How to BGG

BGG (BoardGameGeek.com) may be intimidating for new designers and publishers, but the parts you actually NEED to use are pretty straightforward once you learn where to look and how they work. Navigation is a bit of a nightmare on BGG made worse by the fact that their “newer template” for the website shows up when you click an action game entry. Even some of the menus change under the game listing (like “Misc” becomes “Help”), so my instructions below are from being on a page outside the game view page.
The main purpose of BGG is to be a database of games with fan forums. It also encourages ranking of games and has a feature that spotlights the “hotness” of the day/week. Because BGG has a huge community of serious gamer geeks, it can be a bit toxic and it can have overzealous admins – but it’s nowhere as bad as RedditI’ll make a quick list of what I feel is most important to the Game Designer and to the Kickstarter / Publisher. First off, I’d completely ignore the front page – it’s just a collection of recent posts and news. This is only meant as a quick primer to get you the basics quickly and not piss any admins off in the process.

As a Game Designer:

  • You can use the Game Design Forums on the site to post info about your WIP (Work In Progress) and get help from other designers. Just click on the “Forums” pull-down at the top and click “Forums”. Scroll down and you’ll see the section of “Board Game Design” that contains several sub-forums. Remember, this is not a place to promote your nearly done game. In forums you can “subscribe” to a topic and when you login next time it’ll show up in your “Subscriptions” page (which you can get to by clicking on the top left under the envelope icon).
  • You’ll use the site find games to help you research designs and mechanics used in modern successful games. If you go to the “Browse” pull down you’ll be about to click “Categories” or “Mechanics“. Both will pull up a listing of many tags that you can just search for games that match that criteria. Then scroll down to “Linked Items” and you can change to sort option to “Rank” or “Num Ratings” to show you a list of the most popular games of that type. Then simply click on the game names to check out more information about them and forum discussions under them. The best way to learn modern games is to play them! We made a nice listing a few years back that is still pretty valid, you can find that HERE.
  • You’ll want to use the search box at the top to find publishers that might be interested in signing your game design to a contract. However, using the “Browse” by “Publisher” option is pretty useless as it will show you nearly 100 pages of Publishers. Instead of doing that, look on the left side of most of the pages and you’ll see a “The Hotness” column. In there you can select “Companies” as an alternate sorting view.  You should then see 30 Publishers that are making the most “noise” right now. Aside from that I would strongly suggest just attending a GenCon, Essen, or Origins convention and network. They should also have a listing of which publishers attended the event and then you can use BGG to look them up to see what kind of games they make and if yours will fit in before contacting them.
  • There is also an active print and play DYI Community forum that you can learn how to make better prototypes and even find people willing to print out and make your game to play it.

As a Kickstarter Creator / Publisher:

