Sunday, December 31, 2017

Board Game Evolution - The Making of Millennium

Millennium lives on!

Yes, it's been a while since I posted an update on any of my board games since the holidays tend to sidetrack me, but here's an image you haven't seen for the new Millennium box.

As much as I like this design, I'm not sure I'll actually use it because it seems a bit unusual compared to so many other boxes in this genre. Maybe a bit too serious in tone when the ultimate goal is to use a fun image, but you never know, I just might go with it.

You'll notice on the upper left it says, "A Cooperative Game." I think this category and the overall theme fits better as a co-op game where players unite and try to reach a specific goal and survive as a team. That means that most of the rules and cards will go through another revamp.

As much as that hurts, I just can't ignore an improvement like this. It's just part of the game, if you will. The thing is that when you start a game you don't always see the big picture and sometimes you get caught-up in all the details that you don't want to miss.

The fact is that a doomsday theme lends itself naturally to this mechanism so why fight it. I'll have to roll with this punch in the gut but the game will be better for it. Besides, nobody really cares how much I suffer during the design process. It's all about the game and the (fun) experience it delivers. Period. Cry me a river.

Proposed Box Design

The board has also gone through major changes. It's now a six-fold board 18" x 27" so I can use the entire U.S. map from coast-to-coast.

This is an unfinished board (below) but you get the idea how the rest will turn out based on this graphic. I still have quite a bit to add to it; mostly destination points and locations as you see on the east coast. I'm trying not to clutter it too much.

Unfinished Board
Right now, as it stands, players start on the east coast, at the Red Cross Headquarters in Washington, D.C. and disperse from there to one of three bomb shelters as a final destination. When all players reach a bomb shelter, they win the game. But getting to each shelter won't be easy and that's what makes this game a challenge.

..."even in its simplicity there is
always plenty of built-in chaos."

That's the general idea but I'm still working out all the obstacles and cards needed to make that all happen in a fun and interesting way. That's the hard part but I think I can pull it off. Hey, anyone can design a game. The trick is to design a great game without annoying mechanisms that slow down the game or don't make any sense thematically.

I'm working all that out as I go along because it's easier for me to see the work in Photoshop than on a notepad. Although, I've already filled two notebooks and counting.

Millennium has really taken a sharp turn for the better but it has a long way to go. It seems to grow by the day but I realize I must stick to the theme and keep it simple because even in its simplicity there is always plenty of built-in chaos.

Having stepped away from the board for several months gave me a chance to see something I had missed before. Namely, that I needed to design and build this game as a co-op game because that's the nature of a doomsday scenario. At first, I had thought that making a strategic and competitive game might be a good idea, but organically, a cooperative game is really the best way to go so why fight it.

I think cooperative games like Pandemic are quite popular and have global appeal so that's the new direction and a better choice for Millennium.

..."that's the new direction and
a better choice for Millennium."

I've also been working on an interesting backstory or backdrop that ties-in the End of Days scenario with the asteroid Bennu and it's near collision with Earth every so often. That's one of Andrea's (main character) biggest fears.

And so it goes, folks. There's so much to do and so little time to accomplish our goals but we must press on and keep moving forward at all costs.

I preach this to my kids as often as I can. Life is all about the glory. You must endure the blood, sweat, and tears. Nobody cares about all that.

People only care about the glory and so that's your main focus; the final outcome. And it better be good.

I hope the new year brings you closer to your goals, my friends.

There's simply no time to look back.


Thursday, November 9, 2017

How To Photoshop Your Board Game Box The Easy Way

Okay, finally I've been able to put together a short presentation about how to design a great game box in three dimensions the easy way on Photoshop.

Net Geometry for The Game

I'm designing my game on The Game so this is how they manufacture their boxes. They start with a black box and glue an image from your net geometry (like the one above) onto the black box, edge-to-edge and fold over the excess flaps, top and bottom. That means you get no side images for the left or right side of the box. (I know it sounds crude but it works just fine if they center the art properly.)

Using Photoshop, first cut out the center portion of the box and the top flap. Place side by side. Go to TRANSFORM and select CCW to flip it so your flap looks like the one below on the left.

Select the flap with the bounding box marquee tool, click on the move tool and move in any direction once to activate marching ants, then go to TRANSFORM select PERSPECTIVE and apply the effect as shown below for each image.

Notice I have each image on separate layers but you can keep them on the same layer if you want. Next, adjust (FREE TRANSFORM) the main image so it is not as wide, (almost by half) and proceed to join (move) the two images together (touching) or merge the two layers into one image.

Make sure both edges are touching. You can soften this edge next.

Now for a little Photoshop magic. Most people will keep this image or maybe add gray lines to all the edges but the box will look very unrealistic. To get good edges, I like to use the Dodge Tool set at about 65% with a small, soft brush and run it along each of the edges except the bottom one.

Soften and highlight all edges with the Dodge Tool.

See (above) how that adds a gentle highlight to all the edges of the box by softening and rounding them like a real box. You can run each edge up to three times or until you get an edge you're happy with. Trial and error here.

Almost finished box with reflection

I've also added a reflection of the box.

Follow these easy instructions to get that effect.

First, duplicate your box, flip it vertically and place as shown below.

Working with the reflection image, use the bounding box and activate marching ants only around the flap and then select SKEW. Grab the middle handle and skew it up until the angle matches the top flap. This won't affect the image as long as you don't move it.

Duplicate, Flip Vertically and position as shown above.

Now select the front of the reflection with the bounding box and skew it until you match the angle above it. (See below)

Skew the front of the box until angles match

Here's a close-up of the final version with the reflection in place. You can use any background color you like and experiment with the opacity for your reflection to get the best effect.

Don't forget to darken the left side of the box to give it a more three dimensional feel. Use the Burn Tool set at about 50% and experiment with it until you get the desired effect.

Here's the final version of the box with extra highlights on the corners for a worn look.

