On August 31, 2017 we held the third mid-week playtest session. We sit down with Robin, Ethan, Jen and Patrick to see what their feelings on the night were, what they learned, and where they’re going to go from here.
The last playtest session was about nuggets. Not of the chicken kind though. I brought two small games to the table, and I also got to play a new design by Robin. In both cases, we decided the games had nuggets that needed to be explored.
What do I mean by nuggets? I mean something small, some core part of the design that works that can be further developed and have something build around it. For me, it was an action selection mechanic I’d been working on and thinking about for the past few weeks. I had built two small prototypes as a proof of concept, but also as potential entries into the Mint Tin Design Contest over on BGG.
While the core mechanic did work, the games around them weren’t compelling. I knew, going into the test that the games were fairly generic, and probably lacked tension and excitement. Which is exactly what came to pass. Moving forward I need to either develop a game around this core mechanic, or try to fit it into an existing design.
Robin’s game also had a nugget to it, and it’s something he needs to pursue. The framework around it at the moment was a bit convoluted for me: I knew what the game winning conditions were, but couldn’t really make sense of it on the board.
For both of us, there were nuggets there, we just need to keep digging until we find the motherlode!
Bragging Rites is a half alive abomination as I’m changing card content so I was at the session as a playtester only.
Speaking of half alive abominations…
I started with Ethan’s game. A game based on collecting and playing cards that allows you to gain evidence to try to solve a crime. While the concept of the game was interesting I found the main gameplay to be very heavily dependant on chance. After picking up two cards I have nearly all of the clues needed to solve the crime and spent the rest of the game attempting (and failing) to find the last piece of evidence. Racing other players to collect the clues was enjoyable but I felt the game needed a larger skill element to both increase player engagement and add more strategy to the rounds. The plan, as I know it, is to extend the game to multiple narratives and crimes. I’ve no idea how Ethan’s going to do this but I’m interested to see what he comes up with.
Next was Robin’s game, a completely untested worker placement game about international spy agencies. It has an interesting idea behind it but the “completely untested” part gives a bit of a clue of how the playtest went. I was just about to enact a dastardly plan of deception when he called an end to the session, (which I’m marking as a win) so I might feel a little hard done by in this case. I do want to see the game again after some revisions. I really enjoyed Robin’s last worker placement game so I’m expecting good things.
Unfortunately after only two games and some discussion on game components – for the right tactile click in play – I had to leave. I did have about 5 free biscuits though so I’m pretty sure I got my moneys worth.
This week I brought in a new competitive investigation game. In it, players compete to gather clues about the crime, attempting to the answer three questions correctly to win the game: Who did it, how they did it, and why did they do it? There are only 25 total clues in the game and once a player collects any given clue it is unavailable to other players.
I’m not sure if Murphy’s Law has been explicitly applied to game design before, but I got to experience it this week. Of the 25 clues in the game, there were 24 unique clues and one duplicate. So of course one player managed to collect the one set of duplicates (and collected the second of the pair after significant effort) which had a pretty negative impact on their play experience. That is what I get for rushing out a prototype I suppose!
I also got to play a few turns of another designers game of medieval mail services, cultural progress, public works projects, and occasional dragon attacks. It featured a really interesting orders and scoring system; I look forward to playing a full game of it in the future and writing up a more thorough report!
One of the fun things about having more frequent, but shorter playtest sessions, is that it is more forgiving of weird and experimental game ideas – which can be quickly iterated upon for the next session. In the past, Playtest Dublin was a once-a-month, 4-5 hour affair. If I wasted it with a half-baked game, I’d feel terrible about it for weeks!
Actually, ignore what I said for a moment, because this session started out with a test of BentoBlocks – a game I’ve already finished and released! I’m trying to figure out a variant for the game, that will give a more tense experience with lower player counts.
After that, we got onto the weird stuff. Paddy showed me a new action selection mechanic he’s been working on, which I won’t spoil, but I left feeling super-excited and jealous that I hadn’t invented it! I can’t wait to see what he does with the idea.
Then we played a few rounds of a game I’d been working on: a worker-placement game where the workers were all freelancers, rather than belonging to any specific player. Paddy and Jen summed it up well: it was a bit of disaster! But I’ll return to it one day!
Then we closed out the session, chatting about various designs we’re working on, the impact of components, and then Paddy gave me some killer guidance on a movie-making game I’ve been tinkering with. A productive session all round!
So there you have it, our short round up of the last playtest session. Does any of this sounds particularly fascinating to you? Have you playtested your magnum opus recently? Let us know in the comments below!