Kickstarter Lesson #198: Translation, Localization, and Language Independence

5 September 2016 | 66 Comments

One of the formative moments for Stonemaier Games happened a little under 3 years ago when two companies reached out to me with similar offers: They wanted to make foreign-language versions of our games (one in Asia, the other in Europe).

Today I’m going to talk about the various benefits and options creators have for both localization and worldwide accessibility on the product level. I’ll discuss this through the lens of a board game company, but many of these ideas apply to any product.

The Benefits of Worldwide Accessibility

When I started Stonemaier Games, I had the naive misconception that the only people who were going to care about our games were English speakers. I figured, if you don’t speak English, why would you want to play a game that relies on the English language?

As it turns out, the desire to play a game has nothing to do with the language of the game. The language is just an obstacle between some people and what they want. By offering your game in multiple languages–we’ll discuss the options for that in a moment–you significantly increase your potential audience.

Also, I’d relate it to when you travel abroad and attempt to use a few words and phrases in the native language. The effort to connect is appreciated.

903990fe9c3583fce37ece317f01ce69_originalLanguage Independence

One method used frequently in board games is to make components language-independent (or “language neutral”). Many games use symbols and icons instead of words. Or, when words are used (see cards from Herbaceous on the right), they’re labels, not descriptors.

The challenge, though, is that by removing language, you can sometimes sacrifice gameplay or significantly increase the complexity of understanding and remembering how to play the game (or use the product). Imagine if Magic the Gathering tried to convey everything with icons instead of words–it would be a mess.

Also, as I’ve learned by talking to localization partners, they actually prefer games to be language dependent, as it ensures that people in their region will buy their version of the game.

So choose what’s right for your game, and maybe consider a hybrid system like Deus, which has cards that feature both iconological and textual descriptions.

Volunteer-Driven Translation

Regardless of language independence, players usually have to read the rules of the game to understand how to play it. So it can be incredibly helpful to have volunteers who are willing to translate the instructions.

We started doing this with Euphoria. Some backers reached out to me and offered to translate the rules. As I started to see the value of it, I put out a call to other backers and ambassadors to see if they would be willing to translate it as well (you could do this on BoardGameGeek or Facebook too). At this point it’s something we seek to do before a campaign if possible; if not, definitely before the game is released.

Here are a few things I’ve learned about volunteer-driven translation:

  • We believe that volunteers should be compensated for their time and expertise, so depending on the project, we either give translators a copy of the game or we pay them.
  • We try to give volunteers the most complete version of the rules. It can be frustrating for translators if they spend a bunch of time on a rulebook and then get a new version of it from you.
  • Deadlines are tricky with volunteers. All I ask for is transparency: If someone just isn’t able to take care of a specific translation, I’d rather they let me know so I can find someone else who is available.
  • I keep track of all of our translators on a big Google doc. I encourage the lead translators to reach out to others on the list to help proofread the translated rulebooks (quality control).
  • If the document doesn’t have in-line icons, sometimes translators can edit the PDF. However, we prefer for translators to edit the source files, which means they need to own and know how to use InDesign.

We make all translated rules available for download on our website. Also, if a game has a lot of language-dependent cards, we’ve started creating one-sheet translatable guides for them (see examples here).

Euphoria Box vertical HighRes FrenchLocalization

This is the big moment: You’ve published a product in English (or you had a successful crowdfunding campaign), and a company reaches out to you about publishing a localized version of the product. Or maybe you reach out to them, and they’re interested. What are your options?

Co-Production: This is the method that Stonemaier Games has used the most often. It means that you and your partner(s) are going to share a print run with the same manufacturer, which is helpful for economies of scale for all of the language-independent components. The partner handles the translation, ensures that the information on the box meets their local guidelines, and pays you for the production, and you coordinate production.

This can be a good arrangement for both parties, but it also means that you’re intrinsically linked to each other. If you’re slow to get the final version of the rules to the partner, they have to wait for you. If the partner is slow to complete their translation, you have to wait for them. Set clear boundaries and don’t let it impact your production schedule if you’ve already committed to certain deadlines. At Stonemaier Games, we’ve learned to only make the first print run in English–it’s the second print run that can be in other languages too.

