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The Game Inventor's Guidebook: How to Invent and Sell Board Games, Card Games, Role-Playing Games, & Everything in Between!

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The definitive guide for anyone with a game idea who wants to know how to get it published from a Game Design Manager at Wizards of the Coast, the world's largest tabletop hobby game company. Do you have an idea for a board game, card game, role-playing game or tabletop game? Have you ever wondered how to get it published? For many years Brian Tinsman reviewed new game sub The definitive guide for anyone with a game idea who wants to know how to get it published from a Game Design Manager at Wizards of the Coast, the world's largest tabletop hobby game company. Do you have an idea for a board game, card game, role-playing game or tabletop game? Have you ever wondered how to get it published? For many years Brian Tinsman reviewed new game submissions for Hasbro, the largest game company in the US. With The Game Inventor's Guidebook: How to Invent and Sell Board Games, Card Games, Role-playing Games & Everything in Between! he presents the only book that lays out step-by-step advice, guidelines and instructions for getting a new game from idea to retail shelf.


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The definitive guide for anyone with a game idea who wants to know how to get it published from a Game Design Manager at Wizards of the Coast, the world's largest tabletop hobby game company. Do you have an idea for a board game, card game, role-playing game or tabletop game? Have you ever wondered how to get it published? For many years Brian Tinsman reviewed new game sub The definitive guide for anyone with a game idea who wants to know how to get it published from a Game Design Manager at Wizards of the Coast, the world's largest tabletop hobby game company. Do you have an idea for a board game, card game, role-playing game or tabletop game? Have you ever wondered how to get it published? For many years Brian Tinsman reviewed new game submissions for Hasbro, the largest game company in the US. With The Game Inventor's Guidebook: How to Invent and Sell Board Games, Card Games, Role-playing Games & Everything in Between! he presents the only book that lays out step-by-step advice, guidelines and instructions for getting a new game from idea to retail shelf.

30 review for The Game Inventor's Guidebook: How to Invent and Sell Board Games, Card Games, Role-Playing Games, & Everything in Between!

