Stop Playtesting!

If you’re a game designer, then you know playtesting is important. We talk about the importance of platesters in Step 11. Today I want to tell everyone how important it is to STOP playtesting!

Ok, Ok – it’s a bit click-baity, but here’s what I mean: when you’re playtesting it’s important to know when to stop and move to feedback.

powers-testI’ve seen (and been a part of) too many playtests where the game is broken but there is an unspoken need to play until the end. I believe this is because we’re all gamers and we all still want to win the game! It’s important to remember when playtesting, that while your actions should lead you towards a winning strategy, whether you win or lose should not matter at all.

I assume we’ve all been there before – we’re making our way through a playtest and find that there’s an obvious strategy, or that one player has an insurmountable lead, or that one choice is never used and therefore a whole aspect of the game isn’t explored. In these situations the designer should recognize that they will not get any more valuable feedback if the game were to continue. Stop the game right there and move to feedback.

If you have enough information on what you need to do next with your game, then there’s no need to keep playing. I’ve found myself asking this out loud to some designers when I feel like I’ve explored as much of the game as I can – “Do you have enough information from this test?” Gently implying that I am done and ready to move onto providing feedback.

And you shouldn’t stop playtests only for games that are broken! If the entire group has playtested the game before and you’re testing one new idea or concept – you can play long enough to see if that idea or concept works. Sometimes you only need to play 1/4 or 1/2 of the game to determine if the new idea works or not.

That said, there are times where you need to playtest the game end condition of course – so those games do need to be played until the end. Players might need to experience the end game scoring to see how their decisions impacted their score before they’re able to give feedback. Even if you start the game with the intention of testing the end game condition, and the game breaks down midway – then you should stop playtesting and move to feedback. You can even let people know that this is the last round before scoring – so they can see how they were doing so far.

The bottom line is that when you have playtesters ready to test your game, then cherish that time and use it as wisely as you can! It’s much better to get 2-3 tests in one sitting rather than one long test. If your game is broken and it can be tweaked with a rule amendment or by taking a pen to some of your components, then do that and set it up and play it again! That will be a much better use of your time – and of your playtesters’ time.

What do you think? Is it important to playtest to the end? How long do you spend playtesting one game before moving to feedback?

-Jay Cormier

But Wait There’s More…reviews!

butwaitboxTwo new reviews have popped up for our new party game, But Wait There’s More! We’re loving seeing these reviews and seeing that people are enjoying the game and getting a lot of laughs out of it!

The first is a written review by The Daily Worker Placement blog. Some key highlights:

“I’m going to go out on a limb and say that gamers are going to like this game.”

“I don’t get a lot of party games to the table, but BWTM will be filling that role for a while.”

The second is a video review from the Board Game Family with a unique format. Some key highlights:

“I think it’s a really fun game”

“I would rate it a 4.75″

Thanks for the reviews everyone!!

-Jay Cormier

Advanced Tortuga Rules available

Tortuga-BoxWe’ve just been given the thumbs up to post our advanced rules to our game, Tortuga from Queen Games.

The advanced rules use the same components (less actually!) and provide some ways to mitigate some of the luck and add some more strategic decisions.

Now you can sacrifice any die to place it on any Icon – but at a value of 1. While this might seem weird to do – we’ve also changed how you resolve each Icon. Now – everyone who places at least 1 die on boats, crew and treasure will get some benefit! That makes those sacrificed dice with a value of 1 pretty valuable. No if you really need crew – you can always get at least 1 crew in a turn.

So if you have Tortuga already, please give these new advanced rules a try and let us know your thoughts.

-Jay Cormier

The Gathering of Friends, Part 2

My last post detailed all the games that Sen and I pitched to the various publishers that were at the Gathering, but this post will be all about the games I played –  in no particular order!

IMG_2132Thunderbirds by Matt Leacock: I really liked this game! I have no familiarity with the TV show, so I’m happy to say that this game is still entertaining without that background of knowledge. We played it without any of the expansions and we barely won. I like how players control characters, and while each character has their own mode of transportation, any character can take any vehicle – and can even take other characters with them. It’s an interesting idea that really makes it feel like we are all a team and we have to work together.

IMG_2133Then a few days later we played it again but with the Purple Hood expansion – and I have to say that I liked it even more. Now the bad guy isn’t controlled by AI – but by one of the players. That player is trying to accomplish his goals while trying to make it difficult for the rest of us. This was really fun and it really felt like there was a narrative to the game we played. There are even two more expansions that we didn’t get to try! Wow! Looking forward to this one.

