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  • Writer's pictureJaslyn Lim

A Newbie Take on the World of Board Games

“Wow, this is interesting!” is a remark heard frequently when updating friends that I am currently helping out in a board game publishing company.

It was my exact reaction too during a gathering eon years ago, when a primary school classmate shared that he was working in a video game company at that time. That was THE dream job for all the guys in the class back then.

As I was in accounting all along, my priority when joining Capital Gains Studio as Finance Director was to “clean up” the financials, which I shall not elaborate in detail here as it warrants another post on its own. Instead, the focus will be on board game publishing which to many people, including a newbie such as myself, is like a black box.

For one, the company being a start up and in search of an office at the moment, meetings are held via Skype mostly and at night. Everything is fluid; unlike listed companies or banks whereby there are established policies and procedures for most processes. A lot of fire-fighting seem to be going on too, with the team focusing on getting the most urgent tasks out of the way every time during the meetings.

It also took me some time and much research to familiarise myself with the acronyms or terms that the team uses. Some examples include VP being victory points or MSRP being manufacturer’s suggested retail price. The common terms used in this industry comprise deck building; engine building; worker placement etc. The best way to learn these is through experience, in this case, playing board games and different types of board games.

This is by far the most interesting - playing prototypes or other published games etc. Yeah! This is the part I look forward to mostly. After all, its been 10 years or more since I last played board games - Citadel; Catan; Carcassonne – board games that were popular during those days and Settlers Café in Singapore was probably the only place to enjoy board games in a nice ambience. I was even a trained Scrabble board game player back then.

Making a board game, however, is never as easy as the playing. So, you think you have a board game idea? Cool! From the conceptualisation of a board game idea to the publishing and getting the board games out into the market can be a long and tedious process over several months with some more complex ones taking even a couple of years to produce. The entire process entails many decisions at each step of the process. Some of these steps include the nailing down of the game mechanics; illustration; graphic design; copywriting; development of prototypes; proofreading and balancing; manufacturing and finally logistics; marketing; sales and distribution.

An additional challenge of producing board games with educational values is the difficulty of trying to combine the education aspect of financial literacy – which can be exceedingly technical or boring - with the fun element associated with board games, psychology, educational principles and humour to create tabletop and board games. On top of that, the designers have to break down the more complex mechanics of real world workings into simple tabletop mechanics which are both relate-able and easy to learn for the general public.

As an ex accountant whose job mainly deals with crunching numbers and generating reports, the world of creative board game is bizarre and chaotic. But the feeling is simply amazing when I see sketches and paper prototypes finally evolve to published products bearing our company name (including mine too!) bringing fun and laughter to so many people, and making a difference in their lives.

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