  1. 4 out of 5

    Johnny

    Brian Tinsman knows what he’s talking about. That doesn’t mean that it always gets translated to the published page. The Game Inventor’s Guidebook has a lot of useful information and I will use it as a reference in several of the courses I teach. However, it could have been a textbook—it could have been a contender. Here are my, admittedly very personal, reservations about the book. First, the format/layout of the book makes it feel like it was prepared in a hurry. I’m not sure what the rush woul Brian Tinsman knows what he’s talking about. That doesn’t mean that it always gets translated to the published page. The Game Inventor’s Guidebook has a lot of useful information and I will use it as a reference in several of the courses I teach. However, it could have been a textbook—it could have been a contender. Here are my, admittedly very personal, reservations about the book. First, the format/layout of the book makes it feel like it was prepared in a hurry. I’m not sure what the rush would have been, but it feels like the double-spaced lines were selected as much to fill-out the page count as well as to make it seem easy-to-read. I’m sorry, it’s just hard for me to take seriously a 263 page book (complete with appendices) that can be read at a leisurely pace in one “L” train commute. Second, although the author uses his extensive first-person experience and access to professional resources (Wizards of the Coast/Hasbro marketing research and interviews with designers of his acquaintance), it is rather disappointing to see only four books cited in the appendix (There is no actual bibliography.). Perhaps, I am shocked by the lack of a reference to James Dunnigan’s The Complete Wargames Handbook: How to Play, Design, and Find Them and Lawrence Schick’s Heroic Worlds: A History and Guide to Role-Playing Games. I suppose that I also can’t help finding minute faults such as the fact that Tinsman summarizes the history behind Cluedo/Clue on pp. 71-72, but identifies Clue as being picked up separately from the Parker Brothers/Tonka purchase when he discusses it on p. 87. I suppose I chafe at the idea that Avalon Hill is “best-known” for Axis & Allies (p. 116). Huh? Axis & Allies was originally a Milton Bradley game. Avalon Hill made serious war games from the 1950s until its acquisition by Hasbro in the late ‘90s. Most of the titles in Wizards of the Coast’s Avalon Hill division (with the exception of Diplomacy and Acquire) weren’t published by Avalon Hill prior to its acquisition by Hasbro. Ironically, however, both of the titles just mentioned were published by other publishers prior to being published by the original Avalon Hill. Of course, war games are apparently not part of the games market since Tinsman ignores the contributions of SPI in the early years and the contributions of Multiman Publishing and GMT Games in the present day. They may not be high-volume products, but they should be mentioned. Finally, the note of Games Workshop demographics (p. 108) seemed poorly presented. It certainly doesn’t fit my anecdotal experience and it doesn’t fit the demographic represented in today’s podcasts related to miniatures that cover Games Workshop products. Tinsman appears to claim (probably from shoddy Hasbro research—something I saw plenty of during my tenure at WotC) that GW loses their customers at about the time they begin dating. I think he meant to say that they lose them then and gain them back in later years. At least, the hobbyists that I see playing in Warhammer 40K tournaments are considerably older than 15. My happiest moments in reading the book came when reading interviews with designers I know (or knew). And, I could just see “Uncle” (actually Colonel) Lou Zocchi talking about storing that first thousand boxes of Battle of Britain in his living room and being able to tunnel to the television set after selling about one-fourth of that amount (p. 153) as well as pointing out how inventory could be destroyed by mildew if stored in a garage (or unheated warehouse). I also laughed out loud when I read Tinsman’s anecdote about the submission by a businessman who claimed that his designer was rated 25th in World Gamers (p. 139). Of course, there is no such rating body though there is presently a World Boardgamers Association that hosts tournaments in various games each year. And, if there is such a phenomenon as laughing and crying at the same time, I did so when reading his thinly disguised list of the worst game submissions of all time (particularly, the “Star Empires” game in which the high concept stated, “Players need only know a small amount of simple calculus in order to accurately plot their ships’ trajectories.” (p. 185) Are slide rules included? And I couldn’t help but gloat during Tinsman’s interview with another designer who cavalierly dismissed Hasbro’s ability to produce an innovative game: “The problem is Hasbro doesn’t have the ability to launch innovative new products. They don’t have the patience to let a new concept take off. It takes time to create a big hit and they want to see big dollars immediately.” (pp. 119-20) Of course, one might note that Parker Brothers didn’t want Monopoly until it proved itself or even purchase the rights to Flinch until it had a sales record. The company turned down Cosmic Encounter and Trivial Pursuit when presented to them. So, it’s not the size of the company that counts; it’s the size of the vision. The most valuable portion of the book comes in the latter portion of the volume where one is guided step-by-step through the process of getting a game from idea to market. He offers simple suggestions for doing market research (not committing tens of thousands of dollars on surveys, but reading boxes, talking to salespersons at local game stores, and identifying your market segment (p. 142). He also had some useful quick and dirty budgeting guidelines that I could easily resonate with (pp. 145-6) and I really appreciated his suggestion on doing game demonstrations in retail stores on a consignment basis (p. 154). Then, after this quick but valuable discussion, he condenses it all into eight easy-to-read but hard-to-master steps (pp. 163-4). I also resonated with his playtesting “Do’s and Don’ts” (pp. 182-3) and top ten list on reasons for rejections from a publisher (pp. 188-90). To be honest, some of his advice seems so generic that I feel like it is common knowledge. Yet, I know that part of the reason it is common knowledge to me is because of covering the game industry as a “semi-informed” outsider in my journalist role and actually working inside the hallowed halls of Wizards of the Coast in a previous phase of my life. So, a total “outsider” might rate this book much higher than I did. I’m not convinced that it would make a good textbook for my Game Design students, but I will certainly have some of them look into it.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Serge Pierro

