Let’s get real. Designing games is hard and takes a lot of time. Being a father of 2 takes a lot of my attention. You probably have your own daily distractions that keep you from designing the next Ticket to Ride or Pandemic as well. How do we carve the time out to make good games? I surely still have room to grow in this department but if you stick around, I will tell you what I have learned over my time designing games.

The In-Between

The first tip is one that I have learned over the last couple of years when I started working from home during the pandemic. Time management can seem like a hard thing to tackle with all of your other daily responsibilities but what I found to be helpful is when I utilize the small gaps in my day.

For a while, Dave and I were both working from home and didn’t have to start work until 8. This gave us the opportunity to wake up at a time we would normally wake up for work to make some headway on our game. We would meet around 6 and discuss our next objectives or sometimes we would just sit there together on a video call working independently.

Think outside the box about when you can spend time working. Use your commute time and do a voice recording or voice to text when you are thinking about new content. Get up slightly earlier to knock out that next piece of artwork. Cut out cards while you are sitting in your morning standup meeting (with your camera off). Write a blog post while your son is splashing around in the bath… With that being said, don’t get so consumed with the work that you miss the small moments, but utilize some of those in-between times when you can.

Technology is your Friend

My next suggestion is to leverage online playtesting. No matter how good an online tabletop platform is, it just isn’t the same as playing a physical copy. This is one thing that I had to get over to be able to playtest my games as much as they deserved and quite honestly, needed. Gnomes and Wizards didn’t have a digital prototype until after the first Kickstarter launched. This was not great because we were only able to playtest using the prototypes that we made. We playtested the game relentlessly, but it took a lot out of us bringing it to event after event so that we could balance out all of the abilities. We could have expedited the process tremendously if we had made a digital copy sooner.

Screentop Digital Platform – https://screentop.gg

Digital prototypes give you many advantages when it comes to playtesting a new design. It allows you to make revisions really fast. When playtesting isn’t, we had a suggestion that we really liked from one of our playtesters that we wanted to try out. In a matter of an hour or so, we were able to change some cards to reflect the new updates, allowing us to try out the revisions on our next playtest.

You save yourself a lot of money in prints by going digital, especially if you’re like me and want to have really high-quality prints when you show off your game. I don’t like presenting sub-par components to a new player because they may think that it’s intentional to bring down the price of the game. Even if they are aware that the game is a work in progress, it will affect their Outlook on the final piece.

A huge benefit of making digital prototypes is convenience. Sometimes it’s hard to get a group of people to come over for a game, especially these days. Playing digitally is convenient for everyone and you can be flexible with the time. Normally people wouldn’t want to come over and get started on a game at 9 but you’d be surprised how willing people are when they have the comfort of their own bed to play in. Going digital isn’t the same and honestly, I’m not a big fan, but when it comes to prototyping, it’s a no-brainer.

Power in Numbers

The best piece of advice I can probably give you is to find yourself a partner. No matter how well-rounded you are, working alone has a major drawback: endurance. It’s easy to keep up on it for weeks, months, even a year but when you are constantly working on a game, there will come a point where you hit a wall or two that is hard to get over on your own. That’s when having a partner really helps encourage and get through the difficult spots.

Having a teammate also helps you bounce ideas off of one another. Dave and I have an ideal situation: we work well together, our skills complement one another nicely, we’re both charming… Well, I guess that’s subjective. But the most important thing I’d say we have going for us is that we are both extremely passionate about the projects we are working on. If you are going to hone in on one particular attribute for a business partner, it should be their drive. It doesn’t matter how great they are at art, video, graphic design, or whatever you aren’t good at; if they aren’t passionate about the project, you can’t rely on them as a business partner. And passion isn’t just saying that you are passionate about something; it’s supported by action. I won’t dive too much deeper into that but make sure they are pursuing the project at a similar level as you are.

System Overload

This next tip, I definitely learned the hard way many times and that is, don’t overwhelm yourself. When you are excited about a project, it is easy to want to jump right in, watching all sorts of videos on how to get it done and be successful. In fact, I am adding this to this list because I am experiencing this feeling right now! I am excited about the future for CavernWire and I am taking in video after video and reading blog post after blog post. The key thing I would say is to allow yourself to digest the information you are learning. If you continue to input information into your noggin, you will reach a threshold where you just get overwhelmed.

Take in one video/blog/whatever at a time. Think about the applications that pertain to you and write them out or put them in your schedule as tasks to do. If you had a hard time comprehending or feel like you forgot something, watch it again. It’s not going to hurt you. We are so used to taking in tons of information at one time that we feel like we can’t reread posts or rewatch videos. That would be counter-productive, right? Wrong! By only hearing something once, you apply one set of thoughts and experiences to that thought. When you hear it again, it is likely that you will think about it in a different light or with more clarity. Don’t hesitate to rewatch videos or read over this article again.

All of the things you just learned are reasonable to do on their own but when you put it all together you got a list longer than the time you can manage. Make sure to stop and digest the information that you are receiving. If you get overwhelmed, all that time will be wasted and you won’t implement anything new. In fact, I’d wager, based on my experience, that you will find it hard to be motivated to work on the project for some time because you are overwhelmed at the prospect of addressing all of those new tips. Learn a few things and ponder over them and come up with achievable goals that you can implement into your own process. Once you started making advancements on those ideas and had time to process the information, then go back and digest another chunk of new information. Don’t get burnt out just because you are excited to dive in.

These are just some of the things that I have learned about designing board games. There are tons more, I’m sure but for now, I’ll leave you with that. I’d love to hear your experiences on how you’ve been able to carve out time to make new games or even just to play them. I know we all have that shelf of shame that we are trying to get to. Anyways, good luck creating games. I hope you can find something here that helps you.


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