Submission Guidelines

We are currently open for submissions. Please read the guidelines below carefully; we will reply if you follow them.

To submit your game to us, send Alan a short e-mail (alanstonesm@gmail.com) highlighting why your game would be a good fit for Stonemaier based on the guidelines below. Include the specs for the game (player count, game length, and category). If we are interested, we will ask you to send a pre-recorded video of you explaining the game and playing a few rounds with friends (no edits are needed–just upload it to YouTube).

Alternatively, we sometimes consider submissions this way:

  • In person at a convention (Gen Con)
  • As a participant of our annual Design Day. We don’t actually hear pitches at Design Day, but we look at all the games other designers bring to it.

If you are a game designer who is interested in submitting your game to Stonemaier Games (Jamey will see it first), please consider the following guidelines:

  1. Carefully read our 12 Tenets of Game Design.
  2. We’re looking for tabletop games (not RPGs) that capture our imaginations.
  3. The player count must accommodate a minimum of 2 players (we’ll probably add a solo variant to take it down to 1) and an upper range of at least 5, 6, or greater. We’ll ignore submissions for 2-4 player games.
  4. We’re looking for event games–the featured main course at game night, not the appetizer or side salad–that play in 1-2 hours.
  5. We’re looking for unique games–your game must feature something that has not been done before.
  6. A player’s turn should be short and simple, and players should dictate the flow of play, not the game. If your game has a number of phases (either within each player’s turn or within each round), please don’t submit it to us.

Your Game Must Be:

  1. Fully Created, Not Just an Idea: Ideas are easy. Actually taking a game from a concept to a fully-formed creation is a completely different matter–that’s what we’re looking for.
  2. Polished and Playtested: Part of our role as the publisher is to playtest and arrange for blind playtesting of your game beyond the scope of what you can do. But it’s still your responsibility to extensively playtest (and blind playtest) your game before sending it to us.
  3. Thoughtfully Graphic Designed: Another part of our responsibility is to make the game look great in terms of art and design. However, submitting your game to us without any art or thoughtful design will make the playtesting process very difficult. Please use placeholder art that reflects how you view the world of your game, and be intentional with your graphic design for the final prototype–user interface matters. Do not commission final art, though–that’s our responsibility as a publisher.
  4. Rules: We need to be able to figure out how to play the game by reading the rules. Just as with any written work, confusing writing, poor English, and numerous typos will negatively affect our impression of your work. A Microsoft Word file is completely fine, but please try to insert examples and photographs/images throughout the rules.
  5. Flexibility: We may love your game, but there’s still a high chance that we’ll have some changes we want to make it better and make it more marketable. Please be clear with us up front if there are certain changes you will never consider. If you won’t consider any changes, you’re not a good fit for us.
  6. Unique: We’re looking for unique themes and mechanisms–please, no pirates, zombies, Cthulu, or trains.
  7. Bonus: Does your game have a hook?

If you have a game you think we’d enjoy, please send the video overview to stonemaiergames@gmail.com.

If we really like what we see, we’ll request a prototype (not a PnP). You can make the prototype or have a service like The Game Crafter or Print and Play Games make it. We’re happy to return the prototype to you if we’re not interested in the game (you would pay for shipping).

Why Would You Want Us to Publish Your Game?