  • The first thing you’ll want to do is check for any games with the same name as the one you’re creating… you don’t wish to have any copyright or trademark problems and you want your game to be easy to find through google and BGG searches. To search for your game name simply type the name in the field after the SEARCH in the header of the site and make sure the pull-down next to it says “Board Game”.  If you really want to use a name already taken consider adding a by-line to the name. For example “Scrabble – The Awakening”.
  • If you’re a new publisher, you need to get your company name and your game designer names listed into the database. To do this you use the “Misc” pull-down menu and then under the “Add to Database” header you’ll need to click either “Publisher” (company) or “Person” (designer).
  • Next, add your game to the system. This can take a couple weeks, so do so NOW as you also want to lay claim (in a sense) to the game’s name. Remember, BGG doesn’t really allow works in progress to be added their system anymore – so you’ll need to convince them that your game is for sure getting published or put on Kickstarter in the next few months. Anyway, to actually start the process of adding your game, click the “Misc” pull-down menu and then under the “Add to Database” header you’ll see “Board Game“. Click that and a form will appear with a lot of info to fill out. Do the best you can as it all matters… in the Notes at the bottom put in that you’re the publisher and your plans to get it to market so they believe your game is real enough to be accepted. Then you wait, sometimes more than a week. It’s possible an admin will send you an email saying there was a problem and you can fix it and resubmit it.
  • After the basics of your game are accepted to the database you should go to the game’s page and make updates that are needed, but also click on the “Images” link in the header. Then click the “+UPLOAD” and add images of your game. It’s REALLY important that you give a good description and use the right category and upload a non-blurry image. The admins are very picky and will reject images for many reasons. For any raw artwork or mockups, you must choose “Creative” as the Gallery type or it’ll be rejected. The category of “Game” is only for actual images of the game. The category “People” is for when you post images of playtesters enjoying your game. Again I suggest you leave a note that you’re the publisher in the “Mod Note” section so they take you more seriously. Once you have selected a few images in the forum and updated the info, remember you have to click “Upload All” for the process to start. Then wait some more days for the picture to get accepted.
  • Under your game listing at BGG you will have your own Forums, Files, Reviews, Videos and such. So, take advantage of them and make posts about your progress and your Kickstarter / Release date. Try to get some really great images to upload as people can thumb them up and if they are cool enough they could appear on the front page hotness. If enough people are viewing and interacting with your game listing, you may also get listed on the hotness column. Doing so can bring huge attention and backing to your game.  Once you release your game, encourage people to rank your game as well. The point here is to engage the community so your game gets support and noticed. You will NOT be allowed to just drop posts in other forums about your game, so don’t try that. Once your game is on BGG people will start to add it to Geeklists and post questions in your forums and even write reviews of the game – it becomes a hub for info about your game, even more so than your own website for many people. Google will also find your game MUCH easier now.
  • BGG, for the most part, does NOT allow you to just post about your game in any forum. This will get you banned from the site.  Since Kickstarter became a big money maker for them selling ads, they have had to bend their rules a bit and allow some Kickstarter promotions and discussions to happen. But they do it in a way that really makes it hard to find if you don’t know where to look. It’s all buried under a special space in the database under what they call “Kickstarter Family”.  See a game can have a “Family” tag associated with it and all games that have campaigns on Kickstarter will be tagged with this Family. It’s also the only place where you’ll find forums that will not delete and ban you for talking about your campaign. To find it you need to change the SEARCH pull-down to “Families” and then type in “Kickstarter” – or just bookmark in your browser: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgamefamily/8374/crowdfunding-kickstarter. The General Forum here is one of the few places on BGG that you can post about your campaign and that’s a Press Release forum where there is a huge Announcement Post – but the people who stay subscribed to it will see it. Instructions are in the first part of the post.
  • BGG is a great place to find out about games before they are released – thus you should be using it to build buzz for your game. You’ll be able to and your game (once approved) to some “Geeklists”.  A Geeklist is just a way for users to add a bunch of games to a listing that everyone can browse and comment on. There will typically be some lists of most anticipated upcoming games which you can then browse. A quick way to find them would be to change the SEARCH pulldown to say “Geeklists” and then type something like: “2018 anticipated” in the search box.  To add your game to an exiting list all you need to do is click the “Add Item” button which is found at the bottom of the header post about the list. If you don’t see it then it’s not allowing public additions. When you click Add Item you get a screen asking what type of item you want to add – just click the bold “Board Game” option and then fill in the form that appears.
  • You can also find out about conventions you may wish to attend if you browse their Conventions Forum. There is also a podcast/blog announcement forum that you might want to make connections with the media about your game.
  • Lastly, BGG has so many users and so many Alpha gamers that you may wish to use it for some paid advertising. Just be warned that it’s very costly ($1500+) and your ROI will depend a lot on the type of game being pitched to this captive audience. They will prefer heavier more involved games and disdain things like roll and move and chess variants.
Well, there is a lot more to learn if you desire, but the point of this blog post was to get you started with the minimum.

  1. Joseph E. Pilkus III on

    James,

    As a long-time fan of you and the dialogue you have with designers and developers, thanks again for a great, digestible article on BGG and its utility in the game industry.

    Cheers,
    Joe

  2. Keith A Reeves on

    I can’t stand the BGG website. It is an OCD nightmare. I look at it and just want to scream. Why won’t they modernize it? But this article, providing step-by-step details was very helpful. Thank you!

  3. Alan on

    Great article! I’m a long time BGG user. Speaking as part of your intended market, it is *the* place I go to learn about games, old and new. All of my gaming friends have accounts and we all use the site for various purposes – from tracking our plays to researching games to buying and selling. A few quick thoughts.

    First, you can subscribe to your game’s forums and receive notices when people post/reply there. At your game’s page, in the top title bar, below the “My rating: {stars}” you will see a button on the right that says “Subscribe.” Activating this will have notifications show up (via the bullhorn icon) for your BGG account.

    Second, as a designer/publisher, you will receive a lot of credibility if you “promptly” (within reason – doesn’t have to be immediate), reliably, and accurately respond to questions in your game’s BGG forums. I can’t stress how far this goes. When I see a designer helpfully interfacing with his/her intended audience in an open and constructive manner, I form good opinions of that person and their designs. As long as your willing to put up with the odd troll and/or snarky idiot, it can be well worth your time investment.

    Third, in your game’s forums you can: share your process and/or the development of your game, describe your background and influences, post clear pictures and descriptions of your prototype and demonstrations – all of these will help establish you as a concerned developer who is heavily invested not only in their product but also in their game’s community.

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