Submission Guidelines

We are currently open for submissions. However, our publishing schedule–which involves a focused approach of significant development and only publishing 2 new games each year–is such that if we decide to work with you today, your game will not be published until around 24 months in the future.

HOW TO SUBMIT: Please fill out this form. That’s it!

IF WE LIKE YOUR PITCH: We’ll contact you and arrange to see the game in more detail through one of the following:

  • Pre-recorded video of you and your friends playing the game
  • A prototype sent to us
  • In person at a convention
  • 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.

You can read more about the various steps in our submission process here.

Guidelines and Requirements

  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 important but largely worthless. 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. Playable: The #1 mistake we see is that the prototypes we receive are unplayable, either due to the rules, the lack of reference cards, or other factors that could have been solved by blind playtesting. You get one chance to make a first impression, and if that involves an unplayable game, we’re not going to publish it.
  4. Thoughtfully Graphic Designed: It’s our responsibility to make the game look great in terms of art and graphic 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Unique: We’re looking for unique themes and mechanisms–please, no pirates, zombies, Cthulhu, or trains. Jamey typically does not enjoy stock games, tactical combat games (or games the primarily focus on combat/war), hidden-movement games, party games, take-that games, punishing games, programming, and dungeon crawlers…but there are exceptions to those preferences.
  8. Hooks: Your game should have one or more hooks.

Why Would You Want Us to Publish Your Game?

  • 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, submitting to a publisher may be a better fit for you.
  • We’re focused. We don’t publish many games, which means that when we release a game, we make a big deal about it and support it for a long time.
  • 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.

If you’re just getting started on the game design process, please use these resources.

365 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.

      https://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: https://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.

    https://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.

  32. Hi, Jamey
    We have a “adult party game” thats been worked on and play tested for about 2 years. we have looked at self publishing but haven’t had a lot of luck getting the game out there. Is there a chance you would be interested in a game like this? it is a simple game that take about 30 to 60 mins to play and can be 2 – 6 players. the website has the manual and all the cards on it.
    thank you,
    Craig Smith

    1. I understand, thank you very much for feedback! This has been a common theme among the publishers we’re spoken with, we also just had some great feedback from the Cardboard Edison contest and have been working on improving the scoring and removing some of the ‘luck’ element of the game. I’ve been working on some games that are very different from our first game (CrimeTime) for a while, so I feel like I’m approaching it with fresh ideas!

      Thank you again
      Craig Smith

  33. Good afternoon Jamey,

    I am still in the play testing phase, so no need for a speedy reply, but would you be willing to work with someone from the UK? I am a big fan of Scythe, which I thought was brilliantly put together, Specifically the art work and I am very impressed with your guides and commitment to supporting the gaming community, which is one of the main reasons I would like to pitch to Stonemaier games. My only concern is whether the distance apart would create logistic issues.

    Kind regards

    Lee

  34. I’ve created a board game based on Greek Mythology. It’s a quest with question cards, a board and playing pieces as well as a tracking sheet and item tokens. Players work cooperatively. It’s been tried-and-tested many times with adults and teen students who provided critical (and often brutal) feedback. It’s been tweaked and revised many times, and the most recent groups of testers (facilitated by both myself and when I was not present) said they’d love to buy it (even though that wasn’t my initial aim in creating it). Originally it was created as an intro / review to Greek mythology for students, but a wide range of people have now played it.
    Sounds like it might be of interest?

  35. Hello Jamey,
    I am totally new at this boardgame process! I have designed and in the process of testing my prototype my question is: Will you accept a Christian boardgame? My game is for 2 or more players. Please advise. By the way, I enjoyed reading the questions and your responses. Thank you for taking the time to address so many questions and concerns.

    1. Rebecca: Thanks for your question. Could you please click through the survey listed at the top of this page? It asks questions that show our requirements (a game being non-Christian is not a requirement).

  36. Good afternoon Jamey,

    I hope you are well.

    I have started play testing my game, which has gone amazingly well. I have a few artist friends who can create some place holder art for me, so that I can submit a sell sheet and rule book that look half professional. I have a few questions though, which are as follows:

    – Do you require a fully completed prototype? I currently have everything printed on paper and stuck to card, with proxy pieces to represent 3D units, so am concerned that this would not be up to required standard.
    – When I submit, is it worth while attaching a word document to outline where I meet your criteria? I am concerned that I meet the criteria strongly in most areas and loosely in a few others.

    I genuinely feel, based on the games you have published, that you will love the theme and the mechanics of the game I am designing, but I am concerned that I do not completely meet all your criteria and I was not sure on how strict you are as part of the initial purging process.

    I look forward to your response.

    Kind regards

    Lee

    1. Lee: Thanks for your questions and for considering Stonemaier as a publisher. If we request a prototype from you, it simply needs to be functional, not professional.

      As for the Word doc, the first phase of submission is just the form at the top of this page–it’s after that when we’ll request more information if we’re interested.

      All of the criteria on the form are very important to us, but the most important part is the question at the end where you have a few sentences to pitch the game to us.

      1. Thank you Jamey for the quick response.

        Based on your feedback, It will take a few months to get the placeholder art designed, but you should expect to see a submission for consideration on completion.

        I look forward to future correspondence with yourself and Stonemaier Games.

        Kind regards

        Lee

  37. So you’ll really ignore a game if it only plays 2-4? That’s basically the only thing barring me from submitting.

    1. That’s correct–as a publisher, a Stonemaier game needs to play up to at least 5 players, ideally 6. Fortunately, there are lots of companies that don’t mind if a game only plays with 4.

      1. But not all of them have as good of a business model. I liked the section you put in about steering candidates what route would be the best way for them, even if it doesn’t benefit you. As a designer, I’m scared to put my baby in anyone’s hands that I don’t trust BEFORE I push that submit button.

          1. It’s a bit hard to compare it to other games, but Catan comes to mind (could be the fact that I use Catan pieces in my prototype). Basically, it’s a rule-discovering naval game where players must complete a variation of one of three paths to earn victory points. The three paths are piracy, completing contracts, and selling resources on other islands. When a player completes one of these things, they draw from a bag of victory points.

            But with a deck players draw from each turn, and tiles that could be anything, the game is quite treacherous. I often say it’s a game as brutal as the sea itself.

    1. Cool! It sounds along the lines of Black Fleet, Merchants and Marauders, Seafall, and North Wind, with a little bit of Oracle of Delphi and Archipelago mixed in. And, of course, the Explorers and Pirates expansion to Catan. :)

      I don’t think TMG has a naval game yet. It could work for Greater Than Games or Stronghold. I think Renegade is doing great work, as is Roxley.

  38. Hi Jamey,

    I noticed that you are very strict on the requirement for a game to be able to be played two player. What is the reasoning behind this?

    My situation is the following and I am wondering whether or not it would be a good idea to develop a two player variant of Star Civilizations before approaching a publisher with it.

    Star Civilizations (you won’t find it on BGG yet except as a WIP post I haven’t updated in ages) is a big box game which takes 2h to play. I’ve run maybe 15 to 20 play tests, including a number of semi-blind tests (I gave an overview of the rules, left the rule book and was absent for the game, which was filmed) and am still refining a few things before I seriously consider publication. It plays 3-6 players and involves some direct conflict (think Twilight Imperium 3 levels of conflict).

    I’m concerned that the player count may turn off potential publishers.

    Thanks in advance for any advice :-).

    -Stephen

    1. Stephen: Our focus is on games that couples can enjoy together or with larger groups, hence the requirement that the game can be played with only 2 players (and for most games, we’ll add a 1-player Automa variant). This requirement is just part of the Stonemaier brand, not a reflection on the industry as a whole–there are plenty of great companies who don’t have that limit, so if you’re happy with your game as a 3-6 player game, I think you’re totally fine to submit it to those companies. :)

      1. Thanks for the answer Jamey. I definitely understand the need to focus your brand (though when I think about games the size and length of Scythe or Viticulture I think “gaming group”, not “play with wifey”).

        I have enjoyed reading over your blog, it’s been quite informative. As an unpublished designer one of the things I have been focusing on is trying to keep my game within the realms of publishability – keeping component costs down and making Star Civilizations more attractive to potential publishers without sacrificing my vision for the game.

        Thanks again for your time and congratulations on Scythe becoming such a huge hit.

        1. Stephen: That’s very wise of you to try to keep component costs down. Though, if I may say this, something that gets me really excited about a game (as a publisher and/or as a gamer) is a unique, special, or stand-out component. So that’s something to keep in mind too. :)

          1. Interesting. I got a board game recently that had acrylic cubes instead of wooden ones (I’m guessing that’s not what you’re meaning though).

            Minis are all the rage on Kickstarter and I understand their appeal (though they’re by no means the only centrepiece components possible). Star Civ can be most closely compared to TI3 in terms of components. It would be possible to use minis to represent these, or alternatively have a single injection-moulded sheet of minis ala risk/TI (reviewers and gamers seem to be moving away from these though).

            The main things running through my brain at the moment is how to balance the need for roughly 60 (acrylic) cubes per player (I could cut this to a minimum of around 35 per player but that would cause players to have to do a lot more manual accounting), 30-40 plastic figures (spaceships/starports etc) per player, five decks of cards and a bunch of cardboard components. I can lower the plastics used and even go with cardboard tokens for the bulk of the ships but plastic feels better.

            The spaceships are needed to give the “epic space fleet” feel. The cubes are intertwined fairly deeply into the game economics.

            One thing I’ve thought is that the base game would be 3-4 players with a 5-6 player expansion. That would cut 50% of the plastic component needs.

            I know that these are all publishing questions but given I’m trying to sell a big box game with a big box price tag to a publisher, I think I should be able to talk through those issues in a way which shows I’ve at least thought them all through in advance.