You can also adjust the brightness and contrast at this point to really make your box come alive.

I've tried many different things and this seems to work best to easily give product boxes the most realistic effect without buying expensive programs to convert to a three dimensional box.

Once you get the hang of it, it gets a lot easier and the effect is outstanding. Give it a try and email me your finished boxes and I'll post them here next time.

Any questions, please comment and I'll post an explanation in my next post.

Have fun!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Board Game Heaven - The New Millennium Challenge

West Coast / East Coast Game Box
We all knew it was coming. So after months of designing an East Coast game board, I've decided to add a West Coast board to Millennium, which in my opinion was not only necessary, but inevitable.

After all, who wants to play only half a game? As cool as the East Coast board is, adding a game board that starts in San Francisco, CA, makes it much more complete and satisfying to play. Especially if the board is set in another era (1800's and 1900's).

The East Coast board is about 95% done and the new board is about 50% done, so I have quite a bit of work before finishing up this game.

I can release the East coast version this month (November) as I had planned all along but I rather not rush into anything. I want too take my time and finish this entire game as I know it will work best so that means two 18" x 18" boards side-by-side, which makes the game board a full 18" x 36" inches of awesome game play.

"It's quite a contrast of events..."

I'm still debating on splitting these games in half and selling separate boards. As it stands now, I plan on offering the East Coast board by itself and offering the West Coast/East Coast board game separately. This way gamers have two options at different price points.

While the main theme to the East Coast board is survival, the theme of the West Coast board is historical exploration, namely, the Wild West and Wyatt Earp, and moving on into the 20th Century and the Disco era of the 70's and beyond. I think it will be lots of fun, which eventually leads up to a time-warp transporting you into the year 2158 and into the East Coast. It's quite a contrast of events that I think works really nice and builds up to a full, well-rounded game.

Who knows? Only time will tell how it all plays out, but it feels like I'm on the right track. I'm also refining the four characters with multiple roles and ideally I would like to include a set of custom dice that allows special moves for each player. Both are good mechanisms that add depth to the game. Although, including custom dice all depends on how much it will add to the final price. Margins with The Game Crafter are already low enough so we'll see.
West Coast Wild West Card

Lots to think about and even more to do but I know it'll be worth it because it's going to make a much better game overall.

"I'm going full throttle
with Millennium..."

I do have four other games in various stages of completion, but I'm only one guy with limited time so right now I'm going full throttle with Millennium while I have good momentum on my side so I can finish it and move onto to other things on the design and production side as Millennium hits the market and I tweak that end of it.

It's nothing short of a full time endeavor, but that's what I do. For years I've had all these ideas and finally I'm putting them out there and giving board games a shot for whatever it's worth. Everything I've learned about design and marketing over the years has led me to this and it feels like the right time to try something different.

As it turns out, or maybe it just feels that way, everyone is getting in on the board game bandwagon these days. So competition is fierce but the market knows what it wants and champions what it likes the most so that's really the challenge; to figure out what's popular and put a new spin on it because let's face it, most of it has all been done before.

West Coast Card
"One person's favorite game
might be another's nightmare."

So while Post Apocalyptic games are not new, my spin and flavor is, so all I can hope for is that gamers identify and embrace it with fair reviews. That's always the hard part because like anything else, games are subjective. One person's favorite game might be another's nightmare.

That being said, if you design games you would like to see but can't really find out there, maybe that adds something to the gaming world. You never know until you put it out there and that takes a good investment mostly in time.

And as we all know, time is precious and in short supply, especially the older you get so you have to make the most of every day.

I think that by the spring of 2018 I'll be ready to release both editions of Millennium after several (hopefully favorable) reviews. 

Successfully marketing a game is really an uphill battle unless it has a viral element that key influencers can relate and latch on to. Big companies rely on bestselling books to base their games on and that always helps because they have a built-in audience to work with. And that makes marketing almost effortless.

East Coast Illness Card
If you don't have the luxury of basing your games on bestselling books or video games, stick with universal concepts that are already familiar to gamers and try presenting your games in the most unique way possible. Everything counts in gaming, even great and consistent artwork is a plus because there are plenty of collectors who appreciate that kind of stuff.

Okay, that's for another post. Meanwhile I've got to get back to work on my games. It's a bit overwhelming with so much to do but I take it one day at a time and keep on going until there's nothing left to do.

And then of course, there's always something else to do until it all bottoms out and then you move on.

For my next post I'm going to finally post my easy Photoshop tips for making product boxes like the one above. It's not perfect yet, but it's getting there.

Till next time, keep on gaming!

Your move.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Terra Nova's Next Move - Ask The Godfather?

New Millennium Game Board
Okay, I'm the first to admit that this blog is by no means a play-by-play documentary of the machinations Terra Nova has in mind for Millennium and beyond. That would take an encyclopedia of information and every minute of my time to document it in every minute detail.

As it stands now, Millennium is moving forward at a steady pace and scheduled to launch in November, as planned all along. A soft launch, because I can't go all out with multiple advertising and promotional outlets. Not that any of that will guarantee sales, which most likely it would not, but it's nice to dream that it could.

"Let's get real here."

Let's get real here. Advertising doesn't work that way. You have to win the trust of your potential customers first. And that comes about with great reviews, positive customer comments, influencers and key buyers who champion your product and help spread the word like wildfire, etc.

Besides, if you advertise without a good offer to back it up, you've got nothing really except a ton of money that goes into advertising with little results if any. In short, advertising is no magic bullet.

In reality, Millennium is now going through a developmental growth spurt and still in its second stage of prototyping, which means it's not ready for the consumer market, yet. And what is just as true, is that it must still undergo a good round of player testing before it reaches the point of putting it on store shelves.

"Advertising doesn't work that way."

