These days, computer games are everywhere around us. From playing on phones to iPads and laptops, gaming choices are seemingly unlimited. However, just as people will always want to have a physical copy of a magazine or book in their hands, there is something special about live game playing with family and friends too. One of the great benefits of this is that you never need to rely on battery power for board games!
When it comes to making homemade board games, I am not simply talking about making paper models in five minutes. Making your own board game could actually be a great long term craft project for you and your family and friends, especially over the spring and summer months. Alternatively, it could be a useful backup idea for a holiday activity for children if bad weather strikes. So let your imagination lead the way, and if you follow these five basic points then you may start having ideas for your own personalized board game today!
Below is a very simple board game concept from the YouTube channel associated with the ‘National Museum of Australia’. The two hosts Amanda and Kellie take you through creating a very easy board game. Perhaps the ideas in this video could be expanded upon for your own board game, especially if you are designing one for children to play.
1. Initial Ideas
It may seem a little daunting at first to take on the challenge of coming up with a whole concept for a board game. The trick is to keep the design and aim of your game simple. Firstly, decide on the rough age range for your game. This will potentially affect your content and theme among other issues. Do you want to design a game for children, adults or for the whole family to enjoy? Perhaps you want to be even more specific and consider a teenage or young adult demographic. Either way, once you have decided on this one point, a lot of other issues surrounding your game will fall into place more easily.
Next, decide on the basic premise or theme of your board game. For example, will players stop on certain squares to answer questions from cards, or will your aim involve making visual patterns to win such as in the games ‘Noughts and Crosses’ or ‘Count Down’. Alternatively, will your game be a simple ‘race to the finish line’ concept.
If you are creative, then perhaps you can envisage the concept of your game already. If you are designing a board game for children, then maybe it is centered on a pirate ship or an island in the sea, or in a jungle or even on a farm. If however, you are struggling with creating a concept, then have a think about your own favorite board games or games that you enjoyed as a child. This may possibly provide you with some further inspiration.
Think about how many players your game will facilitate and what the game pieces will actually look like. For example, will they be simple blocks or colors, or will they be miniature people or objects? At this stage, try to get an overall image of what you would like the game to look like and on how it will function. Sketch this out, write down your ideas and explore ideas further by looking online for more inspiration.
Every great game needs to have great rules for the players to follow, and again the key is in keeping things simple. In the challenge Monopoly, if you land on a property which another player owns, then you have to pay that player ‘monopoly money’ for that privilege. Simple ideas such as this are what keep competitions interesting and spontaneous. Ask yourself how many players your competitive activity will allow. Think about both the minimum and maximum number of potential players. If cards are involved for answering questions or for doing challenges, then what are the options on these cards? And how many cards will you need to create?
If your game involves pretend money, then is each player allocated a specific amount to begin with? If so, how much will this amount be? Asking yourself these sorts of questions will help you to start picturing the activity as a working and functioning ‘game board’, rather than just as an abstract concept in your mind. Bring your ideas to fruition by writing your questions and answers down. Once you have done this, try to formulate a simple rules sheet.
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Look online at the rules for other parlor activities. You will find that some are very simple and others are more complicated. It is okay if you come up with a game that has lots of rules. Just try to ensure that your list of rules is concise and to the point. Use language that is easy to follow, and text that is clearly spaced out in a font size of at least twelve.
3. Game Prototype And Practice Test
It will be at this point that you will want to actually play your creation to test it out. This means creating what is called a ‘prototype’. Think of what you may actually like to call your invention. Certainly, it can be frustrating for you to be reading a list of rules and having great ideas, but then not being able to actually physically practice them. So this is where you have to get creative and resourceful!
Perhaps you have some marbles or sweets which you could use for pawn pieces. Even pen lids or nail polishes could do the trick. Do you have an old cardboard box (such as a cereal box), which you could cut up for the playing board? Perhaps you can find other household objects which could help you visualize your end product.
Once you are happy with your gaming prototype, then get family and friends involved and run some practice runs. Ask them for their opinions and advice on what worked well and on what you could improve upon for the final version. This will be extremely useful for you as the game developer because you will learn what works and what does not. It could also fire you up to create the final design too!
4. Making The Final Version Of Your Game
It may seem extreme, but for the more serious game creators among you, there are actually some great and relatively inexpensive 3D printers and pens out there on the market. These can make a fantastic array of game pieces (among countless other fun objects), and you can really get creative using your imagination too. The price of these is also constantly coming down, as they are becoming far more main stream products than when 3D printers were first seen on the market a few years ago.
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Visit local craft shops, look online, and perhaps even use playing pieces from old and discarded board games that you never play anymore. Ask friends to get involved with the design process too. There are lots of great ways to get creative and design your board so that it has a high quality finish. If possible, type up your questions for 'question and answer cards' (if these are needed), on a computer too. This will give a more polished look to the finished product than if you were to just write them down.
5. Enjoy And Preserve Your Board Game
Lastly, enjoy playing the board game that you have worked so hard to create! And well done if you have got this far, because it can take real effort and time to develop your own board game to play. Preserve it for years to come by storing it correctly. Perhaps you have an old shoe box in which it can fit, or even an old jigsaw box. Keep delicate structures you may have made from breaking or getting dusty by looking after them, preserving all your hard work.
Share your competitive activity with family and friends, and you never know, someone may even ask you to make them a copy of your creation! It is hard work but very rewarding. There are lots of templates online too, for simple and easy gaming ideas or for more inspiration.
I hope that you have enjoyed these tips and that you now feel inspired to create your own board game at home this summer!