            I have actually been thinking that maybe the best way to approach all of this from a publishing point of view (assuming I was a publisher, loved the game and had decided to publish) would be to croud fund and start with a single injection moulded sheet of spaceships with maybe one unique mini and minify the ships one at a time as stretch goals were unlocked. As I understand it the cost of creating separate moulds is far higher than creating a single mould. I could also start with 8mm cubes (though I think these feel terrible in the hand) and move up to 10mm cubes as a stretch goal.

            Anyway, your thoughts are appreciated :).

  39. Stephen: Thanks for sharing! Again, I think it’s great that you’re considering all of these factors up front. The cubes are a minimal cost difference, but miniature moulds can be quite expensive. So I like the strategy you outlined of starting with one mould and expanding from there. You could also find a company with an established world in space and have your game set in that world, as they may already have some moulds that can be used (like Xia and Tau Ceti).

    You might be at a good place to share these thoughts on one of the Tabletop Kickstarter groups on Facebook. You’ll get some great (albeit blunt!) feedback there.

    1. Stephen: feel free to contact me on BGG. My username is meowcows. It’d be great to get to know someone going through the same process of game design. We could bounce ideas off each other. It seems we are in a very similar situation. I’d love to discuss it more with you.

      Jamey: I’m trying to figure out what the best route for me is: KS or finding a publisher. What tips can you give a fledgling game designer in this predicament?

        1. Wow! That is a veritable treasure trove of information. Thanks!

          And I look forward to hearing from you, Stephen!

  40. Jamey: is there someone you know or a place I can find info on people that are in the business but are willing to look over games for feedback? I’ve gotten feedback from so many people but much like a medical diagnosis, I’d prefer to have a professional opinion.

      1. I mean, obviously I’d be happier if someone just looked at my game for love of the game, but I guess I’m not opposed to paying.

        1. Based on that, I’d recommend simply sharing the game on various Facebook groups throughout the process. You’ll get a variety of opinions, including some from experienced designers. If you actually want an experienced designer/developer to play the game and offer you detailed feedback, that’s a service that most will charge for.

  41. Jamey: Your submission form asks “Does your game present players with a thematic, visually appealing way of choosing what they do on their turn? Answer “no” if each players selects from an action checklist.”

    I’m trying to figure out exactly what this means. Can I assume if Pandemic didn’t exist and was submitted to you that you wouldn’t be interested? The actions are all very visually and thematically driven however you do essentially choose from an action list.

    1. Janice: Hopefully if Matt Leacock got a rejection from Stonemaier for Pandemic, he would have submitted to other publishers so it would still exist. But yes, I don’t want to look at a checklist when I play games, and I wouldn’t publish a game with that mechanism. Imagine Viticulture where instead of 12 different actions you had a checklist of 12 choices. They both have thematic labels, but one is significantly more user friendly than the other.

      1. Based on your submission guidelines I would have expected to get a rejection letter if I tried to submit pandemic. It actually doesn’t nail all of the points of the Stonemaier submission guidelines.

        I think pandemic could have worked for the Stonemaier brand if it had some changes.

        Here are some ideas:
        Replace the checklist with worker placement. Each player gets four actions per round, which are represented by tokens. You place a token on each space you wish to use. Each space has a maximum number of tokens it would accepts per round. Only 1 flying action might be available per round (and it might take two tokens). Lots of driving actions are available each round.

        If each of the actions were limited in this way, the team would need to plan their moves together in advance and it would introduce a “push your luck” element (the first player could fly to clean up a potential outbreak in Paris or we could save the flight for the last player who is stranded in the middle of Africa with no research stations nearby.

        It would make the game more complex and each of the decisions harder but it would make for a game more aligned with the stonemaier brand.

        I really like pandemic. It had a lot going for it but the action list is not my favorite mechanic. In Star Civilizations I give each player a hand of orders. Of that hand, 3 or 4 are played each round. Players cannot double up on an order which makes not only the orders important, but the order of execution important. I feel that this is a far more interesting mechanism than simply giving players a list of things they can do.

        Puerto Rico tackles the problem differently. The roles ensure everybody is always engaged but you can’t always get what you want and your opponents can mess with your plans or force you into helping them.

        Pandemic is a huge success and there is good reasosn for that. The turn actions though are one of its weakest design points (and are the hardest part of the game to teach).

        1. Stephen: Well done! That’s the type of thing I would have encouraged Leacock to do if he had submitted Pandemic to us. Obviously this is largely a matter of subjective personal taste on my part, though–I can’t argue with Pandemic’s success. :)

  42. Jamey: My game satisfies your Guidelines and Requirements and your 12 tenets of game design quit well except for one thing, rounds and phases. I think there is a good chance you might not mind this too much, as the meat of the game happens during the first two phases, where play goes around the table with players taking actions until they have no more actions they can take. This is a worker placement game.

    Phase 1: players play one meaple type once they have some.
    Phase 2: Another meaple type is played. There is a competition for controlling board spaces. Working out each round what gets you the best chance of winning the best, or most, board spaces is a challenge. This dynamic will change each round since one of the meaple types is also a resource. So, how many meaples players have to place on the board each round will vary, frequently by a fair number. Board spaces available each round varies also.
    Phase 3: Players resolve the board spaces they won.
    Phase 4: You can make purchases if you set yourself up to.
    Phase 5: Get benefits from what you purchased this round, a previous round, or from your starting condition if it gives you benefits during this phase.

    Should I submit the game to you or does it not seem to fit what you’re interested in. If not any suggestions for who to submit to.

    Thanks

  43. Hi Jamey, surprised/impressed to see that you’re still answering questions here. Thanks for staying in the comments as it answered a lot of questions about what you’re looking for besides what’s covered in the other blogs. (Which are a great resource as well)

    Only have a question considering how you feel about game design that includes modules. For an example that’s currently published, something like First Class, where it would meet your submission guidelines most of the time.

    1. Jesse: Thanks for your question. I think my opinions about modules depend on how modules are used. Sometimes they’re presented as mini expansions in the core box–when that’s the case, I prefer for there to be a narrative reason for the modules to be added (kind of like a mini-campaign). If they’re in the game just to offer a little variety (which seems to be the case in First Class), my preference is for the game to have specific parameters about how those modules are used. That is, they’re more like core variable elements than optional modules.

      In my opinion, the biggest pro about modules is that they make a game more accessible to new players, with whom you wouldn’t use the modules. But it’s also the biggest con, because what I’ve found in my experience is that after establishing the core game as the game, my gaming group very rarely gets over the hump of adding the modules. I’ve played Fresco dozens of times, often using it as a gateway worker-placement game, and I’ve never added the modules.

      1. That’s interesting. I recently had started weaving a narrative as well while waiting on another round of testing. Mostly just to do something while waiting though.

        I had originally intended to have modularity and replayability to be a focus, and I played around with adding and subtracting various different functions. Later on I would realize that they basically fit into 2 seperate groups, mechanical and sub-theme.

        Pairing them together with the base game manages to give you a very different game feel that’s instantly familiar. Having it be easily accessible at first was also an obvious advantage.

        Had not realized that I was potentially gutting my player base at the same time.

        Thank you for your time and your input.

  44. I really like this: “Pairing them together with the base game manages to give you a very different game feel that’s instantly familiar.”

    Though keep in mind this is just one person’s opinion. :) My gamer preferences have an impact on my publisher perspective.

  45. Hello Jamey,

    Can you please tell me how long I have to submit my game? I want to get in just a few more blind playtests and want to make sure I will make the cut. I am thinking I can be ready to submit around late June will this be acceptable?

  46. Hi Jamey, would you guys be interested in a strategy game that can be played with 1-12 players for anywhere from a couple hours to a few months depending on the game mode?

      1. Awesome, thanks for the quick reply! The only parts of the core requirements that really concerned me was the possibly insane length and fairly large size of the game.

        1. We may see the details and realize it’s not a good fit, but if you really can play it in 90-120 minutes and have a full session (while returning to it later as part of a campaign), that’s totally fine.

  47. Is there any leniency on the amount of players the game must have? I have developed a prototype and tested it multiple times, but due to the board/map, there can really only be up to 4 players.

  48. Hello Jamey. My game is a real-time party game for 1-8 players, ages 12+ that gives the players the chance to discover the MCs in them in a fun and creative way.

    In a very simple and short way (so I won’t take up much of your time) the rules are as follows:
    Each turn the players must choose 3 words from cards of 12 different categories, use them to write their own verses on any subject, as long as they rhyme, rap them on the beat and collect points. At the end of 4 rounds players will have created their masterpiece – a 16bar rap song. The player that accumulated most points is the winner.

    I wanted to self-publish the game but on January 2017 we had our son which takes way much time from my schedule so I thought to give it to a company and being a huge fun of you Jamey I wanted to start from here ?

    However, I did manage to take the game through U.K. Games Expo 2016 and Essen 2016 and those conventions convinced me that I have a great game in my hands.

    During those exhibitions:
    Tom Vasel and Sam Healey played my game and Tom told me to send it to him to review once published. He even uploaded the video I took of them playing, on his Tweeter account.

    Pegasus Spiel approached me and told me that they are willing to create the German version of the game once I published the game.

    Esdevium games approached me and told me that once I published the game they would like to distribute it.

    Tabletop Gaming magazine wrote an article about my game saying it was one of the hidden gems of the U.K. Expo.

    I got interviewed by a dozen people that liked my game idea.

    All the people that played it, ages that ranged from 8 to 67, loved it.

    I even send the game to Undead Viking to review it and told me that he thought that my game is amazing.

    So only one question remains, what do you think of the game? ?

    The only “problem” with the game is that it goes up to 90 minutes with 8 players but I took the liberty to write this message because in one of the comments above Steven Schultz wrote on June 25, 2016 that his game goes up to 40 minutes and you replied that he can submit the game to you.

    In any way thanks a lot for your time. You are a very hard-working person and a very nice guy and create amazing games. The industry needs you so keep up the good work.

  49. Hey Jamey I have a card game for 3-7 players, using the standard 52 card pack, with the best games played with 7 players. The reason for this is there is fewer cards left in the deck as the game progresses.