IMG_2114Red7 by Carl Chudyk and Chris Cieslik: This was a fun game that I ended up playing a few times over the week. It’s a simple idea where you have to be winning the game when you’re turn is over – or you lose and are out. So you can either play a card in front of you, or change the rule of how you win – or both. It’s fun and light and interesting! From the designer of Glory to Rome and the upcoming Mottanai.

IMG_2138Ulm: I’m not sure who designed this one actually. We played a prototype from Huch & Friends and this is one that will be coming out from them. I really enjoyed this game! It has an interesting action selection method where you slide a token into a 3×3 grid and the colours of the tokens in the row/column that you affected are the actions you can do this round. Really cool!

IMG_2118Castaway Club by Vladimir Sluchy: This is the spiritual successor to Last Will. It uses the same icons as Last Will and has a similar theme. Instead of trying to go broke, you’re trying to lose reputation. The game comes with three modular boards and you can use any two of them – or you can swap in the entire game of Last Will as one of the modules! Cool! I had fun with the game and fans of Last Will should check it out.

IMG_2126Flick ‘Em Up by Gaeton Beaujannot and Jean Yves Monpertuis: What a fun concept for a game! It’s a flicking game – but players play in teams – good guys or the bad guys. Players move their wooden figures around by replacing the wooden figure with a disc, flicking it and then replacing the disc with the wooden figure. Or a figure can shoot by placing a smaller disc at the side of a wooden figure and flicking it towards an opponent. What’s really cool is the production quality! Holy crap – it’s amazing! Every game will be photo worthy for sure! Also interesting is the fact that the game comes with 10 scenarios. So replay value is very high! If you like flicking games, then you have to get this one!

IMG_2124Bang The Dice Game by Michael Palm and Lukas Zach: I was never a huge fan of Bang – but the dice game is more accessible and more fun. I enjoyed it!

IMG_2121Tiny Epic Kingdoms by Scott Almes: We didn’t have an interesting game here unfortunately. This is the kind of game that you have to know how to play it in order to really enjoy it. I am 100% in winning this game so far because I think I know how to play it correctly! :-)

Unannounced Matt Leacock party game – Can’t talk about it but it’s such a great idea! This will definitely get picked up.

IMG_21657 Wonders: The Duel by Antoine Bauza and Bruno Cathala: I am a fan of 7 Wonders and this 2-player only, stand-alone game is a great game! It really has all the feeling and concepts of a 7 Wonders game but offers new strategies with the pyramidal stacking of the cards. The game can end immediately if a player gets their token to the end of the war track or if they get one of each of the 6 science symbols – so that keeps your opponent on their toes and altering their strategies along the way. I’ll be picking this up!

Codenames by Vlaada Chvatil: It’s not announced or even picked up yet so I can’t show pictures but this seemed like the hit of the Gathering. There was always someone playing this game!  It’s a small word/party type game that is great for thinky people!

IMG_2145Birth by Takashi Sakaue: A cool Japanese dice rolling and moving around a circle game that has more to it than you might think. Clever game that I’d play again.

IMG_2149Time Stories by Manuel Rozoy: I know there are a lot of people that are super excited about this game, but it fell a bit flat for us. The concept is interesting but the execution left us lukewarm. When we had to go back through a third time, you could tell that everyone was a bit exhausted and didn’t want to go through the paces of the stories to get to where we had to go. The storyline of the game we had to play was lacklustre and I think I would have been more into it if the story was more intriguing. Maybe this is a game that would appeal to role playing gamers more??

IMG_2151Mysterium by Oleksandr Nevskiy and Oleg Sidorenko: Finally I got to play this game – and I really liked it! One player plays a ghost and has to let each of us know who killed him by giving us dream cards that will remind players of Dixit. In fact I saw people playing the game with Dixit cards! This is a great party game as everyone is involved and engaged (though the ghost player can’t really chat with others). Really fun game!

Beasty Bar by Stefan Klob: A fun game that harkens back to Guillotine where you play animal cards in an attempt to get into a club. It’s fun and a bit chaotic. More plays of this would help me know if familiarity increases skill or not!

