Three years ago my wife and I created a board game as a side hobby. It did way better than we expected so we took a risk and left our jobs to make games full time. We have now created 3 games, made over $1 million in revenue, and sell on Amazon, Kickstarter, and in stores.

Ask me anything about making board games, quitting my job, working from home, or anything else!

Proof I am me: https://truepic.com/xmqa7dlu/

Link to our 3rd game: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/travishancock/deadwood-1876-a-safe-robbing-game-of-teamwork-and

Link to our website: http://facadegames.com

Comments: 3350 • Responses: 62  • Date: 

MusicIsTheWay6348 karma

Are you now or will you in the near future bring us a balanced version of the Cones of Dunnshire?

Travisto8884333 karma

If I had a dollar for every time people asked me something about Cones of Dunnshire :) I am totally Ben Wyatt in so many ways. Haha, we even made our last Kickstarter video using stop motion I just realized.

I'll see what I can do!

AOSParanoid1445 karma

That's it!? I thought it'd be longer!

No, you don't understand! I was proud of that!

I compared it to the next Avatar!!

Travisto888742 karma

Haha so classic. I'm going to watch that episode today.

Edit: Also, I just realized I'm married to a girl from Indiana...

academician174 karma

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OepXFbP5Zr8

I love the game box aesthetic. I hope we can have a whole shelf for you on the Kallax at some point :)

Salem to Tortuga to Deadwood. Where are you headed next?

Travisto88829 karma

We're not revealing Volume 4 just yet, but we're hard at work on it. But whereas the first 3 are all in the Americas, the next one will not! So many possibilities though for the series. Pick a city and a year and build a game around it.

Burglerber145 karma

Was the stop motion scene comparable to Avatar?

Seriously though. If you were to make The Cones of Dunnshire I would find it very, very difficult to not throw money at you and your family : D

Travisto88879 karma

Haha, noted :)

blusuedetb110 karma

how do you feel about calzones?

Speciou5163 karma

Great until they betray you.

Travisto888118 karma

Yes.

jpas20195400 karma

How did you investigate producing the game when you first decided to dive in?

Travisto8886167 karma

I went to a local game convention and talked to a lot of game makers who were a few years ahead of me. The community is super helpful in pointing new creators in the right directions in terms of manufacturing, logistics, etc.

Travisto8888170 karma

I always tell people that the game community is so helpful because if someone buys my "competitors" game, they are actually then more likely to buy my game. Games turn people into "gamers" and then they buy more and more games :)

Compared to something like a toothbrush. If I buy a toothbrush I don't need another one. If I buy a game, then I'll probably buy another one as I hold more game nights at my house, etc. It's a really cool industry.

ButtercupColfax1456 karma

How did you navigate the legal aspects, like intellectual property right to your game, copyright, etc. Were legal fees built into your original business plan?

$1 million in revenue, but how much in profit if you don't mind me asking. Obviously feel free not to answer that if you don't want to.

Travisto8881991 karma

There's actually not too much to do since natural copyrights are built in. You can't patent game mechanics, so there's that.

So much of the value of games is actually executing them right. Making it all come together. So someone who "stole" the idea of the game would still be years behind. Also the game community is very protective- if they see a copy of another game, then they will point out the faker and won't buy the new one.

Profit is about 50% after all the manufacturing, shipping, advertising, illustration costs.

mattdh13865 karma

-What finally made you quit your job? -How far were you into the board game business journey when you quit your job?

Travisto8881227 karma

We were lucky that our first game did really well right out of the bat. It had made $100,000 on Kickstarter, so some of the risk of leaving was mitigated. At that point I ran another side gig of digital marketing for small companies. When we launched our 2nd game and it also did well then I started doing only games full time.

mattdh13423 karma

That’s amazing good to see people taking risks to pursue a passion. I see the third game in the Kickstarter link. What are the first 2?

Travisto888513 karma

The first two are referenced in the 3rd campaign. You can also see them on our website, facadegames.com

Our games are:

Salem 1692 (originally called Salem)

Tortuga 1667

Deadwood 1876

Edit: Links added

dieyoubastards188 karma

I just visited your site, and in a shot of one of your games there's a character called Will Griggs. Surely he's named after international footballing legend Will Grigg?

Travisto888288 karma

Haha, he is not. He was a guy who actually lived in the town of Salem during all the witch trial madness.