    There are a total of 20 rounds and each player starts the first round with one card each, then two for round two and so on up to the seventh round. The next three rounds after this (8-10) consist of three unique concepts to add some spice to the gameplay. The players then receive seven cards on round 11 down to one card on round 17 and the last three rounds (18-20) are again the unique concepts.

    Hopefully I haven’t lost you yet! The gameplay with seven players can take up to an hour and half sometimes more. This is dependent on how quickly players make their choices. I have been refining this game over the last ten years and regularly play with friends. Some are even addicted which is why I think I need to submit it to you Gurus out there. It requires a certain amount of skill, luck and determination. This game can put you at the top and quite easily back at the bottom of she has her way. And believe me she can be a harsh mistress.

    I will omit the unique three rounds but will say that in each round you have a ‘trump’ card that will enable players to have a better chance of winning that round provided they have a matching suit. The player from round one need to decide whether to call to win with the card/cards they have or lose. Calling is just as vital because a game can be won by one point that’s all it takes.

    Anyway this is just a sample of the game and I would be interested to hear if it’s something you would consider. The game can be altered for different concepts and even different age groups.

    I look forward to hearing back from you.

    1. Shaun: Thanks for your question. While it sounds like it doesn’t meet our core requirements as listed in the survey at the top of this page, I wish you the best in finding a publisher who is interested in this style of card game!

  50. Could you elaborate on the number seven — there are very few rules exceptions, are you referring to alternate rules or something else?

  51. Heaven forbid — but what happens to a game if you get sick or aren’t able to continue with your company since your the only employee?

  52. Hi Jamey, I hope the launch of Chartersone is going great. Most of the guidelines are easy to understand but some important ones are subjective. I would like to fully understand the ones I don’t and I feel others would too. I think a video for the more subjective points would be an amazing video on your youtube designer’s channel. But reading about it would be fantastic too.

    I think this would be super interesting, help budding designers make more games that would pass the test, and increase the quality of game submissions you get. You could get hundreds of game designers working to submit to you and increase their chances of success. A Win/Win situation I think. A video with examples of board games for each subjective point would be easy to understand. 1 good board game that passed (just on that subjective point), 1 good game that fails, and 1 good game that walked the line but failed (this would probably be the most helpful of all). Below I’ve listed what I feel are subjective points that you fully understand, but we are not to sure of where your “bar” is on these.

    Guidelines and Requirements
    4 and 6.

    12 Tenets of Board Game Design for Stonemaier Games
    2, 4, 5, 6, 9, 12

    Ticket to Ride is a great game but it’s not a Stonemaier type game, but would it fail or pass on tenets number 4, 6, and 12? I’m not sure of the Stonemaier’s interpretation of those tenets. But I very much want to know. Pandemic would not pass on a few of them but would it pass on tenet number 5?

    1. Thanks for the idea! I definitely like the idea of providing examples. I’m hesitant to make a video about it, because these guidelines might change over time, and it’s much easier to change the text than a video.

      As for your questions, Ticket to Ride would pass 4 (there’s tension in selecting cards and building routes, but it’s not overly hostile), it would pass 6 (the more tracks you have one the board, the better routes you can complete), and 12 (you can focus on short tracks, long tracks, short routes, long routes, and various combinations of routes and tracks). For a cooperative game like Pandemic, it would pass #5 (some luck is important to a cooperative game). Pandemic wouldn’t pass #8, though.

  53. That is great, I’m really look forward to it.

    I was leaning towards Ticket to Ride failing on those, well my interpretation of my guess of what those tenets meant. The reason I thought that way for 6 was that you can get punished at the end if you don’t complete a ticket, you get deducted points (in Nordic Countries at least), some big tickets can cost you the game. Some players can go out of their way to cut off your path (tenet 4) which can cause the end punishment. Ticket to Ride doesn’t feel hostile to me, but Rahdo may think so (Note: Rahdo is cool). It was great to get more info on those points to understand the Stonemaier way a bit better. Thanks.

  54. Hi Jamey, just out of curiosity what size of first print run would you expect to have for a game from a first time designer? Lets assume the game is roughly the same size and weight of Viticulture Essential Edition if that factors into it at all.

    Thanks for your time.

  55. Hi Jamey, I thought I fully understood rule 6 but after buying and playing viticulture I am very confused about that rule. Viticulture is wonderful by the way, I rate it at 9.5. There are so many great things I want to say about Viticulture but I will hold back on this blog post.

    As a result I’m now confused about what a round phase is: “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.” In Viticulture a round (1 year) has 4 phases (Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter), maybe even 5 if you count the end of year tall up of grapes, wines, and payments.

    1. Anthony: Well, there are two important things to keep in mind here:

      One, I’m not claiming that all Stonemaier games perfectly following our guidelines. I’ve evolved as a designer over time, and the guidelines have evolved as well. The guidelines are a list of requirements for games we will consider, that’s all.

      Two, Viticulture has seasons and some upkeep, but not phases. If you want to see a game with the type of phases I’m not at all interested in, look at the rulebook for Civilization. It has a market phase and an attack phase and a trading phase… You need a game manager to keep everyone on track, and there’s no sense of flow.

      Three, tying back to one, Viticulture does have a more regimented structure than I’d like it to, as you kind of need a game manager to say, “Okay everyone, it’s time to select wake-up times. Okay, now it’s time to place workers. Okay, now it’s time to draw visitor cards.” And so on. It’s too close to phases for my liking. If you want to see how I evolved in my tastes, play with the Tuscany Essential extended board. Despite having seasons, it has a really smooth sense of flow without any kinship to phases.

  56. Thanks. Got it.

    I will look into Civilization (1980) to understand the difference. But from reading this I feel you are saying that a round can have different parts, that is okay, but only if those parts flow together well, and the transition between those round-parts must be almost effortless with almost no upkeep or upkeep that takes 10 seconds or less.

    Quickly off the top of my head an example that maybe just passes that part of rule 6:

    A Game Publisher Game: Each round everyone trades cards that some how make a game. The person with the best game gets to add that game to their publishing portfolio. Then you all sign games (pre-made games) that are available on the board since setup to add to your publishing portfolio. End of round. When all the pre-made-games on the board are gone the game ends, so there is no cleanup at the end of each round.

    I won’t be buying another board game for about a month but for now I will watch a how to play of the Tuscany Essential extended board.

  57. Jamey,

    I’m curious if SM games has a vague connection between in games in regards to the art/graphic design of its games? Seems like Charterstone certainly follows a bit of a new direction in regards to its art and graphic design as opposed to Scythe and Viticulture. Would SM games ever publish something with art that is more cartoonish like Mission: Red Planet (FF reprint) or Welcome to the Dungeon?

    I guess my big question is how much does a publisher want their games to look like they belong in the same publishing family without making them all look the same?

    -Matt

    1. Matt: Sure, we consider different artists and styles for each individual game (we don’t have a brand-wide “look” to our games). There are some publishers that always use the same look as part of their brand, but I think that’s pretty rare.

      1. To piggy back on this, would you consider artist recommendations/requests along with submissions or during the development stage or do you have your preferred artists you want to keep to?

        1. We’re open to chatting with designers about artists they like, and if we agree, we can approach those artists to see if they’re available, communicative, able to work in digital formats, and affordable.

  58. Hey Jamey! I’m currently developing a strategy combat card game. It’s not ready for submission but I just had a quick question. It can be played with as few as 3 and as many as 8 players. Your guidelines say the range should be 2-6, is the minimum player count of 2 a necessity for the game to fit into your criteria?

  59. Jamey, Would you all consider taking a look at a kids board game I created? It is pretty complete and I already play it with my kids. If not, do you know any publishers that might take a look? Thanks, Mike Roth

    1. Michael: We’re open to making family-weight games if they meet the requirements of our submission guidelines (see form at the top of this page).

      As for other publishers, I would suggest looking at other games of similar weight/complexity of the game you created and seeing if the publishers of those games are accepting submissions.

  60. I have always wanted to make a proper board game, I make many simple and more complicated games by myself, most of which don’t fit the guide lines very well. I would like to try and make a game that might get a chance at being published by Stonemaier Games because I love their games so much. Could you tell me what games would be best suited for being published by Stonemair games so maybe I could try and design a that might one day be published.

    1. Jasper (and Gerald): I appreciate your question, though that’s the reason the guidelines are there! There are certain things we care about (hence the guidelines), and beyond that, we’re open. You can look at the type of games we’ve published and the games on my top 10 lists at jameystegmaier.com.

      Though overall, I’d recommend that you just focus on designing a game that people love and that you enjoy designing, and then find the right publisher for it, whether it’s Stonemaier or someone else. I think if you try to design a game specifically for Stonemaier, it’s not going to work out. There’s no formula.

      1. Jamey, I don’t think your top 10 or your favorite mechanic videos would help with games that would pass the Stonemaier Test. Blokus, Telestrations would not pass.

        I know loads of games that would not pass the test: Dungeon Petz, Ground Floor, Pandemic, 7 Wonders Duel, Escape: The Curse of the Temple, The Manhattan Project: Energy Empire, Prêt-à-Porter, and so on… But it is more difficult to think of ones that do pass except the 5 Stonemaier games and Fresco.

        Only a few big publishers accept submissions so I can understand why designers would want to design games that those publishers would even consider to glance at.

        But Jamey is right, it is best to create a game you love, as guidelines could stifle that love. Plus, the publisher might make an exception to 1 or 2 of their guidelines to accept the new game that is wonderful.

        I could be wrong but I think there is no way Stonemaier games would make an exception to these core guidelines: Player count, game length, quick player-turn flow, unique in some way, and no action lists.

  61. I second Jasper’s helpful question.

    Besides the games you have already published (as your requirements change with time and experience), what existing games would Stonemaier Games publish if those games were never published, in the general category and the family category?

