Nearly five years of running his own board game company has put Ewan Shannon through more ups and downs than a marathon session of Snakes and Ladders, but the Glasgow-based entrepreneur is aiming for a big rebound in the coming year.

A mere two years after Shannon Games was set up in 2003, the tiny Kirkintilloch firm was one of just a handful of Scottish companies invited to provide gifts supplied to world leaders at the G8 Summit in Gleneagles. It had also developed a potentially lucrative bespoke game for Rangers FC, and was supplying all WH Smith stores in Scotland with a range of its other proprietary board games.

A few tough rolls of the dice saw all this change within a matter of months. In March 2006, Rangers signed a 10-year licensing agreement with JJB Sports covering all of the football club's merchandise, putting Shannon Games' products out of the picture.

Almost simultaneously, WH Smith announced plans to demerge and scale back its retail operation, with the aim of closing loss-making stores to improve overall profitability. This brought an end to plans that would have seen the Scottish firm's games rolled into WH Smith shops across the UK.

Ewan Shannon saw the writing on the wall, and in May of that year he put the business into voluntary liquidation. Nine employees were put out of a job, and Shannon himself suffered "significant" personal losses. However, with some 15 completed game titles, plus projects and plans for many more than that, the enthusiastic Shannon re-formed the business immediately.

"I have learned from my mistakes, and I have made some mistakes," he said. "It hasn't put me off one bit - I am even more determined now.

"The first time around we put a tremendous amount of resources into the business. The second time it was much more low-key."

Shannon said although he was unable to bring back his former members of staff, several still work for him today on a contract basis. In a further sign of goodwill, most of the company's suppliers and partners are still working with the re-dubbed Shannon Boardgames.

"Everybody stayed loyal," Shannon said. "It was a bad experience, and it is not an experience I would want to go through again, but as I said, I have learned from it."

A year of rebuilding has set the firm on course for what Shannon hopes will be a significant comeback in 2008. The business is now a registered supplier to Toymaster and Youngsters, two of the biggest buying groups within the UK industry. Shannon Boardgames has also struck a similar deal with online retailing giant Amazon.

All of these agreements were signed in the final months of this year, coming too late for Shannon Boardgames to catch the Christmas windfall. Toy buyers tend to make decisions about Christmas purchasing between eight and 10 months prior to the holiday season, and with that in mind Shannon is preparing to attend some of the major industry shows being held in Europe in January and February.

Now aged 50, Ewan Shannon spent most of working career as a council employee for Strathclyde region. His work as a civil engineer began with training as a draftsman in Glasgow, giving him drawing skills that have subsequently been useful in his new line of work.

For much of his 25 years at Strathclyde, Shannon worked as an on-call engineer responsible for winter road gritting. He said this also prepared him for setting-up in business on his own.

"You were responsible for your own actions, and some of them were pretty big decisions, you know, closing roads and that sort of thing," he said.

"You had to think on your feet, and you had to think of consequences."

His first idea for a board game came 18 years ago, and developed into a border-crossing challenge called "Europe". However, his most critically-acclaimed games came much later: a "21st-century Snakes and Ladders" called Crazy Circles, and Property Tycoon, a game where players submit secret bids for high-value commercial property.

Both are still in the Shannon Boardgames stable, and the firm's owner hopes they will eventually get the profile he feels they deserve: "The good thing about these games is that they are not time-expired."

However, Shannon is not pinning all his hopes on products from the past. He sees a market for games targeting gift shops, corporate training, education and social inclusion, among others.

"I suppose in a sense I make things difficult for myself, because I see so many markets out there," Shannon said. "I see tremendous potential in the educational market, and we also have the gift market, which really requires you to think of the end-user."

He first started developing for the gift market several years ago, with games centred around boating, golfing, horse riding and similar activities for placement directly in shops focused on these pursuits. Shannon said one of the main advantages of this approach was that it helped offset the effect of Christmas, which sees 70% to 80% of all toy sales skewed towards the final three months of the year.

"The main difference between the toy shop market and the gift shop market that kids already know exactly what they want," he said. "They pressure their parents to go out and get whatever it is, so their parents go out and look for the best price, and wind up going to whoever has got a three-for- two deal on, or something like that."

Shannon has also developed bespoke games for corporate clients, having recently completed a staff training project for a major UK bank. The firm has also designed games specifically made as one-off corporate gifts.

Education is another area that gets Shannon excited, particularly when it comes to tackling social issues.

He has ideas, works in progress and completed games to address a variety of problems such as bullying, sectarianism, racism, homelessness and social inclusion.

"I enjoy what I do, and I got involved in the social issues at a time when the company was doing very well," he said. "I thought it was a good way to give something back to the community.

"Our motto is Education through games'. What I like to remind folk is that playing games is a great social experience."