01 - Introduction
Board Games have been around for quite a while now, and can be considered a household item in many families worldwide. Every year hundreds of new games are published by companies all over the world. New publishers seem to appear out of nowhere and game author has already become a profession for some creative individuals.
There have been dozens of books published over board game design, history, and theory. Schools offer game and board game design programs, scholars study the mathematical, mechanical, and sociological aspects of board games, but overall most publishers have to learn their trade along the way.
It seems board games publishing is something you have to learn by yourself, by trial and error.
I have started a board games publishing company a few years ago and have learned, tried, and erred. I am far from having an encyclopedic and authoritative knowledge of the profession of publishing board games, but I do feel I have learned enough so far to start sharing that knowledge and make it easier for newcomers to understand what being a professional board games publisher really is like.
So I wrote this book, which in no way claims to be the be all and end all reference on the subject matter, but rather will allow me to share what little I have learned, and collect feedback and comments for future revisions. In that spirit, if you are working in this industry, your feedback is more than welcome.
Also important to note is that I am from Belgium, a small European country, so my views and experiences may differ from what holds true in other places. However as you will see, board games publishers are a small and connected worldwide community and much of the information I provide applies everywhere.
This book is aimed at anyone interested in board games publishing as a profession. Of course those who intend to become board games publishers, but also students, scholars, and anyone working in or near the board games publishing field such as board game designers, artists, distributors, retailers, scholars, etc.
Special note to self-publishers
If you have designed your own game and intend to publish it yourself you will find some interesting information here, but this book is not targeted to the self-publisher.
I hope that by reading it and learning more about all the things a board games publisher should be you will think carefully about your self-publishing decision. The first question you should ask yourself is 'Do I want to design boardgames or do I want to publish them ?'. While not mutually exclusive, these are two very different professions, and only a few very resourceful and talented individuals have successfully managed to work both trades at the same time.
Furthermore, publishing your own game is very difficult because you will always lack the ability to objectively criticize your own designs and decisions. An important part of the added value of a third-party publisher is that external point of view, that ability to assess the merits and shortcomings of a game without having been involved in its' creation.
The current emergence of crowdfunding platforms might lead you to question the added value of a publisher, especially when some established publishers have been acting as gatekeepers or downright refusing to even consider external submissions. And here again, some uniquely talented and resourceful individuals have managed to crowdfund and self-publish their own game successfully, but they are also very few.
As you will see in this book, being a board games publisher requires one to wear many hats, and the crowdfunding option does add some uniquely interesting hats to that collection, making it an even harder challenge.
This is not a book about board game design
There are plenty of excellent books over game design, so this subject will not be covered here. There are people much better qualified than I am to talk about the way a game should be designed, and board games publishing is a wide enough subject matter to cover here.
This is not a book about non-board games
This book focuses on board games only, and does not cover such subjects as video games (computer, consoles and other devices). Some of the topics covered might apply to other fields such as miniature games, roleplaying games, and even video games, but the main focus of this book is board games. Other fields will have different metrics when it comes to production run size, distribution margins, standard contract conditions, etc.
I started playing modern games in the eighties as a teenager, with roleplaying games, miniatures games, and board games. I then spent a long time playing mostly Magic:The Gathering and live action roleplaying games. I have then started to play more board games, and eventually decided to get more involved in the creation of board games. I co-wrote Batt'l Kha'os with Belgian designer Frederic Moyersoen which was my first published design (Z-Man Games). I am still working on some new board games of my own design, which I hope to have published by other publishers in the future.
In 2007, I started to think about starting my own board games company to publish games from other designers. This led to the creation of Flatlined Games and the publication of Dragon Rage (Lewis Pulsipher) in 2010. Flatlined Games is a one-man shop, just me, with a 'real' job on the side until it becomes big enough to support my living, and maybe someday some employees.
Between 2007 and 2010 I spent a lot of time getting to learn more about the board games publication process, to study the market, and to network with other board games professionals : manufacturers, artists, game designers, playtesters, distributors, retailers, other publishers, etc.
I am particularly thankful to the founders of Belgian publisher Repos Production who always have been very open to share information and connections, and spent lots of time answering my newbie questions.