That said, there's no reason why the game can't go on sale after another month of tweaking and more play testing (by family and friends). It will in November, but with very limited advertising and promotional support at that point in time. Anyone can buy the game if they find it either through The Game Crafter website, or this Millennium Blog. There is always a possibility that hard core gamers might take a chance on a game they've never heard of or know little about. Then again that depends on the landing page, for instance. And let's face it, proof of concept is everything.

I have to work it this way because I am only one person with limited resources. And inching Millennium along at this pace is all I can do right now. I have 6 other games I'm developing and in the middle of each of them. This stage of development takes time and patience to get through. Most of it is developing the artwork and game mechanics. Getting the core concept in place and tweaking it to the point of a working prototype with many details unresolved up to that point.

Back of Millennium Box
It would be so much easier with 2 or 3 people in the mix who could help me but I'm on my own and that's probably the hardest part. No regrets, though. Too many cooks can also be a nightmare. For now, I'm doing fine and plugging away at a steady pace with all the games in my queue.

Luckily, some of these games are much simpler card games, easier to design and play than Millennium. This game (Millennium) has grown and branched out even to the point of multiple expansions in the works because the concept and themes are far reaching.

The main difference in the current prototype is in the game's mechanic's, how it works and how it feels when you get to the end of the game. You want gamers to feel as if they are reaching another level and attaining their ultimate goal with a good sense of both tension and relief along the way.

Millennium in particular is a game of survival and sacrifice, so there is a sense of strategy and planning to achieve your goals as you journey from point A to B, on to C, and so on. You feel there is a sense that something bigger is at stake (besides your life) and you must go on against all odds.

It is this tension that must build to a climax and finally a resolution so that the game is successful at each level and beyond.

So far I've included many new playing cards, I solved the big problem I had with the train tokens because Game Crafter had discontinued some of the train tokens included in my game. My solution was simple enough. I found tokens that look like train cars (long rectangles) and included 5 in different colors to represent each of the train cars accordingly and assigned them each a score.

Engine Train Card
I think this works better than having the train in one color and still uses tokens that you can run on the train track north. It's a visual thing and by adding more cards (18) I can include some of the cards that were missing from the first prototype.

These new train cards are a bit of fun with hobo hitchhikers, dogs, and other sorts of strange humanity you might come across in an Apocalyptic setting such as this.

Levity is important, as you know in life and in gaming so I made sure to add a good mix of lighthearted happenings in the midst of all the turmoil. Not unlike real life, whereas Texas, Florida, Mexico, and Puerto Rico are experiencing their share of hardships even as we speak.

These events are certainly heart-breaking to say the least and hopefully each of us who has been more fortunate thus far can help in some way those in dire need. Please contribute to the Red Cross if you can. Every dollar counts.

If anything, events such as the devastating earthquakes and storms this month have been a wake-up call for so many who were already living in duress. Here in northern Florida, we had our own concerns and storm damages, but nothing like we've seen elsewhere.

We need to be prepared at all times and that's not always possible. Sometimes, carrying on is hard to do when loved ones and other families are in trouble. Our prayers are with the afflicted.

Please Help The RED CROSS

Speaking of the Red Cross, here is another one of the new cards I added to the deck. It's a mercy of sorts card if you can help a friend in need out of the rubble and help nurse them back to health before you continue your journey northbound.
Red Cross Token Card

This is not a coincidence, but thematic of the game and so I had included these cards originally. There are many other cards along these lines and as I have said, this Millennium game will only get better as time goes by because its themes are indeed a sign of the times ahead.

The Red Cross link above is real, however. Please visit their site and help however you can. I plan to give again soon and wish I could do more.

At any rate, I am pleased with the evolution of Millennium and I think it will be a great success. For me that means that the game itself works as intended and that a fair amount of interest will accompany its journey among other collectible board games you enjoy.
There is so much more to say but I realize I must keep these posts short. Since I showed an update to the bottom of the box, maybe I'll talk about how I went about designing it and my reasoning behind each element.

You'll notice, there is a fair amount of tried and true sales techniques (gimmicks) used here. Namely, the free gifts, although they are a good quality and desirable. Remember, they are part of an offer that's been around since Cracker Jacks, for example.

You have to throw in the kitchen sink if you can. Take no chances and always make them an offer, as The Godfather said in a strained voice, "make them an offer they can't refuse."

More about offers next time.

Till then, stay safe and keep on gaming!

Friday, August 25, 2017

Game Box Design - How to Give Your Game Box Sex Appeal

Current Millennium Game Box Design

When it comes to your game box cover, think of it as a house with great curb appeal. When you pass by that house, it catches your eye and stands out from the rest. Your box cover is no different. It needs shelf appeal or sex appeal, whatever you want to call it, the cover of your box has to knock 'em dead at first sight.

Each game, of course is different and I can only talk about how I went about designing the Millennium box cover. But here are the basics you need to know about any design.

Audience demographics are key in determining what potential buyers specifically look for in a product or a board game, what kind of books they read, movies they watch, etc.

Keep in mind that there are always variables, however, you are looking to highlight the main concept of your story so when prospects are shopping for new games and if they have not heard of yours yet, the story that your box cover tells, speaks to them on a deeper level.

"I'll admit up front, I designed Millennium, especially the box cover to appeal to women."

I'll admit up front, I designed the Millennium game, especially the box cover to appeal to women. My reasoning for this is simple. Most board games are bought and played by men but women love to play board games too (numbers increasing) and by featuring a woman as the game's protagonist, it gives the game another angle from a female POV that young Millennial women can identify with.

When it comes to board games, that is rare and hopefully my gamble will pay off by appealing to women who know they matter. Millennium is not the first game to focus on women, of course. But it is one of the few that feature a woman as a fierce fighter and survivor. Women, after all, do not enjoy being objectified. Pandemic features a woman on its cover and has attracted many new buyers this way and so have other games.

