If you know tabletop games, then you know BoardGameGeek (BGG).
It’s an online forum for board game hobbyists and one of the first places to go when you’re trying to decide on a game to purchase.
As of writing, BGG boasts 12M monthly visitors and thousands of very active participants.
And yes, it’s a beast.
Game designers new to the tabletop world have a difficult time navigating the ins and outs of BGG. There are various uses for it, but in this article, I’m approaching it from a marketing perspective, especially for a Kickstarter launch.
In the article, I’ll cover the different aspects of how you can use BGG for your Kickstarter launch before digging into whether it is worth the time and effort. If you just want the TL;DR, version just jump straight to the concluding statements in #10 below.
A note to readers: BGG is HUGE and there is still a lot about it that I have yet to learn. If you’re an avid user of BGG, are reading this article months after it’s been published, or see anything that needs to be finessed, feel free to reach out! I want to hear from you and hope to provide the most up-to-date information possible. This all takes a village.
Without further ado, today we’ll cover the things you will need to do to market your board game on BoardGameGeek.
- Set Up A BGG Page For Your Game
- Subscribe To Your Ecosystem
- Post In Forums
- Add Your Game To Geeklists
- Run Contests
- Start A BGG Blog
- Interact With Other People
- Optional: Get People To Rate Your Game
- Optional: Buy Banner Ads For Your Game
- Is BGG Worth It For A Kickstarter Launch?
Set Up A BGG Page For Your Game
As soon as you have a name and description of your game (think elevator pitch), it’s time to create a BGG account and set up a page for the game.
It’s outside the scope of this article to go through the exact way to set up your page, but you can find a very comprehensive guide for that in a BGG News post here.
Don’t be that person who forgets to create a BGG page until after launching the campaign. Since BGG has been around since 2000, some avid Kickstarter backers and game enthusiasts automatically head to BGG before contributing.
There are various ways that potential backers interact with your game, including adding it to their game collection, discovering more of your content, looking through your development and interactions, and more.
A quick tip: beautiful imagery is crucial in the industry so be sure to upload a lot of high-quality images to your page.
Subscribe To Your Ecosystem
Before you head anywhere else, be sure to hit subscribe!
On BGG, you have the option to subscribe to any user, game page, company, thread… the list goes on and on. So yes, subscribe to yourself, your game and your company. By doing so, you’ll be notified anytime there is any sort of interaction about you and your game.
This is important because you want to know and understand the reaction people have about your game and read about whenever anyone writes about you. Knowledge is power.
Post In Forums
Forums are the bread and butter of the marketing exposure for your game.
Your game page will have a forum section so be sure to make use of that before you go anywhere else. Post that the game will be on Kickstarter, and drive the traffic back to your landing page so you can capture the email address of the person interested in your game. Driving traffic back to your landing page to capture the email address is crucial, since that is a key strategy to getting a big Launch Day. Remember, traffic you own is the most powerful traffic on the internet.
As you head into the wilderness that is BGG, be sure to read the rules before posting in each forum. Each forum has different rules, and you always want to respect those rules.
There are five different forums I’d recommend getting started with for your Kickstarter launch.
- During the game design process, keep people in the loop in the WIP forum. I’m listing examples of games that are crushing the WIP posts:
- Make sure your Press Release is posted here
- There’s a forum about new games coming to Kickstarter
- Here’s a more specific thread to announce new Kicksarter games.
- Get in on this video preview of games coming soon to Kickstarter
However, this is just the beginning.
There are niche interests for many different types of games, audiences and more so be sure to look around to find the most relevant forums to your game.
Just by looking around, I saw a thread that specifically dives into games with cool boards. If this is your game, then figure out if you can get in.
It’s your job as the game designer (turned marketer!) to figure out which boards, threads, and forums are relevant, and then crafting a relevant post there.
Quick tip: don’t just post in a forum once and just leave it there. Be sure to go back on your posts often. By adding new information, your forum post will continue to jump up into the Active list making it easier for other people to discover your game.
Add Your Game To Geeklists
Geeklists are another fun place to look around on BGG. They’re lists of games curated by users. Each list has its own specific topic; some might create lists for games they want (or own), while others create lists to share all games with a particular theme (i.e. Zombie-themed games only) or in a particular niche (i.e. 2p games only).
Like forums, it’s kind of a wild world and your job is to sift through the multitude of lists and get your game into the most relevant ones.
Not only will you need to make sure that your game can be posted into a list, but you also need to keep an eye on who is posting to these lists. Some lists have owners wherein the rule is you must contact the owner and they will post to the list, while others call for open posting.
Here are some useful geeklists to post to when launching a Kickstarter campaign:
- General Geeklist for Kickstarter launches. There are many lists in there, arranged by month and year so I’ll just leave the general link to the list.
- Inside you’ll also find lists like this one that calls for your pre-launch page
- Here’s one if you have EU friendly shipping.
- A list for games with 1p/solo option.
- For games still taking pre-orders after Kickstarter. Great place to list your pledge manager link!
- A list for games without EU friendly shipping option, but are below the EU VAT threshold.
Remember don’t add your game to all Geeklists, just to the ones that are relevant to your game!
You can run two types of contests on BGG: an official contest (where you team up with BGG and sponsor a contest) or an unofficial contest (run by BGG users). Be sure to read all the rules before getting started with contests.
Here’s an example of the Disney Jungle Cruise Adventure Game contest sponsored by Ravensburger:
If you read through the question there, you’ll see here that the contest is a way to encourage engagement with the content of the game. There are a list of questions and it gets people to go through the entire BGG listing in order to learn more about the game and come back to answer.
The idea here is that if people go through and like the content, they might consider getting the game.