  62. Would games that rely on teamwork be a good fit for Stonemaier, or do you prefer games that revolve more around players working against each other to reach victory.

    1. Hi Jasper, I asked in the comments above about Pandemic. Pandemic would fail on #8 of the 12 Tenets of Board Game Design for Stonemaier Games
      https://stonemaiergames.com/about/mission-statement/

      A lot of cooperative games do the opposite of tenant #6.

      I think Stonemaier games would review any game that perfectly matches all of their guidelines, must haves, and tenants. It doesn’t say No cooperative games. If it meets all of those and it feels great, I don’t see any reason why they would not publish an amazing unique game. So go ahead and make that one-of-a-kind game.

  63. Good afternoon Jamey,

    I hope you are well.

    I submitted a board game for consideration and the concept was accepted and I was asked to send over a 5 minute video of the game and the rules (this was back in September).

    I had arranged for a professional film crew to film the game and for a laser cutting company to cut the prototype properly. Unfortunately the foam board used gave off smoke and even though I managed to get a safety report on the foam board, I had missed the date for filming.

    I have had the prototype printed on high quality A1 size paper and will cut out and stick to card but I currently work full time, I am a single dad of two and I am undertaking a masters in Project Management, so the process is taking longer than I am happy with.

    My question is: Have I missed the boat? could I send over the files and the rule book so you can see that I have taken the project seriously? Do you have a finite deadline between project submission and video/rule book being received?

    Kind regards

    Lee

      1. Lee: I don’t think you need such a high level for the demo video, although the game rules and play should be.

        Jamey: For Lee and others to know, would you accept a video like Rahdo’s Manhattan Project Energy Empire review? Hand-cam, and clip-art on normal paper.

  64. The 12 Tenents is a guide not only for Stonemeier games but a great blueprint for solid game design. I have read a few books on board game design and nothing comes close to giving a blueprint to a successful design as these tenents. I know they are being overally general but it isn’t helpful. This is very concrete and practical. Please consider a series of videos on each tenent with succesful examples along with exception to the rules or successful games that could have been improved by adhering to one of the tenents.
    Thanks!
    Leon

    1. Thanks Leon! I certainly wouldn’t say that all designers should follow all of these tenets…they’re just my opinion of what Stonemaier usually looks for in submissions. But I appreciate the input, and I really like the idea of a video discussion of them (either a series or a single video).

  65. Hi Jamey,

    I was reading the submission FORM again. There is only 1 I don’t understand and I feel the question is 100% personal and subjective. I get the mechanics question but this question below seems to be different than mechanics.

    “Does your game feature the potential for a special, must-have component?”

    This seems to be visually cool or something, not mechanics (because there is already a mechanics questions). For me personally I can only think of 1 game out of hundreds of games I know that had a must have component for me. The black abstract pieces in Samurai (the old version). With Viticulture, for me, there are no must have components, but the theme of the game is a must have. With Scythe I can not think of any must have components, for me, but the art of the game is so wonderful that it strongly compels a purchase even though I don’t like area control and combat in a 2 player game (which is 99% of the way am able play regularly). The components of Scythe are cool but do not compel me like the overall art, so the components are not a must have for me. For me Tzolk’in fits into your mechanic question. Before or after Samurai I have never experienced a “must-have” feeling for a component.

    I would like to learn what is a must-have component for you or most people (IYOP)? Could you please name some examples.

  66. After I did a google search I found you have a blog post about this. I understand now. In my mind I will just translate “must-have component” to “attractive customized component”.

    I put too much emphasis on “must-have”. I thought it meant I must buy the game just to get that component even if the game is not suitable for me. That only happened once to me in my life, and it would not have been good if I bought the game just for that 1 reason.

    I get it now. The dice in Euphoria are fascinating, the glass in Viticulture is impressive quality and the wooden pieces are lovely. The miniatures in Scythe are super cool.

    If anyone else wants to read the article, here it is:
    https://stonemaiergames.com/kickstarter-lesson-75-include-at-least-one-must-have-component/

  67. In the submission form, it says you only need to follow ten of the twelve tenets of game design. Does this mean that if I made a game that followed eleven of them perfectly and did nearly the opposite of the last one, you would still consider publishing the game?

  68. Hi Jamie,

    Nice to see you’re still replying to comments and questions. I’ve read through the comments, and noticed several people asking for clarity on your tenets, for instance the “no phases/checklist”-requirement.

    I started wondering whether the game I’m currently working on would be considered a game with phases or not, and wanted to run my concept quickly by you. Of course, as you´ve mentioned yourself, I should design my game the way I want it to be, not to fit the bill of a certain publisher – but I’m still curious to get your two cents on it.

    In my game, players take on the roles of rival ceramists, competing to become the most renowned craftsman in the city. Worker placement is a core mechanic, and players will place (and remove) workers on different actions throughout the week (Mon-Fri) to gather resources, turn, fire and glaze pottery etc. Players may also place their workers on certain actions which are resolved when the weekend comes (sell pots at the marketplace, purchase new tools or donate goods to prestigious families in the city). If players place their workers on these actions early in the week, they get an early pick on e.g. customer orders to fulfill, but they obviously lose a number of actions as their workers are getting ready for the weekend instead of working on other tasks.

    Now, without going into further details, you could say that the game has an end of round phase where the weekend actions are resolved, before a new week (round) begins. But on the other hand, the number of players who will carry out weekend actions (if any) are entirely up to the player themselves, based on where they place their workers.

    Where would you place this in the “phase/checklist-landscape”?

    (And, of course, at first glance, does this game concept sound like something that could be of interest for Stonemaier?)

  69. Hi Jamey, I was wondering about the unique twist or mechanism part of your survey and how strict are you on that? And what would you consider to be innovative enough to count? Thanks for what you do man. Keep up the great work!

    1. Joseph: Thanks for your question. It’s somewhat of a subjective thing, but I’m really just looking for a mechanical hook. Some people look for unique themes in games, others unique components, others unique mechanisms. I want to check all of those boxes in our games.

      1. Alright thanks, one thing I have noticed about Stonemaier is that the themes are more like a self contained grounded world. Chatterton, Between Two Cities, Euphoria, Scythe. What made you decide that Scythe had to use Mechas instead of like spaceships or fantasy beasts etc. Is it for that uniqueness?

          1. I did not know this, thanks! Just a simple query what exactly do you mean by punishment and backwards movement in the 12 tenets? Does this apply to like any backward moving of any kind like building a structure and losing it without gaining anything?

          2. So is that a set rule? Losing things you’ve worked on? I’m making a game right now that uses that thematically.

          3. But in a general sense, I shouldn’t just trash my game because that’s something that absolutely will never work?

          4. It will stop me buying a game if something you have worked on can be destroyed by another player, but I’m fine if the game does it. If the game is designed to do that (not the players) then it can feel fine.

            Even the carebear Rahdo is fine if the game attacks him and Jen. He like Pandemic, Forbidden Dessert, Tiny Epic Zombies, Galaxy Trucker, Peloponnese etc… But in those ones you can plan for the loses as you know they are coming. In a player vs player game an attack can come as a surprise, and cause feelings of hurt or guilt for lots of people (but not all people).

            I don’t know the exact reason Rahdo would not review Scythe. I can only guess that after reading the rulebook he might have foreseen a situation that in a 2 player game if you are losing and want to catch up with the other player you would have to attack them, or the alternative is just accepting defeat before game is over. That is what it might seem like from the outside. Because for example you could steal 4 resources that a player just produced by attacking them with a Mech, causing their farmers to be pushed back to their home base, and the attacked player would lose power if they tried to defend themselves. That is 3 negative things at once. Lots of husband and wife gamers similar to Rahdo would not buy the game just on seeing or hearing that in a review.

            Jamey: Scythe is ranked as one of the best games ever, it is your best selling game, and there is a big market that love attacking each other, but have you decided not to design that way anymore (well, for the near future)?

          5. Kiefer: The tenets are just for Stonemaier submissions, not for all games. There are plenty of great games (even games on my Top 10) that I wouldn’t publish because they don’t fit our brand.

            Gerald: The reason Rahdo told me he wouldn’t play Scythe is that there’s direct combat between players that is connected to victory conditions. He couldn’t see himself attacking his wife (and vice versa), and thus he felt that he would be missing out on a significant portion of the game.

            The games I’m currently working and am publishing in the next 2 years don’t feature directly conflict between players.

          6. Thanks for sharing that. Makes total sense.

            P.S. Someone told me that Scythe is a 9 rating with player vs player, and a 10 as 2-player co-op vs 2 automas. As a result Scythe has jumped in to second place on our to-buy list. So we will have it in April. I was searching for 1 year for a reason to push me to buy it for my wife and I. Because it looks and plays so good I kept searching for that reason.

          7. Well that remove all doubt about co-op. Scythe and The Rise of Fenris it is :) Hopefully that will be out in April as well.

  70. Hi again. I’ve read every single comment In here. Does that make me weird lol? To the matter at hand, with the flow of a game dictated by players? I’m not saying too much here, but would action selection from cards that have the actions explained on the cards be a viable option or would they be considered list-esque.

    1. Not weird at all–it makes you dedicated! :) Action selection on cards is a fantastic mechanism. I talk about it in my video for Civilization: A New Dawn, and many other games I respect have the same mechanism (Concordia, Bunny Kingdom, Professor Evil and the Citadel of Time, Inis, etc.)

      1. Alright I was a bit worried because I employ a system like New Dawn with the Action Cards shifting as you use them in front of you, but there are consequences when you use a specific action causing heavier consequences the more you use the action.

    1. Steve: I haven’t played Champions of Midgard, but I’ve played Lords of Waterdeep many times. It checks almost all of our tenets, with the two exceptions being (a) the attack cards and (b) the cubes. I would publish the game, but without the attack cards and with little meeples instead of cubes.

