The Board Game Design Course

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Game Design

The top 5 components you need for making prototypes

Last week we looked at 4 games that will help you understand how to create a great polyomino game. Today, we’re going to look at some must-have components you need for making prototypes.

There are so many components that can use when making games. Sure, you can get very specific, customized pieces that would be great thematic additions to your game, but today we’ll be looking at more generic pieces that can be used in lots of different ways.

There are plenty of helpful tools you can use as well, but we’ll leave that for a separate article.

So, what are the must-have components you need to have on hand for making prototypes of your game?

#5 Card sleeves

Not everyone is a fan of card sleeves. Some find that sleeving cards is annoying and time-consuming. Others absolutely love them and sleeve every card in their entire game collection (or prototypes).

They do have a lot of benefits though.

You can save money on cardstock by printing on paper and being able to separate different decks simply by using sleeves with different coloured backs. Or you can slip in cards from another game or deck of cards to use for the backing when dealing with clear sleeves.

Card sleeves allow you to quickly make changes or slip new versions over top, making it easy to revert to the previous version if a new change doesn’t work as planned.

They can also make cards easier to shuffle.

Whether you use sleeves often, it’s good to have some on hand for rapid prototyping.

#4 Dice

So many games use dice. But they are more versatile than many give them credit for.

Dice can be used as counters, they can be flicked, stacked, or rolled. You can even use them in place of blocks to test a concept for a stacking game before committing to purchasing wooden blocks.

They can also be customized. You can place stickers over the sides to change the values or give them different meanings. This works even better with blank dice.

You may or may not use dice a lot in your games, but it can be really helpful to have some available when you want to test a new concept.

#3 Meeples (or other pawns)

Meeples have become a center point for many modern board games. Ever since they were introduced in Carcassonne, they have become a very common component.

If you’re not familiar with the term “meeple”, here is what one looks like:

The top 5 components you need for making prototypes 1

They are essentially little wooden people. They can come in many shapes and sizes, and have been used to represent goods, animals, and various characters, but this standard meeple is the most common.

Whether you are using actual meeples or other pawns, these can be very helpful for representing characters. Typically, a player will control all the meeples of their chosen colour or the meeples themselves might have different abilities, based on colour or size.

If you have some meeples in your component collection, you will definitely find a use for them!

#2 Wooden cubes

Wooden cubes can be used for so many things.

They can represent resources, track points, be used as stat counters, or be utilized in many other ways. They can be drawn from bags, placed on boards, collected, traded – virtually endless uses!

With such versatility, you will surely use them in quite a few games, so stock up and make sure to have plenty of them in your collection in many different colours!

You can also get plastic cubes and use them in the exact same way. It’s really up to you. I just prefer wood components over plastic in many cases.

#1 Card stock

Card stock is like a thick paper, similar to cardboard, and it’s going to be your go-to material for many of your printing needs.

You will often use it for cards, boards, tokens, and player mats. Since most games use at least one of these components, you may end up using a decent amount of card stock over time.

Whether you’re manually writing in values for a very early minimum viable prototype (MVP) or printing some nicely designed components, you will find that having a good supply of cardstock on hand is super helpful.

Wrapping it up

There are lots of tokens, dials, and other components that you will no doubt also find helpful when you are making a prototype, however, having a good amount of these 5 items will undoubtedly serve you well for most of your prototyping needs.

What other components have you found to be helpful to have on hand?

Please leave a comment and share what you’ve found to be helpful.

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    Good article: having stocks of useful components is very helpful for prototypes and enhancing for playtesting. I would recommend also chips (possibly even poker chips, though these may be too cumbersome for some games), and I would strongly recommend coins. I have a collection of GBP (modern) pennies as well as a lot of pre-decimal coins: 3d thrupennies, 6d sixpences, 12d shillings, 24d florins, and even a few crowns (60d). US cents are just as good, and the wonderful thing is how cheap they are!

    Yes! Coins are also very useful and can be used for actual currency in your games or in place of discs.

    You can also go to 2nd hand stores and buy used boardgames. I cover them with a paper card stock and then add a layer of vinyl for whiteboard that you can buy at Michaels.

    Absolutely! Great suggestion, Arnaud. Thrift stores often have a few or more older games sitting around. They can be picked up cheap and used for parts, whether it’s for dice, cubes, boards, or whatever might be in the box.