Part 1
Designing the Game

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    Write down your ideas. Keeping a log in a sketch book or on a computer can really help get good ideas flowing. Use this log to write out every idea you have about your game as you begin designing it. This will help you quickly separate good ideas from weak ideas. There are two basic approaches to starting your design: Themes and Mechanics. These two concepts are the foundation of all board games.[1]
    • Themes are the “feel” of the game, and can also be referred to as the “genre”. Games like Sorry! have a simple theme of beating your opponent around the board, while complex wargames have the theme of large conflicts and player strategy.
    • Mechanics are the fundamental ways the players interact with the game. In Monopoly, the mechanics are centered around dice-rolling, buying and selling property, and making money. In Axis & Allies, the mechanics deal mainly in moving pieces across a large, interconnected board, while using dice to resolve conflicts between players.
    • There is no right or wrong way to start designing your game. Some people come up with a mechanic, and then create a theme around it, while others come up with a great theme and then tailor the mechanics to match that theme.
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    Determine the age range of your players. Knowing the age range of your tentative players would allow you to design the game as simple or as detailed as you wish it to be and would allow you to create age-appropriate rules. For instance, if you are designing the game for young children, you would want to create something that is simple, easy-to-understand, fun, and would promote camaraderie and learning among the children at the same time. For adults, you could create something that is more competitive and exciting.
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    Set your goals. Once you have the basic ideas behind your game written down, set yourself some design goals that will help shape your game. Ask yourself what kind of experience you want your players to have, and what you want your game to accomplish. Consider some of the following when coming up with your goals:
    • Decide how many player the game will support. Think about if the game would be fun with two players, or if it needs three or more.
    • Think about how long you want your average game to take. Take into account the first game that players will play, and the learning time associated with it.
    • Ask yourself how complex you want the game to be. Some people enjoy games that are incredibly complex, with thick manuals full of rules, while others enjoy quicker games with just a few basic rules.
    • Consider how much of your game will based on luck and how much will be based on skill.
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    Decide how players will win. The end of the board game is one of the most crucial aspects, because the players need a goal to use as an incentive to win. Consider the different ways that the player could win, and keep these in mind as you work on the game.
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    Write out the basic rules. These will undoubtedly change during the course of your game being developed, but a basic set of rules will allow you to quickly begin testing and experimenting. Keep in mind your win conditions, and make sure that the mechanics are clear.

Part 2
Testing it Out

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    Create a test game. Before you begin work on the actual game, create a rough test game so that you can play around with the mechanics. It doesn’t have to be pretty; you just need to be able to see if the basics work as they should.
    • Cut out markers and pieces from cardstock or index cards.
    • Use coins or poker chips as counters.
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    Sketch a rough draft of your board design. This will allow you to determine whether you need to include more or less details in your final design. Depending on the theme and mechanics of your game, your board may or may not include the following elements:
    • A path. Make sure to add start and finishing places and to set out a clear direction for the character(s) to travel along. Decide whether or not to split or loop the path to add variation or extend the game time.
    • A playing field. This is the opposite of the path. Games that have a playing field do not have set paths, but instead have areas that the players can interact with depending on the mechanics of the game. Risk is one such game that uses a playing field as opposed to a path.
    • Positions on which to land. These can be designated by shapes (squares, circles, triangles) or drawn objects/locations (stepping stones, islands, clouds). Make sure that some positions redirect players, instruct them to pick up cards, or cause them to gain/lose items. When designing positions that redirect players to other locations, be careful not to create any domino effects (e.g. Go Back Two Spaces position that sends takes a player to a Move Ahead Five Spaces position).
    • Playing cards. A randomly shuffled assortment of cards adds variation to an unchanging game pathway by affecting the players in unexpected ways. A card often tells a quick story about an event that befalls a player and then changes his or her score / position / accumulated goods accordingly. Having different types of cards (ex. cards that change a player’s location, cards that change a player’s stats, cards that players can collect throughout the game to represent achievements, and/or cards that command players to do things in real life like dance, sing, do a cartwheel, draw the person to their left, etc.) will greatly increase the number of ways in which a game can unfold.
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    Test your prototype. Once you have all of the basic pieces assembled for your rough draft, you can start testing the game to see how it plays. Before taking it to anyone else, play it yourself by playing as each possible player. It can be difficult to strategize against yourself, but you can get through a large number of games this way and collect valuable testing information.
    • Always write down what works and what doesn’t and make changes as you see fit to the board and the other components.
    • Try to break your game while testing it against yourself. See if it’s possible for players to always win if they do something specific, or if the rules can be broken at all.
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    Play it with friends and family. Once you’ve played your game solo enough that most of the kinks seem smoothed out, it’s time to take it for its first real test. Gather some friends or family and explain to them that you’d like to test the game you are working on. Let them know that it is a work in progress, and that you appreciate any and all feedback.
    • Take extensive notes while the game is being played. Note anytime someone doesn’t seem to be having fun, or any time that the rules get confusing. Pay attention to how the games end. If one player is consistently far ahead of the other players, look at how that happened. Board games are more exciting when multiple players are in close competition.
    • Try to not get defensive when you start receiving criticism on your game. Criticism is essential to making sure that the game is as fun as possible for the greatest amount of people, so be polite and write everything down.
    • If possible, try to watch a group of people play without you being involved. This will help you see how a group that is entirely unfamiliar with the game approaches the rules.
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    Test with as many different people as possible. Try to get as many different players to try your game as possible. Everyone plays games a little differently, and testing a lot can help to make sure that your game is fun for as many people as possible. The more people you get to test your game, the more opportunities you’ll have to find flaws or weak points and fix them.
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    Refine your test game. As your finish each play test, make any changes or adjustments to your board, rules, and components that you think will help playability. [2]

