Build Your Own Game Designer’s Kit

by Rob Stone

There are a few Game Designer’s Kits on the market that include all sorts of game parts. Here’s one example. And there are numerous others if you spend some time on Google. The Board Game Designers Forum also offers some prototyping supplies like blank cards and game boards as well. These are both great resources and I encourage you to check them out.

Today we are going to discuss building your own kit from used board games purchased at garage sales, flea markets, and thrift stores. From these used board games you will scrap the game for its game board (I will explain why later) and all of the game pieces and dice and toss anything you can’t use like the box or rulebook in your paper products recycle bin. Although sometimes you may want to keep the box if its sturdy enough and is similar to what you envision your game being packaged in. And you may want to keep a few rulebooks for reference so you can see how they are structured. Next you will want to get yourself some way to store all these pieces. Craft stores, like Hobby Lobby, or even your local dollar store have plastic storage boxes that you can sort your pieces in.

I mentioned that I would explain why you want to keep the game boards for other games. Well, you can probably guess why, but just in case you didn’t let me say it’s not for the off chance that you want to re-assemble that game later and play it. If you want to do that, keep the box and set that copy aside. No, we are going to make use of those game boards by pasting our game board graphics onto them. And because we don’t always know what size our game board is going to be, we want to keep several different sizes in our kit and multiple copies of each of those sizes. The same goes for sturdy boxes. Keep a few around that you may need later to store your prototype in.

One of my favorite places to shop for game parts is Goodwill. In my area Goodwill stores, all board games are fifty cents with the exception of new games that are still in the shrink wrap and some of the more expensive wooden chess sets or games that come in a metal tin. For example, I stopped in to one of the Goodwill stores in my area today during lunch. For $1.50 I picked up 3 copies of the game Tribond. If you ever see a copy of Tribond for fifty cents and it has all of its components, buy it. Here’s what you get from each copy: 12 pawns, 2 dice, and a game board. So for my $1.50, I got 36 pawns, 6 dice, and 3 game boards. To give you some perspective, take a look at the Junior Game Inventors Kit that sells for $24.95. As you can see, the amount of game pieces you get for $24.95 isn’t a lot compared to what you could get from three copies of Tribond. But that kit has play money you say? Add a copy of Monopoly from that same Goodwill for another 5o cents and you have your play money. Oh, and you also get the following additional game pieces to add to your kit (depending on what edition you get):  32 houses, 12 hotels, 12 tokens, 2 dice, and a game board. So you can see that from a $2 investment you could easily kickstart your Game Designer’s Kit.

Now that you have an idea of how to get your game parts cheap, what games should you be looking for? That really depends on what kind of games you will be designing. Here’s a link to Hasbro’s replacement parts website. You can easily click on games you may remember seeing at a local flea market or thrift store. You can also see what they would cost you if you ordered them from Hasbro. That 50 cent copy of Monopoly has around $20 worth of parts in it. So if you see them, buy them. I have parts from 20 to 30 copies in my kit ($400 to $600 replacement cost from Hasbro) that cost me less than $20 for all of them. Oh, and you can often times find themed versions of Monopoly with different tokens. Get those too if you can get them cheap enough. And for a comprehensive list of game parts for every game you can imagine, check out this list on the Board Game Geek website.

In my next article I will discuss Building Your Prototype. In the meantime, need some grid overlays for your game board prototypes? Check out these.



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