  • We’re small. Not that big is bad. If you’re able to get the attention of a major publisher who wants an initial print run of 30,000 copies of your game, by all means, go for it. But if you want a small, savvy, personal company to get your game out there to the world, we think you’ll enjoy working with us.
  • We’re passionate. We’re not trying to pump out games that we barely know or care about. Rather, we focus a ton of time, energy, and money on games we truly love, the games that we’re happy to share with the world as if they are our own. If you want that type of passion and drive at the helm of your game, you’re at the right place.
  • We love games. We truly love tabletop games. Hopefully you will find that to be the case for any publisher, but it’s worth mentioning that our love of games is why we do this. We’re not in it for the money–we’re here to connect thousands of people with memorable, fun gaming experiences. If that’s what drives you too, we can build amazing things together.
  • We’re a partner, not an employer. We want to make the best version of your game. That means collaborating with you to make sure we stay true to your vision while enhancing and elevating various aspects of the game. We will ask for your opinions, thoughts, and permission throughout the process.
  • We’ll be honest with you. If you’re deciding between publishing the game yourself via Kickstarter or submitting it to publishers like Stonemaier, please consider the pros and cons of each. If you self-publish, you can build a business, you have full creative control, and you’ll make more money if the game is successful…but it will involve a lot more work. If you just want to design games and do nothing else, submitting to a publisher may be a better fit for you.

If you’re just getting started on the game design process, here’s a video to let you know what you’re getting into:

71 Comments on “Submission Guidelines

  1. You said you wanted to publish one of each type of game, does that mean if i have a game that uses a similar mechanic (worker placement for example. Even if its not any thing like viticulture) you wont publish it.

    1. Keegan: Sorry if this page led you to think we’re that strict! :) No, we’re open to any type of game, and I love worker placement games. There are certain things listed on this page that will certainly increase your chances of catching our attention, but anything goes. Design your game, playtest the heck out of it, then film a video of people playing it and send the video to us. Thanks!

  2. Would you be interested in publishing a dexterity risk/reward strategy game that brings dexterity to a backgammon type of game play with opening moves, penalties and an end game? It’s best played with 4 players/teams and is suited for 2 player/teams as well?

  3. Jamey I have invented a unique Bingo game that is played as your watching a live Baseball, Football, Basketball or Softball game. I am having a tough time to find publishers. Are there publishers that specialize in bingo type games? I have a working prototype but I am sure an experienced publisher could improve the game. Any advice for a rookie inventor? Thanks

  4. Hi Jamey, thanks for this detailed and exciting blog! I’ve created a board game with about 60 rounds of play testing at this point. I’m debating going down the self publishing route or partnering with someone. I like the idea of partnering with a company like yours and would really love to have the first launch be a kickstarter. My game is a gateway game for 2-6 people, but best played with 2-4. Before going too far down the path of making a video etc I was wondering if you have any example parameters of how you typically structure deals like this, of course knowing that each situation is unique. Please let me know, thanks!

    Jyoti Agarwal
    Explorador Games

  5. Jyoti: Thanks for your question, and congrats on designing and playtesting a game. Stonemaier doesn’t partner with people in the way that I think you’re thinking–rather, designers can submit games to us, and if we really love them, we’ll sign the rights to them and publish them, paying the designer a royalty % based on revenue. If you’d like to be more than just a designer, that’s great too–it’s not an arrangement we work with. In that case, you can just run the Kickstarter and essential start a business around publishing the game. Good luck!

  6. Thanks Jamey! Appreciate the quick response. I’m not yet ready to sell my baby so will be going down the ks routine on my own. Bought your book and am already loving it! Appreciate what you do!

  7. my game takes magic and monopoly and elements from many games in a modular form so you can have a complacated or simple game game play on simple can range from an hour to 3 and as you add elements it adds to the game play whean useing the full game you progres thrue simaler to d&d

  8. Jamey,
    I have a board game that already has the artwork done. I just received it Tuesday. It turned out beautifully, but not sure where to go from here. Can I submit the game to for review?
    It’s a fast paced family board game where you capture players, trade places, and race to get your four pieces home and hope the rolls of you other players don’t cause you to become another player. I know you are busy and really appreciate some guidance. My family and friends have been playing this game since 2004 and I put artwork to it this year. No one has seen the game other family and friends.
    Best regards,

  9. Bill: Thanks for your question. You’re welcome to follow the submission guidelines outlined above, but I should say up front that the art is irrelevant. The vast majority of publishers will use their creative team to determine the best visuals for the game and seek out artists and graphic designers who can maximize that vision.