      1. Ha, we remove the attack cards when we play. Champions of Midgard is much like Waterdeep but heavy on the dice rolling rather than gathering cubes, which makes it heavy on the luck side. In a situation like that would you prefer the game lose the dice altogether or for there to be ways to influence/mitigate dice rolls? (the worker tiles in Castles of Burgundy for example)

        Thanks for the reply.

        1. I’m okay with dice (see Euphoria). My personal preference is that you don’t have a ton of dice manipulation, but rather a lot of options to choose from so you’re not pigeonholed based on the dice you roll.

  71. I have been working on my game for I think two years now and hopefully, I’ll be able to submit it for consideration soon. :) :)

  72. Hi Jamey, I was wondering would a player controlled end game trigger be counted as rounds? For example: The players decide when the game ends by using an action, you can place a token on a spot that moves up the end game token and when the end game token moves up to the final spot, the game ends.

    1. Joseph: That’s almost exactly how the end-game trigger works in Charterstone, so yes, that’s fine. :)

      If you want to submit a game to us but you don’t know about our current games, that’s a problem. I’d recommend that you play them or watch videos about them.

      1. I have sat watched videos about all your games except Charterstone x_x. I’ve been trying to get Scythe to the table, but everyone on my group doesn’t want to.

  73. Jamey,

    I see mixed feelings on CCGs between guidelines and your comments, but I’ll ask anyway. 2 or 4 players (could be geared up to 6) – even numbered teams. Time scales so 30-60 minutes for 2 players is our target. Ultimately a best of 3 games for 2 hours for 2 players.

    Similar to Summoner Wars, heavier theme, “rounds” only exist to roll 6 new dice to match symbols for Action Point Allowance System, low luck (matching symbols from dice for attacks instead of rolling during attack). Players take turns interacting with 1 unit until out of dice. Has hand management, Tile Placement during game setup for variance and determining where units can be deployed, Multiple unit powers for each unit(variable player powers), Global grid, point to point movement (can’t easily move into enemies capital region).

    Ordering initial prototypes from TGC early next week, have a tabletop simulator prototype, and going to unpubs soon then conventions. Currently have a small team so if we go Kickstarter we’re honestly 9 – 12 months out but would love to find the right publisher to work with.

    Does it sound like something you might consider?

    Thank you for your time, sorry if it was long winded.

  74. Hi Jamey, curious to know, where do you stand on dice in games in general and what’s your favourite dice mechanism?

  75. Hi Jamey, hearby my submission questions:

    My game is a 2-6 player game that also allows for teamplay (2v2, 2v2v2 and 3v3). A 1 player version is very well possible but would take additional components/time etc to develop. Would you say it’s best to submit it with a 1player version included or submit it as 2-6 with the remark of 1 player future possibilities?

    My game currently features 16 different alien races with special abilities and different playstyles. In order to create a very unique world I have decided to work out extensive concept notes and lore about the planet and the history of every race. Do you believe this to be a real plus for a boardgame in the current market?

    I am currently facing serious dilemma’s for my prototype (and future final) version and the estimated total component cost. I have several possibilities at hand but these differ greatly in quality. I believe that with the current KS market a high quality and component heavy game can be succesful (for example Rising Sun), especially with the goal possibilities for upgrades. What do you deem to be an acceptable price range for a game?

    Thx!
    Thomas

    1. Thomas: We actually have a special team of developers (Automa) who design the solo versions of our games, so you don’t need to do that.

      I think lore and a strong sense of story and place are huge pluses for the current market.

      The acceptable price range highly varies depending on the game. It’s also something you don’t really have to think that much about if you’re submitting to publishers–that’s for them to figure out. I think the only instance where you have to think about price is if you have a crucial component in the game that is incredibly expensive, that may make the game unappealing to a publisher.

      1. Thanks Jamey for the very clear answers. Good to hear I’m on the right track with the lore and concepts.

  76. Hi Jamey,

    As others have done before me on this page, I want to dig a bit deeper into your tenet regarding phases and action checklists. As I understand it, the main reason why you prefer to avoid phases and action checklists is that they break the connection between theme and mechanics.

    Now, I understand your stance on this when you discuss typical examples like, for instance, a game where each round players first make investments, then collect income, then hire soldiers and finally do battle.

    But I want to challenge the assumption that phases in general break the connection between theme and mechanisms. In some cases, the theme itself might suggest that the game should be split up in phases involving different gameplay mechanics.

    To clarify, let me give two (random) examples:

    1: A car racing game where there’s a scheduled race every xth round, so players first do actions to prepare for the race for a number of rounds (e.g. upgrade their car, driver training etc), and then compete in the race when the xth round comes, before repeating the cycle. A game like this would have two distinct phases (preparation and racing), but those phases fit with the theme.

    2. A game about exploring a jungle, where the players spend the first half of the game preparing for their expedition, and the latter half venturing into the jungle, with their success being hinged on the preparations they’ve made. This is similar to the first example, except that the phases are not repeated.

    Do you feel that these phases break the connection between theme and mechanics, or impact the flow of the game negatively? Or maybe you agree with the premise of these phases being necessary, but those kind of games are simply not a good fit for the Stonemaier brand?

    If the latter, it seems like you would not be interested in publishing any game where the players are forced to interact with the same part of the game world at the same time. Is that a correct assumption, or am I bending your words a bit?

  77. I think these are good examples escalating chapters or stages of a game–I wouldn’t call them phases, though we don’t need to get into semantics. Your examples add theme to a game instead of removing it, and they still offer a smooth flow within those stages, which is important to any Stonemaier Game.

    1. Wow – thanks for the amazingly quick reply!

      I see your point on stages vs. phases, that seems like a good terminology/distintion. Thanks for the clarification, and keep up the good work!

  78. Can i ask the range of the percentage (corresponding to annual revenues) that you offer to boardgame designers, in order to proceed in publishing their games?

  79. Is the 1-2 hours rule a strict thing? I have this wonderful game that fits all of your other guidelines, and stands out in the best of ways, but each game is only 10 minutes or so.

    1. That’s a pretty broad range. I think when people sit down to play a game, they like to have a rough idea of how long they’ll be at the table. Something like 60-90 minutes is fine, but 5 to 120 minutes is too big of a range.

  80. Hello! I am making a 2-6 player game set in the Great Depression, where players are workers looking to earn enough money to buy property and live a comfortable life, and avoid trouble while doing so. However, the game incorporates phases, which is clearly undesirable. So my question is, how much do you like the base premise, and should I take the time to conform it more to your requirements? Also I’m only 14 so that may complicate things a bit if so.

    1. Lev: Thanks for your question, and I think it’s great that you’re designing a game at your age. I started when I was around 8 years old, but I definitely wasn’t doing the level of research you are!

      I should clarify that while I don’t like a certain type of phase structure, there are other companies that are perfectly fine with it. So if you think the phase version of the game is the best version of it, you don’t need to change it just for Stonemaier Games–instead, consider other publishers.

      That said, while I appreciate you picking a unique theme, I wouldn’t say that the Great Depression captures my imagination as a gamer. I think it’s an interesting time period to research and build a game in, but it isn’t something we could market well. Maybe talk to Academy Games about it?

  81. Hi Jamey, are you still considering publishing family games? If so does the time requirement go down?

    From my experience any thing over 60 minutes for a family game is pushing it. Children’s attention span and physical patience seems to be pushed if it is over an hour. The best time for families for main attraction games (not a family filler) tend to be 45-60 minutes (which would probably play at 30 minutes for 2 players). I would not buy a game to play with children if a typical game took 90 to 120 minutes.

    P.S. Family fillers with high player counts would probably take 15-20 minutes.

    1. Gerald: I agree that a family game should be around 45-60 minutes for 3+ players, and maybe a little less for 2 players. I’m open to publishing family-friendly games in that space, most likely if they still have appeal among gamers who primarily play with their friends.

  82. Hi Jamey, on your live facebook chat you asked what my views were on the wicked character’s in family games question.

    Some children’s books really try to avoid conflict, and wrap everything in bubble. So do lots of family games. My children lose interest in those books.

    Book’s that do hold their interest are the Witches (Roald Dahl), the Jungle Book (Scary Tiger), and Harry Poter hold their interest. Disney use wicked characters in their movies. Children love Snow White, Star Wars, and the Wizard of Oz (wicked witch). I think these show more respect to children’s minds and create a more interesting tense story.

    Games like Raptor, and The Grimm Forest don’t shy away from this. With the recent tiny epic Zombies game, my children thought it was cool that you could be the zombies vs the rest of the family.

    I was wondering if Stonemaier Games have or will have a “do or don’t” guideline with regards to this. Will Stonemaier’s family games be Nickelodeon ONLY or also open to be as cool as the movies, books, and games mentioned above?

    1. Thanks for explaining this! That makes sense, and I can see why kids would enjoy that. I would say that I’m neutral on this. It’s a non-factor for me (no guideline either way).

      1. Sounds like a good approach. That way you could have the best of both worlds instead of one. Have family games like Kingdomino and family games like Grimm Forest, and Survive.

  83. Quick question for you young master Stegmaier, were there any particular difficulties you encountered, or specific challenges you came across when designing games for up to 6 players as opposed to 4?

    1. Steve: I would say the key challenge is ensuring that turns are fast and simple (to keep downtime to a minimum) but still interesting. Also, it’s crucially important that players can plan ahead for their turn, which means that the things other players do on their turns shouldn’t have a significant impact on what I do (yet ideally there’s still some amount of interaction).

      1. Thanks for getting back to me.

        I assume that in the case of mechanics such as worker placement or area control etc the ‘significant impact’ is a given considering the nature of those mechanics. In those cases then I assume the paramount importance is making sure players don’t feel like they don’t have any GOOD options if their initial plan has fallen through?

        Regarding fast turns, do you think slower turns can be acceptable if each turn can be made to feel exciting or if a number of players can get involved in some fashion?

        1. Steve: Yes, I would agree with your first statement. As for slower turns, I think they’re much more difficult to pull off. It’s one thing if players make simultaneous decisions, like in Libertalia–that can work well. But if each turn takes a few minutes, and only one player has significant agency during that time, I think it’s a problem.

