The Board Game Design Course

Where great games begin

Game Design

How to demo your game without turning into a bundle of nerves

If you’ve been following my process and have reached out to one or more publishers, there’s a good chance you’ll have secured at least one meeting at a future Con.

Maybe you reached out and emailed a publisher or approached their booth at an event with your elevator pitch, and now the publisher wants to see your game in action.

This is great news! You’ve finally got your foot in the door.

The problem is, you’ve demoed your game to other players, but never a publisher.

Keep in mind this won’t be exactly the same as teaching year game to playtesters. In fact, you have to be ready for anything.

Expect the unexpected

Where will your demo be held?

Scope out the area ahead of time to see if there are any events happening prior and if you can get in early to set up your game.

You want to have everything laid out and ready to go for when the publisher arrives.

However, you may have been requested to meet the publisher at their booth or another location you can’t access early.

So, what do you do in this case?

Well, have everything as prepared as possible.

If you have decks of cards, make sure they are shuffled, stacked (more on this in a moment…), and ready.

Get whatever other components you have separated out and make sure everything is easy to find.

Practice setting up your game as quickly as possible at home before going to the event. Being prepared will show the publisher that you are competent and professional. It will also give you more time to demo your game, as you’ll be spending less time setting up.

Know your limits (time limit, that is)

When you schedule your meeting, make sure to ask how long the publisher has available for you to demo your game.


Also be prepared in case your meeting time changes or the publisher has to rush off early for another commitment.

You may have enough time to play a full game, depending on the length of the meeting and how long it takes to explain and play your game. Or, you may only have enough time to walk through the actions and play a couple of rounds.

In either case, be prepared and ensure that you show the publisher something that will wow them right from the start.

Stack the deck

I would also recommend “stacking the deck”, so that you show the publisher the maximum fun in the shortest amount of time.

Make sure some of the most fun or interesting cards or aspects of your game come up early in case there’s not enough time to build up to this.

It may be a cliché, but it still holds true – you only have one chance to make a good first impression. Make sure this impression gives you the best chance of moving forward with the publisher.

Be receptive to feedback and questions

Now, the publisher may not necessarily like everything they see in the game. They may have questions or concerns with your game that they will bring up during your demo.

Just like when you’re getting feedback from playtesters, make sure to take this graciously and not get defensive.

Remember, publishers know what sells and what people are looking for in a game. Use this opportunity to get some really great free advice from someone in the know.

Be open to suggestions, re-theming ideas, and anything else the publisher suggests. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to change everything about your game to suit this publisher, but you should definitely take it into consideration.

Above all, make sure to thank the publisher for their time and wisdom. Even if your game is not for them, you never know when you’ll have a future game that can be an even better match.

That’s why it’s so important to stay positive and show that you’re a great designer to work with. This can lead to so many future opportunities with that same publisher.

Next steps

I want you to write out a short email to a publisher. Even if you’re not ready to contact them yet, it will give you the practice in knowing what to write and how to get their attention over others.

Now, whether you get interest from a publisher at a face-to-face meeting or through email or other means, they are likely going to request a prototype of your game so that they can evaluate this further and determine if it is a game they would like to license.

Make sure to mention why you think they would be a great publisher for your game (it matches their audience or could fit into the world of one of their other games, for example), along with a brief description of your game.

Review, revise, and improve upon your messaging until it sounds like something you’d want to learn more about if you were the one receiving this email.

Please leave a comment if you have any questions or comments!

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