That's not to say that males will not identify with this game, but instead, both men and women can relate to Millennium on another level. Besides, once you start the game, it is evident that men play a large role in the game as well.

I think that's the best of both worlds, plus it makes playing Millennium with both genders more interesting and certainly more engaging.

"Sure she's hot, (said the male chauvinist in me) but more importantly, she's in control and she is powerful."

Okay. we need a woman on the cover. Not just any woman, but a woman with an Uzi sub-machine gun. Wow, she's in charge! Sure she's hot, (said the male chauvinist in me) but more importantly, she's in control and she is powerful.

Millennuim's Andrea Poster (Artwork from DeviantArt)
These are characteristics that appeal to modern women and let's not forget this story is set in the year 2158. If history is any indication of female power and influence, it is safe to assume that women have certainly come out of the dark ages and into positions of power and self reliance.

One look at the Millennium cover and it spells, future along with all its uncertainties. What will Earth be like 140 years from now? Its government? Its military? It's religious beliefs?
Society at large?

If you don't feature a woman on your game box, make sure to feature and focus on your protagonist, or the star of the game. It doesn't have to be large, (but can be) but it must be the center of attention. Include all the important elements (2 or 3) that tell an exciting story at first sight.

Don't clutter the front of the box with too many details. That's what the back of the box is for. Think of the front cover (top of box) as an advertisement with a primary focus on the star of the game. Keep it simple and use powerful images that enhance your story. Stick to theme and concept.

Right now this Millennium game box could change altogether, meaning I might try a close-up of Andrea in an action position with the bright cityscape in the background.

Anything goes and it's a matter of experimentation at this point. For this box, I opted to focus on the landscape and the futuristic world with Andrea as a secondary focus. I want to immerse gamers into this unknown world right away. But if I can find artwork of Andrea in action, I'll post the alternate box to compare. (More about DeviantArt later.)

To briefly summarize this cover, I was aiming for something hopeful. I wanted to say or to convey that Earth's future will be bright despite so many societal upheavals, wars, and racial tensions that (man)kind has wrought upon us throughout the generations.

Despite the evil misdeeds and all the destruction that comes with it, humans, both men and women have managed to survive and hope to thrive into this new Millennium. Now, and beyond the ages.

Amen to that.

First Prototype of Millennium Game Box
Here's a shot of the first prototype box. Notice the printing is a bit off and the word Millennium and the ribbon have to come down about half an inch. ( I think this was a mistake on the printing end. My specs seem ok).

It's not a good photo without flash and lost its contrast here. The actual box is printed a bit too dark but otherwise shows great contrast and sharp. The colors are quite good and vibrant.

I'm working on tweaking this entire box design for another try at a better prototype soon.

So far, I'm very pleased with the results from The Game Crafter. I'll post a full review of this first prototype next time. Overall I'm very happy with how the whole game looks at this point. Stay tuned for that article because if you make games of any kind on The Game Crafter, you're going to want to hear this.

If you're working on a new game and would like it featured here, please send me your photos and a brief article about how you went about your design and I'll post it here.

Next Time on Board Game Nerd Alert:

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Next Post, I want to show how easily I go about designing a 3-D looking box like the one above on Photoshop and all the cool tips and tricks to make it look like the real thing.

Friday, July 28, 2017

How To Stay In The Game

Overcoming Your Setbacks

There's no getting around it. Just when you see the finish line, it turns out it's a mirage and the end is really no where in sight, or so it seems.

Ever get the feeling that succeeding and meeting your goals is an illusion? Don't despair, you are not alone. Most of us set goals and often find ourselves in the middle of the desert with no water in sight.

Yes, life is tough and often the unexpected hits you right between the eyes more often than not. Here's where the line, 'Believe in yourself,' comes in. Or to be exact, believe in your idea.

Ideas come to us in so many ways and by so many means. They come to us in dreams, in the shower, during moments of reverie, upon awaking, in the news, via images or comments we've seen or heard throughout the day. Sometimes good ideas just happen to us while we are in the middle of something else.

Believe in Your Idea

The important thing is to recognize that the idea is good and marketable. Don't worry about how you're going to get there, just start moving towards your goal, one step and one day at a time. You're going to come across problems and obstacles, of course, because there's no easy road to success and in reality the road to success is usually paved with epic failures.

The difference between people who find success and those who don't is in how you process your failures and setbacks. Do you give up on an a good idea because it is difficult to achieve? Because you've stumbled into an obstacle that at the time seems insurmountable.

If this sounds like a pep talk to myself, well, you could be right but it is far more than that. It is a process of reaffirming everything you believe and everything that you are hoping for in your venture. Because getting to the finish line is half the fun. Finding your way through the labyrinth is part of the journey.

This past week I cheerfully opened my email as I do every morning, only to find an email with hard news, to say the least.

One of the parts to my game (Millennium) had just been discontinued. That means that supplies of this particular part are low and once those parts are all gone, they are no longer available. And that means I will need to find a similar part to take its place, or eliminate the part and its mechanics, along with its intended effect and re-do all the artwork and instructions that went along with it and so on.

A small nightmare. My first thought was that this was an inevitable end to Millennium because this part is integral to the game and in many ways the game is structured around this particular part, which happens to be multiple parts. In this case, a set of five train cars.

Quitting did cross my mind, but not for long.

Sure quitting is an option. Sometimes quitting is necessary because it will save you countless of man-hours and dollars spent for almost nothing to show for, except for an extrapolation of an idea, which might lead to something better than your original idea.

Hmm, not a good trade off after six months of hard work. So it's back to the drawing board to see if I can save Millennium. For now, I will exchange the wooden train cars with flat tokens. That will have to do unless The Game Crafter keeps these parts, which they will not.

What to do? Don't panic. It's not the end of the world, although it feels like it at times, but it is an opportunity to make the game even better. At least that is what I'm telling myself.

