You have to start somewhere. That was also the case with my first game “Movie Empire”. So I was looking for interesting board game design books. Besides being an avid player, it helps tremendously to amass a lot of theoretical knowledge. On this list there are a lot of books (or unpublished works from websites) that helped me in the process of designing. As always: such a list is always a subjective view. But if you only get one or two ideas out of one book, it was worthwhile.
Essential board game design books
- Ignacy Trzewiczek Boardgames That Tell Stories: The funniest guide to game design Ignacy writes about his workdays and everything around it. That wouldn’t be spectacular, if he wouldn’t be the designer of “Robinson Crusoe”. A fast, funny, insightful read. The book consists of different posts from his blog, so that is also a great resource.
- Geoffrey Engelstein GameTek – The Math and Science of Gaming The topic here is the math, science and psychology of games. That sounds pretty boring, but trust me. It isn’t – it is a very interesting read. Geoffrey has been a contributor to the Dice Tower and since 2011 he runs his own blog Ludology.
- Morten Monrad Pedersen The Automa Approach If you plan to have a solo mode for your multiplayer board game you have to read this. It is essential. You may not know the author’s name by heart, but you surely have heard of the term “Automa” he coined. This is the short description for an AI that simulates a game with additional players effectively. In this multi-part article Morten describes the underlaying principles.
- Jesse Schell The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses Finding ideas, prototyping, mechanics, balancing… Jesse’s book touches a lot of topics and design principles that are valid for board and digital games.
- Jamey Stegmaier A Crowdfunder’s Strategy Guide This book is more about crowdfunding a game – a process that begins when the design should have already ended. But it was the book that convinced me to try publishing a game by myself. This is a compact compilation of Jamey’s blog posts. He was publishing his first games on Kickstarter some years ago and was some kind of pioneer. Most of his articles are timeless (such as customer care, production planning, …). Much of this content (or maybe all of it) can also be read at his blog – but as he always shares his knowledge for free, this is your chance to give something back by buying his book. Anyhow: His articles are brimming with advice. Read it. And if you have read it, read it again.
- Brian Tinsman The Game Inventor’s Guidebook As this book is from 2008 it is not that up to date. But Brian was working for Wizards of the Coast and lets us have a look at the board game market of these times.
- Tom Werneck Leitfaden für Spieleerfinder This book is only available in German (maybe the chance to learn another foreign language?), also a bit outdated and mostly unavailable. But it was a long time the board game design bible in Germany. (The book was already in its sixth edition in 2007.) So it is interesting to read how things have been and compare them to now.
Do you know any more good board game design books? Then leave a comment or drop me a mail. This list will be expanded whenever I find something worth reading on this topic.