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.

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