I'm not happy replacing these parts with tokens but it will have to do because I checked with TGC and in fact they are going to discontinue these parts. Lucky me. Good thing this is just a prototype.

I'm still ordering the prototype this coming month to see how it all plays out and I hope to find a better solution. Although I know that not having these parts diminish the game in so many ways. I mean the parts were very crude wooden parts anyway with no detail and ideally I want metal parts with great detail, similar to the Monopoly game. I know, dream on.

I could set out to cast these metal parts myself (by the thousands) if I need to but it's way to early to tell. Once I get the prototype in house and play-test it, I'll have a better idea whether to find a die caster to make these train cars or just scrap the train idea altogether.

I doubt that scraping the trains is a good idea. I'll just have to dig a little deeper and either find these parts elsewhere or manufacture them myself. It's a heck of a spot to be in after eight months of work.

No worries. I'll figure out something great.

Fingers crossed.

(This is where I sob and utter the dreadful words,  Good riddance cruel world!)

Friday, July 14, 2017

Video Teaser Secrets - A Crash Course

Video teasers for your board games are important because you need to bring viewers and players into the world you have created. Once we put gamers inside the this new world, we must give them an emotional reason to stay there and an end goal to accomplish.

Think of board games or video games just like a movie or a good novel. We need to immerse viewers, readers, gamers into an unfamiliar world and we must strive to give them something or someone to root for.

Millennium Promo made with Filmora
Teasers are all about teasing viewers or in other words, enticing them with a scenario they want to be in and take part of or a character they would like to play or pretend to be.

It's a tall order for a short 30 second teaser, but it is precisely the teaser's brevity that really helps hook viewers because when a teaser is done right, it leaves them wanting more.

How do viewers get more? They visit the game website, they become curious, intrigued, and inspired to buy the game to see how it all plays out. The bottom line is simple. They know something about the beginning of this game and after seeing the teaser (or a longer video) they become more curious and consequently they need to experience the ending of the game. It's like an itch they need to scratch.

Let's break down the process of
creating an effective
30 second video teaser.

1. Your opening image or text should provoke questions or make viewers curious to find out more.
2. Follow with images that build your story.
3. Introduce your hero and his or her quest.
4. End your video in a fresh or unexpected way.
5. Don't give away the ending.
6. If possible include a free promo offer.

Like I said, this list is a tall order to fit into a 30 second teaser but it can be done, of course. First gather all the images you're going to use (about 15 to 20) and upload them to your favorite video editor. I recommend either iMovie, Windows Movie Maker, or Wondershare's Filmora.

Get your images in sequence and set the timing of each image accordingly. Give viewers enough time to process an image (about 1 or 2 seconds). Based on these time limits, 30 images would run for about 30 seconds. Although, most images should run for less than a second.

Make sure that your sequence of images tell a story or part of your story to be exact. Your story line can be linear or random. The point is that by the end of the video, viewers are intrigued enough and inspired enough to click for more because you have teased them just long enough for them to want to know the rest of the story or the end of the story.

Keep in mind that it's all about emotions. Your video should strive to evoke emotions and to provoke questions. You must keep your story a mystery. Reveal too much at your own risk. Remember this video is just a tease. It must raise questions, not provide answers.

Too many details will ruin your video. Keep it vague with a sense of mystery. Provoke thought and inspire viewers to click for more because they need closure.

For an in depth overview about producing effective videos, visit
Book Teasers Pub for much more.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

The Secret To Branding Your Board Games

Okay, let's keep this simple and to the point.

Branding is Positioning. Period.

Positioning is how consumers perceive and relate to your product or service.

BAYER aspirin is known as, The good for your heart medicine.
TYLENOL is known as, The strongest and safest pain medicine.
TIDE is known as, The most effective stain remover.

Each of these products is known for something they do specifically. Getting specific is the secret to strong branding because narrowing your market is far more effective than trying to be all things to all people. (Write that down.)

Book publishers have mastered the art of branding and the use of trade names with imprints. Imprints are segments of a publishing company that focus on a particular consumer demographic.

For example, Viking is an imprint of Penguin Group. Viking's brand focuses on consumer demographics for those who prefer good non-fiction such as biographies, historical, and contemporary stories.

Great! So how do you apply branding to board games?

If you plan on being a board game publisher, you must develop a mission statement of sorts for your games. For example, in my case (since I cannot speak for other publishers) when I started planning for Starship Games, I was focused on branding futuristic games or board games with space themes.

My reasoning behind this was that I wanted to put a positive spin on the future of Earth. I think most of us are cynical by nature and pessimistic by habit, so I wanted to turn that around and market games that focus on good and positive things as opposed to just war and destruction for the sake of sensationalizing events on a battlefield.

In fact my first space themed game was Warpd! This is a time-travel game with a positive twist. While this game is still in the development stages, I believe it will be more popular than Millennium, my second space or future-themed game.

While I love the Starship Brand (which happens to be the name of my graphic design business) I thought it was not specific enough and the word STAR reminds consumers of Star Wars, which is totally way too fictional and far-fetched for my taste so I changed it to Terra Nova Board Games.

What I like about Terra Nova, which literally means New Earth (Latin) is its inherent positive message. So there it is. You can't get more positive and more hopeful than a new Earth.

Of course, during the Apocalypse there is widespread destruction. That's the nature of the End of Days theme but the outcome, the end game (if you will) is the re-building of Earth into something new and better than before.

Let's keep in mind that the Apocalypse or Revelation (revealing a mystery) is historically Biblical. Obviously this is a heavy topic and should not be toyed with in my opinion. My goal then is to present these events as accurately as possible without going into detail. Why? because the details are too frightening and off-putting.

New logo (unfinished)

These are games, after all, so I must keep them historically relevant but relevant on the light and bright side.

Millennium is all about surviving a nuclear war. The details about nuclear war or how we got to that point are not relevant to this story. They are a part of the story (background information) that is left off screen because in this case, less is more.