Make sure to have a very clear contract with your localization partners, particularly regarding payment and freight shipping. With a few exceptions, we typically require 50% of the payment when the manufacturing starts (if it’s not paid, we move ahead without that partner–they’ll have to wait for the next print run) and the second 50% right before the games leave the factory. The more trust we have in the partner, the more flexible we can be.

In terms of royalties, my preferred way to do it is offer partners a set price that includes the manufacturing cost and our royalty (a few dollars). Alternatively, the royalty can be based on sales.

Licensing: This is a more hands-off method. Instead of co-producing a product, you simply license the rights for another company to make that product as they wish (with as much oversight as you put into the contract). Your royalty is usually a set amount per game, either paid up front or based on sales. I’ve only done a few deals like this, as it feels a little odd to give so much creative control of my brand to someone else.

In-House Production

In-house production involves you hiring translators to translate the product. That’s the easy part. The hard part–and the reason few companies choose this option–is that you have to find a way to sell thousands of copies of a game in a language you don’t speak to a region that you may know very little about in terms of distribution. That’s why a co-producer can be so helpful.

The best thing I can say about this is if you have a really good relationship with international distributors, you can simply ask them if they think they could sell 1000+ copies of your product in their language in a few months. Without some gauge of demand, it’s a pretty big risk.

A hybrid solution is to include rules for more than one language in the box. The unfortunate aspect of this is that it amounts to an immense waste of paper, as the vast majority of people only need 1 set of rules. Also, few product boxes have room for descriptive text in more than one language.


That should cover many of the options available to creators as they try to increase the worldwide accessibility of their product. If I missed something or could have been more specific about something, feel free to ask me in the comments.

Also read about worldwide-friendly shipping and Live-Blogging Lesson #11: Foreign Translations and Language Independence

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66 Comments on “Kickstarter Lesson #198: Translation, Localization, and Language Independence

  1. Hey Jamey,

    Thanks for pointing me to this informative read!

    We’re currently trying to settle on licensing deals with publishers, and are wondering how on God’s green earth you can actually enforce and/or check if publishers are keeping their end of the bargain regarding licenses and associated printing. What would you recommend in this regard?

    Kind regards,


    1. Milan: My recommendation is to structure deals as I outlined in the above blog post. That is, you handle production, and localization partners pay you for what you make (not what they sell or make).

  2. Hi Jamey,
    I have been doing some research on what would be necessary for me to open a localization businesses in my country, and in addition to all the bureaucratic stuff (taxes, distribution, marketing etc.), the difficult part seems to be able to convince foreign companies to allow me to localize and conduct a crowdfunding campaign (which seems the best way to start, specially in a country where board games are not as popular as they are in US) for their games So, given this background, my question is: what do you look for in a localization partner? Do they need to already have some games released? Are there some other things you always look for?
    Thank you!

    1. Roger: Thanks for your question. I do look for the localization partner to have publishing experience, as that’s a good indication to me that they will be a good representative of my brand. I look for them to be good communicators, to meet deadlines, and to have the funds available to pay 50% before printing begins.

  3. Hi Jamey,

    What happens if you partner with a French company for one print-run and for whatever reason on future print-runs you go with a different French company. If the second French company redid all the work, could the first company claim for copyright infringement from the second French company as it would be almost identical, or you have something in the contract that says you own the copyright of the translated versions, and the files must be sent to you?

      1. Game mechanisms cannot be protected as you know, but rulebooks can. There is also plagiarism. The encounter cards in Scythe are colorful. I could imagine a really good localization company rewording something in a beautiful way for their own language as sometimes you can’t use the exact same words or phrases. I was thinking what would happen if company B also used the exact same phrasing that company A use. If company A was a pain in the neck could they use plagiarism laws in their own country?

        With further thought after asking the question I recalled reading about derivative works. Maybe other countries have different laws so perhaps sometime in the contract like this (to use Scythe as an example) would be useful:

        “Translations are derivatives of Sctyhe, a preexisting work. All derivatives of a preexisting work are copyright protected by original creator, Stonemaier Games.”