Part 3
Creating the Final Product

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    Gather your materials. Once your testing process is complete and you are happy with how it plays, you can get started on creating the final version of the game. Make a list of all the parts that your finished game will require.
    • Board games are traditionally mounted on chipboard or binder board. These provide a durable backing for your game and give it a professional feel.
    • You can use an old game board as the base if you’d rather not purchase anything.
    • Get cardstock to use as the canvas for the board.
    • Cut playing cards out of cardstock, or purchase a pack of blank cards from a hobby shop.
    • Punch circles out of cardstock to use as tokens and counters.
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    Illustrate your board. Your game board is the centerpiece of your board game, so feel free to get creative with the design. Make sure that the path or playing field is clearly marked and that any instructions on the board are easy to read.
    • There is no limit to the things that you can use to decorate your board -- use ready-made printouts, patterned paper, paint, markers -- anything that will allow you to jazz up your board.
    • Make your board design as vibrant as possible, so as to capture and maintain the interest of your players.
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    Create the game pieces. You can draw the images on paper, then tape or glue them to a thick material such as cardstock. If you are making a game for family or friends, you can even use players’ photos. If you want to spend a little money, you can take your designs to a professional printer and have them printed on thick, high-quality stock.
    • To make the pieces stand, cut out a strip of cardboard that you can fold into a 3D triangle (similar to picture frame stands), then stick to the back of the piece for support.
    • Another way to make game pieces that stand is to glue craft foam to the bottom of the folded piece of paper.
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    Create any additional materials. If your game involves the use of a dice or spinner, you can just use the ones from your existing games, or create your own from cardboard and markers. To do this, you need a pin, a circle piece of cardboard, a cardboard arrow, and a marker. Stick the pin through the arrow and piece of cardboard and then draw on the results.
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    Look into 3D printing. If you really want to make your game stand out, you can look into getting 3D pieces printed. You will need to submit a 3D model to a company that specializes in this, but the result will be custom game pieces that look like they came from a store-bought game.


  • Don't forget about the cover! Make it look creative and full of color depending on the theme.
  • If you make a rule booklet you can help people know how to play .
  • Ensure there are no flaws in the design of the game. Fixing simple errors makes the game easier to understand and overall, more enjoyable.
  • If you put your imagination into the design it will look awesome.
  • Don't make a game that has an unclear theme, as it might confuse your players as well.
  • Get the opinions and ideas of others before you finalize your game. Ask your friends, family, and think to yourself, "Is this what I want?" Remember, your friends and family will be playing with the game as well, so you want it to be appealing to them as much as possible.
  • Play around with the rules.
    • For instance, rather than always moving a set number of spaces in a path game, provide the player with incentives or special tokens to move in different directions for a set time period.
    • Add game spaces that take you to other spaces or would triple your next roll.
    • Have a different end goal instead of merely landing on the "finish" space -- land on the water fountain 10 times, collect all the gold pieces, etc.
    • Use a die or make cards that show which color to move to (like in Candy Land).
  • If your board game design involves straight boxes, use a ruler when laying it out on the board in order to make it look nice and neat.
  • You can consider designing basic and advanced rules to appeal to those who prefer a simpler or more comprehensive game play. If implemented correctly, the basic rules can help introduce a player to the game making it simpler to adapt more advanced rules later on. Adding optional rules may appeal to a player's creativity. A game with official rules while encouraging custom rules will appeal to players’ freedom.
  • You can use illustration board (commonly used by illustrator for drawing)
  • To make good game cards laminate them for a better look.
  • Make mini board games for on the go. You can also make game pieces with big beads ,bottle caps, and make some with polymer clay.
  • Make sure you know the general theme of the game you're going to make before you start to make it.
  • If you don't have access to a 3D printer, make the pieces yourself by printing out cartoon characters and taping them to erasers.
  • If you want to, use basic lego pieces.
  • DO NOT ever use hot glue for your board pieces. If you're doing this for ages under 11+ then this is very important.
  • Make sure you have a nice decorative color! The illustrations should match with the name of your game. Have something in mind to use for players to progress, such as a dice, cards, or a spinner. You can use a ruler to make your work neat, too! Don't make the game boring, and

add a lot of goals! Also make sure you have something to explain the rules, so players won't get confused! And have fair game rules.

  • You may also use bottle caps, beads, marbles or just chits of papers as game pieces or use ones of other games


  • Make sure that your game rules are fair. The point of the game is to create an enjoyable, fun and positive experience – and not spark any misunderstanding among the players. If you do spark any misunderstandings it will probably lead to a very big argument.
  • Don't make the rules too complicated. Keep them short and simple. Anything too complicated will make the players lose interest quickly and can also make it hard for you to make.
  • If you are planning to publish and sell your game design, ensure you aren't infringing on any obvious copyrights. You may want to consider modifying anything that may become a target for litigation.

Things You'll Need

  • A base for your board game -- Cardboard, cardstock, poster board, old pizza boxes, or old boards from other games you do not use anymore.
  • Game pieces -- Use existing pieces from your other games, or design your own.
  • Dice, spinners, or cards-- You can either use one from another game or be creative and make your own. Spinners can easily be made with a piece of cardboard or foam, crayons and markers to decorate it with your own custom pictures, an arrow (can be made from construction paper or poster), and a screw.
  • Drawing and coloring materials -- Markers, paints, pens, pencils, etc.
  • Design pieces – Computer print-outs, magazine cut-outs, family photos, etc.
  • Scissors
  • Glue or tape
  • A ruler
  • Instruction Booklet
  • Paint (Optional)

Article Info

Categories: Board Games