Showing posts with label Playtesting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Playtesting. Show all posts

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Really great playtesting advice from JT at TGC here. I've done most if it for Diggity. I do win nearly every game I play, which isn't good (Wookiee Test), and I'm not sure if all newbies can play fast enough to make it fun (Speed Test). Very useful advice throughout - this should be a must-read for all new designers.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Good playtesting advice

Tom Gurganus interviewed Chad Ellis of Your Move Games, and Chad has some really good advice for getting useful playtests and also thinking realistically about how good your designs are.  Very good stuff. The company looks like it was founded in kind of the way I'm trying - some designers wanting to publish but not wanting to put up with all the trouble and crushed dreams of getting published by others.

Read it here.  There's an earlier part of the interview too, but this second part has the more interesting stuff design-wise.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Playtest reports

I played Diggity and Yoggity with a game-enthusiast friend last week.  Both were completely new to him.  It went pretty well; in Diggity, I got some good cards at the start and built a lead he couldn't ever come back from, which isn't an ideal first-time experience, but should be somewhat rare.  The gameplay was better; it continues to surprise me that I've actually gotten a lot better at Diggity - I wouldn't have thought of it as having very deep strategy; you have a relatively small number of decisions to make, and there's usually one that seems like an optimal one - but every time I've played recently, I've noted some more subtle strategic decisions creeping in, and I tend to do consistently better (having played it more than anyone in the universe) than my opposition, which suggest there's some kind of skill (or at least an enhanced understanding of the rules) at work.

Yoggity, which I've entered in the Memphis regional of the Rio Grande competition, was much more balanced; I ended up slightly ahead, but the outcome was in question for most of it, and there was a definite impact from drawing cards.  The major strategy in the two player game there is when to collect and use your coins; the 3-4 player game, with item trading, requires much more shrewd deal-making.  The 2-player game is still a lot of fun, but it's just very different from the multi-player version.

The three-cards-before-miner rule that I added in the last rules revision continues to work well, although it is still hard to explain.  Not hard to understand; just hard to explain, which is weird.  I'll have to work more on the phrasing.

Anyway, an interesting (and thought-provoking) couple of games.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Cult in a bar

Played Cult at the bar with the Idiot Box folks - more geeky than Diggity, to be sure, but we managed not to totally geek up the place.  I haven't played with five people much, but it worked pretty well this time, even with three novice players.  I may have to modify the rules to allow for five officially, since it seems to work.  Huge triumphs and tragedies at the end - I went from triumph to tragedy pretty hard myself.  The final outcome was mostly luck-based, what with the cards that came up just at the right time, but I think people had fun and felt like they were affecting how it played out.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Rules tweaks

I've been trying to incorporate the feedback I got from one helpful set of playtesters for Diggity.  They seemed to like the game, but they thought there were some balance issues with how the two-player game plays out. They suggested some pretty major changes to the rules to compensate - introducing a fundamentally different way to play for the two-player game compared to the "normal" way I had designed.

After playing some more, I agree with their criticisms - the two-player game can get pretty luck-intensive, and one person can get ahead pretty fast if things get out of balance.  But I don't agree with their fix. One thing I like about the game as it is now is how simple the rules are, and changing how gold is mined would change the whole balance of the cards.

So, I tried adding a simple fix - you need to play a few cards before mining gold.  This is in line with the simplicity of the rest of the rules, and isn't hard to understand.  Initially, I said you had to have four cards played before mining; playing with my wife, it became clear pretty fast that it would be better to have an odd number, three or five, so the first opportunity to mine for gold goes to the player who didn't get gold last.

What I wasn't expecting is how strongly this small change pulled at the two-player game in other ways.  With a guaranteed delay before gold can come out, it leaves you free to play less defensively and more strategically; you end up using different aspects of the cards (shapes, connections, location on the board, etc.) for different purposes during play, and you end up thinking harder.  Also, it's much easier to get carts, since people play more circle cards, which I wasn't expecting at all.

I need to play some more, to figure out if there are any other pitfalls to this rule change, and then I need to see if I want to add this rule to the 3-4 player game.  The problem of runaway advantage doesn't happen nearly so often with 3-4 players, so I don't think the fix is needed, but it might be nice both to have consistency in the rules for all player numbers and maybe to get some of the strategic benefits this new way of playing adds.  These effects wouldn't be as strong with multi-player games, because the players don't have as much control over how the game goes, but it might still be neat.  If it doesn't hurt anything, I think I'll leave it in for everybody.

It's remarkable how such a minor change in rules, meant to solve one problem, creates so many other possibilities. This is why I love messing with game design, and why testing is so important - I'm going to end up with a much better game because of my great initial testers forcing me to look at this problem, and because of the resulting tinkering.  Neat stuff.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

When geometry matters

I've spent parts of  the last few days trying to figure out exactly how to lay out my Diggity cards.  I've got an artist who's hopefully going to work on the game, so I need to give him some good guidelines, and the layout has been bugging me a bit during playtesting.

The card layout matters, because the cards act as tiles - players need to line them up to play them properly, and they're not allowed to overlap the cards - see the picture included in this post to see how it plays out.  There's one connection spot on the short side of the card, and there can be two on the long side.  In the initial design, I put the one connection in the middle of the short side (that was obvious).  For the two connections on the long side, I put them 1/3 of the way in from each side, which also seemed obvious.

