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Publishing board games as a solo side hustle?

Are you a budding game designer who wishes to publish board games as a side business? What are the challenges and what are some tips to overcome them? Press on to find out more from Geoffrey Chia who has published 2 successful games.

Q: Please give the readers a short introduction about yourself and your organization. What is your organization about? What is your “origin” story?

My name is Geoffrey Chia, founder and game designer of Good Spirit Games. I started Good Spirit Games in October 2022 as my side business and a way of creative expression. Starting from my first game (Contraband Insider), I have been trying to apply creativity techniques to design games with unique gameplay and theme inspired by various media and literature.

Q: We understand that you are launching a new game. Please share more about it and what’s the inspiration behind it.

The upcoming game, called ‘Nightmares of Sushi’, is a humorous 2 to 6 player deduction game, where each player “makes” and “eats” Sushi that could either be a tasty dream or a nightmare of disgust. The game is played over 4 rounds to either earn the most points or reach the worst outcome to win.

I wanted to create a 15-to-30-minute game to mostly reach out to the casual audience with a balance of strategy and luck. The inspiration for the theme is loosely based on a documentary movie called ‘Jiro Dreams of Sushi’ where the chef strives for perfect Sushi, but my game expected the opposite. I have also included different types of Yokai (Japanese demons) and Japanese dog breeds as characters to give a Japanese feel as much as possible. ‘Nightmares of Sushi’ is likely to be the shortest and simplest game as compared to my upcoming games in the years to come.

Q: What challenges did your organization face when it first started? What challenges does your organization continue to face now?

Good Spirit Games is my one-man show indie side business. It is tough handling game design, development, manufacturing, logistics, events and marketing alone with a low-end laptop and an indie budget.

Even as of today, I am still learning about the board game business. However, it is still very exciting to see playing board games as a growing trend.

Q: Manufacturing and quality control is often a challenge many creators face, especially when production is done overseas. What did you do to manage these challenges? Are there any horror stories you can share?

For a start, people should first have realistic expectations between the game they envisioned and their budget. Then, I’ll answer this question with a few tips as I explain along the way.

Tip #1: Look for a manufacturer who specialises in manufacturing board games

Any printing manufacturer can technically print “board games”, but there are differences between flimsy packaging and quality board game packaging. I’ve seen board games with components and packaging that don’t make sense by today’s standards. To start searching for a specialised board game manufacturer, I would suggest referring to their website for a list of past games they manufactured in the past and checking out the games in that list to verify their quality. A specialised board game manufacturer with a good track record also advises on how to achieve quality manufacturing.

Tip #2: Communicate clearly with your manufacturer in the same language

I would suggest not using a manufacturer with poor command of English, you don’t want to waste time with mistakes due to lost in translation. Another definition of the same language also means learning various terminologies related to board games and manufacturing, this is to avoid further misunderstandings. Ask your manufacturer for advice if you are unsure about anything, you should not act like you know everything.

Tip #3: Double-check the details for your components

Check that all of the content and details such as grammar, spelling, colour codes, linked images, embedded images, etc, are in place before you proceed to manufacturing. You don’t want additional costs later on for any changes after that.

Tip #4: Always ask for a sample copy no matter the cost before manufacturing

A proper sample copy would allow you to have expectations of what your final product would look like. Then, check all the components to make sure that the sample copy meets all of your expectations of the game.

Q: You have been traveling extensively this year to showcase your games. What is your takeaway from exhibiting in these places and what are some of the tabletop cultural quirks you would like to share?

Whether you are participating in conventions as an exhibitor or a participant, do find some time to get to talk to the publishers and designers. Every booth has a story to tell, and will likely provide insights to learn from. Also remember that your job as an exhibitor is to make your game fun, not to hard sell your game or game ideas.

Q: What is your favourite genre of games or games you think are underrated?

Most of the games in my personal library are Euro games and games with unique gameplay. I don’t think there are underrated games because it is the audience that defines which games are underrated. I would recommend everyone to try different genres of games, rather than sticking to what’s popular and what they are comfortable at.

Q: What are the future plans for your organization?

I am planning to publish one game per year. Each of them will have unique gameplay, different theme and art style. In fact, the third game from Good Spirit Games will be a tile-laying strategic and exploration game where the position of your game pieces affects the score.

Q: What are your views on the local game industry?

I don’t know what to expect from the local game industry. While the local market is very small, Singapore does have spending power if the audience sees value in the game. I am still looking forward to the growth of local board gaming culture.

Q: Last but not least, where can your games be found?


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