BOARDGAME GEEK: A HOW-TO PRIMER FOR EVERYBODY25 Jun 2020 0
Calling GMT Games, this article is for you. Firelock Miniatures, you need to grab some coffee and read this as well. Same for you Compass Games, and you, too, ESR Napoleonics, please take a look. Today I am going to discuss the nuts and bolts on how to set up one of the best marketing and customer support tools you’re probably not using. This is the cluttered looking but extremely powerful Website called BoardGame Geek, or BGG for short. And while this little tome is primarily targeted towards tabletop wargaming authors and designers, if you are a fan, have the hots for a particular product, do your favorite game company a solid and jot down a few notes. Putting your wares up on BGG is not particularly hard but is complex and quite time consuming. Nevertheless, the benefits are legion, so here is how to do it.
BGG is an online database that covers over 101,000 boardgames of all types. This includes Eurogames, parlor games, card games as well as wargames, both miniatures and cardboard based. This also includes very new games, as one might expect, but also the very old. Remember the old S&T game Destruction of Army Group Center? Yes, it’s there, as are miniature models in direct support of rules books. Evidently BGG considers them the same as expansions, so if you like Warlord Games Dark Seas, you will also find a separate entry for the Spanish behemoth-of-the-line Santissima de Trinidad model. The rule of thumb is that if it’s played on a tabletop, its good for BGG.
The site was created in January 2000 by Derk Solko and Scott Alden and is a veritable treasure trove of information for not only the games themselves, but also designers and publishers. Dozens of categories allow anyone to check out games by name, designer, publisher, historical period, rules mechanisms and a lot more. There are also forums, videos, customer rating schemes, reviews, a marketplace and even an annual convention. And the amazing part is all of the content is uploaded by the game companies themselves, or – let this sink in – their fans and customers.
I’ve known about BGG for years, but paid little attention to it until earlier this year one of my French customers (disclosure: I’m the author and publisher of the Age of Eagles II, Napoleonic Fire & Fury product line) informed me he had created an entry covering my stuff, inviting me to expand his effort. At that point we were closing in on COVID quarantine restrictions, so I said, “why not”. I figured to have a lot of time on may hands anyway, and besides, how hard could it be?
Hold my beer. It turned out to be a lot bigger challenge than I thought. As of today, I have completed a Series or Family Page for my entire product line as well as the 12 individual merchandise pages it links to. It sorta acts like a hub to go everywhere else in AOE land, and it only took me 868 emails to do it. I started the project on 28 February of this year and finally completed everything on 6 May. At least for now.
If you’re wondering why there were so many emails, be it known while any BGG subscriber can upload and publish content, it has to be approved by one of their seemingly gazillion Admins first. Many times, there are “Geekmails” back and forth to make corrections or just to figure out why something was rejected. Considering that every image uploaded has to be approved, and given BGGs seeming distaste for duplicate anything, this can take a long time, especially since I have hundreds of pictures from my own AOE based games. Also, these Admins are part-timers so obviously have lives outside whatever they do for BGG. Sometimes they do not respond as fast as one might like, but I was very impressed by their patience with a newb (me) and their willingness to help, providing detailed explanations for all my questions.
All in all, it was a long and tedious process, but I am very pleased with the results.
Sweat of brow.
To create pages and post content you have to subscribe to BGG. Just hit the “Join, it’s free!” button at the top right of the homepage and all you will need to do is provide an email, plus a login and password. As regards SPAM, there really isn’t any. Nobody is trying to make money off this site, so messages such as the BGG Weekly Newsletter aren’t intrusive and you can easily opt out of everything. And then you get to bring down the Community tab from the top of the page, look under Contribute and decide whether you want to publish a page on a boardgame, boardgame family, publisher, person, accessory or podcast.
There’s a bit more to it, but in general you have to complete three distinct processes to get the job done. One is to write a text description about the game you are trying to add to the site. There is an online form for this procedure, and it has to be approved by Admin. The second is to upload all the images you want to appear with the new entry, and yes, there is a form for that. Each image must have a caption, not just a file designation, and be categorized as either Game, People or Creative to determine which Gallery it goes into. You can upload multiple files to the extreme and I never went over any size limitation. Nevertheless, I often had to go back and categorize or caption an image because with multiple files it was easy to miss one doing a cut and paste routine. On the upside, images were always the quickest approved by Admin.
The biggest task is completing the database sheet. The form is a little daunting, but not overly so. In general you have to fill in the separate data cells for Name (to include alternate names, such as for a French version), Year Published, Minimum Number of Players, Maximum Number of Players, Minimum Age, Minimum Play Time, Maximum Play Time, Designer, Artist and Publisher. There are a few more cells to contend with, but those covering Category, Mechanism, Expansion and Family are the ones approaching migraine status. Briefly, Category is things like book, miniatures, Napoleonic or wargame. Mechanism covers attributes such as dice rolling, line-of-sight, measurement movement, combat results tables and so on. Expansions are things like my own Revolution 1848 digital module, one of nine that relate to AOE II. Finally, Family looks at not only an overall product line, but also historical periods as well. For example, Revolution 1848 not only sits in the AOE Series Family, but also History - Schleswig Wars, History - Italian Wars of Independence and History – Revolutions of 1848.
The kicker, however, is that you have to pull all these attributes from one of several pull-down menus and select the one or more that is appropriate for your game. Now there are 179 different Mechanism attributes you need to choose from, so obviously getting this and similar parts done will take an awful lot of time. And if the attribute you really, absolutely have to have doesn’t already exist, you have to create it and submit it for Admin approval. You’ll also find yourself updating your entries quite a lot. After I punched out all 12 product pages for my own AOE line, then I had to create the Family/Series page, and then return to all 12 merchandise entries to pull it anew from the Family drop down menu data cell.
There are a few other clunky things in the process. For some reason you have to have the Official Weblink for a page approved, and then have it approved again to post, for example. Overall, however, the system works as advertised.
But is it worth it?
Yes, I think so. First it is good advertising and a great way to provide customer support. With the seemingly unlimited amount of image space they give you, its possible to display far more visuals about a game than on an official Website. That’s a good thing because I know myself and many others often go to BGG to get a more in-depth look at a product and its contents before we plunk down our hard earned shekels to buy it. And finally, if you are a designer and/or publisher, if you don’t do it, one of your customers likely will. You owe it to everybody to make sure your entry is accurate and up to date. I check my pages every week even if I have made not a single modification or correction.
And after all, it is free.
This article was kindly donated to Wargamer.com by the author.