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!

Friday, June 9, 2017

MILLENNIUM Game Play Rules

These are only 4 out of 12 pages from the Millennium Game Play Booklet. Most modern board games offer only a sheet or two of white paper for its instructions and game rules. Nothing wrong with that and it's the way I'd like to go but GameCrafter offers their booklets in full glossy color in various sizes. A 12 page 5 x8 booklet runs for about $3.00 each when all is said and done and they have a nice look.

Understandably, needs to make a profit one way or another and this seems to be a good way for them to do that. They also have custom wooden dice, which I just saw several days ago. They are very nice and have a big price tag to go with them.

See for yourself on their website. I would like a pair of these dice but starting at $2.95 it's a bit steep right now so I opted for a couple of the 10's dice since my board does have almost the same numbers. They are 59 cents each. is quite fair with their pricing despite what some people say. Imagine that you can get a prototype for about $50 on demand as opposed to paying thousands of dollars in tooling costs with a traditional manufacturer and a minimum run of 5000 for example.

We're not exactly picking our poison here. It just depends on how you look at things and when we put things in perspective and weigh all our options. Game Crafter is a great deal.

My prototype is getting there and it's just a matter of time when I can finally order it and see for myself how it all plays out. It seems that just as I claim to be finished with Millennium, I come up with more ways to change it.

No regrets though. I welcome all the changes and the improvements that come with it. The game is getting better all the time. I think I'm finally matching the game mechanics with the theme of the game a bit better and so it makes more sense to add more tokens and take away some of the cards in this case.

I'd been struggling with a that for some time now and I finally decided to not rely so heavily on card mechanics because it just doesn't do my game any good. I think it's far better to use tokens for most moves on the board instead of flipping cards to see where you might land.

Players have more control of their strategy this way and the game seems to have more focus too. So I'll be spending my weekend getting all if not most of that done and seeing how that all works in a mock-up of the game board.

No one ever said this would be easy. And anyone can slap a game together, box it and try to sell it. That might work for a minute until word gets around about how lousy the games plays. All of a sudden that particular game is dead in the water because its game mechanics are weak.

That's a huge waste of everyone's time and money and just what I'm trying to avoid. I'm also trying not to mimic so many of the game mechanics already out there. Truth be told, beyond a handful of classic games, I don't exactly get around too many board games.

While that seems a disadvantage, I think it serves me well because I don't want Millennium to play like any other game. Of course it will inevitably have similar game mechanics to other games but I'm trying to put my own intuitive spin on it. I really don't like many of the modern games today and a lot of it has to do with too many complex rules and weak game mechanics to go with it.

In short, that's a good recipe for disaster.

With Millennium, I'm looking to break the mold of so many bad games out there and put out a game that is inspiring, challenging, and yes, fun to play.

If you're wondering where I can find any fun in a Post Apocalyptic game, have no fear, my life plays out like the Apocalypse every day and I manage to laugh my way through it all.

Don't try this at home. I'm an experienced professional. (This is what I must tell myself.) God only knows what I've gotten myself into.

Hey, my motto in life is simple. If it ain't rocket science, I can figure it out. Stay tuned for an awesome game. I hope to have it on the market by November 2017.

Sure that seems laughable and maybe even impossible, but that's what keeps me going.

Hey, we only live once and we should always strive to do it right the first time around.

And if we fail, that's what second chances are for.

Play on, folks.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Game Board Nerd Alert!, Nerd Alert!, Nerd Alert!

Okay I couldn't resist so I finally gave in to my temptations and revamped my game box. AGAIN!  If there is anything I know to be certain in graphic design, it's that no design is permanent. Designs evolve over time and making changes is just part of the game.

Besides, I'm really winging it here. I go by the seat of my pants and instinctively make the changes I know will matter most to my overall concept.

In this case, I already had trains as part of Millennium's backstory but I thought trains should be the centerpiece of the game instead and so I added an Amtrak train to the box. It doesn't dominate the design because the concept does not revolve around trains but it is quite prominent.

What does this do to the rest of the game? Don't ask. But of course I had to re-do all my card decks, mats, etc.

Yes, I had to reboot and re-tool my entire design but hey, that's how it goes. No worries, no regrets. Whenever a design can be improved, it should be changed to reflect a better outcome.