    A good introduction to the business of game design. Covers a lot of ground, however, nothing is covered in great depth. An excellent first book for the aspiring game inventor.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    A book that offer knowledge from the game sector in a structured way, although most of it is common sense, and with such an ever evolving market it misses input on the successful stories of the past ten years. The anecdotes on some of the well-known games and their inventors is however entertaining.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Eric Plunkett

    Lots of good info about the industry. Definitely some tips in there I can use. It was more focused on mass market and hobby games than European-style games than is ideal for me. I think it would benefit from an update that includes Kickstarter self-publishing.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Anastasia Alexandra

    A bit dated by now but still some really good advice for those starting out in the industry.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Rob Markley

    Really well done and great coverage- enjoyed this immensely.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Fabio Marzullo

    Good for newcomers! Interesting book, it delves into introdutory material, but also gives good insights about the games industry. The final resources are great reference material.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Adam Sequoyah

    This book seems to have gotten outdated fast, but it still offers some important and pertinent info in this decade's board game industry. MPAA ratings: G This book seems to have gotten outdated fast, but it still offers some important and pertinent info in this decade's board game industry. MPAA ratings: G

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jonathon Dyer

    Game design is a labour of love. Whether it's a board game about dinosaurs to amuse your kids (who, this month, are really into dinosaurs), or something you think might be good enough to sell, maybe even good enough to be the next Scrabble or Trivial Pursuit, your heart really has to be in it if it's going to work at all. Brian Tinsman is here to tell you that having your heart in it, while crucial, is never going to be enough. Tinsman's been working in the game industry for much of his working l Game design is a labour of love. Whether it's a board game about dinosaurs to amuse your kids (who, this month, are really into dinosaurs), or something you think might be good enough to sell, maybe even good enough to be the next Scrabble or Trivial Pursuit, your heart really has to be in it if it's going to work at all. Brian Tinsman is here to tell you that having your heart in it, while crucial, is never going to be enough. Tinsman's been working in the game industry for much of his working life, so he knows where you're coming from, and he knows what you're going up against. It's a tough industry and you're probably going to fail. A lot. But if you still want to take your game to market, Tinsman has produced a handbook that will get you asking the right questions (of yourself and others), playtesting the hell out of your baby, sending your prototype to the right people, and - just maybe -seeing it reach production. The Game Inventor's Guidebook is a couple of years old now - it was published before the rise in crowd-funding through companies like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, so his feelings on self-publishing run somewhere between "Don't do it" and "No, really - DON'T DO IT!" Having said that, he has got some sage advice for those who are prepared to take out the second mortgage to see their pet project in print. I play a lot of games - boardgames, card-games, RPGs and serious simulation war games. I've tried designing my own games, though I've never thought seriously about trying to get any one of them published. Nonetheless, this was a fascinating read. I came away from this book with a new-found respect for anyone who manages to make a living in the industry, and a real gratitude for all those people who take the potential pay-cuts and better job security to produce the games I get such a kick out of playing. Everyone who thinks of themselves as a tabletop gamer should read The Game Inventor's Guidebook and gain some appreciation for just what goes into creating a Settlers of Catan or Magic: the Gathering.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Michael Burnam-Fink