          1. I always hear attorneys say that people can sue you for almost anything, that sounds half reasonable, even if they are legally wrong. The judge decides, after thousands of dollars spent.

            I can easily see a company getting upset if a creator didn’t want to work with them again, and gave “their” hard-work (that they paid for) to their competitor.

            An awkward gray area and perhaps a danger for a creator that partners up with a less reputable localization company.

          2. It should be possible to protect written texts with a copy right. Details may vary from country to country. I am fairly certain that company 2 would negotiate with company 1 how to compensate them for using their texts, unless company 2 is doin them new from scratch. However, if company 1 refuses to negotiate I agree that it’s hard to find an easy solution.

            The company I have established, Board Game Circus, provides translations and localizations for the industry and directly to designers. Publishers and designers are trusting us with their texts and once we have delivered these, they own them. It’s a single purchase and after that you are free to give these texts to partner companies etc. After years of doing this we have seen many publishers and designers requesting a translation from us before signing with their localization partner, i. e. the international company that is printing copies. That way our customers remain owners of the texts in all languages and can license these in the same way they can license their game ideas.

  4. Hi Jamey! After reading this, I have a few questions. I’ve noticed that you’ve never released a special/deluxe edition of Scythe into any language other than English. Is there any particular reason for that? Have your international partners been interested in that? And finally, do your international partners use your volunteer-made translations, or are they interested in doing that themselves?

    1. Thanks Brent! We’ve actually never re-released any special/deluxe version of any game. Rather, our post-Kickstarter strategy is to release one version of the game (whether it’s through us in English or through partners in other languages), along with separate packs of components (metal coins, resources, etc) that made the original “deluxe.” That fits better with our post-Kickstarter model and gives those partners the flexibility to buy as many or as few deluxe components as they want–they aren’t limited to a 1000-unit MOQ on an expensive deluxe game (rather, they could print 1000 of the retail version and then reserve 200 sets of metal coins, for example).

      Our international partners have their own translators they work with–they coordinate and pay for that process.

  5. Hi Jamey, how do you inform backers of your game’s localization during the crowdfunding process? I’m worried that it comes of as disingenuous for us to not tell backers that there will be translated versions of our game. However, it’s not clear what the best practices are for incorporating our foreign publishers with our crowdfunding campaign (or if that’s even a good idea to do).

    1. Andrew: Thanks for sharing your question here. I think transparency is best in terms of how you share that information with your backers (though I would highly recommend considering what I say in the above blog post about having your English-printing KS schedule intrinsically tied to localization partners). Basically, just tell backers that there will be X, Y, and Z language versions available in the future (if those partnerships are a sure thing).

  6. Hi Jamey, thanks for yet another informative post, I now know lots about publishing a game in different languages. I was hoping you could tell us a bit more about how a company reprints an existing game in additional languages (e.g. how Pandasaurus picked up The Mind). Do they simply contact the designer and negotiate a contract? Are these contracts permanently binding, or only effective for a specified duration of time?

    1. Nick: Usually it starts with a publisher contacting the original publisher, as they probably have worldwide rights to the game (though it doesn’t hurt to send a note to the designer too). They then negotiate the rights to publish the game in a certain language, covering a specific region. They also need to decide if the original publisher will coordinate all print runs or if the new publisher can print them independently. As for the duration of the contract, it really depends. Nothing is truly permanent, though usually they’re ongoing until a party has a reason to terminate.

  7. Hi Jamey,

    If you could only translate for 2 languages, what would they be?

    I’d imagine that would be based on sales figures. Do you know sales wise. what are the top 2 non-English speaking languages, for most copies sold?

    For example: Sales from Argentina, Mexico, and Spain would be combined.

    I guess the contenders for the top 2 are Spanish, German, French, and Chinese.

    What about video game lovers Japan? Where do they come in on rankings?

    1. Gerald: Interesting question! France and Germany are probably the two biggest markets right now where English isn’t the native language. However, a number of people in France and Germany also speak English. I think you’re right that Spanish and Japanese are up there too (Chinese not so much–someday, but not yet).