Sabrielle2486 karma

I love your themes!

Travisto88849 karma

Thanks!

ofmiceandjoell808 karma

Do you physically make the cards and game pieces?

Travisto8881104 karma

We do not. We work with factories in China to manufacture the games. There is a lot of sending designs and samples back and forth to get everything just right.

hawaiiborn501 karma

Is there a website or vetted resource to point people in the right direction, if they want to find a Chinese manufacturer of an idea or product that they have?

Travisto8881142 karma

Boardgamegeek.com is the place to go! There are lots of forums there to ask all kinds of questions. This guy also always has lots of really helpful tips on the logistics: https://stonemaiergames.com/about/jamey-stegmaier/

Edit: We've also just made this little guide for aspiring publishers: https://facadegames.com/how-to-publish-a-board-game/

derawin0780 karma

Are they an ethical company?

Travisto888161 karma

As far as I know! We talk with dozens of factories for each game and look into their practices and what other games are using them for production.

pokemon3000063 karma

Do you have a translator?

Travisto888169 karma

Nope - the factories in China (or at least the main liason) actually have good enough English to communicate.

pabbseven48 karma

Who would you contact to have some chinese factory make something?

Travisto888136 karma

An easy place to start is alibaba.com. You can request quotes on there for things and then several companies will start up dialogues with you about specifics.

ofmiceandjoell78 karma

Was just out of curiosity. The games look amazing by the way, very elegantly put together.

Travisto888162 karma

Thank you! Having cool components are super important to us. We try to avoid typical cardboard punchboards as much as possible :) So it's a lot of communicating with the factory about what is possible. I've found that manufacturers can make almost anything that you can envision.

burn_and_crash654 karma

How many times have you playtested each of the games you made?

Travisto8881132 karma

Our current game is on Version 74 :) But each of those versions also has had about 3-4 tweaks along the way and 3-4 playtests. So literally hundreds. It's my favorite part of the process though!

frequentpooper386 karma

Do you have a group of gamer friends who are willing to play test the games with you?

Travisto888684 karma

We do, yes. We've found that a lot of people love being on the innovative side of things and helping create the game. A lot of fulfillment in that.

ieatatsonic142 karma

As a follow-up, what’s the lowest-quality prototype you’ve thrown together? Quality in terms of components at least

Travisto888425 karma

Literally cutting up paper and writing what cards/boards do with pen. Prototypes don't need to be pretty to figure out if they work in terms of rules and game play. The design and illustration are the last thing that comes together once the game is already really fun.

KidGold105 karma

How do you find playtesters?

Travisto888205 karma

There are often board game clubs at universities, or just local community groups. Also, friends of friends. Everyone has a friend who plays games, so it's just a matter of asking for introductions and getting new people over for game nights.

codeOpcode526 karma

How does it feel to be Lily's dad from How I Met Your Mother?

Travisto888292 karma

Oh it feels good :)

ViiDic72 karma

I clicked on this AMA just to find this comment. Was not disappointed.

Travisto88823 karma

Yeah, saw this one coming from a mile away!

CarletonWhitfield304 karma

What are your margins?

Travisto888507 karma

Depends on the avenue. Generally about 50-60 percent goes towards profits for our living expenses, and to reinvestment into the company and other games. But yeah, the cuts that Amazon takes, that distributors take, that retailers take, that Kickstarter takes, all vary.

CarletonWhitfield141 karma

Thanks - congrats on your success!

I work with a guy that is very into the board game culture. He and his wife go to the conventions, play in clubs, spend hours testing them, etc. That community seems to be very passionate about it so prob great opportunity to find success making good games.

Travisto888122 karma

Yes, it's a super passionate community. Lots of great, helpful people!

Titus____Pullo-8 karma

So... What are your margins? Do you not know?

TyranosaurusFart33 karma

What is this shark tank?

RustyGuns24 karma

It’s literally an AMA. 😀

Travisto88812 karma

True :)

Travisto88826 karma

Margins depend on the game, how many we manufactured with that edition, etc. But yeah, our profit is about 50-60% of MSRP.

StevenSanders90210236 karma

Did you have kids at the time you quit? Serious props to you if you did, as that would make most people second guess themselves.