    Also, it’s a problem that the game has only been seen by family and friends. You need to get blunt, honest feedback from complete strangers before you pitch it to publishers.

  10. Jamey,
    I’ve had over a hundred people play over the years. What I meant was no game company has seen it. I put artwork on it for my family, the artwork can be changed. I was wondering if this game might fit your criteria for submission. I will submit if it does.

  11. Hi Jamey. Do you accept submissions for children board games? I and my business partner have developed a fun, colorful and different board game. I am a mechanical, aerospace and computer engineer and my partner is a fifth grade teacher. Both boys and girls love it – its for 2 – 6 players. It can be a math learing game – but it does not have to be – it can be played just for fun also. The packaging is unique and colorful and would catch the eye of a child as well as an adult shopping for a gift. The game is a theme – so if a child has a love for that theme – as soon as he sees the packaging he/she will want it. It can be played buy older children alone or with help from a mom, dad, sister brother etc. The game is fast paced and should take about 1/2 hour to play. There always is one winner – but getting the points to win is very unique – and absolutely understandable for children 5 and up. We have tested the game on many children – male, female ages 5 – 12 – they all love it. This game goes back to basics like Candy Land or Chutes and Ladders – models that we based this game on. No computers, fancy rules, timers, clocks or anything like that. Just a good old fashioned childrens game.
    .

    1. Lisa and Alexa: Thanks for asking about this! While it doesn’t sound like a good fit for Stonemaier, I think it might have potential at a company called HABA. One word of caution, though: I wouldn’t recommend comparing it to Candy Land or Chutes and Ladders. Those games don’t involve interesting choices (or any choices at all), and it’s crucially important for any modern game to have interesting choices, even kids games. Good luck!

  12. My game is Mafia based that is almost a mash up of risk and monopoly. It is enjoyable to play and it involves both luck and strategy, although a big part of the game is rounds and action fulfillment. Would you be interested in it?

  13. Hi
    I just bought a ticket to pitch my prototype to your company at gencon. I’m very excited to show it to you as i think that my game mechanics are quite innovative (never saw it in any games as of now). Hope it will appeal to you, if not, at least it will be quite an experience for me.
    2-6 players, did countless of playtest and blind playtest. I will update the prototype by then to be as clean as possible.
    See you there :)

  14. Hello Jamey,

    I created a card game a couple years ago and life happens and it didn’t move anywhere. We’ve play tested it about 100 times and made adjustments along the way. I hear people I know still play it all the time to this day.

    It’s a strategic card game with some luck involved that plays with 2-8 players and is more of a card game for a game purist or strategist. You need to be thinking moves ahead and strategize. No two games are ever alike. We typically play 8 people and I have a fully working prototype that I need to tighten up the rules on just slightly.

    We even play tested this in the classroom with high school kids and they liked it. We’ve determined this game could fit with family and friends, the classroom, and even for corporate or team building events. With 8 players, our typical game play runs around 40 minutes.

    I’m trying to motivate myself to pull it off the shelf and revive it. Found your site and thought I’d see if this is something that might be a potential fit for Stonemaier. If so, I can proceed to your next step sonyou can see how the game is played.

    I will add that a group out of Chicago did evaluate the game two years or so ago for mass market appeal. Their recommendation came back not to proceed because they did not feel it had mass market appeal (at least not without a gimmick center piece – uno attack was an example given). They agreed it was a specialty game for more of a game purist and might be one I could market myself. If sales were solid over a period of time, then it might be considered mass market material down the road with the proven sales.

    I’d love to see it get to market. Hopefully this write up will give you an idea if you think this would be a good fit for you. Thanks for taking the time to read through my message

    Steven
    Coatesville, Indiana

    1. Hi Steven, thanks for your question. Sure, you’re welcome to submit the game to us, though please keep in mind that our core requirement is that it’s a game that captures one’s imagination. It’s pretty tough to do that with a light card game. :)

  15. I noticed that the guidelines require a game to not have phases. Are these phases something like what Roads and Boats has, or most Splotter games actually?

