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What Goes Into Making a Great Board Game?

It's a busy week here; we're coming down off a pretty successful first appearance at the local Farmer's Market, gearing up for Expectocon on Friday, registering for school (I'm not ready!), and getting ducks in a row to set up shop again on Saturday.

But even though we've got a lot going on, I wanted to take a moment to give you another behind the scenes look at what exactly goes into making some of our products.

This week at the Waupaca Farmer's Market, I will be bringing along a board game that is near and dear to my heart. We call it Alien Race, and it was the first game I ever made.

The earliest version of this game is a few years old now.

I'm a little embarrassed to share this picture. There's a lot going on here. Wasted space, awkward art, ill-advised glitter placement. But we learn from our mistakes. The version of Alien Race that will be appearing this week has been updated.

But what goes into making a board game?

First is the concept, then the planning. Alien Race is a very simple roll-die, move-piece game. That was the point. My kids were younger when I made it. We spent the summer learning about space, and I wanted a fun way for them to learn the order of the planets, neat facts about our solar system, etc.

The planning takes quite a bit longer, since it involves not just planning the art, but how it will fit on the board, how everything will work together, whether or not your plan will enhance or inhibit game play, and if you should use glitter (again, ill-advised).

My sketchbooks are filled with variations of board art, scribbled ideas of rules and game-play concepts, and thumbnail sketches of board layouts. All the details have to be sorted out from start to finish before I even look at the board itself.

Of course, once I do, it doesn't get less tedious. A huge portion of time is eaten up by prepping the board, drawing grids on sections that need it, measuring spacing and laying out the path to ensure a smooth game. I learned how important this step was when I failed to do it for the first version of Alien Race, and accidentally created an obstacle that frequently left players stranded at the starting line.

Painting the board, though I love the step, is different than painting wands or other artwork. There is a necessity for more precision and detail.

The board itself took about 9 hours til completion. Next was creating the pawns and the die.

The die was comparatively easy, requiring only a wood burning tool and some color-shifting paint. The pawns was a different story...

In the original version of the game, the kids just used buttons as pawns. I wanted to do something more creative for this version.

The first idea I tried was carving wooden nickels into aliens that sat in little space ships.

The pawns could even be removed and swapped, to allow players more customization.

This idea was scrapped, however, when my 5 1/2 year old vice president of quality control managed to accidentally snap one of the characters' pegs off while pushing it too hard into the space ship.

It was a cute idea, but unfortunately just didn't live up to our standards.

Idea 2 was sculpting. I was afraid sculpting 3D pawns would be time consuming and fussy, but it wasn't nearly so bad as I had dreaded.

One of the characters was designed by my daughter:

These pawns turned out much better, and they're as cute as can be.

They were tested by the kids and a neighbor friend, and passed with flying colors.

In total, it took about 12 hours of active work time to make this board game, which explains why there are none listed in the shop at this moment, and makes the $45 it will be listed for an absolute steal.

If you are in the area, come out to the Waupaca Farmer's Market on Saturday. You can try out Alien Race for yourself, and see all the other beautiful new surprises I will have waiting for you!

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Waupaca WI, 54981 USA

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