      1. Thanks for that. I’ll focus on getting German and French rulebook translations first. Then the others if I can.

        I wonder what is going on with China. I read a few articles before that board game cafes are booming over there. Maybe the stories were greatly exaggerated.

          1. Interesting! I have no doubt that people in China are playing games, but I just haven’t seen evidence that they’re buying many games, at least not anywhere close to proportionally based on population. One of our partners in China recently mentioned to me that games over $40 are going to have a really tough time finding a market in China.

          2. “games over $40 are going to have a really tough time finding a market in China.”

            That’s too bad. But the market has future potential. I suppose it like internet 15-20 years ago. You only need internet cafes if most people don’t, or can’t afford to, have an internet connection. Maybe board game cafes in China are doing good business at the moment because it’s a similar situation.

  8. Jamey,

    When a international version of scythe is sold through another developer/publisher how do you make sure the artwork doesn’t get changed, or the overall concept for that matter?

    Because I see so many games come to America that are changed, sometimes even considerably.

    Do you require them to purchase the artwork from you?

    1. Kevin: It’s always up to the publishers to decide how they want to keep or change the art. So if an international partner came to us and said that they wanted to use different art for one of our games (this has happened a few times), we talk about it and decide if it’s still in the spirit of the game. Sometimes I approve the change; sometimes I don’t.

      It isn’t actually a matter of purchasing art. The way these agreements work is that we authorize another publisher to translate and sell the game (“the game” includes all aspects of the game–the art, mechanisms, etc). They send the translated files to us and to our manufacturer, and we coordinate the print run.

  9. Hi Jamey! Thanks for all the info in your article. A friend of mine has the following question:

    What would you choose:

    1. Worldwide license deal with 1 publisher


    2. Separate licenses for different language areas, with different publishers (German, French, Spanish, etc.).

    He pitched his game to different publishers (and they are almost all interested), but there is 1 publisher who would like to have worldwide rights of his game. Do you have any advice for him? Do you see big pros and cons?


    1. AG: Thanks for this question! It sounds like your friend is a designer looking for a publisher. In almost every situation, I would recommend that he find one publisher who is committed to publishing the game in a number of languages. I think it would end up being a much bigger hassle if your friend tried to sign the game with a bunch of different publishers. In fact, speaking as a publisher, if a designer came to me and said they had already signed with several other publishers, I almost definitely would not consider that game for publication (opposed to if I were contacted by a publisher looking to find a US partner for a game).

  10. Hello Jamey,

    Thank you very much for this great article – very useful info !

    I’m having the reverse question, that of attempting to export a French game to the US market (+ Canada + UK). Co-production also seems to be the best option – do you have specific companies to recommand to export to the US ?
    My game is focused on Couple’s Communication – should I attempt to find a partner sharing the same interest for this type of game ?

    How much should I expect from a partner in terms of distribution & marketing vs. what I can bring to the table ?

    Thank you !

    1. Thanks for your question! I would recommend searching for US publishers who shares an interest in that type of game. If they buy the US rights for it, they’ll be in charge of distribution and marketing in the US. They’ll also typically handle the translation, and unless they want to change major aspects of the game (like the art), you’ll produce a print run of French copies at the same time as the English copies to reduce per-unit costs for both.

  11. Jamey, given that the margin is so low with licensing deals and you still have to put time into it and also bear some risk with choosing the right partner, I wonder if it makes sense to license my mid-weight euro game that is completely language-independent.

    I tend to think offering digitial translations is fine for many heavier gamers.

    A licensing partner might sell more games but my profit seems much higher if I sell myself (even at lower numbers).

    Am I missing something?

    1. I see several problems:

      1. You don’t have the distribution channels that foreign licensing partners might have.

      2. Time. Do you have the time to care about deliveries to stores, retailers, resellers in foreign countries etc. all by yourself?

      3. Costs. As soon as you have to send games overseas significant shipping costs will have to be covered either by you or your customer in the foreign country. These shipping costs might be a reason to not buy it for many people.

      4. In some countries retailers won’t put a game on shelves that doesn’t have that country’s language printed on the box and rulebook. I learned this from German retailers and countries from Eastern Europe. I can only assume that in France, Spain and Italy, three more interesting markets, the situation might be similar.