At this point I'm considering this design to be "final." Meaning I'll most likely print this on my first prototype to see how it looks live and in living color.

It's hard to tell how graphics will really look on screen regardless of any Mode settings or filters at your disposal. There's nothing like the real thing so I'll give this design a chance to debut and see how it looks and performs.

I also flipped the artwork to match the perspective of the train moving from left to right. Just trying to avoid a Ford Mustang moment if you know what I mean. Plus I added a small banner indicating this design is a collectible first edition.

Not to sound presumptuous or anything. Lord knows I've failed plenty but you have to swing for the fences every time. Nobody cares about your blood, sweat, and tears. They just want to play an interesting and fun game. Period. Nothing else really matters to players at any level.

Bottom of Box
They just want to play an interesting and fun game. Period. Nothing else really matters to players at any level.

But, as you know, the box cover, it's artwork must engage and at the very least should be compelling enough to trigger some kind of curiosity. If it doesn't. It's back to the drawing board.

You can't see all the details from this image but there's a homeless man and his dog in the lower left corner. I think that adds another level to the story and besides, several playing cards feature dogs so I can't go too wrong with that detail.

The biggest challenge in any design is to keep it minimal and clean. That's always hard to do when you want to fit in so many elements. The trick is to pare down and stick to only the most relevant images, maybe a handful of images and then trim from there.

Always easier said than done but I think I'm pretty close to a comprehensive design concept for the Millennium box. I'm not so sure about the background cityscape. I do like it but I know I'll eventually try something else. Maybe something simpler. I also removed a grunge filter, which added some nice sepia tones. As much as I liked that filter, I wanted a cleaner look and feel so I got rid of it.

These are the hard choices you have to make.

These are the hard choices you have to make. I eliminated that filter because of printing concerns. Once I see the actual printed box I might add that filter back into the mix but for now I think it's a bit too much for the overall design. Less is more in this case.

The bottom of the box is another story altogether. Since Millennium is a relatively unknown game, the main objective is to play up the game concept and above all put a positive spin on the game's outcome.

Players don't like going out in a blaze of glory. They want to win and feel a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction by the end of the game. In essence they want to be hero's through the main character. At the very least, players want to feel like they are a part of the game and that they've made the right choices that have played out to a desired outcome.

So the back (bottom) of your box should entice or tease players with some eye candy. Trinkets, cars, chits. Showcase whatever you have as part of the playing experience. Make sure to list the contents of your game and all the legal disclaimers.

While the front of your box highlights the main concept and story of your game,  the back focuses on benefits of playing the game and the game's unique pieces. Designers tend to pack the bottom of the box with way too much information and graphics, but this is acceptable. Again, stick to the basics and try not to crowd or overwhelm your design.

I hope to run another art test this week and most likely will order my first prototype after the test results. I already know which areas of the design need attention and tweaking but until I actually play a live game it's hard to get a feel for the pacing and functionality of the game.

Plenty of details still up in the air. Lots to do so I'll get to it.

Play on!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Millennium-The Board Game will be Available December 2017

By hook or by crook, as they say. Here's an update on Millennium. After a lot of consideration I revamped the entire game based on the good feedback from the Art Test conducted several months ago, which scored 70+, which I consider a bit low.

Understandably, the score was accurate because it was after all just a test for the preliminary artwork. So after the test I really took to heart all the good as well as the not so good criticism and revised every card in the deck.

Not to mention, I totally redesigned the box, which is the one you see above. I came across this artwork and couldn't resist using it as is and I think it totally works better than the first box.

As everything stands now, I hope to finish all the new artwork no later than the middle of June, but hopefully sooner so I can order my first prototype. I can hardly wait for that because I really don't know what to expect. Before I order the prototype I plan to run another Art Test and a Sanity Test, which I'm confident both will do much better than the first.

Stick To Your Goals!

My next goal following these two tests will be to fine tune the game in its entirety. Hopefully I won't be too far off but you never know. After revising the second prototype I can finally publish Millennium on The Game Crafter website and plan to send at least 3 boxes to reviewers, including, Father Geek, Boardgame Geek, and maybe Unboxed-The Board Game Blog.

