Board Game Design Groups
It’s been over a year now that I decided to jump all in to game design and work towards signing a game with a publisher. Now that I have designed more than a single game, I’ve needed to find more ways of playtesting. One huge thing that has helped me develop these games faster has been local design groups. The first one I found through Meet Up, an app meant to help people find groups of other people similar to them to do things with. This group was the Chicago Board Game Design Group. At the time Miguel Martinez was the host but since meeting him I am now a co-host running the once a month meeting on Thursday night while he covers the Sunday midday meetings. Having another person made it easier for him to miss a meet up every so often.
From this group I met my friend Stefan Barkow of Foxbo Games, another new designer who had the same dreams and drive as me. Our friendship has been great! Every time we see a publisher looking for a game that one of our designs might work for, we would let each other know. He also convinced me to set up a Twitter and it was the right decision. It has opened a new community up to me.
When we all met up at Good Games in the city the meet up would normally start with introductions then seeing how many games we have, and their player counts. Then we’d split up to play the games then give feedback. Like any Meet Up there were regulars and people who showed up once then never returned. This meant we averaged 4 to 10 people per Meet Up so very intimate.
The feedback of a designer could at times be harsh but mostly insightful. Eventually you learn that everyone is different, so you don’t need to implement every suggestion. Going to multiple design meet ups has helped me fine tune the design of my games after each play to get a better result. Plus I get a variety of testers with different experiences.
The next group I found was the Chicagoland Board Game Design Meet Up. Funny enough I found out about them while attending the Indy Protospiel. Randy and Maxine Ekl run the group and the Chicago Protospiel’s so they had more connections meaning more people going to their once a month Meet Up on Monday nights in the suburbs of Chicago. They are very inviting and have tons of knowledge when it comes to Protospiels.
The next design group I found was from volunteering at a LaGAMEnitas charity event that Miguel had mentioned. There I met a few local publishers including Road to Infamy and Cards Against Humanities. Now I do charity playtesting events including the Test Flights Event tomorrow (11/16/19) at Empirical Brewery in Chicago. They also have an irregular meet up in Palatine at a pub which is always nice when I need to get a lot of testing in before a Convention.
The last design group branched off of knowing people on social media. Because of my active posting about living in the Chicago area I was invited to join a north suburbs group of designers. So far, they are the most conveniently located which makes it easier for me as winter rolls around. On the flip side, I had also been invited to a DeKalb design group, but the distance has made it hard to go. Some day I will make it!
I have heard of many more small design and playtesting groups in the surrounding areas and hopefully I will visit some of them some day. Being apart of a group really does help speed up your design process and get you amazing feedback. I love the 4 groups I’m apart of. Since they all meet up once a month it isn’t too large of a commitment. But I really do get a lot out of it.
My advice for anyone new into the industry or who just relocated is search the app Meet Up. If there are no Meet Ups consider starting one or checking out local gaming events or game stores. Most game stores have a board game night where you can meet people who enjoy playing games just like you. Once you get to know them you can start asking if they’d be willing to test your game. Game lovers make the best playtesters! But family and friends are also good too. I hope everyone finds a design group or two to call their own!