IMG_2162Welcome to the Dungeon by Masato Uesugi: This is a great little mini game that has a fun push your luck element to it. We had a lot of loud outbursts throughout the game as players would push their luck and then win! Players simply take a card from the deck and decide to either place it face down in the dungeon or face up outside the dungeon but then remove one of the artifacts or weapons that the character can use to battle these monsters. Eventually players start to pass instead of taking a card – and the last player in must then go through all the cards in the dungeon with the equipment that he or she has left. Very fun – and it comes with four totally different characters with their own equipment.

IMG_2172Porta Nigra by Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling: I’m a big K&K fan so I’ll play anything they make. Unfortunately this one was a bit too abstract for me. I prefer their games that have some theme to it. The theme in this game could have been anything really – and so it becomes a mathy game of efficiency. And that is fun and interesting, but it’s a bit cold for my tastes. Other people claimed it their favourite game of the Gathering!

That’s about it. I did play some more prototypes of games that aren’t signed yet by some Game Artisans of Canada as well.

All in all – a super fun week and I’m already counting down the days for next year’s Gathering!

-Jay Cormier

The Gathering of Friends Review, Part 1

IMG_2176Well, 10 days of gaming heaven has come and gone! Alan Moon’s Gathering of Friends is an invite-only gaming event full of gamers, designers and publishers. It’s my favourite 10 days of the year as I get to hang out with friends old and new – and play a bunch of games!

I’ll split this into two posts – one about the games we pitched to publishers and then a second one about the games we played.

Pitching to Publishers

Godzilla-spreadsheets

Jay working on Godzilla spreadsheets…fun!

Sen and I are in a bit of a lucky spot since many of our games have been picked up, which means we didn’t have a lot of new game to pitch. This meant that we had more time to work on games that were already signed while we were together. We must have spent at least 3 hours a day working on Godzilla which is due out later this year from Toy Vault.

Our first pitch was to the German publisher, Huch & Friends. Their representative is Britta, who last year took a couple of our games back with her. One was called Herdables and since we didn’t have any other plans for that game, we let her sit on that one all year. Well she brought good news with her as she said that everyone at Huch & Friends likes the game, and they’re now only trying to figure out how to manufacture it. They’re thinking of going with super thick cardboard instead of wooden tokens. Cool by us!

800px-Huch_&_Friends_logoThen we pitched our game called Chrono Chicken. Ok – dumb name…so dumb that we didn’t even tell her the name of the game when we pitched it! It started as a game called Coaster Quest as it used actual drink coasters to play the game. But, as usual, the game changed drastically from its inception and instead of coaster it now used these cool two-dial secret spinners. We played the game – in which players secretly choose a number from one of the tokens on the table – by using their secret dials. She really liked it – and started talking in German with her cohort from Huch & Friends (dang – I forget his name!). They brought out their Huch catalogue and indicated a game that they have coming out later this year called Gum Gum Machine – a steam punk game about gum ball machines. She said that our game might make a good companion to that game – maybe call it Gum Gum Mini! So she agreed to take that game back to assess further.

Then I pitched my first solo design to her. Now, I pitched this game to her last year when it went by the horrendous title, Ingnotus (Latin for unknown). She liked it last year but after assessing it she said that they couldn’t think of a theme for it (I had submitted it as a pure abstract game). So I worked on it this year and I came up with a theme. In doing so the game changed a lot – for the better! It’s now called The Mystery of Mister E (Now that’s a cool title – finally!). We played the game and she liked it a lot more than the previous version. She took that game back as well. Huzzah!

ZMan_LogoI was able to pitch to Martin from Filosofia / Z-Man, but not our games! Instead I had two games from other Game Artisan designers that I wanted to show him. One was called City Builders: Rome from Andrei Filip – a co-operative Euro game that I only brought the sales sheet for him to see. He was interested and I have connected him with the designer. Then I showed him a quick reaction dice game called Joust from Graeme Jahns. He really thought it was unique and would like to see it again if he could figure out how to get the number of dice moulds down.

Sen is brainstorming with Andreas from Zoch

Sen is brainstorming with Andreas from Zoch

We pitched to Zoch again this year, but we didn’t really have anything new! So instead we spent time talking about the kinds of games that Zoch is interested in and he let us know what they’re looking for – which included some IPs! We’re already working on them now!

Hasbro-pitch

Playing Lions Share with Hasbro and Josh Cappel!

Hasbro had a new representative and with it he brought a new way of thinking. He’s super interested in meeting with designers as he wants to create a network of designers that he can access when he needs them. He ran down how he wants to work with the Game Artisans of Canada in the future. He was excited to see that we had an organization across Canada as it will allow him to be super efficient. He’s planning on visiting us once or twice a year where only Game Artisans will be able to pitch games to him! Pretty awesome!

