How to Make a Digital Board Game: A Guideline to Start With

December 2, 2021

Digital board games are becoming more popular since people are looking for various ways to spend time and have fun without going out. In the era of Kickstarter projects, famous podcasts, and YouTube videos promoting computer board games, it’s high time to release new titles providing outstanding gameplay experience and monetize board games for your business’ higher profits. That is why we decided to gather brief and substantial information on developing a board game.

Yahoo Finance describes the boost of the gaming industry as “it is constantly developing with the peak in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.” Users keep searching for more fun and brand-new experiences trying new and unknown titles: puzzles, collectible card games, miniature games, or tabletop board games.

ReportLinker presents the expected growth of the board games market at a CAGR of 13% in 2021-2028 years.

Global Board Games Market

As the market grows, so does the interest in introducing new titles and board games are one of them. So, in our blog, you will find information about:

  • genres of digital board games
  • specifics of building them
  • stages of development
  • how to create the game that will benefit your business

The Diversity of Board Games Genres: Choose the Most Appropriate for Your Business

The 3-minutes Board Games Community speaks about digital board games types in this YouTube video, which plainly explains every game’s peculiar features. They distinguish:

  • Euro-style games, where players target gaining “victory points.” They usually have a certain number of turns or last until one of the players wins, scoring the most. In Euro-style games, there’s resource management. Players do not experience bad or good luck but can win by trading their resources wisely (Power Grid, Carcassonne, Lancaster).
  • Deck-building games (DBGs), where users play with a 15-20 deck of cards, and only 10 of them appear in a single game. Players make their deck of cards over time by purchasing available cards from the pool of cards. DBGs have a lot of replay value (Quarriors, Thunderstone, Nightfall).
  • Classic board games or family games, in which players race around the board to reach a goal. These games have the least strategy and the most luck in choosing the winner (Snakes and Ladders, Candyland).
  • Abstract Strategy Games, where people need to place game elements in the right location— these games have a variety of rules (chess).
  • Strategy games involve much narration and co-op gameplay. Users should take risks to compete, and the game sessions usually last many hours (Risk).
  • Card-based strategy games have rules following which players use cards (essential game element) to obtain abilities and bonuses (Bang, 7 Wonders).

It doesn’t matter which game type you choose, it’s worth identifying more and less critical elements by removing one and analyzing how the gameplay will flow. Then, the game development process proceeds by eliminating and changing game elements to give deep insights into the game mechanics for custom prototype design.

Board Game Development Process: Stages and Milestones

According to Statista, the gaming industry generated around $79 billion dollars in 2021. And every two days, publishers release a new game. suggests a $50,000 minimum budget for game development as the cost for a solo developer working for a year on a game. They specify a publisher can extend the budget to make a top title allocating money for marketing, PR, and more precise testing.

In the beginning of the game development process, it can become a question of whether to outsource a development team or a solo developer, whether it’s really possible to create a board game collaborating only with one specialist. The developers themselves share that they appreciate working solo on game development and release and treat it like “going wild and experimenting” the possibility of trying a new language or engine. Expert development teams like Innovecs is able to bring more emerging trends to your game development process, and learning the budget for outsourcing gaming development specialists is possible by ordering a consultation. Either you choose solo development or team outsourcing, but the stages of the board game development will not vary: from conceptualization to post-production and launching periods. Let’s shed some light on the key game release milestones.

Developing a Digital Board Game Concept and Prototype as the First Steps of the Journey: Challenges and Benchmarks

ResearchGate places a substantial emphasis on designing games, choosing digital game elements, and preventing the usage of non-essential game components. The key idea of this guideline lies in arranging “continuous game experience testing”: play, grasp inconsistencies, play one more time, and repeat the process.

While playing and testing the prototype, the developers can see if games have inconsistent narration: such as introducing a character, and then not involving them in gameplay, any components unused throughout the gameplay, or odd themes, unnecessary achievements. Identifying these issues before the start of gaming software development is essential to prevent many game code iterations further.

Game prototype as a system has three core elements: theme, components, and mechanics. Game designers usually describe them in game documentation. It contains game vision (detailed game description of the theme, game components, and mechanics) and a Concept Document (initial game aspects, rules, and gameplay ideas and description).

Core Elements of the Game Concept

Prototyping of the game starts from analyzing the mentioned three parts:

  • Mechanics: the game should provide risky rules and interactions for engaging gameplay.
  • Components: dice, cards, or the board itself should be eye-catching art pieces.
  • Theme: game narration, choices, and actions throughout the game should be meaningful.