  12. Jasper: Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I really appreciate the work our Dutch translators have put into our rulebooks, but they’re not professionals, so they’re not going to be perfect. :) If you ever want to help out as a proofreader of Dutch-translated rulebooks, we’d love to have your input!

    1. Hi Jamey,

      Sorry for the very late reply, I’ve actually overlooked your response and only came back to this article to show it to a friend.
      I’m not a professional translator myself but I’d gladly volunteer for some proofreading of your future games. :)

  13. I usually play games in English, simply because I feel it has a better flow. Very often when I do check game material in my native language(dutch) I feel it’s somewhat clunky. I decided to check out the dutch version of the translatable guides you linked in the article.

    While most of the translation is pretty good (it still sounds clunky, but it is correct) there are some contextual errors in there. This is the most common mistake I see being made by dutch translators. Often the literal translation is correct but put in the context the word used is not correct. Example in Scythe: “Power” is translated to “Kracht” which is correct when it stands alone. “Kracht” translates to power but only in the context of physical strength or electricity. In the case of “Power” the translation should have been “Macht” which, literally translated would be “Might”, but in this context it would mean political/military might, hence power.

    This contextual error trend which permeates through every translation I see in dutch, be it subtitles, books, websites, manuals or what have you, is another of the reasons I avoid dutch translations and consume English content.

    1. Thanks for posting this. It is actually not easy for a foreign publisher to check the quality of a translation. On a professional level I have been working with some publishers that run tests of the translated version with people from the destination country who already know the game. This people both speak the language of the translation and already know the game. Well, basically what you did here ;) This of course requires publishers that are willing to work with (semi)-professionals instead of having their fanbase translate the games.

  14. Thanks for this post on Language, and Licensing vs Co-Production. I am realizing now that dealing with how to make and sell international editions is another big can of problem-solving, on top of the many other cans.

    I’ve been approached by a company offering (currently) 5% royalties for a European licensing deal. It is very difficult to know how to respond, because I have barely started to think about the possibility of making foreign language versions myself. They say they aim to sell 20-50K copies per year, which sounds quite ambitious but, if true, would work out for both parties.

    I read in the post that Stonemaier has mostly done co-productions. I am interested in that as well, but would likely need to wait for the 2nd print run, given time constraints. However since there is a potential offer currently on the table for licensing, it is tempting to take it up – though this would mean European co-productions probably wouldn’t happen.

    I’ll stop rambling.

    – Have you found co-productions to be the best bet?
    – Do you have thoughts on country specific companies vs. continent wide companies?
    – Do you have any specific company recommendations for co-productions?



    1. Don: I agree that 20-50k copies per year is ambitious, but that would be great for you if it worked out! So this company is offering to buy the European rights to your game and handle production themselves? There’s nothing inherently wrong with that–it’s more hands-off for you so you can focus on backers and other areas.

      – Have you found co-productions to be the best bet? –I’ve found them to be a good bet, and certainly a more lucrative one than license deals.

      – Do you have thoughts on country specific companies vs. continent wide companies? –Well, I’ll say this: Someday you might learn that the company (a company with the Europe license) has decided not to sell to, say, Denmark. They sell everywhere else but not Denmark. Meanwhile, you’re getting e-mails from people in Denmark asking you why they can’t buy your game, and the best you can do is refer them to the licensing company. This is a potential problem you could iron out in the contract, or you could just focus on country-specific companies instead.

      – Do you have any specific company recommendations for co-productions? –Definitely! I hope I don’t accidentally leave someone off here, but the companies I’ve had a good to great experience with are Gen X Games, Ghenos, Korea Board Games, Fire on Board Jogos, Moroz, Studio Joypot, ALBI, Delta Vision, Maldito, Matagot, Ludofy, Feuerland, Phalanx, and Arclight.

