How To Make Online Board Game Demos: Overboard Games Q&A

Plan on taking your board game idea to Kickstarter? There are a lot of games out there, and you need a way to prove yours is worth playing! Getting reviews is one way to do this, but it’s not the only way. You can also make an online board game demo.

But how do you do that? How do you turn a tabletop game into something playable online?

Turns out there are a lot of ways, the two most popular of which are Tabletop Simulator, which is available cheaply on Steam. The other is Tabletopia, which is entirely free.

Of course, as easy as it is to get into Tabletop Simulator or Tabletopia, making a good-looking board game demo is still not easy. That’s where Kenny Goodman, Owner of Overboard Games comes in. He runs a business entirely dedicated to helping board game publishers create online versions of their games.

I sent a bunch of questions his way by email, and he sent some insightful responses back which we’re going to share with you!

What follows are his answers to Fulfillrite’s questions, lightly edited.

Circadians: First Light, online board game demo
Circadians: First Light

What is Overboard Games and what services do you provide?

Overboard Games is a digital board game marketing company. We provide various services to help publishers and designers promote their board games, specializing in the creation of Tabletop Simulator & Tabletopia mods for online board game demos. We also do renders and animation.

How does Tabletop Simulator work?

Tabletop Simulator is essentially a physics sandbox engine that you can use to create board games. You drag and drop your files into pre-set templates which you then modify within the game to suit your need. It mimics the experience of having physical game components on a physical table.

It’s clunky at first, but once you get into the rhythm of things, Tabletop Simulator really starts to sing. Anyone can make a simple mod on Tabletop Simulator, but it’s hard to make good-looking ones, which is what we specialize in.

How did you get into creating Tabletop Simulator mods?

I got into creating Tabletop Simulator mods a couple of years ago by casually turning free print-and-plays into digital games. Then I would email the publishers to share the mod I made. This quickly snowballed into something bigger, and publishers started contacting me, which I did not expect. But once I saw there was a market, I embraced it and turned Overboard Games into a business.

When did Tabletop Simulator really start to take off?

Tabletop Simulator is one of those peices of software which board game publishers have always known about, but never fully embraced. Physical games reign supreme in the board game world. But it took off when the pandemic started, as it forced everyone to turn to digital gaming platforms.

Why do board game creators, particularly Kickstarter/Gamefound creators use Tabletop Sim so much?

They use it because it’s a free way to advertise their game. It also gives players a chance to play their new game before they back on Kickstarter.

It’s also opened the door for new designers by simplifying playtesting. Tabletop Simulator allows you to do an infinite amount of iterations for free, which increases the quality of your game way faster than doing it in person.

How does Tabletop Sim help crowdfunding creators raise money?

Tabletop Simulator has two sides: the workshop and downloadable content (DLCs). We use the workshop, a place where anyone can upload a mod and then distrubute it for free, for anyone to play. The workshop allows you to indirectly monetize the game by drawing attention to the crowdfunding campaign.

What was the hardest mod you’ve made?

This is an easy question. The most difficult mod is the one we’re creating right now: an update for Europa Universalis: The Price of Power. The demo originally had five custom scenarios, and now we’re increasing that to twenty in the complete game. As a result, it is going to require a lot of scripting. (You can program Tabletop Simulator mods to automatically perform certain functions like board setup. But writing the scripts to do this is hard!)

What was the most fun mod you’ve made?

Merchant's Cove, online board game demo
Merchant’s Cove

Honestly, all the mods are fun to make, but Merchant’s Cove is my favorite. It has multiple fun things, like a spinning compass, a marble machine, sliding ramps, and cute little “good tokens.” It’s even got a very attractive and functional interface, backed up by scripting, that automatically sets up the game for certain factions.

What’s next for Overboard Games?

We would love to do more animation and renders as that is a lot of fun. As an overall business, I want to fully embrace the Overboard brand and branch into other forms of media that I’m interested in.

What else should crowdfunding creators do in order to ensure success?

To ensure success in an industry so competitive is difficult, but the key to it is to make your game known and market it to create a solid following. Build a community from the start, have a dedicated playtesting team, and get as many people as you can invested in your game early.

Want help creating a digital version of your board game? Check out Overboard Games to request a quote.