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Board Game Prototyping

Board game prototyping is best-considered as a DIY project. Until your game is thoroughly playtested in draft form and the artwork is near completion, homemade playtesting versions will be more efficient than professionally-produced prototypes. This page is designed to impart some not-as-good-as-you-expected news that you need about board game prototyping… Here are some helpful comments and tips that we’ve assembled from our account managers.

PrintNinja does not offer a board game prototyping service.

As an offset commercial printer and custom game manufacturer, we focus on maximizing cost efficiencies on production runs. When you order a game through us, you’ll benefit from years of experience helping creators and publishers bring their dreams to life in print. It takes dozens of e-mails and phone calls to create a production version, but it can sometimes take that many e-mails and phone calls to make a single copy! Offset printing is designed to reduce cost over many copies and drive the per unit cost down as low as possible. But don’t worry – we’ll tell you how you get a copy of your game to test out or use as a prop for a crowd funding campaign.

You can prototype your game digitally by printing it as a poster.

Yes, you can print your game on your color printer at home. But there are many “POD” digital printers that will produce single posters. You can use these printed posters to produce a very credible-looking play-testing version of the printed parts of your game. The general steps to prototype your board game this way are below.

Game Blankboards for board game prototyping

It’s easy to create a master sheet on a poster-sized layout

You can quickly and cheaply prototype the game by creating a master sheet or two and gang print all of your images on a large sheet. (This isn’t much different than the way that images are put onto paper with the offset printing method, either!) . Many local and chain print shops will offer single-unit poster printing. The large amount of paper should fit all of the components for a board game – though if your game has cards you may have to print those differently. Using a digital printer to make a poster allows you to get a high quality print so that your board game prototyping results are great to look at and play with. Trim out the pieces and playtest to your heart’s content.

Create A Master Sheet for board game prototyping

Get creative and recycle

Find a used game – eBay is full of them – that has the same size game board that you’re contemplating. Now, prepare your board game image from your home printer or a poster printer. Take some spray adhesive and glue it over the existing board. Boom, now you have your own playable board! Follow this same procedure with boxes, punch-outs, tiles or any other component.

Create A Master Sheet Sample 1
Create A Master Sheet Sample 2
Create A Master Sheet Sample 3
Create A Master Sheet Sample 4

Beware the non-printed piece problem as you prototype

At this stage in development, you should avoid non-printed pieces. That means spinners, hourglasses, rulers, glass mugs, etc. We maintain a list of pieces that we can provide in low quantities for production runs, and we also offer custom miniatures. But if the component that you want is not on that list and you’re not willing to spend $10,000 to add it to your production run, you should think seriously about how much it adds to your game’s play. (We call this the “non-printed-piece problem” and we’ve written about it. The savviest beginning game designers use stock dice and printed game pieces because it keeps their costs and minimum order quantities down.

Generic Plastic Game Pieces

Think about the size of your game during your board game prototyping phase

Is your game going to go on a shelf at your friendly local game store? Are you going to sell it online? Are you hoping to put it hanging on pegs in national chains? Each of these packaging decisions bears thinking about up front. We have a series of box size suggestions on our site. You should also take the time to stop by your local game store to understand how they merchandise their games. Many publishers will use a standard box size so that their games fit well into racks at local stores, but every store is different.

Game Box Sizes for board game prototyping

Custom miniatures are a definite possibility to consider during prototyping

Custom miniatures aren’t as hard to make as they used to be. Most designers want them. The good news is that they’re not expensive – if you can get some volume.

For estimation purposes, these six 35mm figurines had a tooling charge of $3,000 with a minimum order quantity of 1,000 sets (6,000 total units). Each set of figures cost $1 each for the final game. These miniatures are made from plastic (PVC to be exact) and are highly detailed. We have lots more information available on custom miniatures.

Generic Miniatures

What does all of this mean for my prototype?

It means a few things.  Our team is here to help you take your game from designed and tested to ready for sale to the hungry masses.  We can give you advice on how to make your production version more cost effective. Ultimately, you’ll have to do some of the legwork on your end.  As you go through the prototyping and playtesting stage, ask yourself, “Is this component necessary, or just cool and nice to have?” Both are great! But when planning for your first commercial run of your game you should know what you can afford to compromise on and what is required for your game to work.  Those “nice to have” components can then be priced as add ons, so if you have a larger set of orders, or if you need stretch goals for your crowdfunding, you can offer those as a value add to your backers.

This may mean pricing the base version of your game with stock pieces, and pricing custom pieces as a substitute if your game funds well.  Crowdfunders love to have goals and options, so dreaming big is great as long as you start realistically.

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