How to name your game!

When you design a game you face many challenged from the very beginning to the very end. You struggle to find out a good and interesting mechanic that offers something new to the players, you work hard to prepare a fitting theme and figure out the look and feel for your game. You spend countless hours testing your game, circling ideas and iterations to smooth it and perfect its core. There is so much to do and so much to take into consideration, it’s amazing that a single person can handle it! However in such a multitude of tasks, where all are equally important, some things tend to slip away if we don’t steel ourselves with rigour and good planning.

And one of such important thing is the game name.

Yes, as trifle as it seems, game name is hugely important and even long-lived, respected publishers tend to slip on time to time here. And we, beginners on the field of game design, can always fall into a trap with game naming. In fact, we here at Rombo Games know this from our own mistakes, since our kickstarter project – Publish or Perish – did not work out so well, and the name of the game was one of its problems! We learnt late into the campaign that the game seemed too aggressive and competitive for a cooperative game for families and kids, that it was too exclusive in its meaning, restricted mostly to the members of the Academia to see and enjoy the reference. Simply put, we tripped on the basic thing like the game name! Now we ensure proper, deeper research before settling down with a game name.

So what you can do to ensure that your game name works just fine? Well, we are not going to claim that we are big time experts on this, but we learnt and observed the trends... And we believe we can share a few handy tips. Here we go:

Quadropolis title is a great example of an unique yet straightforward title!

-        >>>  Unique and not generic. This one is both the key and the biggest struggle in finding a suitable game name. Tom Vasel said once that the titles of the greatest games yet to come are not taken yet, and that is obviously correct. When you pick up a game you have to ensure that no one else claimed it… And that goes beyond browsing Board Game Geek search. Mostly because you would like to be sure that your game name is not used in a video game or any other popular product! Why? Well, to promote your game you want it to be on top of the search engines listing, and if it happens that a similar or same name is used in a different, more popular product, you’re royally screwed.

Blood Rage. Simple, clean, easy to remember and spell out. Great title.

-       >>>  Simple and easy. Okay. Here we are getting slightly mixed up… So, we need a name that is unique and yet it have to be easy and simple? Well, it is important due to the simple fact of human nature and accessibility to information. Word of mouth is a big marketing thing in the boardgame community, and if you made your game name hard to spell or type down quickly, you’re making it hard for your potential customers to find you, and I hope I don’t have to explain why that is a very bad thing. Avoid stuff like replacing ‘I’ with ‘y’ because it looks cooler. Avoid unreadable fonts and big, robust names. Avoid made-up words as much as you can, and if you do need them, make them nice and simple, and easy on the tongue.
Food Chain Magnate - the title is as clear as it can be. You know what the game is about already.

-       >>> Theme fitting. This one should be obvious! Your name should give people idea what the game is about even if all they will know about it is the title alone. When you hear ‘Robinson Crusoe’ you will get the idea of the theme – lonely island, survival and so on. When you read ‘Power Grid’ it might not tell you that it is an auction game, but you will get the notion it have something to do with the electricity and infrastructure of providing it. Keep that in mind when naming your games – the biggest package of ideas you can put into it that fit your game, the better.

Patchwork simply works - it's short, to the point and fit the theme with a tight knit!

-         >>> Short and with no subtitle. Simple enough, really. If you are a boardgamer, and we believe we all are here, you know how we tend to shorten the names when talking about them. I know of no person who says “Let’s play Settlers of Catan!” but I will hear “Let’s play Settlers.” Because everyone will know which game it is. Same with Ticket to Ride, to give another example. People don’t play Magic: The Gathering, but simply Magic. They don’t play Neuroshima Hex, but Hex or Neuro. There is little reason to make big names, since players will shorten them without hesitation. Same with subtitles. You know the games, like Descent: Journeys in the Dark or Ancient Aliens: Creators of Civilizations. Not only it’s huge but literally no one in entire world will ever spell the entire title, ever. Not to mention it make it looks like these are expansions, and not core games. Which is not such a good idea.

