Game Design: What does a Sell Sheet Need to Do?

 

By Michael Lohr

Personally, I rate sell sheets three ways: Strong- I already want to play and buy the game, Adequate- It’s a successfully displayed outline of a game, and Weak- fails both of the other two. Im not saying that your sell sheet has to be a perfectly set sales snare, but I’ve seen sell sheets that are. Above all though, I need a sell sheet to convey to me everything I need to know about the product I am considering signing on to sell, and those are quite a few less details than you might think.

Firstly, I want to see an image of the final box- our customer’s first look. While many people buy a game after seeing it being played, they don’t really make the concept leap of ownership until they see the box. I want to see something that I can imagine on my shelf, or myself opening and teaching my friends.

Second, I need to know the total component costs. Numbers are still the best way to list this. Numbers are also a really easy way for the designer to check themselves- 16 custom dice, 10 square wooden tiles, 5 meeples, 100 cards, 1 game board, 5 player matts, 5 player reference tokens, 1 cloth bag, 25 wooden cubes, 1 start player token- phew- that is actually a pretty scary list. Often times, as a publisher, I get an immediate components cost red flag, but I don’t look at it like the game is too in depth, more that the design isn’t quite finished. There may be ‘slush’ mechanics (further design needed) that are adding unnecessarily to the cost to print, ship, and sell the product.

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This brings me to my third necessity: finished product. As much as possible I want to take a three to four second glance at the sell sheet and see the finished product. That helps me make a very fast and accurate decision as to whether or not this game is worth my money and attention. Theme plays a strong role in this, but it’s still just theatrics and very interchangeable. On very rare occasions is a theme married to the mechanics.

Last is all the other things that roll together, and I recommend using your actual pitch to address them. Is this game something I would want to play? If yes, you’ve successfully delivered your pitch and I want to sit, learn, and play the game with you just as old friends bringing a new fun game to the table. While we play that game, I can make up my mind as to if we’re signing it or not. This is an entire article in of itself, and for subjective reasons.

Michael Lohr is a Timewalker from our dytopic, computer-enslaved future. He works for Minion Games running the Designer Publisher Speed Dating Events at the three big american tabletop conventions: Origins, Gencon, and Bggcon. He hopes to proliferate tabletop entertainment to prevent this future from coming into being.

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