I like to play board games. I also strongly believe that gaming can be effectively used in education. Therefore, I combined the two ideas this past year and invented two board games for my class. It may seem like a daunting task to create your own board game, but really, it’s not quite as difficult as it seems.
The first thing you need for a board game is a topic. It doesn’t even have to be a complete story, yet, just a topic. For my class that talks about human anatomy and physiology, I wanted to make a game about homeostasis. For my introductory biology class, I wanted to talk about metabolism. Next up, you need a general game play idea. Feel free to borrow bits and pieces and concepts from other games. Although written word and design is copyrighted, general concepts are not. Neither of my games directly resembles another game, but they use concepts from many of the European games I play. The homeostasis game has an “environment” turn where something happens to the game board on each turn. The metabolism has phases of play where there is an exchange cards phase, a play phase, and a replace cards phase.
Creation and Testing
The next thing you need to do is create a makeshift gameboard and game pieces. My games are made out of poster board, card stock, and colored paper plates that I cut into little pieces such as stars and water droplets. My first set were handwritten, but on the second round I created typed cards by putting card stock in the printer then I borrowed a paper cutter to make evenly sized cards.
Testing can be the first really difficult phase, because you have to be prepared to admit that your ideas might not work as well as you wanted. The first thing I did was try and run the games with my students. I emphasize “try” because the first few times, the games didn’t quite run as expected and we made a lot of changes on the fly. We adjusted how many cards people had, how much things cost, and what was permitted in gameplay phases. The games changed a lot. However, they also got consistently more fun with each new iteration. Now, I’m starting to test the games with people who aren’t my students.
The Next Steps
So, you have a game. It tests well. You want more people to play it. Now what? Of course, this is the hardest part. It costs money to make a game, and more money to make more copies. It also takes time and energy. Dawn and I have tossed this around a few times. We see a couple of options. You could put together a Kickstarter and try to fund it yourself. You have to consider the cost of not only the supplies, but also your own time in putting it together. Alternately, you can try to sell it in some form to a company who has the money to create the game. I’m still working out the details for mine.
Go out. Create new games and have fun!