Playtests 3 and 4 are done!

During the last two Saturdays of last month, i conducted the last two play test sessions with various gamer friends of mine. Everyone had a good time with the game, and i got yet more helpful suggestions and criticisms on the game. And i actually witnessed my first argument over the design of the game during day 3. Some players were all for the deeper strategy that could evolve through gameplay, and others wanted more of a beer and pretzel feel to it.

Thing is, i think within the game, you can have both. I think it’s constructed enough that, once you learn the rules after a game, the feel and mechanics feel pretty fluid. But for those players who want to sink their teeth into it, they’ll find there’s room to really develop some tactics. Especially when the game reaches a certain tipping point and the Minion cards are no longer in the main deck.  Then it’s more of a matter of survival and trying to kill the other players off with the Shoggoth, rather than trying to gain points to win.

At any rate, i’m now getting the game ready to take to a local convention in less than two weeks and have a bunch of total strangers tear it apart. Should be really interesting. Hell, i’m just hoping people will want to sit down and play it.

Through this process, i’ve definitely learned some valuable lessons when it comes to play testing:

1) Divorce yourself emotionally from your game. If you want your game to succeed, you’d damn well better learn quick to take harsh criticism of it. The best kind of feedback to get is the brutally honest kind- in the end, it will always benefit your game in the long run. And that’s ultimately what you want, right? Remember that an attack on your game is not an attack on you.

2) Take all the notes you can. Write down who’s playing, how many players, what modifications to your game you made prior to the session, how long it took, anything and everything you can think of. Things that your players talk about during play. If anyone looks bored.

3) Give the players a survey. Seriously, they don’t mind. The timing of when to give them the survey is important; i learned that people do much better when they’re handed the survey before the start of the game, so they know what to think about while they’re playing.

4) Shut up and let them play. What i did, from the first day on, was pick someone who “bought” the game, handed them the deck (pre-shuffled, just to be fair), gave them a copy of the rules, and told them to go for it. Because you aren’t going to be there to hold people’s hands when they buy your game for real; why do it during playtesting? I was always the ghost in the room, and only spoke up when the players pointed out something that was clearly broken, or had a rules question they couldn’t figure out on their own.

5) Record your sessions if possible. I really wish i’d done this more than once, because sometimes a lot of simultaneous discussions can go on, and it’s damn near impossible to keep track of them all.

6) Be ready to modify the hell out of your cards. I’ve got some cards with 4 Post-It notes on them, all from rules tweaks that were needed after each session. My Crown of the Yellow King card is almost unusable now.

7) Get card protectors! Even the cheap ass ones are better than nothing, especially if you’re dealing with #6 above.

Right, i think that’s it for now. There’s other news on the horizon, but i think i’ll save that for later….

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