    The Game Inventor's Guidebook is a decent and breezy--if outdated--guide to how to go from a games hobbyist to a games inventor. Tinsman has the games business chops, as the acquisitions guy for Wizards of the Coast, he worked on Magic: the Gathering and Curses and played about 150 new games a year. This book is his attempt to look inside the business of games, and help people break in. As with most business how-tos, it's only a fraction of what the author knows, but's it an important fraction. The Game Inventor's Guidebook is a decent and breezy--if outdated--guide to how to go from a games hobbyist to a games inventor. Tinsman has the games business chops, as the acquisitions guy for Wizards of the Coast, he worked on Magic: the Gathering and Curses and played about 150 new games a year. This book is his attempt to look inside the business of games, and help people break in. As with most business how-tos, it's only a fraction of what the author knows, but's it an important fraction. This book provides a basic overview of the major players and types of companies in the business: I enjoyed the interview with Rob Knizia, and how hopeless publish an adult casual game with a major company seems. Just knowing how to think about agents and publishers is useful, even if the specific lists are a decade old. What's most useful is the knowledge that 90% of games are thrown away unread. Many amateurs tend to design heartbreakers ("It's just like Monopoly, but...") or over-complicated monsters that are too expensive to produce and impossible to learn. Creativity and elegance are things that any aspiring game designer should strive for, along with an awareness that this is not career for people in it solely for the money. Ultimately, the problem is that this is a perishable book. Tinsman isn't quite insightful enough to provide eternal wisdom for a changing industry. The two biggest changes that an updated version would have to take into account are the rise of euro-style games in the US (They're mentioned, along with Spiel de Jahres, but they've exploded since then), and Kickstarter/crowd-funding as a way to publish indie games.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Marc

    I've been a gamer forever, but I recently had an idea to make a game. Even though I've gamed forever, selling and making a game is something I know very little about. I decided to check this book out. The Game Inventor's Guidebook really was the perfect book for someone like me. Tinsman covered all sorts of games from RPGs to CCGs to miniatures and everything else. He delved into what goes on behind design, marketing, publishing, and even self-publishing. There was a lot of info in here. Even thou I've been a gamer forever, but I recently had an idea to make a game. Even though I've gamed forever, selling and making a game is something I know very little about. I decided to check this book out. The Game Inventor's Guidebook really was the perfect book for someone like me. Tinsman covered all sorts of games from RPGs to CCGs to miniatures and everything else. He delved into what goes on behind design, marketing, publishing, and even self-publishing. There was a lot of info in here. Even though there was a ton, none of it was overwhelming nor did I ever seem lost. It was told in a simple fashion with some interviews and plenty of examples. I think because I've had a lot of experience gaming that I already knew some of what Tinsman was talking about. I guess the only downside to this would be if you had already worked in the industry. Then you'd already know most of what was in this book. Anyways, I still don't know if I'll actually try to pursue publication of my game. First thing's first, I must playtest!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Traummachine

    3.5 stars: This is another book that I'm rating as casual reading, not because I've used the suggestions in it. While my buddy got it as a resource for getting his board games published, for me it was just entertainment. Yes, I'm THAT into board games. Yes, I'm THAT geeky. ;-) It was really interesting to read interviews with big names in the industry, to see what they're looking for, to hear about the gotcha's they passed along, and to hear about some of the problems they face. But I found the in 3.5 stars: This is another book that I'm rating as casual reading, not because I've used the suggestions in it. While my buddy got it as a resource for getting his board games published, for me it was just entertainment. Yes, I'm THAT into board games. Yes, I'm THAT geeky. ;-) It was really interesting to read interviews with big names in the industry, to see what they're looking for, to hear about the gotcha's they passed along, and to hear about some of the problems they face. But I found the interviews with game designers to be the most interesting (such as Reiner Knizia and Richard Garfield). It was fun to read about what inspires them, how they got started, and the advice they give the readers. Very fun!!

