The Unattainable Triangle: Quality, Speed, and Price…and Communication!?

The unattainable triangle is the idea that those three components: quality, speed, and price, are impossible to have all at the same time. If you want a high quality product and you want it quickly, well guess what, it’s going to cost you. You want a lower price for some good quality work, then you are going to have to wait and take your time. There is an opportunity cost for anything you do, meaning if you spend your money and time on one thing, it can’t be used for something else. That’s why experience and familiarity with anything like: board game design, publishing, art, marketing, and a slew of other skills are important. They know the decisions to make that will get you from point A to point B and achieve the goal that you want to reach in a quick and concise manner.

That being said, there is a pre-requisite in order for this triangle to happen. I feel it is often neglected but everyone knows it is important, communication. The ability to communicate is a requirement and it is a given for many. However, what we don’t talk about as much is that great communication can improve all three aspects of the triangle at the same time!

Communication and Quality

When working with an artist, a publisher, or any other work where you are trying to deliver an idea, clear communication is key. Now, if you have experience self-publishing a board game or worked as a lead for a project, you know the amazing miscommunications that can happen. When this happens, it effects the product quality.

When you have to deal with re-writes, redesigns, and redos, the quality of work could suffer. This has to deal with meeting standards you have set. We are tempted many times throughout a project to lower that standard on certain items, art pieces, or ideas, and it can lower the quality of a project if we drop the standard too often. Sometimes you need to a little bit but be careful that it is not done too often.

However, great communication and rapport with people can have some unintended and incredible consequences. There is a synergy that happens that makes the ideas even better. You had one idea for a rule but with great communication with playtesters and fellow designers, the problem is fixed and not only for that particular design problem. That idea just changed the entire game for the better!

There is no guarantee this synergy will happen or keep happening, but the best chances of it occurring is when people are having good, clear communication.

Communication and Speed

This is one a lot of people are familiar with and it is related to the quality aspects we just talked about. Being able to clearly communicate your thoughts and ideas so the piece can be finished quickly is amazing. Telling the artist everything they need to know upfront is crucial and makes for less iterations and passes on the piece. Fewer iterations, fewer back and forth, the quicker the piece is done and you can move on to the next one.

This applies to writing rules, project management, you name it. Solid and clear communication can increase speed of production without forfeiting on quality or price.

Communication and Price

Communication works in 2 ways when it comes to price.

#1) When hiring contractors to work for you, not having clear communication can lead to higher costs, overpaying of contracts, or even worse, the underpaying of contracts. Which could lead to an unhappy contractor or unplanned expenses to your budget.

This also applies to employees. You pay them a wage or salary and they only have so many hours a day to accomplish the tasks that they must complete. Unclear communication as discussed can cause issues in quality and speed. However, some tasks must still be completed and in one way or another there will be a cost.

“But they’re salary,” you say. “I can work them as many hours as I wish.” Uh-huh. Okay. You keep thinking that and you will be employee-less. “Well, I’ll just hire a new one!” Yup, and that person is not as familiar with your communication and how your particular job works thus slowing their speed and reducing quality. Not a winning proposition that only compounds on itself and makes things worse. Thus repeating the same problem over and over again.

#2) Selling the value of your game. When you can clearly communicate the value of your game or product, people are not afraid to pay what it is worth. It’s not always about lower prices. It’s about paying for what the perceived value of a product is. When you can communicate it effectively, it allows you to charge what that value is.

If your game has expensive components, that’s okay. Show the people why that component is being used. Show them how it can better their gaming experience or provide a unique one. I personally love games with heftier components. I like nice dice, I like heavy poker chips, I like nice, thick cards. To me it’s worth it. I also believe people who do Kickstarter in general also think it can be worth it. It’s okay to have a more expensive game, just know that the market in general may not want to buy it because it is more expensive. That’s okay. That’s knowing your market and as long as you can do it for your desired effect and the people who did buy your product are happy, then it was a good deal all around.