  15. Hi Jamey, As always, thanks for tirelessly sharing your insight and knowledge with us. Regarding your breakdown of localization deals, would you able to elaborate on a few things? First, my language independent game will ship with 3 printed rulebooks in German, French and English. This is convenient for some foreign publisher/distributors as they only need to help with translation verses sharing in the print run. However, other companies have approached me (China, Brazil, Spain) wanting to alter the translation mix in the box. For instance 2Tomatoes from Spain wants to do a separate trilingual version (Spanish/French/Italian) necessitating a different box back, and therefore a co-production deal. Aside from them paying for their production portion and lowering the cost per game in the print run, can you be specific about other key negotiating points? Specifically:

    1. I’m guessing it’s their game the moment it leaves the factory meaning they pay for production + taxes + shipping. But, do they handle their own freight logistics or will they negotiate shared transport costs?

    2. What is the typical range of the royalty paid to me the publisher (license fee?) in a co-production deal per game? You say “a few dollars”…. Is it 10-20% of the MSRP/KS MSRP? : )

    3. In your experience, what is a minimum quantity that makes coproduction worthwhile? Keep in mind that Panda tells me that adding rules to a box is one thing, but altering the back of the box (for translation) itself necessitates a minimum print run of 1000.. which is a lot to expect.

    4. Can you point us to a sample contract? I realize these are private, so I understand if this is a tall order. : )

    1. Thanks for your questions, Mark! I’ll address your 4 points here (other negatives–or, at least, concerns–are expressed in the blog post):

      1. In my agreements with international partners, they arrange and pay for freight shipping. Usually I just put them in contact with my project manager at Panda to arrange this.

      2. Yes, it’s in the 10-20% range. I’m sure this varies on the game and the publisher.

      3. My international partners need to meet a minimum print run–there really is no other option from a production standpoint.

      4. I can’t do that, but I can point you to a lawyer who can make a contract for you:

      1. Quick follow up… Jamey.. Is the 10%-20% royalty from the partner’s profit? (From their 40% take from selling to their distributor.) or is it simply a percentage of the MSRP, period?

        1. The 10-20% is based on manufacturing cost, and it’s built into the amount the publish pays me. So, for example, if a game costs $10 to make, I might charge an international publisher $12 for it. This is very different than distributor fees, because the international partner is taking on significant risk–they’re buying a print run of the game and attempting to sell those games without any guarantee that they’ll sell.

          1. It depends on what you want. Like, you could sell the French rights to a French company to sell only in France, or you could not limit the region and allow them to sell in places like Canada.

  16. Hi Jamey. Great post. The idea of asking for volunteer translators is awesome! We will definitely look at doing that as we had a British game reviewer give us this comment when talking about the contents of our new kid’s game, Story Craze, The Crazy Story Game that we are launching next week.

    “The cards themselves are just decks of cards, with attractive bright images and colours, with words on them. The words themselves are mostly fairly typical (although quite American – sometimes I have had to substitute English words in their place for my children), but some of them are hilarious, and these are the ones the children particularly like. The one that has stuck in my head particular is the ‘sharkbearigator’, which my son got in his first game – quite a few stories have since included this strange animal, and not always when the card has been dealt out!! It’s developing its own personality!”

    We hadn’t thought of this as new game creators. So this was a reminder to us how certain words and word combinations vary among even English speaking nations, never mind non-English ones. Further, it’s especially important to pay attention to verbiage when creating for children. In our case, because it’s a story writing game, any little misunderstandings in content might work to our benefit because kids will always make whatever “it” is, what they imagine “it” to be. Even so, we have tweaked the content to be bit more universe-friendly.

  17. I translated a game voluntary and received a copy of the game later. On my first play I discovered that I misinterpreted some rules as I never played it. This could be a crucial problem as some aspects get highlighted by game play. So probably for a better result there must be a print n play version for the translator.

  18. As always, this is a helpful summary. What is missing from my perspective is mentioning the available freelancers that concentrate on professional translations combined with other services that are of great help for publishers and designers (like promotion, marketing help etc.) – I won’t name any but I am one of these. And I am linked to many more. This is a real thing.

    The difference between these freelancers or freelance agencies and volunteers are, among others, often the quality of the translation and for example the capability to meet deadlines. A freelancer will stick to the schedule, he/she has a reputation and responsibility. And you mentioned InDesign: that’s probably not something most volunteers have or can do, but most freelancers can. Unfortunately it also happens a lot that volunteers translate 1:1 which doesn’t really help fluid readability. That is because people (often backers) might underestimate the requirements of such work. Speaking the target language is not enough but most people believe it is. And since some always prefer so save money on the product they volunteer for a free copy of the game. Does that make them good translators? Not necessarily.

