You want the people testing it not to be influenced by cool graphics at this stage, because the game needs to work and make sense, cool graphics or not! So, make a shitty prototype.
Then, spend as much time as possible testing and editing.
Step Three: Test and Refine
Whatever you start with, it WILL need work. Always try to make it simpler. Make any writing more concise. Test the instructions, then test them again. Test the mechanics. Refine absolutely everything. Test everything yourself, test everything with friends, test everything with all possible audiences - not just your target audience.
Yes, if you are making an adult drinking or party game, this is going to cost you some braincells. But test a lot anyway.
You’re also going to want to make sure that you’re testing it without you yourself explaining it, and also testing it a lot without you actually physically being there. This is essential for proper feedback and to make sure the instructions and game mechanics work.
The whole time you’re doing this testing, keep refining everything over and over and making new shitty prototypes of your refined versions! Edit constantly. Consider paying someone else to edit your words (or call in a favour). Test, edit and refine, make new prototype, repeat. This is the way.
This revision and feedback will turn your game from dream to reality. It will sharpen it; it will cut the crap and the mediocre for the stuff that works. Plus, you probably made plenty of spelling and grammar errors. I sure did.
You also don’t need to implement absolutely everything you hear. Hold to your core beliefs. But listen and consider everything carefully.
SIDENOTE: Have you already locked in a name for the game, people are saying they love it, and you’re determined to see it through? As soon as this becomes clear you should take out the domain name, similar domains, the social media handle, and similar social media handles for your game immediately. That is worth doing.
Above: I sent prototypes around the world to different friends. They'd test the game and send notes.
Step Four: Graphic Design
While this testing and refinement process is ongoing, start with your graphic design. There’s no one right way to do this. We used 99designs for our logo. Then we got lucky enough to reconnect with a good friend who is a designer. They then took over and helped us with everything else. At the very least, you, along with your designer/s, will need to figure out your graphics and or pictures, fonts, colour schemes, layout, sizing, borders, game box, instructions, and the saga that is communicating with a manufacturer and getting the design right for production.
There are all sorts of places to find good designers. However, depending on the complexity of your idea, remember not to underestimate the value of good communication. Unless you’re competent in graphic design yourself, there’s going to be tinkering and changes to manifest your vision into reality. You’ll need to learn to communicate better, more clearly, and with more attention to detail yourself (we sure did), but you’ll also need someone who can understand your instructions, who responds to you and executes those instructions in a timely manner, and who is good with feedback.
It might be better for your budget to look at freelancing sites like the aforementioned 99designs, or places like Upwork and Fiverr, rather than sourcing from home. However, we’d still suggest doing your due diligence and comparing them to your local options. If you can work with someone face to face, communication and work is normally, in our experience, much smoother and more productive. Got any uni student mates studying design? Maybe they’d like the next greatest party game on their resume.
You might also be wondering about how exactly the game box works. What happens is that your manufacturer will send you a blank template to work with once all your sizing is locked in, and you can work with your graphic designer to get stuff on that template. To save time, you should probably know what you want your box to look like beforehand however, and if it’s complicated to already start on the design process.
Note here: one thing to remember is that, assuming you go for a standard two piece box, the templates you eventually get will be for a top and a bottom, with four sides coming from each. Remember that the sides for your top will fold down, and the sides for your bottom will fold up (and be on the inside). Remember this and remind yourself and the designer to orient everything accordingly.
One final suggestion: if your game is more than cards and a booklet and involves figurines or miniatures or anything closer towards a true board game, you should probably look to find someone with experience in the board game industry. A good option for that is to browse the forums on BoardGameGeek, find designers there, and reach out to them directly.
Above: the original draft sketch I drew up for a logo idea, using all my professional skill and equipment (highlighter & marker pens). We came a long way.
OK. That’s enough for you to digest for now. That concludes part one of this series… Also known as the easy part ;)
Next, we’ll get into the nitty gritty of finding a manufacturer and getting your game printed in Part Two, before we move on to some legal notes in Part Three, before we close with getting the game from manufacturer to customer in Part Four.