I have a game in development, and I obviously think that it's good. It's fairly easy to play, but it's complex to balance. I have worked long and hard so far to make it almost ready for playtesting.

I have been promoting the game in adequate circles in hopes of getting publisher attention. And so I got, from a major one. All they asked is to send over the rules...

I'm not sure if I should. I don't want a game that is similar to mine popping in the future - I rather not lose this opportunity.

I have no experience, as this would be my first game I attempt to publish. What do you think? How should I approach my answer? I don't want to be disrespectful.

I thought along the lines of expressing how complex the mechanics are in the development background, show some screenshots, thank for the interest, explain how a game would look like to players (trying to think with the reader's mind), and ask for feedback.

  • 2
    Looks like you need legal advise. Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 10:45
  • 3
    What kind of reaction did you expect from the company? Without getting presented the game and the rules, how should they fall for your game? I also thing that legal advice would be good, but I am not sure of what your expectations on the company are.
    – Lot
    Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 11:23
  • @Lot: I have, of course, presented them with pitch material. Sorry for omitting that. However it also didn't contain rules due to the reason above.
    – mozzribo
    Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 13:10

3 Answers 3


Send the rules.

  1. Fear of having your idea copied/stolen is a uniquely amateur mentality. Daniel Solis (designer) and Gil Hova (publisher who references other publishers) cover the topic well in their articles about this very topic. Additionally, there is this entry on BGG. They all conclude that you should not worry about someone stealing your idea.
  2. The company asked for the rules. Do you suspect they won't act in good faith? If so, the rules issue is moot. Otherwise, please know that this is standard practice. Earlier this week, I made appointments with about 20 designers for Gencon - and declined several others - after looking at a combination of rules and sell sheets. Let the professionals see your game for what it is!
  • doppleganger - my composition teacher insisted that I use the active voice, whence the rollback Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 15:50
  • Ok, but naming sources is useful, and summarising external links is required. We want your post to remain a useful answer even after a link 404s. If you don't want my revision, could you write an appropriate summary? Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 15:51
  • While it's good to talk to Lawyers, keep in mind that lawyers always worry about worst case scenarios. Additionally, the more fear and doubt they sow, the more work they get. Most people, and most companies are honest, and deal well with partners/clients etc. Ask around a bit about this publisher, and if you find they are on the up and up, just send away.
    – John
    Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 18:35
  • 1
    @doppelgreener Summarizing external links is not required - you're probably confusing this with Link-Only-Answers, where some answer is required, and if all you have is a link then you should summarize that link. If the answer stands excellent on its own and links to further reading, there's no mandate to summarize.
    – corsiKa
    Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 22:06
  • 3
    @beerhunter - the "poor man's copyright" is covered in the BGG link, and rejected. Commented Aug 3, 2017 at 14:35

Search for a case where this happened. A lot of game designers have this fear and it seems totally unsupported. Publishers would kill themselves if they did it, because nobody would give their rules to a a company that stole rules once.

The board game scene is comparatively tiny and things like those will spread like wildfire.

  • 1
    That makes sense. In retrospect it's obvious, actually. As a beginner these clarifications were necessary. Thank you.
    – mozzribo
    Commented Oct 5, 2017 at 20:17

I think Chaz 2.0's advice is quite sound, and this is only to supplement:

  • Make sure that you're creation of the game is well documented

I go so far as to suggest formally copywriting the rules (costs about $30 and can be done electronically at Copyright.gov.)

I mention that not because it gives you any actual protection--copyright does not protect game mechanics, and the submission would only cover the "literary content" of the rule description or the "artistic content" of any images, but it could be used as leverage for a settlement if a company does decide to rip your idea without compensating you. (i.e. you don't mention the company expressing interest, so we can't judge if they are a reputable firm.)

If you feel you have novel game mechanics (i.e. the game is more than just a recombination of existing mechanics) you may want to explore a provisional patent. These can be filed inexpensively, and give you a year of protection, even when you disclose. However, if you have publicly disclosed more than 1 year prior, the intellectual property is in the public domain, and no longer patent eligible. (This is for the US--patent rules differ by region.)

Also be advised that a large company may already have similar games in the pipeline, or in a file cabinet, so there is the possibility you could be turned down and still see a similar game in future which was not based on your game.

  • Pursue crowdfunding as an alternative

It's always good to have a backup plan in case the publishers pass! Crowdfunding has been quite successful for indie board and card games.

  • 1
    Thanks for the useful insights! I will sure live by at least sone of them, and I'm sure that others will find it helpful as well. (I do live outside of the US.)
    – mozzribo
    Commented Aug 15, 2017 at 22:35
  • @mozzribo If you do have wholly novel mechanics, definitely look into provisional patents. I mentioned the US b/c I'm less well versed in international patent law, and it differs by region. (You might consult with a patent attorney in your region, which is usually at no charge.)
    – DukeZhou
    Commented Aug 16, 2017 at 20:10
  • I don't think it's novel enough, though I sure will talk to someone, just in case.
    – mozzribo
    Commented Aug 16, 2017 at 21:52
  • At this risk of sounding callous, I would say that if you think your mechanism is novel, then you haven't played enough games. Commented Aug 22, 2017 at 1:28
  • @TheChaz2.0 You raise a very valid point in that fundamental, novel mechanics almost never occur. But when they do, the creator should take steps to protect them. (i.e. ideally you want to be in the position of Richard Garfield, creator of the modern collectible card game genre, and not the creators of Threes aka 2048;) Alternatively, if the game cannot be effectively monetized, such as Conway's Sprouts, a paper and pencil game, there is not real reason to seek intellectual property protection.
    – DukeZhou
    Commented Aug 22, 2017 at 17:00

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