Features// Michael Fox's Table Top Gaming Column

Posted 5 Mar 2013 10:00 by
Hello my cheeky loves. Michael here with another Column About Boardgames. Last week I was gabbling on about a few guidelines on how game design works (for me, at least).

This time around, by way of a sequel of sorts, it's time to talk about what you should be doing in order to stop your game from being a lovingly handcrafted one-of-a-kind prototype (which you have tested, right?) and start fulfilling its destiny as The Greatest Game Anyone Has Ever Bought.

First of all, forget any dreams of Hasbro picking it up and buying the rights off you for millions. The wonderful world of gaming is not the place to be if you're looking to make a fortune.

At best you'll be lucky to get a few quid unless you somehow become the next Reiner Knizia, endlessly churning out product after product. Yes, he's rich and has a nice collection of bow ties, but is he happy? (Probably, yes.)

In reality, you've got two options: (1) shop your game around smaller, independent companies; (2) take the bull by the horns and go down the Kickstarter route. Whichever of the two you choose, you're in for a world of work so don't make your decision lightly. Getting your game to the tabletops of the world is a labour of love that will take you A Very Long Time Indeed.

So, let's begin with the, 'Getting someone else to make your game for you' path. Your first step should be do your research, and be ready to do a bloody huge amount of it. Look at the games you own. More specifically, look at the publishers who put them out.

Now, out of all of those games, which are the ones you truly enjoy? Which ones do you think have been nicely put together? Production quality is important, and the right company could potentially make your game shine with the right bits. Scribble down a list of those that have made the grade, then move on to your next step: More research.

Using that list of yours, hunt down every single company's website. If they don't have one, scratch them off and move on they're obviously either a dead company or locked in the past where they firmly believe the internet is just a passing fad (seriously, there are some out there that are exactly like that).

Some of them may well help you out here and have Submission Guidelines for you to follow, saying who you should contact, what they want from you in the first place... that kind of thing. These companies are AMAZING. They may take a while to get back to you but at least you know what you should be submitting instead of making a wild guess. If the company doesn't have a set of these suggestions, get a contact email the general contact one is normally fine unless they have a specific one for game submissions and get ready to do some typing.

Now is the time to get writing. Distill the whole game down to a single side of paper. Somewhere between four and eight hundred words that somehow, magically, will capture the spirit of your creation in print.

I'm not talking a detailed breakdown of the rules followed by MAKE MY GAME writ large across the bottom of the page in crayon give the details in brief. How many players? Rough length of a game? A quick overview of the theme is nice, as is mentioning what mechanisms are in there too. The prospective publisher doesn't need your life story they just want to know how your game works and if it's suited to their plans for the future.

Spend a bit of time emailing this write-up to each company you're considering. A bit of politeness never goes amiss, nor does some personalisation if you're a fan of the company's games, say it. Even if they don't get back to you, you've made someone's day that little bit better.

Oh yeah, they may not respond to you for a while. Hell, they may not respond at all, but don't go bugging them. Most games companies, even ones that appear large(ish) like Rio Grande are made up of only a few people. Many are a single person handling the whole thing at the same time as holding down a day job. Give them time. Chase them up after a few weeks to see if they've just let it slip their mind. If you still don't get a reply, move on.
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