Valley Games–The Trials and Tribulations of Board Game Publishing Part 2

This is the second part of Valley Games‘  Torben Sherwood series on the realities of board game publishing. If you have not already read part one of this series, do so before continuing.

Trask, The Last Tyromancer

“Hi! I’m a game designer and I have a great game that I would like you to publish! Could you take a look at it?”

So now you are sitting across the table from someone who is so passionate about this thing they have created and they cannot, in their mind, fathom why anyone would not want to produce it. So you listen, and watch, and play, you see similarities to lots of other games, you might see some new stuff, at the end of it, this looks like something we would like to take a longer and more thorough look at. Thank you for your demonstration, could we have a prototype to play for a few weeks and we can get back to you?[pullshow]

Now for you new designers, this does not mean that you take the prototype to the next publisher in the booth next door and show him the same game. There is a rule that if you decide to show it to one publisher, you need to let them look at it, exclusively. It’s okay to place a timeline on it for them, usually that is the best thing as it motivates them to play it, but what might interest one publisher, may not interest another so while you have the fish on the hook, don’t shake it off because there might be a bigger one out there.

Now the prototype gets put through its paces, people try and break it, and mess with the mechanics to see how well they hold up. Strategies are tried and the number of players are changed etc. Okay, this looks like it will hold up and we like the concept, we have a fit in our product line for this, let’s sign it.

We need about 4-6 months to get everything in place before we can go to print. We have to find an artist we think will fit the game, we need to get the rules written in a better form from the rough explanation that usually exists in a prototype. Then we need to proof the rules and edit them for clarity and punctuation. Make sure the font is okay, the colors are good, what size box are we going to put this in?

Then we need to get quotes on materials, are there wood bits? Plastic? Cardboard? This then helps us to decide how much we are going to sell it for and where we will market it. When can the printer schedule this in?

Then we have meetings on when we can do it, how much it will cost, when it will be done, the colors, the materials, the layout…okay we have a game now. It could be 6 months later now maybe longer depending on what came up during production. [pullthis id=”22″] There have been times when suddenly there is a major flaw in the game that no one experienced before.[/pullthis] That is a danger when you get too close to the game and sometimes a fresh set of eyes comes in and picks the rotten part out right away.

From here, we pay the money to get it produced, and we wait for an email saying “the game is done, where you want us to send it?” Then hopefully it shows up the way we wanted it, undamaged and ready to be shipped out to game stores.

[pullthis] There are so many things that can go wrong that are out of your control[/pullthis] , things like shipping, or moisture in the games, or damaged components and boxes, or wrong components. The list goes on, don’t get me started on things like customs and “random inspections” that happened every time we brought something into the USA for the first 2 years.
People get frustrated when they open their game and the wrong stuff is in there, or not enough stuff or broken stuff. So do we, in fact we are more frustrated because we now have to figure out how to get that person the right stuff. I open a perfectly good game that I can’t sell anymore so I can pull out a couple bits of wood that are missing from someone’s game. No big deal says someone; you can probably fix multiple people that way, but what if it’s the box itself, or the rulebook that keeps going missing? Not so much now.
[pullshow id=”22″]
The next question I know that you are going to ask is “why don’t you quit then?” and my response would be “ I might, but I think I just need to figure out a different way”. Then I would tell that person that the business reminds me a little of golf. You can play that game your whole life and it frustrates you all the time, there are always shots that go wrong, your scores are never consistent, you are constantly dealing with weather issues and your equipment lets you down all the time. But then you have a good game, you hit the ball well, you putt great, the sun was shining, you and your friends had some laughs and a drink afterwards, that was a good day, I can’t wait to go again because it has to be like that again.

I walked through the convention in Dallas at BGG Con and I covered my name tag up to see what reactions I would get from people talking honestly about our games. I asked a few folks what they thought of the games and the responses were all positive. No one went off about production issues or late releases, they were all so happy to see a title that they had only heard about or play one that they had read so much about. It was then that I revealed my badge to have everyone at the table stand up and shake my hand encouraging me to keep doing what we are doing and producing great games. It made me feel like I was doing something good and that is definitely why we won’t quit.

For now, we are going to keep producing games, good games, great games and we can’t wait for you to play them. We are going to make sure that we fix problems as quickly as we can and we are going to show you we care about growing this industry so that you will never have a problem getting a game you want. It’s not going to be easy but as long as we can get a little support out there, we are willing to try and we will succeed, together.

If you have any questions for Torben about the publishing industry or Valley Games, feel free to ask it in the comments and I will do my best to get it answered.

Trask, The Last Tyromancer



Torben Sherwood is the co-founder of Valley Games, a board game publisher.

3 thoughts on “Valley Games–The Trials and Tribulations of Board Game Publishing Part 2

  • June 16, 2010 at 3:21 am

    It’s hard to be a boardgame publisher but it’s harder to be a customer of Valley Games. I’m still waiting for the Generals sculpts advertised for all who preordered Hannibal boardgame. After 5 attempts, promises, and a thread at, the 4 sets of generals (i preordered 4 games) never arrived.

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  • December 1, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    Great article. I’ve been following these guys for awhile, and it reminds me so much of the business troubles I’ve seen in a similar business, restaurants. So much passion, so man variables, and so many ways things can go south, fast.

    I salute VG for their attitude and passion, reminds of an old saying – ‘behold the tortoise, he only gets ahead when he sticks his neck out’.

    Keep up the good work.

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