These reviewers are all tentative and can change at any given time, but I'm shooting for these three first. If anyone has better suggestions, by all means please let me know and I will gladly post and link your game or website here.

As all game designers know, nothing is ever set in stone. The most important thing is the concept of your game and that its game play is interesting and yes, exciting. Right after the Art Test I rolled up my sleeves and really ramped up the overall design of this game.

Sometimes you get stuck along the way with one thing or another and try to find the best possible solution so you can continue moving forward. Other times, you just get bogged down with other design work and can't get back to your own game. A little of both happened this time and I was away from Millennium for almost 3 months. To the point I thought I'd almost given up on it.

Never Give Up!

I know that sounds insane but I think everyone second guesses themselves sooner or later. The thing is that as got back to the game, I was more excited about it than before because I had several small breakthroughs that unlocked certain obstacles for me and I think I'm over the hump at this point so it should be smoother sailing from now on.

I can finally see the finish line for the first time and that's a great feeling. You just never know how these things will turn out but you must have some level of commitment to begin with. Some level of belief that will carry you through to the end. Otherwise in all honesty you might never get started.

Posting the progress of the game is very helpful because it breeds inspiration and even deeper desire and commitment. Nothing worthwhile is ever easy, folks. Let's face it, if everyone could do this, everyone would be doing this. It takes quite a bit of focus and determination to get through it. I'm claiming this game will be out in December and I intend that will be the case, but who knows if I'll be dead in the morning.

Believe In Your Dream!

Or if something else comes up among my other dozens of projects that demands all my attention for much longer than I expected. There's always a reason to quit something but if you really believe it can make a difference and of course make a buck or two, then those are two very good driving factors to keep you on track and moving towards your goal.

It's very exciting to me even if I sell one game. However, I realize unless something goes viral, you may not sell one box because sales are all about jumping on the band wagon. If many people are enjoying something, that tends to inspire others to join in on all the fun and be a part of the conversation.

Sometimes we just can't stand missing out on a good thing. Getting your game or any product to that point is not as easy as it sounds unless you hit the right chord at the right time. We'll see how it all pans out soon enough.

I can hardly wait!

To learn more about Millennium - See the game here:

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Get Your Board Game On With MILLENNIUM - Trains After The Apocalypse?

Jumbo Story Cards
Who has seen trains run after an apocalyptic event? Not sure but who cares because anything is possible after all.

I've designed 3 new Jumbo Story Cards, which help move the story narrative along at a nice pace.

In this scenario, players come across a partially disabled Amtrak Train, which turns out can still run because a small portion of the electrical grid is still intermittently functioning. (Go figure)

I'm working on re-designing all the cards so they match these so it'll be a while before I can say the main deck is finished. So far I've added a total of 6 Jumbo Cards and I hope to finish the Bridge Deck with 54 cards soon.

The reason for the trains is simple enough. Guys especially love trains and there's always a certain romanticism and a sense of freedom that goes along with trains so they're a natural fit for this game.

My goal is to design a game unlike anything or at least unlike most mainstream games on the market today.

For me board games are much more than games for the sake of gaming and cheap thrills. As a writer, I like to incorporate stories into my games with a through-line that has meaning above any conceit the game concept has to offer.

Let's face it, without a meaningful story behind these games, there's not much left except going through the motions of getting somewhere without any purpose whatsoever. That doesn't make sense to me.

I want players to feel this game and to experience it at a higher level than they're accustomed to and the best way to achieve that is to get players emotionally involved in this amazing journey from a decimated land in New Orleans to a more hopeful place up north in New York City where they were more prepared for an event such as this.

Despite the common belief that Doomsday Preppers only hail from the midwest, New York's subway system turned out to be a haven in troubled times.

Why Use Jumbo Cards?

Hey, when it comes to images, bigger is always better, especially when it conveys a sense of winning and accomplishment for players. Sure it's the Apocalypse and that's a very down and out event. However, contrasting and overcoming these dangerous and evil happenings is exactly what makes this game so hopeful, so positive and triumphant in the midst of such turmoil. Each player must struggle to survive during the most dire circumstances imaginable and that's what it's all about.