During game conceptualization, the designer chooses the core game adventure (mechanics), and decides whether it will be a total simulation (close to real world) or pure abstraction. The development team gathers information about each game element relevant to the game experience we’re trying to emulate (movements, actions, fighters, clothes, or characters’ skills and abilities).

These core game components will make an MVP (minimum viable product), and the prototype is an idea translated into the game mechanics, and the best way to test it is to play games continuously. Thus, for example, if your game involves energy management concepts (e.g., captain is striving to strengthen the shields), you should be sure all the possible actions (mechanisms) of obtaining the strength are in the toolbox.

Game design ideas come from different sources. Wiki even created the Game Ontology Project, a framework for describing, analyzing, and studying games. But it doesn’t matter where you take the ideas of gameplay, two components are essential: rules and fiction. Due to the rules (the principles controlling the gameplay) and game fiction (gameworld, settings, story and narration, characters) game designers have the possibility to implement game interdependencies, interactions, and other mechanics.

Inventive part of the game concept

As a result of conceptualization and prototyping, game documentation appears, in which:

  • the game designer explains game ideas, rules, mechanics, narration theme:
  • the investor sees where money is allocated;
  • the project manager is able to plan the tasks of further game development process considering the described issues; and
  • QA specialists have information on what features to test while playing MVP games.

Board Game Development Lifecycle: What Is Essential After Idea Conceptualization and Prototyping

After pre-production, we described above as game conceptualization, prototype testing, inventing, and correcting rules and fiction. Later, it comes to production, and post-production. Let’s follow the peculiar features and processes they involve.

Stage of Board Game Development

On the “in computers” stage, after creating game concepts and prototyping, game designers follow the “vertical slice” period, in which they’ve completed the basic game features in the draft (details are not specified if they do not influence the whole gameplay perception). Content production proceeds with the basic draft board game design, and it is the first full version available for public audience presentation.

Both on the stage of production (vertical slice and content production) and pre-launching, it’s worth thinking of inbuilt monetization tools. You can use in-app ads, in-app purchases (e.g., players can buy more military pieces or shield strength features to succeed in the game), or utilize any subscription model.

After completion of the game production and pre-launch period, it’s time to think about the markets for the game release. It can be players’ international online platforms (e.g., Steam), game introduction on a certain regional market, or uploading digital board game applications for free or paid download in App Store or Google Play. Here, App-store Review Guidelines or Google Play Publishing Manuals come in handy to smooth the registration, publishing, and in-app monetization process management.

The post-production stage involves the so-called “feature complete” period (alpha milestone), which can be both a festive period for the game development team and an anxious time. It depends on which team you choose to outsource for board game development: if they run out of scheduled time before the game is truly complete, you can receive a poor alpha version. Of course, it’s normal for some aspects of the original game version to be cut during post-production and the pre-launch period, but it’s obviously not okay if some art or sounds are missing, or any initial features are not fully implemented. That is why it’s worth remembering the choice of a game development company is essential. Do your best to ensure the quality of an expert team, efficient collaborative company culture, and a suitable game development approach (e.g., Agile, Waterfall, or Spiral).

Conclusion: What Smoothens Board Game Development Process

Once you have a digital board game idea, you can choose development team outsourcing or just an extension of your own developers’ department. It’s also possible to negotiate agile GDL or Waterfall—everything depends on the project objectives, budget, and deadlines. The only thing you should manage on every stage of a board game development is considering the game concept, rules, and fiction should be catching, granting positive gameplay experience, and retaining the users, making them replay the game again and again. Because you do not make games just for fun, but usually for further monetization, and going up to the top titles.

Every board game genre (Euro-style games, family board games, strategy, or abstract strategy games) provides its own fun implemented in the rules (principles of the players’ interactions) and fiction (gameplay narration, game story, and game art pieces). While game conceptualization a development team should remember that board game mechanics should be smooth (not too complicated, but not easy and boring as well), logical (no unnecessary features, or senseless actions), prompting to perform in-game purchases to win.

It doesn’t matter how complex your game development project is, either it’s a plain family board game or a cooperative, long-session strategy game, the development team follows a fixed set of stages:

  • The game idea in mind and on paper (pre-production period)
  • The game on the computer (production period) involving code iterations
  • Playtesting, beta, and alpha versions release (post-production period)
  • Choosing monetization strategy
  • Game release on the market

If you wish to create a high-quality product, you’re welcome to come up with all the questions to the Innovecs expert team.


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