Notice the tag line for this new logo. The dawn of a new age in gaming.

The purpose of your tag line is to sum up the mission of your brand. In this case, the tagline plays off the image, the dawn of, or something new in gaming.

If your branding does its job, it should convey to consumers that you have something different and something new to add to the gaming industry. Otherwise why would consumers bother looking into your games if they don't offer something they have not seen before.

So branding with the name Terra Nova, now serves a more specific purpose. It's all about a New Earth. That's the end game and Millennium is a good place, a good name to start with because we are not far from the start of the new Millennium (2000). Seventeen years into the 21st Century.

As you can see, your branding must encompass a wide spectrum of ideas but it must focus on a small segment of the population so it is distinctive enough to stand out, seem meaningful, and get noticed for the right reasons.


I would love to write about your branding experiences here so if you have any questions about branding your games or other products, send me an email and I'll write a post about your branding idea and how to fine tune it for maximum effect.

Friday, June 30, 2017

The Importance of Themes in Board Games

As part of my continuing Blogumentary of the board game, Millennium, I'm now only days away from ordering my first prototype. It's funny how deadlines push you closer to your goals and the design of this box has already gone through about a half dozen different covers in a short six months.

As the game evolves, so does everything else along with it. Hopefully this will be the last design change before the game goes into full production mode in the coming months. It is a long process regardless of how you slice it.

First Prototype Design - Dark with a glimmer of hope.
The first box design was simple and way too dark. The mood I was trying to evoke was darkness and the end of something, End of Days.

As the game evolved I did an about-face and decided to focus on a new day and a bright future as opposed to a dark past and so all the colors and tones had to change accordingly.

As you can see with the latest design, it feels like something hopeful is on the horizon and that is by far a better outlook for the game.

The game went from a pessimistic POV to an optimistic one and I think that will give it the legs it needs to grow as quickly as possible.

Who can say what will be but I think it's a good bet to focus on the positive as opposed to lingering in darkness. This thought also led me to a stronger hook for the theme of the game and I was able to latch on to the new Millennium, being the year 2000 in this case because placing the game in the year 3000 is quite a stretch.

So in essence, the themes of the game build upon the year 2000 or Y2K as it was known at the time. For those of you who were too young at the turn of the new Millennium, there was some tension about everything digital and how computers, or more accurately, how certain processes governed by computers would adapt to this odd number.

Current Design - A hopeful future is already here.
Luckily, all the points of major crisis were successfully averted and the world went on functioning virtually without a hitch. Without a hitch until the year 2001 of September 11, that is. When 9/11 happened, the world and especially New York City, would never be the same.

It is on these themes of world destruction and world domination by ruthless and evil dictators and megalomaniacs that this board game hinges upon.

"You can't interest people in something they don't
give a damn about."

Quite a heavy topic but a most relevant one indeed. And that's hard to top. Global themes are here to stay for obvious reasons and apparently so are board games. That being said, it's my mission with Millennium to not only bring these themes to light but to shed some light into these dark and foreboding ideas and to provoke positive thought and hopefully positive change.

All that about a board game? Sure, why not? One of the most important checkboxes you need to check when it comes to product design is the product's relevancy and importance to consumers. Things have to matter so that people will care. It's just that simple.

You can't interest people in something they don't give a damn about. It won't work. Everyone is interested in global peace and a positive future so hence this game was born from that idea. Actually it's an old Hollywood trick. You build something around a name or a title not the other way around because certain titles or words have implicit themes built right into them.

It's known as a high concept in Hollywood

In this case I was searching for a word or name with a global theme and Millennium came to me instantly. Once I had the name, everything grew from there.

Certainly I'm not in favor of gratuitous violence in any way as so many video games or board games exploit this to every degree. Any acts of violence in this game are born strictly out of self defense and self preservation, survival.

When the Apocalypse comes in the Biblical sense of the word, it is literally every man, every woman and every child for themselves. Each of us must learn to survive however we can because those who have protected us in the past might not be around for us at the time.

So yes, themes are meaningful to stories and to board games just the same. They must be because without a strong central theme plus minor themes and subplots to support it, the spine of your story or game will not work.

Imagine something without a spine. An animal, a human, a story. Themes must act as strong yet flexible spines where you can attach everything so that it all makes sense.

A strong central theme is the most important structural element for your game.

Don't be caught dead with one.


BTW, you'll notice a woman in Apocalyptic attire holding an Uzi on the cover and a train in the distance. A no-brainer. Pretty women with guns are a surefire bet.

Also, I forgot to mention that I put together a short teaser for Millennium. It only runs for about 40 seconds and this one comes with quite a kicker or should I say quite a blast at the ending. Still tweaking it but I'll post it soon.

Come on back for that because it's pretty funny.


If you're enjoying this Blogumentary about the making of the board game Millennium, you can subscribe to this Blog or leave a comment below or in the Forum. (See the link above on the right.)

Your comments or questions are always welcome.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Millennium Board Game Trailer - Filmora, Behind The Scenes

It took me about 2 hours to put this video together (images and clips) and about a week to tweak it. That's the way most videos go. They are a process of elimination, trial and error.

Overall, I'm very happy with the results, although I wish this software wasn't so buggy. It tripped my computer several times and sometimes the timeline wouldn't sync with the music track so I had to close the program and reboot it.

It's not my first experience with Filmora from Wondershare but for the price ($59) I think they have a lot to offer. Previous to this software I had mastered Windows Movie Maker, which is not saying much but I had bought a batch of filters and effects for it and I was happy with the results. For me it was easy to use and I had memorized every shortcut and was able to produce videos in no time.

I still miss some of its features, like panning to any corner you wanted and being able to add up to 7 motion and special effects at the same time. The WMM Greenscreen was a bit glitchy but pretty decent overall. WMM had its good and usable features but lacked the array of filters and overlays that Filmora offers.