Your games look really fun

Travisto888254 karma

We did not at the time. Hard to say what I would have done if we did, because it is something to consider.

leonxtravis181 karma

Do you think board games will still be popular a few decades from now?

Travisto888554 karma

I do. They are actually growing in popularity- I think because people are needing a retreat from technology because it is advancing so much. Something about sitting around a table with friends and touching physical pieces that really can't be beat.

Tatersalad96156 karma

Do you need someone to help you test out games? Lol. I love seeing more non-traditional board games (read as Hasbro repackaging a 50 year old game). What gets the idea for the game started, do you find the theme first then figure out gameplay mechanics or try to figure out what kind of interactions you want players to have with the game/others and go from there?

Travisto888128 karma

It really varies. Sometimes there's the idea of a mechanic that I build around (like in our 2nd game I built the game around the idea of a mutiny- working with a captain and then betraying him), and sometimes it's a historical setting (like in our current Deadwood game I learned about the town a lot before building the game around it). Really depends! Every game is a conglomoration of lots of inputs from life.

igcipd138 karma

What are your top 3, not made by you, board games? Where do you draw your inspiration from? How do you see the board game genre developing in the coming years with the advancement of technology?

Travisto888283 karma

I am awful at picking favorite board games, because it always changes on my mood. But my most recent favorites are Code Names, Pandemic, Ticket to Ride, King of Tokyo, One Night Werewolf.

Inspiration comes from testing our games a TON, playing other games, learning about history (our games all have historical tie ins), and traveling! Traveling really jogs the brain for creativity.

Honestly I think the advances in technology make people want to go back to the basic cardboard and paper and tangible pieces in their hands. They need an escape from their phones and the mess of the internet. I think board games are getting more popular because of that.

Machete88125 karma

I am super intrested in getting into this. I usually have a lot of ideas for the design and mechanics yet I really suck at creating artwork. Any Idea how to roll with this? Hire someone? Do you think a bigger budget is required before financing it on kickstarter?

Travisto888206 karma

Don't worry so much about the artwork at first. Make sure the game is super fun to play and is "flawless" in terms of mechanics.

For artwork, a good place to start is upwork.com. They have lower cost artists who do good work.

Here is some other advice about getting the project ready for Kickstarter that we wrote: https://facadegames.com/our-advice-to-kickstarter-creators/

fluffynukeit125 karma

Do you think you'll have "made it" enough to not use kickstarter someday? What do you see as the advantages to using kickstarter even after getting a couple of hits under your belt?

Travisto888234 karma

I think that's a possibility for sure. But I love Kickstarter for several reasons beyond just funding. It does a great job marketing the game since thousands of people see it and get excited about the idea of a campaign. It also lets us know how many games we can produce. If we made a game and then nobody bought it we would have a lot of lost money in sitting inventory. Kickstarter lets us know how many we can order, and bring down manufacturing costs accordingly (since ordering more brings the cost/unit down).

fluffynukeit45 karma

You can do your own marketing and preorders to achieve that, though, right? You mentioned you have to give kickstarter a cut of your revenue. If it's a convenience thing then maybe giving up that cut is worth it to you still.

Travisto888145 karma

Yes, but it would mean putting in a LOT in place on my website, marketing channels, etc. Kickstarter makes it super easy. Also, about 70% of our sales on Kickstarter come from internal Kickstarter traffic. They have that audience of people that we wouldn't be able to pull in otherwise.

aparracaz108 karma

How do you handle the artwork of the cards and boxes? Also is their any website coding knowledge internally or do you use a basic template? Do you have paid game testers or volunteers/ friends

Travisto888163 karma

My wife does the graphic design in Adobe Illustrator, and we hire an illsutrator to draw the pictures.

We have a weekly playtest group that comes to our house. We also have a network of a few other groups around the country that we send print and plays to test out.

WobbleKun70 karma

How did you find/choose your illustrator? How much do you pay him/her? How did you decide on a salary for you and your wife versus reinvesting? Where do you plan to go from here? More board games? Thanks.

Travisto88882 karma

We found our artist on a university job board. For the first project we offered a percentage of whatever we made on Kickstarter, since we didn't have a lot to pay up front that first time. Since then we've tweaked it for each project.

You can also find artists for good prices on places like upwork.com and fiverr.com.

Deciding on salary is a lot to do with taxes. We pay ourselves more or less depending on how much we have made that year. On "up" years we'll increase our inventory and put more towards retirement.

