I have been asked often: “How do I make a prototype of my game?”
There are some really great sites out there that will make a quality printed version of your game, but I would recommend if you go this route, wait on this until you have everything pretty much finalized. These prints are high quality, and you do have to pay for quality. As anyone who has ever started creating something knows, there will be approximately 1,000 versions of your creation before it gets anywhere near finished.
Be creative with components used for testing.
First, I suggest sitting down and making a full list of every single component your game will need. Once you have this list, you’ll need to source your components. There are easy and cheap alternatives to bespoke tokens that you can reuse for future prototypes. Bingo tokens, poker chips, and wooden blocks all make for readymade resources. Play money is easy to find too, in different denominations and materials for dollars or coins. Cards can easily be created using card sleeves, playing cards and printer paper. Simply print out your text, cut the card to size, slip a playing card in the sleeve to give it some stiffness, add your card and you’re done!
Additionally, you may not know the exact number of tokens that you need for a given resource, and that’s okay. This is something you can track through the playtesting process. Start out with say, 30 blue meeples and see if that is enough. Maybe have 10-20 blue meeples nearby in case you have to grab more. But if you do, make sure to track how many total meeples were needed for that playtest round. Or maybe 30 meeples is too many and you only need 20. Be flexible!
PLAYTEST! PLAYTEST! PLAYTEST!
Let’s look at one of the components from our game, Ore: The Mining Game, the building cards. Having read a lot of rulebooks over the years, I can tell you that many component lists seem as though the numbers are random. Why do we have 64 building cards in this game? Why not a nice, round 65? These numbers are all derived through the many, many rounds of playtesting Ore went through. Maybe in a single game you don’t see all 64 building cards, but that keeps the game fresh. Next time you might see other, different buildings, so the game is different each time you play. You have to have a different strategy, instead of having the same buildings, with the same resources, with the same strategy each and every time.
Stay flexible above all else.
It is up to you to decide what components your game needs, but from there you will have to test how many components you need as well. And maybe you will get rid of some of the components too. Maybe having dollars and coins is too much to track. Maybe you don’t need a 1-value and a 3-value and a 5-value coin. Maybe you don’t need 150 resource tokens when 120 will do. Keep in mind that down the road you will hopefully get this game published, so unit cost is important; the more components you have, the higher the cost of the game for you, and eventually for your customers. Again, be willing to be flexible with your game during testing, and see what you do and do not need.