While I like to keep things simple,
I'm a sucker for special effects.

While I like to keep things simple, I'm a sucker for special effects whenever a scene calls for it. Like most software packages, Filmora comes with hundreds of effects and many overlays that are mostly suited for advertising or home movies.

What I really like and find useful are the static TV Filters and a good number of Cinematic effects and Lens Flare Filters. In this video I needed to show a series of events in the past and then transition to images of the future to setup the reveal shot for the Millennium logo.

To get those effects I made a short newsreel footage of events using the Static TV Filter (there are 5 different filters to choose from). They worked perfectly for the effect I was after. I could have added some film grain and other similar effects but since this was a flashback reel it wasn't necessary because it went by so fast.

The 7 images are set to .5 seconds each so they go by in a flash but you get the feeling of time lapse and what I'm trying to convey.

Here's a close-up screenshot of the actual Timeline with the images in the video.

The Filmora interface is fairly easy to work with and with limited practice you can put a video together rather quickly without too much effort and get some amazing results.

For me, Filmora's biggest drawback is the lack of panning and zooming filters. Panning is so important because it simulates camera angles and zooming is useful for establishing shots or pulling back to reveal a specific part of an image or scene. Without these effects at the proper speed, your video lacks a cinematic feel.

Am I asking for too much? I doubt it because I can think of dozens of effects I wish I could trade off for the ones I really need that already are included with this software package. I'm sure I can buy the effects I need separately but I haven't looked into that yet.

I had also considered using Sony's Vega Movie Studio 13 but I found it a bit technical for my taste. Otherwise it's a very good choice too.

I just needed to get this video finished so I can move on to other things, which I suppose are equally important. There's just so much to do and only about 18 hours a day to work with.

Let me know what you think of this video and if you have any questions about some of the effects, I'll be happy to Post about it next time.

If you're having trouble putting your videos together I have another blog dedicated to that entirely. You can read all about book trailers and video teasers here:
Book Teasers Pub, Book Trailers and Videos

Welcome Nerds! Do you Know Who This Is?

For those of you old enough to remember The Wonder Years TV Show or if you're into the Retro Channels, can you guess who this is?

It's Paul Pfeiffer! And yes, when I was around 13 I looked just like him. His picture is funnier than mine so I switched it out.

Trust me, we're twins.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

New FORUM for Board Game Nerd Alert!

I just wanted to share the debut of my brand new Forum for this blog. Funny thing is that I look like the King of Nerds in that photo I just posted. Check out the FORUM link below or on the right and jump right in and start a topic or just say hello.

Board Game Nerd Alert! Forum

I look forward to meeting you and many fellow board game developers and designers. It's going to be a blast!

I've never thought of myself as a nerd or a geek but my photo begs to differ. Who knew? Hey, it's all in good fun. Nerds and board game geeks rule!

Just a little background as a designer, I've been interested in graphic design most of my life and started my own graphics and advertising business back in 1995.

I had just started getting good clients in my home office when my divorce decree came into my life and hit me right between the eyes.

The details are probably typical of all divorces and it turns out my ex-wife and I have been back together for some time now.

Last Christmas my 2 boys got classic board games and we played Clue and Life, and all along I was thinking, "These games are pretty lame and not how I remember them when I was a kid."

So the light bulb went off and here I am a year later, deep into developing three board games. I have to say that I'm having the time of my life. I barely get any sleep and I look forward to working on my games every day, all day long. Yes, retirement does have some privileges.

For me it's not work. It's fun and a heck of a challenge trying to figure out the best game mechanics and graphics for each game. I really think I was born to do this because out of all the many design and copywriting jobs I've had over the years, this is by far my favorite.

I hope you will join me and together we can learn about this unique business and help each other along the way to making the best games in the world.

I'm committed to game development in a way I cannot explain. It's fun and it's addictive just as much as gaming is. And there's nothing else I'd rather do.

Join me today and together let's change Board Gaming for the better!

Play on!

I'm back to my game, Millennium. Working on my last tokens and a few of the cards.

A.R. Arias

BTW, I'm looking to interview on this blog any designer or developer who wants to talk about their games. Email me and let's have some fun with this!

Crucial Design Elements for Your Box Cover

When it comes to the front of your game box, there's no question you need to use images that engage your audience instantly.

Your Box-top must not only attract attention, it must tell a story and pique the viewers curiosity.
It's a lot to fit on a small 10 x 10 box. Let's break it down.

Current Millennium Game Box
First things first. When you look at a game box, the first thing it must accomplish is to catch your eye and create some level of excitement.

There are of course dozens of themes and relevant images you can use. Some themes are more popular than others and so on. What you want to say and what an audience wants to hear can be very different things. You must try to keep it fresh and as original as you can.

The point is that you must work on what excites you and hope your audience feels the same way. Because if you can't get excited about your project, I can assure you that no one else will.

I don't go as far as calling myself a Doomsday Prepper, but I am interested and concerned about our future, as many of us are. The End of Days, The Apocalypse, Doomsday, Dystopian Future, whatever you want to call it is not just a trendy topic, it is a reality we face every day. Most, if not all people can relate to it and are aware of its impending arrival.

Whether you believe in the Bible or the Book of Revelation, that's irrelevant. Our future is a global concern to one and all.

That's good news for anyone who is
interested in developing products
related to the future of Earth
because the future is inevitable.

That's good news for anyone who is interested in developing products related to the future of Earth because the future is inevitable. And as I like to think about it. We are living in three realms at the same time because today's present day will be the past tomorrow and beyond. And today is also the future we thought about only months ago. We are in the present time but in reality it is already past and future.

However, it is the future we are most interested in because it is a time we look forward to with the most hope. We cannot change the past, and we can only influence our present time to a degree. The future is something we can plan for and live for today. Without the hope for a better life in the near future, there really is no reason to get up in the morning.