    Richard Ham recently did a runthrough on my design: Ibyron: Island of Discovery, and I was wondering if that game has phases (wilderness,village) as what you do not want? So, if you mean phases, does that equate to a game that has multiple rounds? e.g. every player takes a turn in order, like Agricola, Le Havre, actually, most worker placement games? I think your current line has a few like that so I was wondering of a clearer definition if you have one.

    1. Scott: Thanks for sharing your question here. What I mean by “phases” is, for example, a game that has this kind of phase checklist each round, where all players get the chance to do each of these things during the corresponding phase:

      1. Income
      2. Farming
      3. Building
      4. Attack
      5. Sundown
      etc…

      I greatly prefer games where I take a turn, then someone else takes a turn, then someone else, and so on until the game is over. I’m also okay with games where players take sequential turns until the round ends, then there might be some upkeep (retrieve workers, etc) before the next round begins.

      It’s all about the flow of the game.

  16. That does help me understand the differences. Thanks for the quick reply. Good luck on Charterstone. Break some records!

  17. Hi Jamey! How important is the “5 or 6” upper limit guideline? I am working on a family game that is 2-4 players that I think plays best at no more than 4(in terms of learning the game) but could easily go up to 5 and maybe 6 as soon as players are use to the game(I was thinking of adding in the extra players in expansions of some kind).

  18. Fair enough! Would you ever look at a game that was 2-4 players if it could be reworked to fit 5? It has been balanced and playtested for 4 and it would be significant work to scale it up to 5. But of course if there was interest it would be a worthwhile endeavour. You get a ton of submissions so its probably a no to this question but you guys are my first choice of who I would pitch my game to so I thought I should ask!

    1. Carl: We’re looking for games submitted to us that already work with 5 or 6 players. I know how much time and effort it takes to playtest a game, and we would spend a fair amount of time developing a game after we receive it. But we’re not going to develop a game just so it fits our guidelines–that’s your job. :) I appreciate that we’re your first choice, and if you believe the game is best at 2-4 players, hopefully there are some other publishers on your list who don’t care as much about player count as we do. :)

  19. Hi Jamey. Forgive me if you have touched on this elsewhere. I have read the 12 Tenents and am also aware you are not looking at more games until 2017. I am in the early play testing phase of one of my games, so it will be some time before it is ready. My question is regarding art. Knowing that a) you or another publisher will probably change it along with b) it is preferred to have presentable art/graphic design for a submitted prototype, are you ok with copyright free clip art as place holder? Thank you,
    Abe

    1. Abe: That’s a good question. I kind of talk about it on this page, but I added a sentence to it. Here’s the pasted paragraph, which is now found in full above on this page:

      “Thoughtfully Graphic Designed: Another part of our responsibility is to make the game look great in terms of art and design. However, submitting your game to us without any art or thoughtful design will make the playtesting process very difficult. Please use placeholder art that reflects how you view the world of your game, and be intentional with your graphic design for the final prototype–user interface matters. Do not commission final art, though–that’s our responsibility as a publisher.”

      1. Thanks, Jamey! I did see that paragraph initially, but wasn’t quite sure how to best make plans for the art portion of the game (which is important to the theme). I appreciate your prompt reply and the added sentence for clarification.

  20. Hi Jamey –

    Thank you for the wonderful site and resources – much appreciated for someone stepping into the industry.

    Quick question about Tenant #6 and blind print and play play-testing. What if print and play isn’t an option? I’m working on a game with some fundamental 3 dimensional mechanics that would be very difficult (though certainly not impossible) for someone to easily replicate at home. I have access to other play groups where I could pass my game along to people there whom I don’t know. I assume the spirit of your point really is just get lots of blind play-tests in wherever you can find them?

