From Concept to Creation The Quick Guide to Designing Your First Custom Game

As someone who’s always loved playing board games, I was thrilled when I discovered the world of custom board games. There’s something truly special about designing and creating your own game from scratch. But if you’re new to board game design, the process can be overwhelming. That’s why I’ve put together this guide to help you design your first custom board game.

Introduction to Designing Your First Custom Board Game

Before we dive into the nitty-gritty of designing a custom board game, let’s take a moment to talk about why you might want to create one in the first place. For me, the appeal of designing a board game was the ability to create something that was uniquely mine. I loved the idea of being able to bring my own ideas to life and share them with others.

Custom board games can also be a great way to connect with friends and family. There’s something special about playing a game that was designed by someone you know. And who knows? Your custom board game might even become a hit among board game enthusiasts.

Understanding the Basics of Board Game Design

Before you start designing your custom board game, it’s important to understand the basics of board game design. At its core, a board game is a combination of rules, components, and mechanics. The rules define how the game is played, the components are the physical pieces that make up the game, and the mechanics are the interactions between the rules and components.

There are many different types of board games, ranging from simple games like Snakes and Ladders to complex strategy games like Settlers of Catan. When designing your custom board game, it’s important to consider what type of game you want to create and what audience you’re designing for.

Developing Your Game Concept

Once you have a basic understanding of board game design, it’s time to start developing your game concept. This is where your creativity comes into play. Start by brainstorming ideas for your game. What kind of game do you want to create? What themes or concepts interest you?

Once you have a general idea, start fleshing out the details. What are the objectives of the game? What are the rules? What kind of components will you need? This is also a good time to start thinking about the mechanics of the game. How will the rules and components interact with each other?

Creating a Prototype of Your Game

Once you have a solid game concept, it’s time to start creating a prototype of your game. This is where you’ll start to see your ideas come to life. There are many different ways to create a prototype, depending on the complexity of your game.

For simple games, you can create a prototype using paper and pencil. For more complex games, you may need to use a computer program like Tabletop Simulator. Whatever method you choose, the goal is to create a playable version of your game that you can test with others.

Playtesting Your Game

Once you have a prototype, it’s time to start playtesting your game. This is where you’ll get feedback from others and start refining your game design. The key to playtesting is to be open to feedback and willing to make changes to your game.

Start by testing your game with friends and family. Once you’ve made some changes based on their feedback, start testing with a wider audience. You can also try playtesting at local game stores or board game meetups.

With Never Say Never – The Hilarious Game of Horrible Hypotheticals, we printed out cards on paper using Microsoft Word. To really get a feel of holding the cards in our hands, we got cardstock for free from our local game shop and put the printouts into card sleeves.

Refining Your Game Design

As you playtest your game, you’ll start to see areas that need improvement. This is where you’ll start refining your game design. Look for ways to simplify the rules, improve the components, and streamline the mechanics. The goal is to create a game that is both fun and easy to play.

Choosing a Card Game Maker or Board Game Maker

Once you have a finalized game design, it’s time to choose a card game maker or board game maker. There are many different companies that specialize in printing and manufacturing custom board games. Some popular options include The Game Crafter, Board Game Maker, and PrintNinja.

When choosing a card game maker or board game maker, consider factors like cost, turnaround time, and quality of materials. Be sure to order a sample of your game before placing a large order to ensure that you’re happy with the final product.

We used PrintNinja to manufacture Never Say Never. They have an awesome online calculator to help you price out your games (and other things). And for returning customers, they offer great promotions that give you more bang for your buck. Print Ninja Referral Program banner Oh, and did we mention if you tell them Smashed Studios sent you, you can earn an extra 5% of your print run or a free hard copy proof? Well, now you know!

The Importance of Tabletop Design

Once you have your game in hand, it’s time to start thinking about tabletop design. This includes things like packaging, instructions, and marketing materials. The goal is to create a cohesive brand for your game that will appeal to potential players.

When designing your tabletop materials, consider factors like color scheme, font choice, and imagery. You can also hire a graphic designer to help you create a professional-looking design.

Printing and Manufacturing Your Game

Once you have your tabletop materials in place, it’s time to start printing and manufacturing your game. This is where your chosen card game maker or board game maker comes in. Be sure to communicate clearly with them about your expectations and deadlines.

Once your game is printed and manufactured, it’s time to start selling it. There are many different ways to market and sell your custom board game, including online marketplaces like Amazon and Etsy, local game stores, and board game conventions.

Resources for Designing and Producing Your Board Game

Designing and producing a custom board game can be a complex process, but there are many resources available to help you along the way. Again, some popular resources include The Game Crafter, Board Game Geek, and the Board Game Design Lab podcast.

Take advantage of these resources to learn more about board game design, connect with other designers, and get feedback on your game.


Designing a custom board game is a challenging but rewarding process. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can create a game that is uniquely yours and share it with others. Remember to be open to feedback and willing to make changes along the way. And most importantly, have fun!

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