But it turns out that position leads to occasional confusion.  One of the rules is that the cards aren't allowed to overlap when played, and given the 2.5"x3.5" size of the cards,  the one-third offset actually creates somewhat frequent questions about whether cards are overlapping or not.  The 1/3 offset looks nice; it's a natural ratio.  But shifting the connection points just a hair towards the outside seems to help a lot. It's a tiny shift - about 0.07 inches - but it makes a big difference in how the cards connect, and it doesn't change the look too much.

This seems crazily specific, but it's something that playtesting has really helped with.  Not blind playtesting, which is great for rules clarity but might miss this kind of thing.  What I needed here was to play my own game a bunch with other people and watch how they play and interact with the components.  Can't take any shortcuts, it seems.

UPDATE: It appears I'm not alone in sweating the small stuff

Friday, April 30, 2010

Blind playtesting results

I mentioned earlier I've been trying to do some blind playtesting. I've gotten some good feedback from a playtester I found on BGG.  He and his wife had some very insightful comments and questions about the rules, catching small but important details and interpretations I had missed, even though he eventually interpreted nearly all the rules the right way.

He also had a rules change suggestion which would completely redesign how the game works in the two-player game.  I'm not sure how that will fit in, and I admit to being a little hesitant to make such a major change after all the other testing I've done, but I'll have to give it a try and see what I think.  I know I need to be open to feedback.  I had identified the problem he's trying to help me address (one player getting an advantage early on that's hard to overcome), but based on my playtesting experience, I thought it was relatively uncommon and tolerable when it happened; apparently it came up more for them, so it may be an issue I need to head off.

Another playtester has tried the game, coming up with a manufacturing suggestion (don't fold the rules so many times), a potential problem (not being able to make a legal play) that's actually already covered and resolved in the rules, and a general sense that the 6-point scoring card is too powerful.  I'm not sure how much they have played, and I'm hearing the feedback second-hand through a relative.  Hopefully I'll hear some more feedback if they play again.  Unlike the testers mentioned above, this feedback is looking less worth my effort (and a $12 copy of the game), but I guess that's the way it goes.

I didn't try to give any explanation of the game before handing out these copies (hence the idea of "blind" playtest), so ideally I'm getting a good idea of what it would be like for a customer who buys the game and has to figure out how to play from the rules sheet alone.  I've got another testing copy out now to still another tester I found through TGC - hopefully I'll get some more good feedback.

One thing I'm realizing through this process is that the rules have to be very, very clear.  Nearly every group who's played one of the eight or so copies I've sent out for testing has either had major questions on how the rules work or has misinterpreted the existing rules in some way.  There have only been one or two cases where my rules actually didn't cover the situation mentioned, and I remedied those a long time ago. In most cases, I thought the rules were clear enough to resolve any questions, but they apparently weren't; in some cases, the rules section covering the issue was present and reasonably clear, but was missed by the reader or misinterpreted.  This rules-writing business appears to be a real art form, and I'll need to hone my technical writing skills for the final version.  I'm thinking more pictures, less text, and a quick handy summary card is probably the way to go.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Another good session

I got a chance to play Diggity with another set of new players - friends who live down the street from us.  We had eight people, and the game only really works with 4-5, so we took the unusual step of going with partners - four teams of two.  That's not something we ever did in my family, but it actually went pretty well here; I'd have thought there wasn't enough to plan to give two people enough to do, but it actually worked OK.  The game went well, too - some interesting strategic miner and tool choices, some brother-sister rivalries kicking in with tool-stealing, and an exciting finish where one player ended up kingmaking to finish it off.  They went with a coin flip rather than actively selecting who to make win.  That kind of situation is not ideal, but on the other hand, it was good that the game ended up close enough that there was no clear winner until the very last gold card was revealed.

As with other plays of the game with new folks, the rules are different enough from a standard card game that it takes a little bit until people are familiar with what's going on.  The family we played with here are experienced game players, so that helped, and we had my family around as well, so the teaching was a little easier there.  By the end, they'd figured out a lot of the strategy and were making some interesting choices.  The game drags a bit with new players (and goes slower with four regardless) - something I'll have to look out for, since first impressions are so important with games.

It was fun to see it work again, and to see new people enjoying it.  With friends playing, you're less likely to hear any strong criticism, and it was late enough that the kids were getting a little silly, but I think everybody had a good time.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Blind Playtesting

I'm working on getting some playtesters who'll try playing my game with no contact or help other than my written rules.  I have a couple folks in the pipeline now, but I'm looking for others.

Some of my early playtests were essentially blind trials - friends and family to whom I sent copies around Christmas of last year.  They all misunderstood the rules in different ways and to varying degrees, which is no good.  I've rewritten the rules now, adding a number of pictures and examples, so I want to see how it goes with a new group of fresh eyes.

I've got two new folks whom I've never met, one an acquaintance of my father-in-law, one a guy from Boardgame Geek, so hopefully I can get some advice and input from people who don't mind giving me the cold, hard truth.  Assuming they write back, and give me some feedback, this will be well worth the investment of sending them a free copy of the game.