    Mike

  21. Hello Jamey.. Thanks again for this great information! I am a new inspiring board game designer and I have created a great 18 and up, 2-6 players relationship board game that takes you on a rollercoaster ride that relationships go thur in reality. So far i have designed the board game twice and have many play test rounds on it with a lot of great feedback. Now im will like to know what is my next step to getting my game out to the public? And when submitting my game will I have to submit a prototype as well?

    1. Shantell: Thanks for your questions. They’re pretty big questions! You may want to look through this page on board game development–there are some tips for what you’re looking for.

      http://stonemaiergames.com/kickstarter/lessons/develop-board-game-projects/

      I just want to be honest with you and say up front that theme is really important for our games, and while it sounds like you’ve picked a theme you’re passionate about, it’s just not one that interests me for a game. Fortunately there are lots of publishers out there, so hopefully you find one that’s a great fit!

  22. What are your thoughts on tech supporting board games? both personally as a gamer, and in terms of your company’s design ethos. I appreciate that this isn’t obviously a natural fit for you and I have my own significant reservations, but the ability to cut analysis paralysis or self manage dwindling resource has some appeal. This could be a significant contribution to the game, perhaps an app that adds atmosphere (to my mind, Mansions of Madness is could be more ambitious) but could also in the most simple sense – e.g. a game that asks you to use a timer on your phone.
    Part of my idea is dabbling with oxygen use, but I’m terrible at remembering to move a turn marker in a game so I’m not a fan of self-managing diminishing resources. That said I’m still interested in it, as a threat and to encourage cooperation (and potential heroic saves!). It’s not key to game – I only thought of the game idea today so nothing is really :) but I’d be very interested in hearing your thoughts.

    1. Helen: Thanks for your question. I have a few different thoughts:

      1. I love innovation in games, and apps are a neat way to innovate. Mansions of Madness does this brilliantly, especially in streamlining an elaborate setup process that made it hard to play the original game.

      2. As a gamer, my personal taste is that it’s pretty rare that I want a screen anywhere near the table. In my group, we don’t look at our phones, there’s no TV on in the background, etc–we’re completely unplugged and focused on each other and the game. I really like that.

      3. As a publisher, I’ve never seen an app delivered by a developer on time, or even remotely on schedule. This hasn’t impacted us because none of our games have ever been dependent on apps, but I would be really hesitant to make an app for that reason.

  23. thanks for the quick response. I think I agree with you on all counts. And I think there’s probably always a smarter and more appealing way to do something. And technical of course doesn’t mean easy.
    Immediately after posting this I started scribbling ideas about bubble tokens :)

  24. Btw I just wanted to commend you on your design. I adore Scythe and it’s really opened my eyes to the possibilities of smarter, more economic structure. I love games like terra mystic but I drive my meta mad when my brain freezes trying to figure out a mechanic. Scythe blew my mind, but for the better. Thank you!

    1. Thanks Helen! That means a lot to me. I love Terra Mystica, and as an experience player of it, I never have to look at their action-selection tiles, but I’m always looking for ways to integrate a player’s available choices seamlessly into the game’s interface rather than giving them a checklist of things they can do. Doing so ends up inspiring what I hope are interesting systems, like the player mats in Scythe.

  25. It’s oddly liberating to have less choice in terms of actions but no less beautiful complexity in strategy. Plus I enjoyed the emphasis away from warring. So refreshing!
    I’m trying to figure out a mechanic based on staying calm. The idea is that if your stress levels are too high it may change command structure (first player), limit your options (concentration actions) expending extra oxygen and/or force poor decisions with ramifications such as making you run off wildly into unexplored dangerous territory. It’s just tricky figuring out how to balance calming down with just being boring :)

    1. “A mechanism based on staying calm.” That’s really interesting, especially in regards to the various game states it impacts. I like the idea that as you get less calm, you have less control over your decisions!

