Buy This Board Game – Update #1, Getting Going

Originally posted on tenuredgames.com.

The Proposal

I’ve been kicking around in my head this idea for a board game inspired by all the ways someone can sell a product or service in an open market. In my MBA program, I spend a significant amount of time studying marketing. The more I learn, the more I feel the discipline lends itself nicely to classic board game mechanics. Through a couple hours of conversation and brainstorming, this is where we are:

What’s the theme?

The theme of Buy This Board Game (working title) is development and successful marketing of board games in an open market where the target audience is assumed to be finite. By that I mean there is no mechanic in the game where players can collaborate to find people who do not like board games and convert them to purchasing board games to the benefit of all players. If we can find a way to model that idea in the game, that might be cool. But for now, the intention is to represent competition in a well-defined, yet fragmented market.

The sub-theme to this game is more personal. I want to develop a game that gives other game designers or entrepreneurs ideas for what marketing options are out there. I only learned about all the different ways you can build a presence through higher education and only now realize how many resources are out there for anybody to use. I didn’t know to go and look, or where even to begin. I hope this game becomes a fun way to inspire creative brainstorming.

What’s the goal?

The goal is to build the most Brand Equity (i.e., Victory Points) over the course of the game.

Inspirations

I love the deck full of opportunity in Terraforming Mars. I want to create a game that also provides the players so many options, you can play the game repeatedly and experience it differently every time. I also like that the victory point tracker around the edge of the board also manages recurring currency.

I want to create a game like Concordia where players are never stuck. I want to try and create the balance in the game that always allows for a good move but encourages exceptional moves, with proper planning, of course. How do you build into the game a level of redundancy that keeps all options open, without getting bogged down in the same old, same old actions?

One aspect of Terra Mystica I appreciate is the cult track race, where incrementally beating your opponent in many different cults is worth far more points than dominating in just one.

I like the cleverness of the Red Cathedral’s circular resource track, which allows players to take almost everything they want but also provides an opportunity to block other players.

I appreciate Sagrada’s score counter board, where it tracks rounds on one side and the final score on the other. I like the tokens in each player’s color that read 50 on one side, effectively doubling the count of the existing score board because as players reach 49, they flip their token and start over at 1 to continue counting.

About Gameplay

Components of the Game

Decks of Cards, sorted by theme – Marketing Channels

Individual Cards within Marketing Channels – Advertising Actions

I like the idea that as players take advertising actions, those cards stay in front of them during the game to represent gaining marketing experience over time. I also like that they can be seen by other players because marketing is often public information, if your competition chooses to pay attention. Some marketing actions may be a recurring level you can pull throughout the game, or may be one time investments.

Decks of Cards, sorted by game style – Game Development

Individual Cards within Game Development decks – games that can be produced and sold

I think it would be fun to have categories like Euro-style games, mini games, party games, etc. Each of these different styles cater to different player’s interests, so they can be marketed to differently.

Currency – Money spent to Develop Games and perform Advertising Actions

What does the flow of the game look like?

Phase 1 – collect recurring money from previously sold games and brand equity

Phase 2 – Perform Market Research (draft cards from Market Channels into a player’s hand)

Phase 3 – Produce Games by paying money for the sunk cost of game development

Phase 4 – Market your games (take any number of market actions that can be paid for, at the players discretion)

We want to make sure we avoid a “Zero Sum” problem with this game, where you spend currency and receive currency for the same action. While that is reflective of life in that often spending some money is what makes money, we want to make sure players receive money and brand equity as a bonus. That way, marketing, even if there is not a game a player has to “market” has a benefit in the form of brand equity.

We are also toying with the idea of adding a second currency in the form of time investment to “pay” for advertising. If the game is played over a 12 month year, where each turn has one month in it, maybe players are given a recurring 160 hours of time to invest in game development or marketing that is a use it or lose it currency that resets each month.

Brainstorming Ideas We Don’t Know What to do With Yet…

How do you model Market Channel Saturation in a way that is fun?

Market Channel Saturation is a term that represents the diminishing returns of using the same marketing activities repeatedly. It can be caused by a single entity using a channel too frequently if the space is heavily competitive. Being a first adopter of a particular marketing strategy can net excellent returns, but eventually its value declines. How do you model the effect of diminishing returns in a way that makes players want to keep playing?

One idea: Benefit of marketing in a channel is directly proportional to the number of Market Action cards left in the deck. So the first person to market using that channel would get the most benefit because the greatest number of cards are left, while every subsequent player receives less and less the more the channel is used. Problem – counting decks of cards becomes cumbersome, especially in a game that is inspired by Terraforming Mars sized decks.

Another idea: A Red Cathedral style board where players move their tokens into a Marketing Channel when they perform a particular Marketing Action. There can be a limited number of spaces available in each channel, so a player cannot take a Marketing Action in a channel that is saturated. Players still have options because so many channels are available to play with and because players’ tokens should be moving around the board all the time as gameplay progresses, opening up new opportunities in channels that were previously saturated.

Mechanical themes that may, or may not, fit

Breakeven Mechanic – need to market and sell copies of your game in line with production quotas

Starting player personalities – each player starts out with options for perks or bonuses depending on where in life they land (for example, a graphic designer may get a bonus using the Content Marketing channel, an event planner may get a bonus for using the Conventions channel, or someone who worked for a non-profit may get a bonus for Community Building)

Kickstarter/Crowd Funding “Gambling” – marketing a game through a crowd funding site can bring in a lot of money early on, but may fail entirely and net you next to nothing or could cause a loss of brand equity the longer it takes to produce games for your impatiently waiting investors.

Game development gets more difficult the more games in a certain category are produced – representing the benefit a designer has by being first to market a new type of game. But will we be able to have enough diversity in types of games to make that mechanic feel right? And does it become logistically annoying to always have to set up the game with each game deck in the correct order?

Each game has a hidden marketing preference that is somehow “triggered” when a player uses the correct technique. But how do you have a hidden agenda, but then also know when to trigger the benefit? Is it hidden only from players who haven’t invested the sunk cost into the game?

Time Tracking

One thing we would like to do, in addition to designing a game and blogging about the process, is keep track of our time investment by categories so we can look back at the end and see if we used our time effectively. Time counts include hours spent by two people. Here is what we are tracking:

Brainstorming

This category includes any time we need to stop and discuss ideas or problems related to the game itself, the marketing process, or the production process.

Marketing

This category includes any time we spend writing about our game, telling others about it, and managing a media presence.

Development

This category contains everything needed to bring the game to life physically, including graphic design, component production, rulebook writing, play testing, etc., for any prototypes or full production copies.

Administrivia

This category includes responding to emails or commenters about the game, market research, or supply chain development.

Number of Luxury Drinks Consumed

We want to keep track of how many mugs of our favorite coffee and tea we drink, as well as evening cocktails. Why? Why not!

Our plan is to keep track of more refined sub-categories of the process as we go along and publish the results at the end of the journey.

Here’s where we stand right now:

Data as of 6-12-2022

Recommend0 recommendationsPublished in Designer Diary
Design Theory
Carla Kopp

In Depth Design: Venice

If you haven’t played Venice by Braincrack Games, you can check out the BGG page or this video by Gaming Rules! Venice is a really

Read More »

Responses