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Published on March 11th, 2015 | by Nicole Jekich

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How to Make an Impression

What Made Us Remember Certain Games

There is a lot of competition in the game market. Everyone and their uncle has a game on Kickstarter going on right now. Stonemaier Games, the newly merge DiceHateMe Games, Cheapass Games and an impressive selection of innovative games from returning designers.

Trying to get noticed as a first time game designer is even more difficult. As an indie designer you are competing for the same audience and customers which equates to the same spending money. You are competing with established companies who also continue to produce better and more innovative products. These larger companies have an ever-growing fan base and (if done right) more income to put back into growing their business.

But hey, don’t worry. It is time to rely on your wits. I’ve seen many indie designers find creative ways to promote their game and help it stand out from the crowd. You also have a game and if you want to produce many more of them, you have to start thinking about what makes your game and company worth investing in. If you are using Kickstarter, you are doing just that–your backers are your investors. Have you noticed the growth of indie games in the last 10 years? Cards Against Humanity’s success, Table Top with Wil Weaton and countless successful Kickstarters have helped bring gaming into the mainstream. The interest and the audience for indie games is growing.

Here are a couple notable things that indie game designers have done that grabbed our attention.

selden map

Lesson Plan for Teachers:

Fujian Trader is currently on Kickstarter and it is a game based on an ancient trade map known as the Selden Map. Its historical relevance makes Fujian Trader’s history in game both interesting and educational. As part of a way to encourage interest in the history of this map that the Fujian Trader game is based on, their lowest tier reward at $10 includes a lesson plan. This little bit of curriculum features the history of the Seldan Map and its impact on Asia and Europe. Having adoration and interest in what we can learn from history is at the center of Fujian Trader and is an important subject that the designers believe is worth learning.

Far Space Foundry

Social Media and Full Page Art:

We recently reviewed Far Space Foundry by Terra Nova Games which is currently on Kickstarter. This indie game has received many positive reviews and the stellar art, design and resource management gameplay helps FSF stand out on its own. At each public playtest of FSF at the Raygun Lounge, spots in the game were filled.

For those that were unable to play or happened to pass by our table could easily still gather information about this game when we were preoccupied with the game.The large print-outs shown above went at the end of our table. The pages featured the final box art, the name of the game repeated everywhere and the links to their social media sites displayed prominently with their gravatar thumbnails. Being able to know what the box will look like on the store shelf and the easy access to social media pages (sending business cards isn’t a bad idea for the future) lets every passerby easily take notice of your game even if they aren’t playing it.

imperial harvest

Ads for Future Games:

Imperial Harvest is coming down to its final week on Kickstarter. It has been a raging success thus far and we really enjoyed playing the 2 players version. One of the first things I noticed about Imperial Harvest was the constant reference to strawberries. They are very important in this setting and in the game. I really like this change of pace by having an uncommon object at the center of the game instead of gold, gems, favor, etc. On the prototype box, Broomstick Monkey Games included 2 advertisements for future games in their strawberry universe. As the reviewer, I can now expect to see these games in the future from this company. Gaining interest in future games at the release of your first game in the series is a great way to build a fan base.

Broomstick Monkey Games also has an informative blog and is great with engaging their fan base. Have you heard of their current character contest? Help design a character for their Imperial Harvest game and it could be in the final game! (Contest ends March 21st)

monster mansion

Letter of Invitation:

Every prototype game we have ever received game with a personalized note and a thank you to us for reviewing their game. Of those thoughtful notes, a couple have stood out because they presented their letter in the thematic spirit of the game they were promoting. Monster Mansion came with a wax-sealed envelope and a cursive print inviting me to join this world of monsters. It was very eerie and fit with how the characters in the game must feel when they realize the accidentally ended up in a mansion with monsters, traps and only one exit far away.

bribe

 

I also should mention Conglomerate. It was the first ever game we ever reviewed and was a clever take on Monopoly and avoiding the hazards of becoming a billion-dollar CEO. When we opened the package, it came with a sealed envelope labeled as a “BRIBE”. To our amusement we fanned out a bunch of in-game bills.

 

 

 

Hand Made with Care:

Excitement is contagious and the more you share your excitement about your game, the more excited your audience, including reviewers, will be. We couldn’t believe the effort that went into making the Siege of Verdan collector’s edition for us. We were box #14 out of 300. It is a special, limited edition run of the game and many of the pieces were handmade, including the box with hinges and a metal lock. The creators shared the pieces as they were making them. It is a great behind-the-scenes look at what goes into making a game. As artists and future designers ourself we really appreciate seeing the process that goes into making a game.

Also, Jester’s Hand Publishing, the company behind Siege of Verdan, sent out a promo card for those backers from their first Kickstarter campaign even though the Kickstarter didn’t fund that time. These guys want to keep up excitement over their game and its return to Kickstarter. That is a great way to make sure those backers come back.

CardBack

Meet in Person:

Gamesicle Games operates out of Portland and often travels up to Seattle for conventions and to share their games with local game stores. Matt goes out of his way to meet his audience in person to promote their product and further build the relationship between local designer, game stores and reviewers. I actually just met with Matt and Sean yesterday who came to share an updated preview version of BANE: an ever-shifting card game of alliances and survival.

While it may not be cost effective to come and visit us here in Seattle (though we’ll happily meet you if you’re ever in town!), it is worth the effort to connect with other designers, reviewers and game stores in your area. Your efforts will help grow your audience, get your name out in the community and can further grown and expand the tabletop community in your neighborhood.

At the heart at every one of these creatives ideas is a designer finding a way to share their passion for making games in a creative way. No one needs to be a Michaelangelo-level artist to find creative ways to express your passion for games. Just ask yourself a few questions: Why are you passionate about games? What experience are you bringing to the gaming table and why is it important to you?

Is there an indie game, designer or company that stood out to you? What did they do to grab your attention? We’d love to hear your experiences in the comments or feel free to start a conversation with us on Twitter or Facebook.

 

 

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About the Author

Nicole Jekich

came from humble beginnings as a Boise suburbanite with a love of Cranium and Trivial Pursuit. She attended an open board game day three years ago and is now an avid gamer and fantasy artist. Her interests are primarily in Dungeons & Dragons, dice placement and Roman-themed tabletop games. Nicole is also a fan of playing games that let her release her inner barbarian. Her favorite game currently is Far Space Foundry.



2 Responses to How to Make an Impression

  1. Pingback: Today in Board Games Issue #258 - Hands in the Sea - Today in Board Games

  2. The “letter of invitation” in particular stuck out to me. At International Tabletop Day last year I made a fancy medieval themed hand-written invitation to playtest my game. It stood out really well among the other 8.5×11 black and white event signup sheets.

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