  26. A buddy and I are in the prototyping phase of designing a magic battle game. It is a grid like board currently with moving pieces that have a free range mobility. When you land on a tile, you draw a card of that color. The various colors have different abilities. There are four different buffing/utility spell colors, four attack colors, healing, and curse colors. The battling mechanic is simple, with mechanics in range, damage, and special effects.

    So this leads me to my questions.

    1) For your company, and for others in general, how well developed would you like the aesthetics? I mean this in terms of the pieces (just simple movement pieces) and the quality of board and cards. I know that you have mentioned that it needs to be easily play tested etc. can you give me a goal idea?

    2) What are your opinions on games that are a little confusing as to where to put your strategy in? This game has eight different colors and you have to move around the board to get to different areas with certain colors being closer to certain starting points. At first our game is a little confusing as to where you should go until a few times through.

    3) Should we go simpler or more complex? Our game right now has potential to slide either way as towards an intense strategy game or towards a simpler one. Your feedback in this regard would be great.

    4) What are your overall thoughts on the present information about our game?

  27. Jon: Thanks for your questions. I’ll do my best to answer them.

    1. This is answered in #3 on the above page: “Thoughtfully Graphic Designed: Another part of our responsibility is to make the game look great in terms of art and design. However, submitting your game to us without any art or thoughtful design will make the playtesting process very difficult. Please use placeholder art that reflects how you view the world of your game, and be intentional with your graphic design for the final prototype–user interface matters. Do not commission final art, though–that’s our responsibility as a publisher.”

    2. Multiple paths to victory is good, but players should have clarity as to how to score and progress in the game.

    3. Simple vs. complex: Some great games are simple (streamlined), and other great games are complex. There is no right answer. I talk about the important things in the second of this page about the 12 Tenets of Game Design: http://stonemaiergames.com/about/mission-statement/

    4. I’m not drawn to most games where I’m walking around fighting stuff, but many gamers are. If it’s something you enjoy designing, playing, and teaching, I’m sure you can find some publishers who like that kind of game to submit your game to.

    I’d also recommend reading the following article. It sounds like you’re a little past the idea phase, but it’s really hard for people to speak to the merits of the game when we only known a few core ideas. The best feedback you’re going to get is from playtesters, as they’re fully informed about what the game is, and the second best way you can learn how to improve the game is to play a lot of great published games while wearing your designer hat.

    http://stonemaiergames.com/kickstarter-lesson-204-your-idea-is-brilliant-your-idea-is-worthless/

  28. Just to clarify, I have read all the information.

    My partner and I are in the phase you described in the video as the protype phase. The first one to specify.

  29. I have been putting significant time into backtracking and revising, is it okay to have the game playable for more than 6 players? What I mean is is it okay for your submission guidelines in the future to allow my game to be 2-8 players?

  30. Jamey, do you have an estimate for how long this submission window will be open? Apologies if I missed an estimate, or even deadline, among the detailed guidelines and interesting discussion.

    It may well be that the window closes when enough potentially suitable games have been submitted through it, rather than on a specific date.

    All the best for 2017 to you, Morten, Alan, and the SMG community!

    1. Andrew: Good question, though I’m not really sure. If we get an influx of submissions we need to sort through (or if we get several great submissions we need to delve deeper into), we might close submissions until we catch up. But I think we’ll be fine for a few months.

  31. Good afternoon Jamey. I have a racing game that also has an educational element for children in Key stages 1 and 2. It is playable by 2-6 players from age 5 upwards, and can also be played by adults and families. It is a very simple-to-follow game that takes on average 30-60 minutes to complete. It has been play-tested by my family, and other people outside the family and feedback has generally been good.

    Based on this, does this have the potential of being a decent fit on what you are looking for? And if so, what would you like me to do next?

    1. Keiron: Thanks for asking. While it sounds a little light for what we’re looking for, it’s possible we might like it, and it meets our core specs (I’m assuming you’ve read my 12 tenets of design, as linked on this page). The next step is to read the instructions at the top of this page and follow them.

Leave a Comment

© 2017 Stonemaier Games