Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Evolve your sell-sheet!

 I am currently taking part in The Pitch Project - a competition in which game designers present their sell-sheets in the hopes of getting some pitch meetings with an impressive list of name board game publishers including Hasbro, The OP, Arcane Wonders, Renegade Games, AEG, WizKids, Stonemeier Games, Spin Master and many more!

I've submitted three pitches (so far), but the best thing that has come out of the process is the message board where all of the game designers are giving each other valuable feedback on their sell-sheets! This spirit of cooperation is one of the many reasons why I love the board game design community!

After reading the feedback on my own sell-sheet, I decided to go back and take a look at the evolution of one as it has improved over time. Let's take a look at the sell-sheet for my game Castle Climbers.

The first sell-sheet I created for Castle Climbers used my 1st version of the prototype featuring my hand-drawn, water-colored artwork! Obviously, I wanted to show it off... as well as recreate the castle wall that appears in the game. Note the character climbing up the wall while being menaced by the guardians in the windows - a strong visual element from the game. I've already come up with an OK catchphrase "Building the castle is easy... staying on it is the hard part!" and there is a brief description of game play but I am missing several important things! First off, I'm missing the "3 essentials": Number of players, Age of players and Play time. These should be on every sell-sheet as they are the first clue to the prospective publisher how to market your game.

Also missing is a components list. This is a list of all of the "things in the box". This is also very important to publishers as it gives them an idea of how much your game will cost. If your component list has 100's of miniatures or handfuls of custom dice, the publisher might pass because of the cost to make it.

Also missing is a good image of the game in action. I realize now that the images of the individual tiles doesn't give the viewer a good idea of the game in play or even how to play the game!

Finally, while horizontal orientation is not taboo, it doesn't play to the strength of the game's design: climbing the castle.

In version two, I've re-oriented the sheet vertically to make it feel more like the character is climbing the castle. Most of the same mistakes have been repeated, but at least I've added the "3 Essentials" to the sell-sheet.

Version three was created after I commissioned my daughter Evelyn to create artwork for the game. I now show the box cover, an OK photo of the game in action, but I'm still trying to recreate the wall using the artwork. The "3 Essentials" now have icons to help draw the eye and I have a component list, a better description of the game play and... maybe most important of all, contact information so potential publishers know where to contact me! (as well as a snazzy Bedbug Games company logo)

Version 4 represents the game after I streamlined the components list for potential a Kickstarter. I decide to take a new photo and labeled each part of game play with white text. I still think it's a cute idea, but it's also too cluttered for clear reading. Note the list of game play mechanisms (tile laying, take that, etc.) up near the top of the sheet. I actually entered this sell-sheet into a festival competition and was told it didn't clearly explain how the game was played.

Version 5 is the result of that festival feedback. I have now broken out the game play into their own little pictures with the big image of the castle in the middle. I also swapped out the picture of the treasure chest with the guardian. People are usually more interested in looking at characters than things. I was quite pleased with this sell-sheet until someone pointed out that I had organized the steps of the game play going down rather than across. Note, my contact information has been removed as per the rules of the Pitch Project contest.

The current final version (6) takes into account that feedback, so I have numbered each of the game play "call-outs" running from left to right, traveling downwards. This way you still get a good look at the castle (I couldn't find a good way to make the reader's eyes go from bottom to top to imitate the climb) and the game play is clearly explained to the reader. I'm pretty pleased with this final version, especially when you consider what it started as!

UPDATE: So, I wanted more feedback so I turned to Reddit. And man, o' man, did I get it. Several people complained about the fonts. One person said "my title font looked like it was made in Windows 95" and another said they hated the font used for the text. And even though their feedback was... raw... I still think it made some good points. So, I adjusted it again.

 I created a new logo for the game (I was inspired by the Clash of Clans logo - which has the right amount of silliness and medieval-ness I was looking for) and I changed the text. I moved some of the elements around to give the pictures on the left and the text a little more room for readability. I also noticed that several of my fellow designers were putting a "Tested at ProtoSpiel" logo on their sell-sheets and since I had done extensive testing of the game at several San Jose ProtoSpiel events, I figured it couldn't hurt. 

And to be honest, even though the feedback was a little tough to swallow, I think the sell-sheet is even better than before!

Do you have any suggestions to how to make this sell-sheet better? Do you have any sell-sheets you'd like to share? Post them in the comments below!