Now note, this does not mean lie about your product and sell it for more than it’s “worth.” Example, if you promise cool, amazing dice with every purchase and show what that dice look like, that game better have those things. That is part of the value proposition. If you deliver broken dice or even worse, dice that don’t match up with what you were selling, you lied. You broke the trust and that is not okay. Now, if those dice were upgraded and were even better than the original, then that can be okay. However, make sure they are actually upgraded or the result can be a bit dicey. (HAHA, I can do it to Duke!) Also, know the consumer has every right to reject that upgrade because it is not what they paid for.


Communication is vital and it’s something that we all need to conscientiously improve upon. There are many aspects to it and we all have different strengths and weaknesses. Keep at it. This is a skill that will most definitely pay dividends no matter what happens. Whether it’s in the Board Game Industry or anywhere else, this is a great thing to cultivate.

I am still working on it as I strive for that ideal and I hope you will too.

The Unattainable Rigmarole

Ed “Duke of BAZlandia”

The King above me has talked about communication and some other stuff that he says is important and that I should pay more attention to it. I just tell him to stop spending money and go on about my miserly ways. This does bring us back to his point of communication.  Sadly, I know a bit about communication and in my line of work (military) communication is key.

Communication is key to just about everyone’s job or life. It is the only way we as humans can even try to truly understand or glimpse what it is like to be another person. It is also the only way another person will understand not only what you are saying but the intent of what you are saying and trying to accomplish. How does one get better at communication? The only way is to practice and develop skills in communication.

I am going to share a way that I try to practice my communication skills. Before I do this, I want you all to know that really am a happy guy and easy going for the most part. I have a game I play when I go shopping with my wife, the Duchess. We have 5 kids, so when we check out of the grocery store or shop, we tend to have a full basket or a large number of items since I don’t really want to go shopping on a daily basis. I used to work at a checkout counter, and I understand that at times it is very boring. I know this because as a customer it is kind of boring and I think it’s rude to not acknowledge the worker or ignore them as I talk to my wife or on my phone. So I decided a long time ago, (I have been playing this game for years to my wife’s dismay) the best option as a customer is to try and make the person at the checkout smile, laugh, or at the very least, have some sort of good interaction (aka communication).

This is the part where I must be honest; I am sure people don’t always appreciate my efforts, and if this sort of thing bothers you and you are a checker I apologize, and if I am your customer just say, “Hey, please stop.” Long story short, I have developed several different approaches from just being nice and friendly, making a joke, making fun of myself, being a little loud, some sort of icebreaker, juggling items, you get the picture. The point is over the years I have gotten better at it. I can’t claim anywhere near a perfect record but the checkers who appreciate my effort and I can get to crack a smile has increased over the years. I truly am sorry to checkers who had to deal with my feeble first attempts.

Another example was at GENCON 2019. The Duchess, two of my brothers, one of their wives, and I were at the stadium in the open play area. We were wandering around and a guy playing a RPG (I believe it was Savage Worlds) got up on his chair and then started addressing the whole arena like he was giving a speech. When he first started some people paid attention, but many noticed and then turned back. However, he continued and there was a part that it could easily be turned into a call and response exercise. I didn’t know the guy but once again another opportunity for communication. So, I yell “YEAH!”

This caught more people’s attention. The great thing was the guy didn’t miss a step. He kept on his speech and got louder. He inserted several more call and responses into his speech. I responded. The great things were others started to as well. It got loud and it was awesome. I am sure there were some there that didn’t think it was great. I just know there were quite a few people yelling with me, not just a handful.

Now memory is a funny thing and maybe it wasn’t as loud or awesome as I remember. I really need to find someone outside of family that was there to see what they remember. If anyone was there let me know, reach out.

You may be asking yourself what do these things have to do with communication. Well, everything. Communication is what makes everything possible from just brightening someone’s day with a word or action to whole cultural movements. These things both big and small start with a simple thing, communication. In the end it’s why I love board games, it’s player interaction, which is really just a form of communication.

2 thoughts on “The Unattainable Triangle, Board Games, and You

    • Sam Stockton says:

      Yes, I think communication is a key aspect in many parts of a job or business but in quality, I think it does play a special part in the results. Glad you enjoyed the article!

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