  84. Hey,

    I recently crowdfunded a small game with 100 copies yet to ship. I know i raised some money but i want my game to travel further and it cant.

    My game is a game in which players control teams of bugs from one of four groups. These bugs are aiming to take flags from each others bases. The game however is played entirely outside and the natural terrain affects how the game plays. Bugs are also free to climb up any natural scenery making it a very immersive experience.

    Tammy.

  85. Do you accept Trading collectible card game.
    its fast and like about 5-10 mins per game if 1v1.

    2v2 can also played and much fun.

    thank you.

    1. If it plays up to 5 players and lasts between 1-2 hours you might have a chance. Guideline 3 and 4 above. Above it also states, “We’ll ignore submissions for 2-4 player games.”

  86. I’ve got an idea for a game, I haven’t finished it yet, but it requires a lot of dice, (probably around 80). I was just wondering if that would be too hard to manufacture or if I should try and come up with a way of doing it without as many dice.

  87. Quick question about the ‘rules’ of a blind play test, does it have to be a stranger or can I give it to some friends along with the rule book for them to read but not be there when they read it or play it?

  88. Hey Jamey,

    Just reading about your submission guidelines and it looks like you’ve got a great vision for what board gaming should be about and what makes a good tabletop game.

    I’m working on a game at the moment and It fulfils everyone of your criteria, except one which you have isolated as an “essential criteria” :(.

    My game involves trading as a core mechanism, which is to mean it wouldn’t really retain the same flavour if it was played with 2 players, because of the zero sum problem (There is no reason to trade in a two player game as there is no mutual benefit – this is why settlers of Catan doesn’t work for 2 players, for example). I’ve toyed with a kind of work around which involves a betting mechanic, but haven’t pursued it too far as it changes the core working of the game so much.

    I just wondered what you thoughts are about the problem I have suggested. I’d be very willing to film us playing the game and submit it, if that isn’t too much of a turn off.

    One other quick question… do you attend any conventions to look at games?

    All the best,

    David

    1. David: I’m sorry, this got stuck in spam for some reason, so I just now happened to see it.

      It is very important that our games can scale down to 2 players, as we want couples, roommates, and friends to play our games with each other and with bigger groups. I see how that’s a bit tricky with your game, so it’s really up to you to either (a) find a way to make it fun with 2 players, even if it’s more of a variant than recommended play or (b) not submit it to Stonemaier Games (I appreciate you considering us, though!).

      At Gen Con I hear pitches from designers–see our last e-newsletter.

  89. Hey Jamey,

    Firstly well done on a great website and company the time and effort you obviously put in to everything you do is incredible. My question is how much thought do you put into cost when designing your games, do you limit yourself to a certain amount of “expensive” pieces like miniatures before you start designing or do you go back after designing the rules and see if you can change some of the more expensive components. I noticed a lot of the hyped games lately (especially on Kickstarter) have more and more very detailed miniatures and other components. Just wondering if you would choose miniatures over 2D tokens if it made the game cost $20RRP more.

    Thank you in advance,

    Sam

    1. Jamey wants a game to have an interesting component. That probably means it will cost more than normal components. So he likes that. His game, Scythe, has 25 miniatures. I heard Jamey say before that he would prefer to keep a game’s price below $70 MSRP. He also said designer’s should not worry about the cost, just focus on the game. What might cost $20 extra to manufacture for 1 company might only cost $5 to manufacture for another company because of their relationship with the manufacturer and the volume they will produce.

      1. Gerald is right that we’re always looking for a component “hook.” Something that makes gamers think, “I must have that!” I’m often thinking about what that component–or components–will be even from the earliest stages of design, though it may evolve over time.

        At the same time, as Gerald mentioned, I often aim for a specific MSRP. Like, My Little Scythe could have bloated into an $80 game if we had prepainted the miniatures. But a family-friendly game at that price probably isn’t going to sell nearly as well as a $50 game with unpainted miniatures.

  90. Hi Jamey, My 10 year old son– like many kids his age– is obsessed with Greek (and other) mythology. He has created a board came based on Monopoly called Mythopoly. Is this the kind of thing you or anyone would be interested in? Or do the Monopoly folks have a monopoly on that sort of thing? ;-) Rachel

    1. Rachel: I think it’s great that your son has designed a game! While that’s not the type of game we publish, I’d encourage you to introduce him to some more modern gateway games like Ticket to Ride and King of Tokyo. Santorini is also an excellent introductory game to play that has a Greek theme.

  91. Phew! I finally reached the end. All of your responses are awesome to me as a game designer, and my brain is full of new and exciting ideas!
    I have a question regarding one of my games – it’s designed for 3-10 players (and has a variant for 2). It’s called Business is Business, and is basically a wealth accumulation game, through different mechanisms, but the ultimate goal is to be the only company left (kind of like Risk, though players are not “out of the game” when their company disappears – they can still compete in wealth through other mechanisms, and I’ve seen players win with no company on the board).
    Is the “attacking” other players to grow your company (and shrinking theirs) an automatic turn-off for you? The game checks every other tenet, but for this one there’s no workaround. Reading your other responses tells me that this is one of the “must-nots”, so I wanted to confirm before submitting.

    1. Thanks Ben! Attacking itself isn’t a complete red flag–after all, you can attack in Scythe. :) The key is that the game does things to prevent players from attacking a player purely out of spite. So if your mechanisms are built such that “attacking” in the game doesn’t create a platform for spiteful play, it could potentially work for us.

      1. Thanks! (and I have to say – WOW at your quick response!)
        I still have to playtest a new board design (I had to take out one component of the game that was more noise than help), but will definitely submit it here when ready! :)
        Thanks again!

  92. Hi Jamey, I would please like to know what do you think about soft vs hard end game triggers, and whether or not games benefit from having one or multiple end game triggers? Thanks!

    1. Naadir: I generally prefer soft end-game triggers, not so much for the trigger itself, but because it’s often reflective of smooth end-to-end flow of play. However, there are plenty of great games with a set number of round that I enjoy too.

      As for one or multiple end-game triggers, I typically prefer just one, as it can cause mental overload to keep track of a bunch of different systems. I am intrigued by shoot-the-moon mechanisms, though. Like, perhaps there’s a standard way the game ends and players count up points, but there’s also a super risky way that a player–possibly a player who has fallen behind–can do something remarkable for the insta-win (Yedo has one of these).

      1. Alright, thanks for the response.

        I tend to go for soft end game triggers as well. It just gives an added layer to me of not generally knowing when it’s going to end. If you had to implement the insta-win, it would have to be extremely difficult to complete. Yedo does do it well with the Shogun card.

        I was curious because I’m currently implementing a system where players can lose the game if there’s no sort of cooperation between them, but you are all personally going for the win. I haven’t come across a term that describes this. Sort of like semi-competitive, but more on the competitive side?

        For example: Counting up points would be the standard obtained from different things in the game, but each person would have like three objective cards that give them bonus points if completed which are drafted in the beginning of the game. (If a player would complete all their objective cards, it would be the way the achievements work in Scythe. It would be the end of the game.) All while this is happening, a track similar to the progress track in Charterstone would be occurring throughout the game to trigger an end game as well.

          1. I will work on it hard. I want to say more, but I really want this game to be a surprise.

  93. Hi Jamey, sorry to bother, but i would like to know your take on exploration as a mechanic and your views on if games do it well whether its tile revealing, from a bag of tokens etc.

  94. I read as many posts as i could but didnt see anything specifically prohibiting dice. My game uses mostly cards but has some dice rolling in it to introduce luck. Is that a deal breaker for you?

  95. Hi Jamey, I generally would just like advice on this. What do you think is the limit of how many times you count Victory Points? For example: Now we count sets, now we count resources, now we count this and now we count that. At what point, do you think it becomes too much? Thanks!

  96. Hi Jamey, hope things are good. I just wanted to know your opinion on the rules of heavier games. Since the rulebooks of these games are thick, should designers consider putting in a tutorial for the game in the rules to help learn the rules?

      1. Thank you for sharing that video Jamey.My invention aint about playing soccer.It is basically a trivial roll play board game combined with unique gameplay rules.Im sure you are aware of what a huge sport soccer is around the globe and the millions of soccer fanatics that goes along with it.Soccer fanatics follow players,clubs,managers,player transfers and soccer history and that is what the questions are based on.My game as been tested from 2010 till date by numerous soccer fanatics.

  97. Thank you Jamey. Jamey could you kindly highlight to me exactly why that a soccer boardgame isn’t a good fit for your company?

    1. Hi Dagan, the video link Jamey gave you is an 11 minute explanation by Jamey of why a soccer, or any sports themed board game, is not a good fit. I recommend watching it, it’s very interesting. The publisher of Baseball Highlights might be interested in your game.

  98. Hi Jamey, I’m really curious. How much time did you put into play testing Charterstone? I would imagine for a legacy game it can prove quite difficult.

    1. I personally playtested Charterstone maybe a dozen times, but because it’s a legacy game, I wasn’t the focus. The focus was on blind playtesting Charterstone, in which it was played close to 300 times.

      1. Hi Jamey,

        To clarify, was that 300 sessions of Charterstone or 300 full legacy campaigns of Charterstone?

        I’m quite interested in the development of legacy games. It would almost seem easier to playtest them through digital means rather than physically.

        1. Steve: I would say that’s average. Scythe had over 1000 playtests due to all the asymmetry. My Little Scythe had a few hundred playtests.

          Stephen: 300 sessions, not 300 full campaigns. :) If you’re curious about the legacy design process (which I think requires cardboard prototypes–nothing digital “feels” permanent, and the core feature of a legacy game is permanence), I’d suggest checking out the extensive Charterstone design diary here: https://stonemaiergames.com/games/charterstone/design-diary/

          1. Thanks for your answer Jamey!

            Your comments on cardboard vs digital have got me thinking.