Imagine if you could learn to survive such an apocalyptic event. It's epic to say the least. But that's why the game begins with learning survival skills before you begin your journey northeast.

Back Image for Jumbo Cards

Final Destination Card

I think for the most part I've got this whole game figured out. At least from a wide angle POV it's all clear to me. It's the details that slow me down and take time to develop. Although I know exactly what I want to accomplish, there are always obstacles that keep me from getting there.

It's almost always about keeping costs down and finding a way to manufacture this game at the lowest possible price without sacrificing the quality of play. Easier said than done but since this is a prototype and basically a test edition, for now I have to find ways to deliver a full version experience on a smaller scale.

Some gamers put out a cards only version to test their concept. It's a good idea but for me I don't think card games are the same thing and are a different market altogether so I decided to include the board and that's really where things get complicated.

But hey, nothing is ever that easy. You just have to take a deep breath and dive in. Hopefully you'll figure it all out and make the numbers work.

Nothing is ever guaranteed in life but we can't let fear and uncertainty lead the way. I've said it before: This is not rocket science, but hell, it sure feels that way.


I'm at the point of no return.
This game is on schedule to be released for this Christmas season (2017)

Follow the Millennium Story here:
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New Millennium Game Box

Tuesday, January 17, 2017 - A Great Place for Free Gaming Artwork

New Millennium Box Artwork
While I take pride in my artwork, I know a better option when I see it.

I found this artwork on, which is a good place for free images under CC0 Public Domain. Although the site does have some limitations. And while no attribution is required, I like to include credits in my designs.

My own design on the previous box just wasn't the best design for the game so I took a shortcut. This new artwork (by ActionLiz) conveys the look and feel of most board games and gives the feeling of being inside the action as opposed to looking at it from a distance.

It fits Millennium's central theme and it adds a bit of curiosity to the game, which is what you want in a good design.

I thought of digitizing my own city on Photoshop but that would take time I don't really have at this point so I'm lucky to have found this artwork, which happens to be just what I wanted all along. I did modify it somewhat by adding ominous clouds and a flock of birds over the logo. Otherwise, most of the original artwork is intact.

What are the chances that I change this artwork again? Not likely but I know I'll tweak it a bit more even though I think it works as is.

As you can see, the first version of the box is bluer and features a flat skyline, which doesn't work as well as a view from above or inside the city streets on the new box, which offers a better perspective overall.

If I ever manage to sell enough games and Millennium becomes a commercial success, I'll certainly invite the artist for an interview.

As of now, this game is just in my imagination and I'm slowly teasing it out into the world, one frame at a time.

Right. Good luck with that.

One thing I can say about that is if your game is engaging and fun and meaningful to players in some way, your marketing will be much more likely to go viral (at some level) that can hopefully generate orders through word-of-mouth referrals.

It's all about strong publicity but your product has to be great or exceptional and even controversial. Controversy about the game or its designers never hurt anyone as far as I know. As they say, even bad publicity can convert into sales.

And for what it's worth, that's mostly a good thing.

Play on, Dream on!


My main struggle with any game design is to make it engaging, fun, and meaningful. That's the perfect trio in my book for any game (for adult audiences) to succeed at some level. And it's the hardest thing to accomplish because everyone's interpretation of these three ideas is different.

But you have to cover all your bases. That's the challenging part and if you can get through that (and dozens of other criteria) you're on your way to launching a popular game.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Millennium Board Game - Build it Up. What's in it for You?

Unfinished Millennium Game Board

Several weeks ago I conducted an Art Test on The Game Crafter website and wound up with some pretty good scores, despite a few valid criticisms, which I've taken care of.

One of the complaints was that the game board was too chaotic and too dark. You can see the new and improved (unfinished) board here on the left and judge for yourself. It's basically the same board but much brighter.

It's a fairly simple design but I did brighten the colors a bit and tweaked the grid artwork to emphasize it. Other than that, this is the almost final board I'll print and play test the following weeks and months.

Who's to say how this game will be received but my main focus is to make the game a challenge by allowing strategic decisions with every move.

Every time you roll the dice or pick a card and land on a grid you have the option to keep your position or to venture into the unknown and select a Wild Card that might place you in a better location on the grid. Although, wildcard dangers can be daunting if you encounter a bear or a hungry croc instead, for example. That will set you back several spaces on the grid and cost you about 500 points.