  13. 5 out of 5

    George

    Good, but dated information. Most of the information in the book was good and useful, but it was very dated. There was no mention of Kick starter (understandable since the book predates Kickstarter) and also doesn't mention the effects of the recent surge in popularity of designer games in the American market. Many of the resources are also dated and newer resources are lacking, including the benefits of Facebook groups, design community websites and forums, and design specific events like Unpub Good, but dated information. Most of the information in the book was good and useful, but it was very dated. There was no mention of Kick starter (understandable since the book predates Kickstarter) and also doesn't mention the effects of the recent surge in popularity of designer games in the American market. Many of the resources are also dated and newer resources are lacking, including the benefits of Facebook groups, design community websites and forums, and design specific events like Unpub and Protospiel. I'd love to see an updated version of the book that addresses these changes in the industry.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    Why have I never heard of HeroClix games? I must go out and get a set. With this book in hand, I now feel prepared to develop a game should the muse ever truly strike me. A few things this book taught me: * If you're a polite and sane individual, you're already above most of the pack when you submit a game design to a publisher. * Game publishing has a stricter design philosophy these days: Monopoly would not make it as a game if it were submitted today. * Publishing your own game is a royal pai Why have I never heard of HeroClix games? I must go out and get a set. With this book in hand, I now feel prepared to develop a game should the muse ever truly strike me. A few things this book taught me: * If you're a polite and sane individual, you're already above most of the pack when you submit a game design to a publisher. * Game publishing has a stricter design philosophy these days: Monopoly would not make it as a game if it were submitted today. * Publishing your own game is a royal pain in the ass and an invitation to bankruptcy.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Gareth Mottram

    A great introduction to the process of designing a new game and the industry's top publishers and most notable games. A great introduction to the process of designing a new game and the industry's top publishers and most notable games.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Cherie Kephart

    If you are inventing a game and looking to get it published, this is the book for you. Tinsman provides a history of the industry and insight into what you need to do to reach your goals. This reference offers detailed interviews with people in the gaming industry, which proves invaluable as you create your game and unleash it to the world. I highly recommend reading this book before you approach a gaming company. It just may be the difference between acceptance and rejection.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jess Hartley

    This is a must-have book for those who are interested in creating and marketing games of all sorts. It offers not only advice, but also a sense of history and personal anecdotes from successful game creators, giving would-be gamemakers a glimpse behind that elusive curtain that lies between the players and the industry. This was recommended to me by Mike Selinker of Lone Shark Games, and I definitely am grateful for the recommendation. It was invaluable.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Rodolfo Schmauk

    Esperaba más del libro. Más que nada consejos sobre como llegar a publicar un juego una vez que se ha hecho, pero poco sobre el proceso creativo. Muy enfocado en juegos de mercado amplio, y gringos, y a mí me gustan más los europeos. Lo mejor, probablemente, lo relativo a los consejos de playtesting. Me quedo con The Kobold Guide to Game Design, que a pesar de ser ensayos, entra más en el proceso de creación del juego.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Tuomas

    Fairly interesting for a gamer, but I think the cover is a bit misleading. It`s not that much about actually inventing a game, as it is about what´s already out there, who`s done what in the industry, how to approach publishers etc. Fairly interesting for a gamer, but I think the cover is a bit misleading. It`s not that much about actually inventing a game, as it is about what´s already out there, who`s done what in the industry, how to approach publishers etc.

  20. 4 out of 5

    FranklinTV

    Looks like quite a reasonable book to read rather than flick thru once / if I design my own board / card game, when it is in a working version.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mackenzie

    I got this recommendation from Storm Hollow game designer Angela Hickman Newnham, who I met at Gamestorm 2016. I haven't seen it or read it yet but looking forward to it. I got this recommendation from Storm Hollow game designer Angela Hickman Newnham, who I met at Gamestorm 2016. I haven't seen it or read it yet but looking forward to it.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    A bit outdated and somewhat repetitive but still chock full of useful information, anecdotes, and interviews with popular game designers.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Abe Schmidt

    Needs to be updated with a kickstarter chapter, by an awesome helpful book.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Christian Lindke

    Game Design,Games

  25. 4 out of 5

    Lance I

    A lot of good information. I particularly liked the resources in the back of the book.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jo

    A lot of useful information

  27. 4 out of 5

    Bill

    More focused on business than the other similar book I read. Interesting stuff.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Bruno Campagnolo De Paula

  29. 5 out of 5

    Will

  30. 4 out of 5

    Geoff Cottorone

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