            On the one hand the permanence is really important to a legacy game. Each permanent decision adds weight to the game and gives you a greater sense of ownership of the story behind the game.

            During development I would have thought that testing mechanics digitally may have been easier at times. Though I guess you’ve made enough worker placement games that you have a very good idea from the beginning about what will or won’t work in a worker placement game. And when Rob Daviau and Matt Leacock made Pandemic Legacy season 1 they had a huge amount of prior experience with Pandemic and its exapansions. Having such prior knowledge going into a design would certainly shortcut development time required.

            I’m just pondering whether it would be worth testing the systems in a legacy game digitally (maybe even not letting play testers know that it’s a legacy game at the time) in a new legacy system.

          2. Also Jamey, I think you’re a bit more of a sucker for components than a lot of other designers. I mean look at the gorgeousness of your games, and how you commission artwork early in the design process. It’s great and I’m glad you have been pushing the envelope for the aesthetics of game design so hard.

          3. Stephen: I think you make some good points here. If you’re in the “poking and proding” phase of design, I think a digital version would work well. It’s just when you get to the point that you need playtesters to interact with the components and feel the permanence of their decisions that I think cardboard playtesting is important.

  99. Good afternoon Jamey, I hope you are well. I submitted my submission which was approved and I was requested to send a video and a copy of the rules. The file of the video is just short of 5 minutes long, so can’t be attached to an email. What would be your preferred method of me sending it to you?

      1. Cheers Jamey. I might send it via Google Drive, if that is ok, as I can send the rule book at the same time. I will send it across tomorrow night. Kind regards. Lee

  100. Hi Jamey, I am back seeking advice lol.

    I really want to know your opinion on conditions in the end game. Do you think it is too much when a game has multiple end game conditions? For example: If Token A reaches the end of the track, the game ends and everyone loses. If Token B reaches the end of the track, count up points. However, if Token A reaches the end of the track and Item A or B is in a player’s hand, count up points regardless and Token A’s conditions are negated.

    Thanks!!!

    1. Thanks Joseph! I think this type of question is best posed in one of the following Facebook groups (feel free to tag me if and I’ll chime in when possible), as this page is specifically about questions regarding submissions to Stonemaier Games (not my opinions about game design, but rather questions about the submission guidelines themselves).

      So if you’re asking if multiple end-game conditions conflict with our submission guidelines, they do not conflict.

      https://www.facebook.com/groups/GameDesignersGuild
      https://www.facebook.com/groups/BGDLCommunity

  101. Good afternoon Jamey, I hope you are well. I am just about to email Alan the video and rules for my game as requested. In the video I have explained the rules and shown the pieces and stage of the game, with the end of the video showing my friends playing the game. I work in Uni and have no experience in making videos, so can only apologise for my monotone voice. I have the unedited videos of my friends playing the game as well if you would prefer, but it includes many shots of the ceiling as I was getting distracted by the game and chatting with friends. My question is what happens after I send the video and rules? The submission guidelines only really explain up until that point. I hope you enjoy and look forward to discussing with you further. Kind regards, Lee

  102. Cheers Jamey. Considering how difficult it was to get my game to a standard I would be happy with sending to a publisher, having 400 submissions to compete with is eye opening. Fingers crossed and hopefully you get to see it at stage four. Kind regards, Lee

  103. My game is a 1 on 1 strategy game. In the bottom of the rules I have written that u can also play it in 2 on 2 if you want and decide together for your next attack. Does that make the game a 2-4 player game and is automaticly declined? Since there is no way to play with 3 people but only 2 or 4 I believe its ok right?

      1. So its completly fine to submit a 1 on 1 game that if the party prefers can be played 2 on 2 (by four players)

  104. I just watched your interesting video “13 Glorious Gaming Exceptions to My Personal Preferences”.

    With regards to doing phases differently, do you think the following 4 games pass through the guidelines on how they deal with their “kind-of-phases”?

    Puerto Rico:
    Player selects a role and everyone does it or not. Next player selects another role and everyone does it or not.

    Fresco, and Roll For The Galaxy:
    Players simultaneously select their worker placement actions on their own board. Then in order (left to right) resolve each one for everyone who selected those.

    Kraftwagen:
    Players take turns doing their actions, however a marker progresses every time a certain action takes place (a certain condition is met), which in Kraftwagen is attract a buyer. When the marker reaches a certain spot the game gets an exciting interruption (like with combat in Scythe), cars are sold. Any players with a car on the market has a chance to have their cars bought. This happens pretty fast, takes about 60 to 180 seconds to resolve. It’s resolving what is there already on the market using the knowledge of how the rules work for cars being sold. No new actions by the players take place.

    7 Wonders:
    3 decks, 1 for each age/phase.

  105. Gerald: Thanks for sharing these examples. I’ve played Puerto Rico, Fresco, and Roll for the Galaxy, and I think they all flow well despite having phases. Even though I haven’t played Kraftwagen, it sounds a bit like the system I implemented in Charterstone, which I like. :)

    1. Thanks for the answer. I can see that now, they don’t break the all important flow and don’t break players “in the zone” mental state.

      Charterstone has that syatem, cool. Which reminds me to add Charterstone to the “games to buy next” list, after after I buy My Little Scythe.

  106. I have to say the submission process is rough. Mine was turned down before ever getting played, purely on the rules. The reasons were it takes too long, which I don’t know how that can be determined by the rule book and me knowing it meets the submission guidelines. The other reason was too much downtime between turns. I don’t think people wait more than a few seconds before their turn, but most games you have to wait for people to move pieces or make decisions, including Scythe. My advice is to ensure your rules are short and sweet and don’t go into detail as it is unlikely to get through the first stage.

    1. Lee: You’re right, we have a lot of filters in place, as we don’t have time to play the dozens of submissions we get each week. As for playing time, I wasn’t the person to reject your submission, but it appears that you submitted a 1-3 hour game even though our form asks for games that play at most in 2.5 hours.

  107. That’s fair enough. It just seems a bit strict. With my game the players set the speed in which the game plays. I like to be conservative with my timings and the 3 hours is for a 6 player game, set at the lowest speed and assuming there are new players who will need the rules explaining. With 4 players, at the lowest speed and new players it takes 2 hours, with 2 players, lowest speed, new to the game, it takes 1 hour. Those times can also be massively increased at the fastest decay settings. It’s all down to the players preference. It just seems harsh. I feel a little bit of flexibility is expected, especially for the sake of 30 minutes. Especially as I assume you would expect designers to be flexible with you as part of the development process.

    1. Absolutely, we need to work with designers who can hear (and effectively respond to constructive criticism). We also want to work with designers who know when flexibility is okay and when it isn’t. We don’t have that many guidelines, so it should be an indication to you that the guidelines we have are pretty darn important to us. Fortunately there are plenty of other publishers with different guidelines–you have a wealth of choices here, Lee, as do we.

      1. I agree and designers can always self publish. I want to apologise if you feel i was attacking you in anyway. You seem very defensive, I just wanted to make prospective designers, looking to publishing with you, aware that if they submit rules and a video that don’t exactly meet your specifications, such as you wanting a game between 1-2.5 hours and mine being 1-3 hours that it will be turned down, without being played. You have made it clear in many posts how busy you are and that you don’t even look at the games unless they get prior approval from colleagues you work with and I am sure the designers submitting the games are also very busy, so just want to ensure no one wastes their time or yours. I wish you all the best for the future.

        1. Thanks, and good luck! Though, if your instinct is to view conversations through the lens of attack and defense, I think you’re going to have a hard time working with a publisher or with backers (and vice versa).

      2. The reason I really like Jamey’s personality is that he always talks about how other publishers may fit better for some users than him and doesnt put himself in the middle if the world.

  108. Curious question here Jamey but what is YOUR goal in publishing 3rd party designs? A desire to see more games in your preferred mould in the market? Purely financial? A perverse need to dominate the gaming landscape by cherry picking the best new designers to become your designing Legionnaires, thus enabling you to conquer the industry? Just paying it forward?

    1. Steve: My overall goal is to bring joy to tabletops worldwide. We try to accomplish this goal by publishing 1-3 games and a few expansions each year. I personally have neither the time nor the talent to accomplish that goal as the sole designer at Stonemaier Games, hence why we seek outside designs to publish.

  109. Hi Jamey,
    First of all, I just wanted to say I am a huge fan your games, so thank you. They have brought a lot of joy to the table in our living room :)
    My friend and I (although I give most credit to him) are creating a tabletop game that is very unique and I don’t believe there are any like it that I’ve seen. We are at the beginning stages of it right now so we still have a lot of thought/ideas and time to put into it. The few people we have talked to about the game have received it well so we decided we are going for it. We have put some ideas onto paper/board/cards/dice etc. to begin testing it.
    Anyways, our game fits all of your guidelines except for phases. It’s possible that it could change, but we aren’t necessarily sure how. If we were to submit the game to you, would you still consider it with flexibility in changing certain aspects of the game such as phases? Or would it be best (if we want to), to change the phases before submission if we are really interested in partnering with you?
    Thanks for your time!

  110. Jeremy: Thanks for considering us for your submission. It sounds like your game also doesn’t meet our playtesting guidelines yet either–they’re very important! :)

    If you want to submit the game to us, you’ll need to get rid of the phases first. I’m fine with a few simple phases (like, on your turn, take an action, then draw a card). Rather, it’s when a game is broken down into phases (okay, everyone take a farming action. Now everyone draw an event card. Now everyone take a build action) that just doesn’t fit at all with the flow we seek in games we publish.

    I do help to develop the games we publish, but they need to already fit our guidelines before I’ll accept them and start to develop them.

    1. Wow, quick reply! Thanks.
      Yeah, I totally understand. I wanted to see what your response was to that now rather than after the game is created (with phases) so I am glad I asked. We have only playtested very little. We plan on playtesting until it’s flawless… If we decide to go a different route that doesn’t include phases we will submit it!