And here you have it. Hopefully with these few hints you’ll get a better idea what bad habits to avoid when figuring out a name for your projects and make it pop out from the throng! And if you think we skipped something or perhaps do not agree with the hints above, be sure to write a comments ;)


Rombo Games Visit to Essen 2015

I know months has passed since we were in Essen presenting our games! It was during the time of our Kickstarter so we didn't have time to show our experiences with you back in the day and here we are! This are the best pictures we got! :D

By the way, visit to Essen was an amazing experience for us (regardless of the 10 hour long nigth trip xD). Deffinitivelly the best and biggest board game fair. You can buy, sell and play all kind of boardgames! Even the ones to be released ^^

Essen Spieltage is HUGE!
Hubert in the Boardgame Geek TV
Juan and Hubert with Tom Vasel!
Juan and Hubert with Zee Garcia!
With our younger fans ^^
With our older fans :D
Marcin, Juan and Hubert in the hotel xD

Where you also in Essen 2015? Are you planning to go next year! See you there! :D


Game testing is hard!

Testing games is a chore. It is, truly, and a tiresome one too. Oh sure, we usually pull through with a smile plastered on our faces because no matter the feedback we get , we know it is for the betterment of the game in general. But let’s face it – testing games is an ordeal, hard, tedious and often frustrating, for many reasons really…

Firstly, because it really require us to walk out of our comfort zone. It is still valuable to test our game concept with family and friends! We still will manage to squeeze some info out of such games on our own… Measure the game duration, see if the mechanics stutter, observe the frustration and joy moments through the gameplay and so on, but verbal feedback from people close to us will generally be lacking in the sweetness of harsh and unyielding honesty. I mean, not all the time, but it is quite expected that family and friends would not like to hurt us and mangle our feelings, and so will usually try their best to find something good even in a colossal flop of a game, or at least soften the punches!

Which is not something we can afford when testing a game.

I know it’s not easy. I mean, whenever I come up with an idea of a game the initial phase of it is just pure excitement! I feel like the idea is nouvelle and fresh, I believe I managed to take the pieces and arrange them in a pleasant experience… It is not always pretty to face reality and see how something that sounded neat on paper and worked smoothly in our imagination crashes in flames. But it’s important to learn to cope brilliantly with it and truly open up for brutal and direct criticism.
It still itch me the wrong way, when during testing someone just throw the cards and proclaim “This sucks.” There are more dignified and elegant way to offer good criticism, but even in such cases I swallow the pride and nod in agreement, trying to fish out what exactly does not work if it is not evident to me.

That’s what I meant by ‘walking out of your comfort zone’. You need to test your product on people, who do not owe you anything, who do not feel the need to somehow placate your creative burst, who do not see sense in sugar coating things for your own benefit. You need to test your game, most preferably, on total strangers. Why? Well, your goal is to find people who will be most objective. People who obviously want to have fun playing a game, but won’t go an extra mile to find it, because they expect game itself to provide it in spades. Only these people will be honest enough to crush your mechanics and concepts with proper ruthlessness and trust me on that, it’s very good if they do so!
Because only good feedback can make your project progress. Never lock yourself up in the cage of your own idea, never get upset and huff and puff and nay-sayers, never look for empty praise and shut off any negative comments, because if you will do all that, your game will most likely be bad in every way, and its existence will just serve to tickle your ego, which is hardly the point in making games, is it?

Now, let’s not get crazy about it though. Game testing is not a session in BDSM and you don’t really go there to smile in glee as players bash your game in some imaginative way. Gathering feedback truly is an art, and you really need to know with sharp focus what you’re looking for.

Simple example given our own games. MonsterBuffet is a simple, quick game about reflex. It’s a party game, a light and quick filler and nothing more. Now if I bring this game to fans of monstrous wargames or admirers of brain-burning eurogames, I can quite rightfully expect the game to get bashed hard. Does it mean the game is bad? Yes, it is – for this specific target groups, since the game is not made for them, as much as Through the Ages was not made for Sunday casual player who want a round of Carcassonne or Catan. And no, it is not – for folks who just want to enjoy a swift and easy game to accompany their drinking session or to have rapid fun without a need to read a thick booklet of rules, it just might be the best game they played lately, right?

You see what I mean by having a good idea what you want to test? It will require different approach to pretty much every aspect of the game to be tested. Different people and test routine to tighten the mechanic, different group to see how fun it is, different to ensure the look and feel of it clicks with your target audience…

Truly, testing is a chore. A fun chore none the less!