And yes, more board games from here!

poofycow105 karma

Any big plans now that you have a million in revenue? Other business interests or personal interests outside gaming you would go after? Just looking to live vicariously through you haha.

Travisto888195 karma

Good question! We want to keep making games! It's so much fun and it lets my wife and I work from home and not work crazy hours. So why mess up a good thing?

That being said, I'm interested in innovating in this world a bit. Creating cool interesting apps out of our games, inventing new genres of games, building on the worlds our current games are in, etc. There's so much room for creativity in the game world so it brings a lot of fulfillment.

poofycow30 karma

Nice, yah does sound like the dream to me. Be able to put my energy towards my own pursuits. Best of luck with your future endeavors!

Travisto88822 karma

Thank you!

engineered_to_win52 karma

Where were you when you got the first idea of making a board game?

Travisto888111 karma

Alaska!

I was up there working for a summer and my friends and I designed a "Harry Potter Mafia" game that tweaked the traditional mafia/werewolves idea. That morphed into a game called "Cities" and then it became our first game "Salem." It was all just for fun of course, but then when it went big we found a way to keep making games.

GenghisTron1745 karma

How hard was it to come up with the concept/theme/idea? What do you do with concepts/themes/ideas that just don't work? Are you afraid of running out of game ideas?

Travisto88849 karma

The ideas for the games really just snowball from one little thing. We think of some core concept, or some city and year from history, and then build from there. We test a ton and keep improving as we go.

Not worried about running out of ideas :) There are infinite ways to play a game, and infinite themes to pull from.

lost_in_life_3440 karma

What software do you use to design your games?

Travisto88869 karma

Our illustrator works in Adobe Photoshop, and my wife primarily works in Adobe Illustrator doing the graphic design

missingsemicolon_37 karma

How do you start designing the game when you just have the idea and nothing else?

Travisto88882 karma

You just start! You get something printed out and test it. It's always awful the first 20 times, but you take little pieces of each version and keep making it better. But that's the key- test test test and don't be afraid of feedback and admitting the game sucks for a long time.

winstonsmithwatson28 karma

What kind of instruments, software, hardware, pencils etc, do you use to design the boardgames?

Travisto88832 karma

Lots of cardstock for printing off prototypes for games.

For software I just use Powerpoint for the non-designed prototypes for figuring out the game mechanics. Then when we design our illustrator uses Phototshop, and my wife (as the graphic designer) uses Adobe Illustrator.

tkl198928 karma

What’s the process like starting a new game? Like what’s the process from ideation to shipping the games out. :)

Travisto88852 karma

Ah man, tough question :) Short version: come up with basic idea, test test test test test, get illustrations, get graphic design to put all designs together, proof rules, create kickstarter page, do Kickstarter campaign, manufacture game, freight game across ocean, ship out game. For longer version read more of this whole AMA.

fattyfondler27 karma

How exactly are the 3 games different from eachother? All it says on the kickstarter is that each "have a dark, mysterious, or secretive element in its gameplay". I don't want to get into a Forbidden Island/Forbidden Desert situation where the games are almost identical

Travisto88874 karma

They all play very differently.

Salem: a group trying to find the witches. The witch team spreads during the game so it's a race against the clock. Lots of lying.

Tortuga: two hidden teams, so you have to figure out who your teammates are. Trying to get the most treasure for your team. Some lying, lots of strategy and using turns wisely.

Deadwood: work with a team to get the most gold, but at the end you have to kill your own teammates! Balance of teamwork, and self-preservation.

Troutcandy36 karma

Hm, it sounds like your games involve a lot of lying and betrayal. Do you still trust your wife?

Travisto88811 karma

There have been many a game night where she doesn't speak to me for a good hour after we play :) We have lied to each other A LOT during our games.

Mantroxs54927 karma

What would recommend to someone for making a board game? Like what sort of skills and resources would help with making games?

Travisto88835 karma

Check out boardgamegeek.com and look around those forums.

Don't be afraid of criticism! Print out a game and test it over and over again. Just jump into it and you'll pick up skills as you go.

lordgreyii15 karma

A couple of friends and I are a little over a year into creating a board game, aiming to have a finished product to start looking to sell (on kickstarter or to an existing company) by the end of 2018. I think we're on version 5 or 6 of the rules at this point. Do you have any recommendations for who to work with once we get to the printing stage? What parts of the design process are pitfalls to watch out for, in your opinion? How did you balance players who want to do nothing but betray in an initially cooperative game vs players who don't ever want to backstab?