  111. With regards to game length, how do you feel about games that are story driven or have a primary objective that can dictate the length of a game? I’m thinking specifically about players being in a race to complete the story/objective or perhaps working together to complete it but also needing to work on other areas to ensure their victory.

    I personally prefer games to have a more fluid ending rather than a hard limit of X number of rounds, so I’m designing with that in mind, but I have some concerns over how quickly a game that should be an event game can end given the fluid nature of the design.

    1. Steve: I like fluid endings too. Like, technically Scythe, Viticulture, and Charterstone could take dozens of hours if players simply choose not to advance the game. However, I like it when games give players a feel-good incentive to move the game forward, resulting in playtests lasting (on average) the target length.

  112. When people submit games to you do you want them to have everything finished or are you happy to take/would you prefer a submission where the designer is still making certain components, but the game itself is in a fully playable state? For example if someone submitted Viticulture to you with only a dozen or so of each card type made whilst they were still working on the others.

    1. Steve: That’s a good question. If the game is fully playtested and playable in its current state, I’m fine with the designer having ideas for more cards (or asymmetric abilities) that have yet to be implemented.

      1. In that situation, assuming you wanted to take on the game, how would you prefer the designer proceed? Continue to design independently or provide you with everything unchanged and discuss ideas etc? I’d assume it would be better to have more work finished, but on the other hand much could change during Development so perhaps it would be better to keep these ideas on paper to discuss instead?

          1. This is all great to know Jamey, thank you. It helps as I’ve been able to build myself a list of targets and time frames for them. I work better with a definitive structure.

          2. A final question if I may. Regarding playtests what evidence or information do you want from them? I don’t wish to call anyones ethics into question but it wouldn’t take much for an unscrupulous sort to fabricate playtest details. I think it would be helpful for everyone to know what you’d like us to get from playtests and what you want us to provide upon submission. :)

          3. We trust people to accurately report how much they’ve playtested the game (and we often know right away from reading the rules if someone hasn’t blind playtested it). The purpose of local playtesting is to make the game fun and functional. The purpose of designer-led blind playtesting is to ensure that someone else (me) can learn and play the game smoothly from the rules, as you only get one chance for us to try it.

          4. Jamey, you said “we often know right away from reading the rules if someone hasn’t blind playtested it”.

            That is interesting as almost every professional game published has 1 or 2 rules that really confuse people, or are unclear, that cause people to play it wrong until they get clarifications on facebook, BGG, or through the publishers FAQ.

          5. Gerald: Definitely. We don’t expect submitted rulebooks to be perfect. But many of the rulebooks we receive as part of submissions aren’t functional in any way–you cannot learn the game from them. That’s when we know the game hasn’t been blind playtested.

  113. Hi Jamey, I just wanted to know is there a deadline for submissions to the Red Rising IP you’re interested in?

  114. Hi Jamey,

    I’m working on a design revolving around worker placement combined with a time mechanic. In essence, the idea is that some action spots are printed on tiles that progress through a timeline, and workers placed on these actions are retrieved when the action tile reaches the end of the timeline, and that is also when the action is resolved.

    From my early tests it seems that this provides an interesting push-your-luck-tension as to when you should place a worker on an action spot. Early bird gets the worm, so to speak, but the early bird might be stuck on that action for more rounds than necessary.

    Now, I dont believe this fits within your aversion to phases as I understand it (farming, combat, trading etc), but it does mean that the game dictates when certain actions occur (for the player(s) with a worker on that action). How do you feel this complies with your requirement that “the players should dictate the flow of play, not the game”?

    1. Tor: Thanks for sharing this. I love time as a mechanism (in fact, we’re working on a game right now that does this, though with sand timers, not tracks). And I love Tzolk’in, which technically does have rounds that impact the flow of play, but moving the gears (which represent time) makes the transition so smooth that you barely notice.

      Based on that and your description, I think it fits our guidelines.

      1. Thanks for responding, Jamey.

        I also find time, whether real time or discreet, to be a fascinating mechanism. I look forward to hearing more about your sand timer project in the future. And maybe, somewhere down the road, there’ll be room for both games in the Stonemaier portfolio.

        Have a nice day!

  115. Hi Jamey.

    I’ve been following Stonemaier Games for a while, and my wife and I finally mustered up the courage to open up your submission document to send you details about our game. You may remember following us on instagram – the game is called Grimmsdorf. I can enthusiastically answer “yes” to every one of your questions, except for the fact that our game is 2-4 players. I don’t doubt that you have a good reason for this, but I’m curious why your threshold is 5 instead of 4 players for its upper limit?

    1. Mike: Yes, I remember seeing your game! Our 5+ requirement is a brand differentiator. I figure there are plenty of companies that publish 2-4 player games, so when people think about Stonemaier Games, I want them to think about games that accommodate couples (and solo players) as well as larger groups.

      1. That makes sense – there are a lot of publishers out there, and I think you’ve chosena great differentiator. Thanks for the answer! PS: I’m really looking forward to checking out Scythe: The Rise of Fenris. I met Ryan Lopez at a convention last week!

  116. Hello! I’ve been working on a board game for over a year now and I have a few questions:
    1-The game has “phases” that are basically “every player by turn prepare his board by using cards and sending units to the battlefield” (each gets 1 fast turn) and then “war starts, every player plays an attack card and counts his total army power”
    is that acceptable? since it’s in the core of the game, and are you open to a few variations to that rule?
    2-The game is 100% playable, all cards have placeholder art and flavor, all tokens and units either have temporary cards to represent them or use poker chips as replacement for testing purposes, I’m trying to minimize confusion, diversify and clarify the playtest process as much as possible, is that acceptable, if not, any advice?
    3-I am Lebanese (middle east), if I submit the game in the future, is it ok with you if I ship you the prototype that I made? (everything was made in photoshop, then printed and sleeved)

    I’m in the blind test phase right now, I want to make sure that the game manual is as clear as possible).
    I have one shot at this and I don’t want to blow it!

    1. Joe: Thanks for your questions.

      1. Those types of phases are fine with me. I know it’s ambiguous, so thanks for checking! :)

      2. Yes, that’s totally fine.

      3. If you submit the game to us, you’ll first do so on the form, and if Alan is interested, he’ll ask for rules and maybe a video. If he’s still intrigued, we’ll request a prototype from you.

  117. Hello Jamey. I have a question for you regarding the time constraint required for submissions. I have a polyomino tile-drafting and -laying game in development that plays quickly (15-30 min). However, because of the completely variable scoring, most people want to play 2-4 times once the game is on the table. Is that something you would still consider as a main event game, or would it be best to consider another publisher? Thanks!

    1. Justin: Thanks for your question. That sounds like it fits my definition of a filler plus, which is a great game for any publisher to have…it just doesn’t qualify as an event game. I’m sorry!

      1. Thanks for the quick reply. I think I speak for everyone when I say we really appreciate your level of interaction with the gaming community!

  118. 1) totally agree with Justin Schroeder
    2) does a player limit to 4 players make it out of the question for you? I’ve been working a lot on a medium-complex strategy for 2to4 players.I’ve nothing against games for a larger number of players, but I think it would be hard to reconfigure the game in order to add an extra player. Would that be a huge problem for you?
    Thank you

    1. Norman: Yes, a 4-player limit is against our guidelines–we only consider games that play at least 5 or 6 players. Fortunately there are lots of publishers that don’t have that restriction. :)

  119. Do you publish games that could be of the sort like magic the gathering but with board aspects as well? Like to the potential scale that themed board “packs” would be sold as well as card packs in major retail stores? The game plays as a competitive 1v1, 2v2 (and upwards) as well as free-for-all. I’m thinking my concept could stand along with the greats of card games, but the difference being you would have board elements as well

  120. Hi Jamey. I created a game and I just need a few comments of you about it.
    It will be an elimination game. Each person will have 2 card (1 character card and 1 ability card)
    Then you will spin a Wheel to get a number, a bomb or an ability card
    If a number you will give the wheel to a person when you count from you to the person at that number
    If a bomb you die
    If an ability card, draw 1 card and spin again
    You can use ability card while playing and special skill of the character
    You can lie about your character card. If someone wants to check your character and find out you are lying, you die, if not, they die
    I think my game can be played by 5-10 or more people

  121. Hi, I am currently working on a 2-6 player game and I feel I meet most of your criteria, but I just want to ask one question in regards to the 1-2hr play time requirement. If at the higher player counts, 4-6, the game reaches 90-120mins, but at 2-3 it only reached 30-60mins, would this be acceptable? Thanks for taking the time to read over my question.

      1. It seems to me that it’s very hard to design a game that does not do this. Even with simultaneous turns you’re always restricted by the slowest player.

        I know you slapped the actual average play time on the box for Scythe, but most publishers get the play time wrong (by accident or by choice) and how long a game takes is often very variable.

        Do you have any rules of thumb about how long it takes players to make decisions in a game? Given you’ve designed a number of worker placement games now, have you measured how long on average it takes players to take a turn in a worker placement? Does that change much with more/less players?

        1. Stephen: Sure, there are a few exceptions (and I wouldn’t count the slowest player as a factor in player scaling–even in a 1-player game, if you’re the slowest player, it’s going to take a while), but you’re right that most games vary in time based on the number of players. Euphoria is an odd exception for non-obvious reasons in case you’re curious about a counter-example.

          I haven’t measured exactly what you’re asking about (though it’s a good question). Rather, I try to give players a limited number of interesting options on their turn, and I ask them to do only do 1 or 2 things (default is 1, but if they’re playing optimally, 2). And I try to keep those decisions in front of the players, not on action menus or bonus action checklists. I also try to give players short- and long-term goals to help funnel their decisions even more (without making them feel constrained).

  122. I appreciate your contest! It is the driving force for tabletop games (not RPGs). I do not know much about tabletop games, however I will take the time to learn about it! Thank you, very valuable article!

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