I don’t know the exact pricing for an official contest, but have been told that it is quite a hefty sum. If you do know, please get in touch and I’ll update the article!
Start A BGG Blog
BGG gives you the option to start a blog directly on the site. This might be right for you if you’re already planning to blog about your design and launch process for your game.
There’s already people surfing through the pages of BGG; you can also use a blog to harness that traffic and make it your own. It’s a great strategy to use when you’re starting out to drive traffic back to your own website.
This is a strategy that I actively use for my other blog, Crush Crowdfunding, where I help provide general crowdfunding education for entrepreneurs. I head to forums like Quora where my content will be the most relevant, and write posts that I hope will be helpful!
Interact With Other People
Since BGG is a forum, you should also spend time interacting with others who frequent it. Start posting in relevant forums and responding to questions and comments about the game. It’s a great way to get your hands dirty when it comes to the types of questions and communication that you will have to do once your game does go live.
If you encounter any negative comments, don’t take it personally. Internet negativity can really have an impact on your mental well-being, so I dive a little more into this down below.
Optional: Get People To Rate Your Game
Ratings on BGG is an interesting thing to learn more about. Firstly, here’s the rating system that BGG has set up:
You can find that and additional information on how to rate games here.
For new games, ratings will only show up after 30 people have rated your game. If you’ve been in pre-launch for over a year and still have not hit 30 people, then BGG will show your game rating anyway. And yes, they have a system to dilute ratings and create “fairness” so a new game with 15 “Outstanding” ratings will not surpass something like Gloomhaven.
Some people out there believe that it’s crucial to get people to rate your game right out the gate even before a launch. But I would recommend holding your horses on this one until after you have successfully completed your game and shipped to backers. Playtesters won’t have access to the final game and ratings will be for prototypes of the game rather than a finished product accessible to everyone else.
However, after your game has launched and shipped to backers, it’s important to periodically drive people to your BGG game page to rate the game. The more people who rate the game (and well!), the better your visibility will be on the BGG rankings.
Optional: Buy Banner Ads For Your Game
There’s ongoing debate in the crowdfunding community about the effectiveness of BGG ads.
Yes, having your game banner up on BGG can mean many impressions for your game, but it doesn’t necessarily always translate into pre-orders.
Impressions ≠ Pre-Orders
Think about Times Square in New York.
Having a huge banner advertisement on there means hundreds of thousands of eyeballs on a brand each day, but it doesn’t necessarily translate into actual sales. Many people will be “ad blind” and completely miss the ad while others will not even be in your target audience.
And then there’s the audience to consider. There are some categories of games that do much better as BGG banner ads than others. If you’re launching a heavier Euro game, then BGG banner ads are probably more suitable for you. On the other hand, if you’re launching a family party game, it’s best to save your funds for other types of promotion and advertising. Before you pull the trigger, be sure to consider your game and the audience that it draws.
If you’re interested in running banner ads on BGG, be sure to head here for more information.
Is BGG Worth It For A Kickstarter Launch?
Final verdict when it concerns a Kickstarter launch? Not really.
Three reasons why:
Backers Discover Games Through Other Channels
Most backers discover games they want to back via other channels as opposed to through BGG.
The poll below was released in the BoardGameGeek Crowdfunding Group on Facebook. Although the sample size might be small, the group still (presumably) consists of people who actually actively engage on BGG.
BGG Presents A Huge Learning Curve
As a game designer with limited resources (in this case, time) it would be best to spend it learning something else that will drive a stronger pre-order crowd for Kickstarter. What actually drives conversions on Kickstarter still are things like your email lists, advertising and other traffic drivers.
It is, however, still beneficial to at least have your game page up on BGG as it is such a trusted resource in the tabletop world.
It’s Difficult To “Own” BGG Traffic
One of the biggest obstacles I see with using BGG for a Kickstarter launch is the difficulty of harnessing BGG traffic. Yes, you can drive traffic to your own website if you blog, but it’s very difficult to do for a first-time creator to successfully do.
When you’re on BGG, all the traffic, visitors, comments and such – all this belongs to BGG. What I mean by this is that if you want people to do a certain action on a certain day (say, back your game on Launch Day), there’s really no concerted way to do this.
However, if you focus on building an email list, you can send one email to all of your audience and drive them directly to pre-order on your Kickstarter page. In the long run once you’ve shipped your game and people are enjoying it at their game table, you’ll also be able to push them to your BGG page to rate the game.
All of this is not to say that we should scrap BGG all together. It’s still a great place to be for games that have passed the Kickstarter phase and are now on the market.
If you do choose to move forward with BGG, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Relevancy Is Key
The one common thread that runs through the entire use of BGG is relevancy. From a marketing standpoint, it is called “product-market fit”; making sure that you find that audience fit for the game you’re making.
It doesn’t matter if you’re looking at forums, or geeklists or running ads, you want to make sure that the places you are choosing to be visible are the most relevant for your game.
Watch Out For Negativity
Remember that BGG is a forum. A forum on the internet, nonetheless. Once you do put your game up and if you start being active, be wary that you will get positive feedback and you will also undoubtedly get negative feedback. A lot of the time there will even be trolls on there just trying to ruin your day. Take a deep breath and constructively respond to the comment.
If you encounter a lot of negative feedback, or you’re feeling your thoughts and emotions be really impacted by the comments that people leave, you’re not alone! Any time you start making anything public, you will draw both good and bad attention to it.
If you face this challenge and are losing steam, just think back to your favorite book or your favorite movie. Everything that you are passionate about most definitely has 5-star ratings and 1-star ratings; there will be lovers and there will be haters. You just need to pick yourself up after the negative feedback, and lean into those who love your game.
Before you go, be sure to join the Kickstarter Board Game Marketing Facebook Group to learn the most up-to-date marketing methods for your board game!