Travisto8888 karma

We used Panda Games for our first game. They are a little more costly, but make it easy for first time creators. pandagm.com.

One thing to watch out for in the design process is to not fall in love with your baby too much. Don't be afraid to hear points of criticism or recognize that your game might be clunky or flawed. Rip it apart to its core!

For your third question, just make sure incentives line up correctly. Reward them for staying just enough that they think about staying. But reward them for leaving if the opportunity comes up. Our new game Deadwood actually does this a lot.

Ivan72312 karma

Hey 'a dad'! I'm a huge fan of boards games and so I very much respect and envy you!

Where would one go to patent their own board game idea or to get the ball rolling?

Travisto88820 karma

Hey! Thanks!

We don't worry about patents, since it's really tricky to "patent" an idea of a game mechanic. So honestly don't worry too much about it. Just start making a game, testing it out, getting art slapped onto it, and then getting it out there!

But make sure you're making a game for the fun of it, not to make money. Most games don't make a lot of money. But if you passion shows through then people will see that and it may get big.

Kjarahz11 karma

Since you were presumably not running a business before, what advice would you give to new business owners that could make life much easier now knowing the potential pitfalls?

Travisto88832 karma

Start using accounting software right off the bat to keep track of all income and expenses and taxes and such. Makes all the "boring" stuff easier in the long run so you can focus more time on the fun stuff of the business. Wave is a free software you can use. Quickbooks is what many people use.

ipoopedonce10 karma

How does the work life balance compare to your previous job? Do you work more hours now?

Travisto88832 karma

It's great! I work less now, and I get to be home all day with my wife and daughter, which is awesome.

Sure, it's harder to "clock out" since I never "clock in", so sometimes I have to force myself to not check emails over weekends. I also have to set hours for myself so that I will indeed "clock out" on some days. I really love what I do so I need to make myself stop.

But yeah, it's great being able to travel whenever we want and take days off whenever we want.

BartlettMagic10 karma

the kickstarter page says 2-9 players but the FAQ says 4-9 players- which is it? i'm seriously considering getting the 3-pack!

edit: 3-pack secured!

Travisto88815 karma

Nice! Salem is 4-12 players, Tortuga is 2-9, Deadwood is 2-9. That's why we say each game in the series is "at least" 4-9.

menboss9 karma

I've been thinking about a game that is mainly card based. Where do you get to get your cards produced?

Travisto88823 karma

We use makeplayingcards.com for prototype decks. Then when we actually manufacture we use factories in China.

Artemis9132 karma

If you desired, could you manage still working your previous job AND designing/producing/selling these games?

Travisto8883 karma

It would be very difficult at this point since we're running a full on business now with the games. It really wouldn't be fair or effective to work my old job as well. But I know that some people do it! Many game designers do it along with a typical 9-5 job.

Attorney_at_Aww2 karma

With the past success of your games, why crowdfund through Kickstarter?

Travisto8884 karma

I love Kickstarter for several reasons beyond just funding. It does a great job marketing the game since thousands of people see it and get excited about the idea of a campaign. It also lets us know how many games we can produce. If we made a game and then nobody bought it we would have a lot of lost money in sitting inventory. Kickstarter lets us know how many we can order, and bring down manufacturing costs accordingly (since ordering more brings the cost/unit down).

derawin071 karma

What are some key elements of a successful board game?

Travisto8882 karma

Agreed with iRedditx0. Simple, yet intriguing rules. Also a great theme to tie in with the rules. And beautiful artwork that draws people in.

Imriaylde1 karma

Your games look amazing! I love non-traditional board games and I've toyed with the idea of designing some myself.

What do you do for health insurance? I've thought about the idea of just doing creative stuff if there's a market for it, but having healthcare is my biggest concern.

Travisto8882 karma

Thank you so much!

For health care we just bought some on the open market. It's costly of course, but we just factor that in to our operating costs, just like any other company does when they pay benefits out to employees. My wife and I are basically just employees of our own company.

Search around, and even call up some health insurance agents. There are ways to do it on your own.