    Making a good rule book requires more than just transferring it from one language into another, according to the source language. You want it so be an easy and good read not a machine text. If the rule book is done well it helps learning and enjoying the game a lot.

    Some volunteers do great work, so I am not going to turn it all into negative. Then again BGG has several threads with rules questions or confusion caused by erroneous translations. The problem I see is that first time publishers that do not know the target languages themselves, can’t know whether a volunteer does a good job or not. Working with a freelancer that has a reputation and portfolio limits this risk.

    Plus the freelancer/agency will always be there for your future games and expansions while the volunteer might loose interest. In terms of expansions it is always good to use the same person/tone of language than in the base game.

    Publishers might want to consider that. The expense is most likely between that of an volunteer and an established translating company. The benefit is well worth it.

    1. Daniel: Thanks for your comment! I think this fits well under the section about in-house production, and it would be great to be able to link to some sort of a database that contains professional translators like you.

      1. There is no such thing like a board game translator database that I know of. However, I am going to host a translator meeting during SPIEL’16 in Essen. Depending on the outcome of that we’ll probably come up with something like that. For now there is my network that already is connected to several freelancers, all working for themselves or collaborating if needed.

        1. Is this a meeting only for translators, or would someone interested in such services/professionally curious about the whole thing be allowed to sit in? If the latter, when is your meeting?

          I’m probably a year away from wanting to directly employ translators but it could be lovely to meet you if possible. :-)

  19. Jamey,

    Designers who are fortunate enough, like yourself, to find competent professional linguists to translate rules should truly count their blessings. I’ve been engaged in the foreign language arena for more than 20 years with both the U.S. Air Force and the FBI. The amount of time and talent linguists dedicate to their craft and more specifically their product is astounding. While they are well compensated in the government, it often pales in comparison to the translation rates in the private sector. I’ve had conversations with several of my colleagues who work with linguists and are gamers and they’re excited by the prospect that many great games are being translated for gamers around the globe.

    Who knows, maybe gaming will bring peace to our world.


  20. Jamey, thanks a lot for your article. I like the idea of language-independent games. That is my goal when creating my games – to use in the game design language-independent friendly mechanics. Then I am planning to release rulebook in English and translated versions in PDF to download.

    1. Thanks! I take a slightly different approach with my designs–I try to design what’s best for the game, and if I can then make elements of it language-independent, I’ll do it–but I can understand the desire to focus on the language independence up front.

    2. I think Mateusz suggestion of having the rulebook in english and then providing translated PDF versions on the homepage is a great idea.
      I used to be angry about “bad” translations – which might even change the gameplay if terms in a game translation get mixed up – but now that I translated a few texts myself, I start to appreciate what a difficult job it is.
      That said, I still prefer to have a manual in the original language (ideally english) and then having optional translations, since the creator typically knows best how the game is supposed to work and so many things can go wrong in translations.

      1. As a gamer I usually prefer to have the game version in my mother language, as long as it is a *good* translation. If it is a bad translation I don’t care and proceed with the (English) original. For me it is sufficient if the (English) original is available on the designer’s/publisher’s website and on BGG. It is only needed to look things up in case of doubt.

        The “angry” experience you describe is exactly what I was referring to when I pointed out how mediocre volunteer translations can harm a game’s reputation or the joy of learning it. Translating a rule book is not as simple as some people think. It needs more than being a board gamer that knows how to read and write both languages.

        P. S.: I did put “English” in brackets, because lots of games have their origin in other languages. In that case we have to rely on the first translation into English and hope that the job was assigned to someone good. I would never find out if the English translation of a Japanese rule book had an error in it ;)

  21. On icons, I tend to find they work best for nouns, and quickly start to become a headache for verbs with the exception of an iconographic distinction between gaining the noun and paying it. (as you’ve used in Euphoria and to a lesser extent Scythe with written words and coloured backgrounds)

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