The Cost of a Board Game: Time

Not long ago, I discussed the monetary cost of making Corporate America, an awesome political satire board game. Today, I want to pick up where I left off by discussing how much time it took to make Corporate America.

I’ll get into the details in just a minute. In the mean time, this timeline will show you the key milestones that Corporate America went through between its initial conception and when it was released in stores.


Wow, that’s a lot of stuff! And honestly, that doesn’t even cover all of it. But it should give you a good idea of what’s needed to make a board game and how long everything takes.

Of course, every game is different, and every designer will go through a different journey to make his or her game a reality. So before I get into the nitty gritty, I’ll discuss some of the big picture quirks of Corporate America.

timeline_smallBig Picture

Corporate America was first conceived on June 26, 2011, and made it to store shelves on July 17, 2013. That’s 754 days, or 2 years and just under a month. As far as board games go, that’s pretty fast!

I was able to release Corporate America so quickly because it was my focus for most of the time I was working on it. I left school in January 2012 to give the whole indie game designer thing a shot, and Corporate America was my big project. I wasn’t quite working on it full time, since I was also starting a business, blogging, and working on other games, but I would guess I worked on Corporate America for 30 hours per week on average. That’s a LOT of time.

Of course, I was also working on the game by myself (for the most part). If you have a team, even if each member doesn’t put as much time into the project, together you may be more efficient than me. Still, I would expect most first games to take longer to get to market than Corporate America did.

Details: Game Design

I’ve discussed the initial conception and first playtest of Corporate America in detail before, so I’ll just stick to the big question for now… why the four month delay between the initial idea and the first playtest? These days, if I’m excited about a new game idea, I will prototype and test it as quickly as possible to determine if the idea is worth pursuing or not.

There are two reasons Corporate America took so long before its first playtest. First, I was focusing on another game at the time, and I didn’t want to derail that project after I’d made so much progress on it. Second, Corporate America features unique mechanics and requires a lot of cards with subtle differences, so it really did take a lot of brainstorming to have even the base set of cards to try it out.

There were a lot more minor milestones throughout the game design process, but remember I’m just including the big ones. The major prototypes included on the timeline were available to Kickstarter supporters (I described them here and here).

Design didn’t finish when the rules stabilized, by the way. Tweaks to cards were being made right up to when the files were sent to the printer. (A game is never finished, it’s just due.)

Details: Art & Graphic Design

According to the timeline, I was working on graphic design for a long time. And I was. But of course I wasn’t working on graphic design exclusively for all that time.

Each component of Corporate America went through many iterations of graphic design. With each step, I was learning a ton about useability and aesthetics.

Getting art for the game was actually a big challenge, since I’d never hired artists before. The hardest part was finding talented artists that weren’t already working on more projects than they could handle.

Details: Production

I lump a bunch of stuff together under production (fundraising through Kickstarter, printing the game, and distributing the game) because these all have to do with getting a game out there, rather than making the actual game.

While I did a great job contacting printers and figuring out how that would work, I did a bad job of finding help with distribution. I didn’t start looking until after the printing was well underway. I almost had to ship all of the games directly to me only to later ship the games to a distributor, a huge financial hit. Thankfully, Game Salute was willing to rush their vetting process (bumping Corporate America up in their queue of games to check out), so everything worked out. But I don’t recommend taking that approach for your game.

The production part of the project was not the most fun for me. The Kickstarter wasn’t as smooth as it could have been, only barely making its goal at the last minute, causing me all sorts of emotional turmoil. And when the game was being printed and shipped, all I could do was sit and wait and hope everything was on schedule. The game was a world away and completely out of my control. Those months were long and stressful, even if I wasn’t actively working on the game as much.

The End… Or Is It?

Corporate America is out in the wild, and I couldn’t be prouder. But believe it or not, this isn’t the whole story!

For starters, while I tried to cover the most important milestones, there are plenty that I wasn’t able to include. Either I didn’t keep careful enough records, or they slipped my mind. If you have any timing related questions, feel free to ask in the comments.

But I also have a lot of copies of the game to sell before breaking even on my investment (see the last post for details). The end of the journey to get Corporate America produced is just the beginning of the story of finding Corporate America hundreds of good, loving homes.

Since the street release, I’ve made as many appearances at local game shops as possible, spreading the word in the Bay Area. And while I missed GenCon, reviews (like this one by The Dice Tower’s Tom Vasel) should be coming out soon to raise the game’s reach across the internet.

Here’s hoping my next timeline is full of more good news!