Okay, so much for philosophical views. The point is that as far as games go, themes of the future are here to stay and should do well in the marketplace for a long time to come. That's important because topics come and go and trends can be fleeting. But the future is always in the back of our minds.

That being said, I believe with the proper marketing and promotion, themes about the Apocalypse are safe and sound, so to speak. These are themes that will always be relevant and therefore good for games and other products.

Front of box

The reason I changed my box is obvious. This is a better image than the last one. Simple enough. I always knew I would change it and was using the previous artwork as a placeholder. Although, I couldn't part with that art completely.

In fact I'm still using most of it except that I added another building to the right and Andrea is now standing there in front of the train with an Uzi in her hand. This is a dangerous place for a woman, after all so she's not taking any chances.

Your Box Cover Must Tell a Story

This image tells a better story and it is more eye-catching than the previous image, which was too green, too extreme a cliché and so I toned it down a bit. That building on the right happens to be a real building somewhere in downtown New York City.

It helps to add some authenticity to these images. After all you never know how many architects or city planners are watching. That sounds silly but as a student of architecture, I like to respect the profession for what it's worth.

Thanks to Photoshop's amazing filters and effects, I was able to easily convert this perfectly good building into a dilapidated ruin with just a few clicks. I then added fog and a blue filter to the whole scene just to tie in all the images.

I love the color blue especially here where you want to brighten what appears to be a very dark and ominous scene. If anything, I'm always trying to lighten up or brighten this theme with bright tones and not so many muted grunge effects just for the sake of the genre.

The Main Role of Your Images

There's always so much to consider. So much to weigh and ponder but keep in mind that the images you present on the cover must be an integral part of the story.

It's a lot like a first chapter in a novel. The images and feeling you create at the opening will reflect on the entire book and in this case the entire Millennium project.

The image on the left hidden in all that atmosphere is the original art tweaked for color correction and blurred to create even more distance and a more interesting perspective.

The short of it is this:
I want viewers to be immersed in this world instantly with one look. I want to pique their curiosity and I want them to ask themselves many questions about this opening scene, with just a glimpse of what is to come.

I think I'm on the right track.

Play on!


My next post is about an important update to the Rule Book and how you can save on its printing cost plus a little trick I used to include collectible artwork that will instantly add value to your game for just pennies.

Stay tuned for that because this tip can literally make or break a game.

Also, I'll soon be posting the new Trailer for Millennium. It's pretty kick-ass and I'll break that down too and point out all the essential elements you must include to make your trailer a huge success.

Your comments and questions are always welcome.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Essential Elements When Designing The Back of Your Game Box

The back or bottom of your game box should feature key elements of your game but more importantly it should include a hook that will entice potential customers to buy.

In my case I've included in the Millennium game 4 custom artworks featuring 3 female action heroes from the Playing Cards. Since most gamers are male, you can't go wrong including several "hotties" if for no other reason than just to confirm that guys are pigs.

That's the lead image and lead offer, or the hook that pervs like me, you know, males prefer. It's simply an offer we cannot refuse. Imagine grown men going gaga over manga style artwork. Ridiculous but true.

Okay, enough of that. You get the idea. After all it's not like any women are reading this blog post. But it did cross my mind to include a black female hero for a change. And in fact they all are an important part of the game's ending. Especially Andrea, the half Cyborg, platinum-haired heartthrob.

All these chicks kick ass and look good doing it. What would an Apocalypse be without them?

Okay, back to the box. Here's the back of Ticket To Ride, which happens to be a popular game with global reach. It's a good strategic game and I see the romanticism in it and the nostalgia it evokes. This is the Europe version of the game.

As you can see the back of this box is also very busy with graphics and text. There's just no getting around that. There's so much to say and so little room to fit all of it. Here they've maximize every square millimeter of space.

The back doesn't have to look as pretty as the front of the box but it must pack all the important details about the game or at least a general overview of the story plus plenty of graphics.

The Ticket To Ride box displays the game board and most of its bits and cards. This is something I'm still considering for my box. It's almost a no brainer to include the board but I don't think it's as sexy as female super heroes.

If Millennium gets any traction I'll make room for the board because it is an interesting board. But for now I'm counting on the custom artwork to attract some attention and hopefully work as a flashpoint for sales.

You never know but changes can easily be made with on-demand digital production so it's not a big deal to replace or reconfigure the artwork, which essentially translates into a soft sales pitch.

Always focus on your story and the hero's goal. It's all about that every time. Otherwise you're just playing with little trinkets like clueless children.

That's one reason I like the Apocalypse theme because even children can relate to it without freaking out over it. Let's face it, these days kids grow up hearing and experiencing some of the scariest news we 've ever heard or seen. So for them a game like Millennium is not such a stretch or something out of touch with reality. In fact it's more of a learning experience than anything else.

I know my two boys (11 and 13) get it. They might know more about the End of Days than I do. Which is why they are very important consultants for the game and why Millennium is such an engaging and fun game.

And yes, I've tinkered with the box cover once again. No worries, it only gets better. I'll post the new box cover in a few days. I've been really busy finishing up the board and some playing cards and a bunch of tokens too.

I don't think this work ever ends but I am on schedule to order the prototype in July and improve it from there until November when I go all out with marketing just in time for Christmas.

I also decided to forego Kickstarter. It's just not for me or this project. I'm pretty much developing and funding this project on a shoestring budget with mostly free artwork and while I would like to take Millennium to another level, that will take more time.

Right now I'm just testing the waters by myself to see if the game gets any traction through blogs and limited advertising on social media. If it does, I'll certainly consider tooling up with more customized artwork and game pieces.

As it stands right now, I think that for the retail price of about $39, Millennium is a great deal and a really good quality game at that price-point.

Play on, folks.

Freedom - From the Millennium Board Game. Love the hair and boots!

Andrea from the Millennium Board Game. Meow!
Penelope - Very hot!