How to Make a Board Game
A few years ago, we decided to try making our own board games. It seemed easy enough when we first started, but after a few weeks, we found there was a lot more to making a board game than we had thought. Not only did we gain a better understanding of the board games we purchased, but we became discriminating critics and we honed quite a number of skills. Following are the steps to creating your own wonderful game.
1. Take a good look at the games you already own. Have your children analyze the games. Look at theme, rules, winning (luck, skill or both?), layout and design. Look at the recommended ages. How is a game made for preschoolers different from a game made for teenagers? You might want to have your children write a report about their findings.
2. Choose a theme for your games. Look at the games in your own cupboard and see what the themes are.
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3. Decide the age range of your players. Look at other games and see how that will affect the way the game is planned. If you want older and younger children to play together, you will need to think of ways to make it interesting and fair for everyone.
4. Decide if you should win by luck, skill or both. If it is an educational game, skill or a combination game is best. Remember that if older children are playing with little children, you may need several levels of questions to be answered, or activities to accomplish, in order to give the little ones a fair chance. You might even want to create a game that requires everyone to work together, so that everyone wins.
5. Decide the basic format of the game. For instance, my oldest daughter was taking gymnastics lessons when
she was making her first game. She decided to use a gymnastics meet as the basis for the game. The players would compete in a meet and collect points for each thing that happened. Gymnasts compete in several events, so they had to collect points in a variety of events. At the end, points were tallied, and players could win gold, silver or bronze medals, based on the number of points they earned. The winners were primarily chosen through luck, although there were a few places to make choices. Spots on the board sent them forward or back, and the goal was to reach spots that let you take a card. The cards awarded you the points. Some spots let you choose an event, and others told you which event you had competed in.
6. Decide how to lay out the board. You can cover an old unwanted game board (or find a cheap board at a thrift store) with poster paper glued on to the board. Remember to allow room for the fold! Think hard about the design. Make pencil drafts on cut-out paper before actually making your final board, because it won't be as easy as it looks. Spaces need to be approximately the same size and you have to decide if you are traveling around the edge of the board or in a maze-like pattern. You need enough spaces to keep it interesting. You'll also need to know if you are going only once around the board, which means a lot of spaces, or if spaces will be re-used, in which case you have to decide how people will know when to stop. Glue the paper on after you finish the final draft, so you can easily start over if you make mistakes.
7. Before making the final version, test the game by playing it several times. We usually find that the first version of the game is boring. Then we find certain parts of the game don't work, or realize we need some extra rules to cover things that happened during the game. Often the first version takes too long or too short a time to play. Don't make your final version until it's just the way you like it.
8. Before playing the trial versions of the game, have a long talk about how to help the game creator. One rule is that children say one good thing about the game before making one suggestion for improvement. (The number of compliments equals the number of criticisms.) Show them how to make suggestions. All suggestions should be helpful, not critical. No one is allowed to say, "This is dumb." Instead, a child could say, "It needs a few more challenges. What if you tried adding a space where you can try a question at a higher level for double points?" Try to avoid making a criticism without having an idea. If you really have no ideas, say something like, "It seems a little slow, but I can't figure out how to fix it. Does anyone else have an idea?" Always be polite.
9. The game creator has the final say as to how the game should be made. The others don't have to like every rule, but they do have to be good sports if their ideas aren't taken. If they feel strongly about their idea, they can incorporate it into their own games.
10. Play the games often. Everyone is proud of his or her creation. Make each child feel good by seeing that the games are used regularly. (Teach this to the others as well.)
(This is my author identity. You're welcome to find my regular identity, too, but you're warned--it gets lots of religious stuff, politics...whatever I feel like posting. The author one mostly gets homeschooling and writing unless I forget who I'm signed in as. Yes, I play Farmville and Frontierville on both identities.)