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How to Create Your First Board Game

by Guest Contributor: Joe Slack


Follow these simple steps to create a game on your own.


You love playing board games. You can’t get enough.


You love the immersive experience, meeting new people, and the joy of doing something fun with others. You’re not just passively watching a movie, you’re having a real experience that brings you closer to others.


You’ve even had some of your own ideas for a game. But you just don’t know where to start or how to create a game on your own.


Hi, I’m Joe Slack, a board game designer and game design instructor. I want to show you how you can create your own board game following a few simple steps.

Playtesting Mayan Curse. Photo by Joe Slack. Used with permission

Coming Up With an Idea


The first step is to come up with an idea for your game.


This may come easily to you and you may already know exactly what your game will be about. Or you may be struggling to come up with an idea and worry that you can’t think of something original because all the good ideas have already been taken.


First, keep in mind that there are only so many ideas out there. Most games have some element of another game within them, so don’t worry about being 100% original.


If you don’t have an idea for your game, here are some great ways you can get started:

  • Take an element of a game you like and focus your game around this one idea

  • Make a mash-up of two games you enjoy

  • Come up with an expansion for one of your favorite games

There are lots of ways you can get started. I’ve outlined even more ideas here in my 10-Minute Board Game Design Blueprint. If you’re struggling to come up with an idea, you’ll find lots of easy ways to get started here.



Start Small


Once you have an idea for your game, the next critical step is to create the simplest possible prototype.


Many new and aspiring game designers get stuck at the idea stage, and never get this out of their head and onto the table. This is because they feel overwhelmed and the task of creating their game feels daunting.


Rather than developing an entire game, you instead want to create a minimum viable prototype (MVP)

That’s why rather than developing an entire game, you instead want to create a minimum viable prototype (MVP). You don’t need to create perfect looking prototype or have every one of the unique 300 cards in your deck to test your concept. Just take some blank cards, index cards, card stock, or even paper and put together the minimal board, cards, and anything else you need to try the idea.

Playtesting. Photo by Joe Slack. Used with permission

Instead of creating 300 cards, make 10 or 20 cards just to see the idea even works first. This will save you a ton of time and effort, as well as ensure that you do something with that idea rather than keep it stuck in your head.


Borrow meeples, dice, cubes, and anything else you need from your existing game collection. Don’t let not having the perfect component slow you down from testing your idea.

Playtesting. Photo by Joe Slack. Used with permission

Try it by Yourself


Now that you have an MVP created, you’re going to test this out by yourself. Set up everything you need on your table, and take on the roles of multiple players (just 2 if possible, to keep it simple), giving each player what they need to get started.


Now, go through the motions of playing your game. Draw and play cards, roll some dice, and move meeples around. Get a feel for how your game will flow.


If something’s not working, make a change and keep testing your idea. If there are too few cards in your hand or on display on the table, increase this. If there are too many and you’re causing yourself analysis paralysis (AP), reduce this number.


The goal is to make your game more enjoyable, so do whatever it takes to get it there. If you’re not excited about your game, nobody will be!

Figure out what’s working well (whatever is fun and engaging) and what’s not. Focus on the good stuff and remove anything that’s just not working, even if it was part of your core idea.


The goal is to make your game more enjoyable, so do whatever it takes to get it there. If you’re not excited about your game, nobody will be!


Keep trying out your game, making little tweaks and changes, until you feel that there is something fun and engaging there, and that it is working well mechanically.

Playtesting King of Indecision. Photo by Joe Slack. Used with permission

Try it with Others


Now that you’ve got a functioning game, you’ll want to try this out with other people. Start with your partner, friends, and family members who will likely be willing and encouraging.


The process I’m about to explain (which you’ll soon be doing lots of) is known as playtesting.


Make sure that others know this is only an early prototype, and right now you’re looking for feedback on what’s working well and what could be done better. Also, let them know that you may want to make some changes on the fly if you notice anything that could be improved during gameplay.


Don’t be afraid to end the game early if it’s just not working. Players will thank you and you’ll have a much better chance of recruiting them to play a future version of your game if they don’t have to suffer through hours of playtesting a game that’s just not fun.


Take note of what people are enjoying and what aspects are clunky or less interesting. If you’re able to, sit back and watch the other players play without you playing. This will allow you to observe much more closely.

Playtesting The Isle of Rock 'n Roll. Photo by Joe Slack. Used with permission

After the game, ask the players what was most fun, what could be improved, and their other impressions of the game. Take notes and use this feedback to iterate your game and make the next version even better.


After the game, ask the players what was most fun, what could be improved, and their other impressions of the game.

Don’t forget to thank your playtesters. They will become an invaluable resource to you, and you want to treat them well! So, rather than get defensive, say “thank you” for their suggestions and let them know you’ll take these into consideration.


You can then repeat this process with other people, and soon put this in front of other designers and playtesters, who will have an unbiased viewpoint on your game. This is the best way to make your game better.



Here’s How You Can Get Started Making Your Own Game Now


If you’re interested in making your own game, you can download my 10-Minute Board Game Design Blueprint, which will help you come up with game ideas and get you started faster. It will give you everything to you need to make the process that much easier.



About Our Guest Contributor Joe Slack

Joe Slack is a professional board game designer who has been making games for over five years. He’s the author of the #1 international best-selling book, The Board Game Designer's Guide, which has helped hundreds of aspiring game designers to create their own game. He has also taught Game Design and Development at Wilfrid Laurier University.


Joe has signed four of his games with established publishers, which will be released soon, and has over 20 other games at different stages of development.


Board Game Design Course

Joe also created the online Board Game Design Course to help new and aspiring game designers develop their idea into an amazing game. The course will help anyone who has been working on a game or has been thinking about making one, by taking you step-by-step through the process of developing an idea, playtesting your game, and understanding if pitching to a publisher or self-publishing is right for you.


Board Game Design Course: https://boardgamedesigncourse.com/

Facebook: /The-Board-Game-Design-Course-277886032891938

Twitter: @CrazyBrdGameGuy

Instagram: @jslack22

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