The coordinates are straight forward and work like any coordinates grid system you learned in junior high school so it should be familiar to all players.

New Millennium Box Concept

This board also works with 4 main Quadrants which are similar to levels that get you closer to New York City where larger groups of people have survived the nuclear blast. The object of the game is to escape Ground Zero in New Orleans and hike to the East Coast where your pregnant wife, Mary and a small group of Preppers has managed to survive, at least for the time being.

Of course, there are plenty of obstacles along the way, including errant Cyborgs (the year is 2158 after all) hungry wolves, bears, and bands of marauders, just to mention a few.

I'm also thinking about including a hospital in the New York portion of the board with Game Crafter's Custom Medium Punch-outs for future games to make the experience more visual and more interactive. This 3D device works well towards the end of the game.

Medium Punchout
What's in it For You?

As a game enthusiast there's plenty of uncertainty and there are a lot of decisions for you to make along your long journey to the east coast. Leaving the Bayou is no easy task, as many of the main roads are blocked and reduced to swamps now infested with hungry crocs along the Mississippi River, which you must navigate to get out safely.

Millennium Card Deck
So as far as production there's lots to do after 6 months of steady and almost full time work. That's scary when you think about it but if it all works in the end there are plenty of accomplishments to appreciate after so much work. Especially if sales are good, which of course is the ultimate goal after personal satisfaction.

When a game fails I believe it's because of a weak concept. Let's remember that your concept is the foundation of your game. If you have a weak or fuzzy concept, anything you build upon that will not stand.

Millennium's concept (The Apocalypse) is rock solid because we have proof of concept after so many years of similar movies, books, and board games built on this same idea. So while the core concept is not original, the game's themes and motifs must be fresh and stand apart. A strong concept is never enough. You must also incorporate a strong central theme to go with it and sprinkle in a bit of this and that to play up the emotion of the game and then you stand a good chance at succeeding if your marketing is in place. Meaning exposing or presenting your product to the right audience at the right time.

Cry me a River - Okay

These days you have to think of viral emotional elements that can catapult your game from mediocre to extraordinary. Nothing less will do. Nobody cares how many midnight hours you burned getting there or how much blood, sweat and tears you poured into your game. Cry me a river, ok. Does this game excite me and give me a feeling of belonging to its world and the culture you've built around it?

Does this game challenge me and make me think in ways I haven't considered before. Does it move me? Because sometimes entertainment is not enough. That's my two cents and my take on board games, for what it's worth. I'm a big believer in innovating and not following the crowd so that also comes with plenty of risk by itself but as they say, no risk, no reward. Very true.


Many times successful businesses are built on layers of failures along the way, which are also known as learning curves. It's just the way things are. As long as you know the fundamentals of sales and marketing and you are mindful of integrating those principles in all your products, you should be in fairly good shape.

Everything counts, though. Your artwork must be also be intriguing and fresh if you can get it there. There is much to consider at every turn and each element builds and depends on the other if you want your game to be successful.

All Green Lights

At this stage of the game I think I've got everything under control so far. I'm about half way there because completing the game as far as production is only half the equation. Marketing, publicity and sales are something else altogether and it helps to be well-versed in each of these disciplines and the subset of disciplines each encompasses. Branding is a big part of marketing, for instance, and something you must be mindful of at the outset. This is all about positioning in the marketplace.

So all the pieces of this jigsaw puzzle must fit in order for things to work and run smoothly. All green lights, as I like to say. Everything must be in place and on time. If not, we then have to see where things broke down in the chain of sales events. What was the weak link that broke the chain? Figure that out and you'll have a second chance to try again and improve your sales next time around.

The good thing about marketing board games is that it doesn't take a lot of money to get started. If you're a designer, you should be able to bootstrap a marketing plan to launch your game in no time because artwork is probably the most expensive part of getting a product together into production runs that are affordable.

Folks, let's face it. It's a long and winding road and usually it's littered with small failures that lead up to a successful product in the long run but you must remember to build your game on a strong foundational concept or global view that players can relate to.

Everything else is just curtains and window treatments.

Play on.