Humility is an essential virtue for a game designer. Designers who can achieve it can set themselves apart from other designers, because being truly humble is hard. When you are trying to figure out how to make a great board game, this can go a long way.
To be a great game designer, don’t just design games. Design the process by which you design them, and then refine it again and again.
With each project, try to learn something from it so you are continuously getting better. But make sure those learnings don’t get lost. document them, and reflect on them later.
This article from Slate highlights how Elizabeth Hargrave tested the board game, Wingspan, for four years before it was ready. I’ve personally spent three years working on a game, and it got better every day. Don’t be in a rush to put out a game. Don’t let it go until it’s perfect.
I believe there are three main things that come together to make something truly great—talent, time, and passion.
People who are really successful are sometimes, paradoxically, less likely to take the time or focus on passion, because success can lead to complacency. But if you work hard on both of these things, you can improve your talent to make something really amazing.
Another important component to making a great game is testing. When you first start designing games, pay attention to what play testers say. As you get more comfortable with watching people play and giving feedback, you start to pick up on the vibe of the room and other subtleties. You can also test through split testing, which means having testers play two games back to back in one sitting. This allows testers to give feedback in the form of comparisons between the two games, which allows them to put into words criticisms they otherwise couldn’t. It also allows for standards. If you know one of the games in the comparison is as good as you want it to be, then you can better know when the other game reaches that standard.
At the end of the day, it’s hard to know that you made a truly great game. And what is great anyway? Is it the number of sales? Is it if your family or friends will play it? Only you can know the measure of success that matters most to you. But you can do some of the above to make sure you’re making it as good as possible.