If you’ve ever thought about becoming a publisher, you’re about to learn

Eric Hanuise, the man behind Flatlined Games, is here to walk you through his own lived experience to help you  avoid any number of mistakes and pitfalls. If you’re a designer or board game player curious as to the sausage gets made (or don’t yet know the value a publisher brings to your game), this one’s also for you.

There’s nothing in here about designing games, of course, as that’s the designer’s job. The book does talk about working with designers once a game’s been pitched and signed, but it shouldn’t be thought of as a ‘how to develop a board game’ sort of book.

The first thing to mention is the experience. Eric’s been around the block, making games since 2009, with more than a few games to his company’s credit. He’s not Hasbro, but he’s also not Random Designer-Turned-Publisher with one game to their name.

Whichever of these you are, approach with a mindset to learn, and a cup of coffee. It’s a serious book, written in a straightforward, matter-of-fact style I really came to enjoy.

The main promise of the book is to talk about the entire process of being a board game publisher. Over the course of 9 parts, 41 chapters, and over 260 pages (with the note that some of these chapters are very short), you’ll go from the best practices to prepare for your future business, manage your finances, develop games, work with designers, production techniques, manufacturing, logistics, fairs, sales, and marketing.

While quite complete on its own, there are plenty of linked resources to do an even deeper dive. The links to videos on manufacturing techniques were a highlight, if only because I had no idea how some of these things were actually made.

Manufacturing and physical components

The 50 or so pages on manufacturing and the 60 or so pages on physical components are important and well covered. After all, at the end of the day, the most brilliant game can easily fall flat if your character’s pieces break, if the colors don’t match, or if the boxes arrive damaged.

If you haven’t felt the various cards or materials used in modern board gaming (which sample boxes are great for), the descriptions here are about as good as you’re going to get. A few simple rules on how to think of manufacturing has the potential to dramatically lower your manufacturing costs, or at least avoid unpleasant surprises as a result of set up costs. The chapters on plastic and metal components are quite detailed and thorough, and are well worth the price of the book alone.

The example Quote Request Document in chapter 33 should also be considered required copying unless you’ve done it before (and if you have, study it anyway – you might be surprised what you’ve missed or forgotten about asking).

Pros

I’ve come away from reading it over the course of a few days, feeling like I’ve really gotten to see an experienced publisher’s playbook. It’s a lot of background knowledge, but it’s usually the sort of background experience you gain by doing it yourself (and possibly failing) over years of effort. Eric’s style of writing is straightforward and simple to follow, and tells it how it is instead of how people think it is.

Cons

I’m really nitpicking here, but he only writes from his perspective, and while it’s an experienced one, it’s still one person’s experience. I would have definitely appreciated hearing some other voices in the conversation, but again I’m being nitpicky.

Bottom line

Whether you’re just considering becoming a publisher or are ready to crowdfund your first game, Eric’s straightforward approach and simple writing style breaks down a plethora of things needed to make a board game.

Highly recommended.

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