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Making Board Games – From an Idea to a Box

Creating a board game of your own is a dream of many (if not most) people, who got really deep into the tabletop gaming hobby. Be honest. Somewhere in your head you have that one great idea, you wish you would make into reality someday. 

Hundreds of Kickstarter board game projects are born from such concepts. Ideas sadly aren’t enough to create a successful game or even a good game. They need prototypes over prototypes and months if not years of testing. Every week we see a bunch of projects that moved to Kickstarter too soon – untested and not interesting enough. The competition is colossal and more people keep on joining the tabletop crowdfunding race.

Today we’d like to show you how a game went from a MS Paint drawing to a full fledged box. We’ll use a certain 2019 project as an example. Meet Tomek, Marek and Bartek, who have been working on their dream game “Champions of Nexum” for over 3 years now, and are a pretty good example for anyone who wants to make his idea into reality.

A Board Game Needs a Board

It all began with a concept. The idea was to create a board version of video game MOBAs.

Since the authors decided it will be first and foremost: a board game (with some cards and minis), they needed to draw some early prototypes of their board. Above is the earliest draft they could find.

First board that somehow resembled a game. It still looks nothing like what we have now. Notice the name change 😉

First version of the map we know as of now. It was much darker, medieval and less fantasy-styled.

Some touches by the artist made it closer to fantasy video games and MOBAs. It reminds me of Heroes of Might and Magic series a bit now.

Final version, with all the locations and places used for cards and markers. Most elements evolved a lot, especially the monster dial, that has much more modifiers than before.

Taking Shape – Miniature Design

A proper MOBA game needed some enemies to fight. And what’s better than an oversized crab? Here’s one of the early sketches of said crustacean.

The very same frutto di mare – now in 3D, ready for printing.

Hero characters were created in a similar manner. Here’s one of them – an assassin. Notice how player characters have colorful bases they can be put in, to mark who they belong to.

A batch of miniatures after 3D printing. Some heroes, bases, a manticore and a part of the Crystal Dragon.

A Prototype Finally Appears

While working on visual elements like minis, the rules were being tweaked and playtested. Tons of tables, numbers and heated discussions. It was finally time to put the proper prototype together.

Here you can see the early designs of player’s character boards.

Dice sides being prepared for prototype boxes. Not hurting yourself with a hammer is pretty vital here. And the method was without doubt faster than using scissors.

Here’s where the dice stickers ended in. Behemoth miniature lurking behind.

One of the late prototypes, but still different than the final version. The towers were later replaced by smaller, more user friendly ones, that could be turned over when destroyed.

Final prototype ready for shipping to reviewers. It took almost 3 years to get it done.

Meeting the Players

To make the game more enjoyable, authors playtested it during all stages of design and prototyping. Here’s a test session with mock-up cards and many minis still missing. Alternative monster dial (the white circle) is glued to the board, so a new game mechanic can be tested.

Tests of the almost-final version with a full group of 6 players (and some spectators). Most of these sessions brought feedback and actual changes to the game mechanics. Authors often changed one rule and observed how the players reacted.

Another day, another test. This time with some gameplay being filmed.

Testing the game at one of the bigger conventions in the country. This is one of over 600 test sessions held over 3 years.

The game is almost ready for crowdfunding. You can check the website here, and who knows, maybe it’ll inspire you to begin your own dream project. Just don’t forget to test it a lot and don’t get scared by the amount of time it takes to create something others would enjoy.

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