Create your own board game!
1. Pick the story and goal. No matter what your board game looks like in the end, start with figuring out what your story and end goal are. Below are a few different types of games, assuming you have a board with a fairly linear progression of pieces moving along a space in turn order.
- Race: The simplest form. Who will be the first to reach the final square? Sample ideas: a car race; a race around the world; a race across the jungle, desert, or arctic.
- Rescue: The point of this game is to reach the final square—and then turn around and come back, making the original starting point the actual finish line. On the return route, the instructions marked on the board now mean the opposite of before. Sample ideas: rescuing a princess/prince in distress; rescuing a collection of ancient artifacts in a jungle.
- Points: The board for this game contains tiles that can (and should) be cycled around multiple times, as the game is based on the accumulation of some form of points. The first one to reach a certain amount of points wins. Sample ideas: collecting jewels for a museum award; collecting artifacts like dinosaur bones at a geological dig.
- Property: This requires the tiles on the board that can be bought, and buying enough properties or making set improvements to them add up to a win. Sample ideas: building a town by buying different buildings’ spaces on the board; fixing up an old city with improvements you can buy once you’ve acquired buildings.
2. Design your board. Your board should have a track, divided into squares or other connecting shapes, on which your pieces can progress through the game. Start simply with a blank sheet of foam core board or poster board and draw on it. Use a large placemat of a map, or create a trivia game with pieces that move on a placemat of the presidents’ portraits.
- Fill in squares on the board with actions based on your story. Not every square needs to have something on it, but make them work with your story, whether they’re available for purchase, they prompt you to take a card, move forward or backward a few spaces, and so on.
3. Design your cards. Each game should have a set of chance cards, to be drawn and utilized throughout the game. Use blank index cards or sheets of poster board cut into pieces. Each game can include everywhere from 15-50+ cards. They don’t all need to be unique—there can be repeats, but make it a good jumble of options such as. . .
- Directional cards: Move back a space, jump forward three spaces. Make sure to frame it in the story! For example, instead of just writing, “move forward one space,” say, “a fair breeze blew your ship forward one space.”
- Loot cards: If your game involves collecting treasure(s) along the way, have some cards involve gaining or losing treasure.
- Game cards: Have a few cards that directly address other cards or the board itself—a card that will let you ignore a penalty card or space, a card that lets you select from someone else’s cards, and so on.
4. Pick your pieces. You can make game pieces out of almost anything you can find, but here are just a few ideas:
- Choose a few pieces of toys or small figurines you already own that are somewhat equally sized.
- Most hobby or game shops have small figurines depicting all sorts of characters; pick a few and use them plain, or paint them to your taste. It would also be a good place to pick up other pieces like dice.
5. Write down the rules. Now’s the time to actually set the rules for your game. It may take a few times to not only get them all down, but also to trim them, simplify, and make them easy to understand. Make sure you write them all down and keep the instructions with the game!
- End goal: Write the goal first. Whether it’s accruing points or reaching the end of the board first, make sure you frame it in terms of the story!
- Specify turn order and actions: Who goes first—the highest dice roll, or the youngest player, or the most-traveled player? What can each player do on his or her turn? Is it always roll the dice, draw a card? Or can they only pick between moving forward, drawing a card, buying an item?
- Other things to consider: Does the story encourage trading chance cards among players? Does it encourage players to make alliances, or use each other’s resources? Can you only have a certain amount of cards in your hand? Can you use them only once? Is moving determined by rolling dice? Think about all angles of your game and build them into the rules.
Have you ever made your own board game? Any tips or ideas? Share below!