We did end up pitching our game, Lions Share to him and he liked it, Hasbro_logo_newthough we actually came across a game-breaking situation that had never happened before. Dang. Oh well – we know how to easily fix that in the future. Still – good to get in front if him and show him what we have.

We had been working with Ed from Toy Vault all week – either on Godzilla (our upcoming card battle game) or a Naughty version of But Wait There’s More (we learned how to make this work!) – but we finally had some time to pitch our revamped Firefly game to Ed as well. We showed it to him last year and he had some specific feedback so we addressed each of those requests and showed him the new version.

toy_vault_logo_07The new version played out much better, but Ed had concerns that the new actions didn’t make it feel like Firefly. Before characters could only move into empty spaces, but now they can swap with other characters – which implies that they’re hiding behind each other and throwing each other into harm’s way. Not very Firefly!

Then as we were packing up, we cam up with a totally new way to play that might allow it to fit with a more wacky license. The game played a lot faster and seemed to work fairly well actually. It was wild – quite the drastic change in gameplay and we managed to make it work. We’re now back to the drawing board with this one to see what theme works best with the mechanics.

Sen lining up a shot in Flick 'Em Up!

Sen lining up a shot in Flick ‘Em Up!

There was a new game at the Gathering called Flick ‘Em Up, which is the first game in Z-man’s Pretzel line up. It’s called Pretzel because you can have a pretzel in one hand and still play! It’s a flicking game with cowboys and bad guys and it looks amazing! It comes with 10 scenarios which helps give the game a lot of flavour! We were happy to be asked to contribute a couple of scenarios to this game! Not just because the game is pretty darned cool – but because the second game in the Pretzel line up is one of ours – called Junkyard! That should be coming out next year!

mercury-logoFinally we pitched Zombie Slam to Mercury. We had tweaked it since last year as we had feedback that it was super hard to stay human throughout the game. The new ideas worked a lot better and we had a human survivor win the game! They really seemed to like this game! Mercury is currently working on their first app-assisted game and then their second app-assisted game is actual designed by Sen, Stefan Alexander and me. So this would be their third app-assisted game. We all came up with even more ideas on how the app could work with this game and it got us all pretty excited about it!

I ended the session by pitching a game I designed with Shad Miller called Q-Bot. I knew it wasn’t really the kind of game they publish as it was an abstract game with wooden cubes. They liked it better than last year’s version but that’s about it.

Coincidentally, while we were at the Gathering we also had some phone meetings with Ad Magic who is considering publishing 1-5 of our games in the near future! More to come on that as it’s finalized!

So all in all – an atypically quiet week for us on pitching games. I think it might be like that going forward because now we’re being asked to make specific games by publishers – and that takes time away from new designs. One day we’ll be able to quit our day jobs and focus on game design full time. That’s the goal at least!

Next up I’ll review the games that I played at the Gathering – from new and existing games to upcoming unreleased games from prolific designers!

-Jay Cormier

Dice Tower reviews This Town Ain’t Big Enough!

Here’s a new video review for our microgame, This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the 2-4 of Us from Tim Jennette of the Dice Tower.

He really seemed to like the game! Here are a few things that stood out for me:

  • “I like the scoring mechanism”
  • “Very interesting – I like the gameplay”
  • “The expansions drive the experience a lot”
  • “We’ve played it quite a bit”
  • “You can’t beat the price!”

You can watch the whole thing here:

-Jay Cormier

Akrotiri makes Rahdo’s Top Ten games of 2014!

Rahdo has posted his updated Top Ten list of games of 2014 and Akrotiri has squeaked in at number 10! He created his list at the end of December last year but since so many games come out around that time, it’s taken him a few more months to try all the other games and he has now updated his list. Two games got bumped off the list and two games got added – Akrotiri at number 10 and Roll for the Galaxy at number 2.

Very happy to see that he’s digging our game! Thanks for playing Rahdo!

-Jay Cormier

Orphan Black game coming this summer by the Bamboozle Brothers!

Orphan_Black_trt3tfHere’s something we’ve been keeping secret for awhile…we’ve made a card game for the Orphan Black show!!! How cool is that? It’s a 3-6 player deduction game where you’re playing as one of the three factions in the show, trying to coerce the clones to join your faction – but in secret. It’s pretty darned cool! :-)

You can read the IDW release here…and watch them talk about it here…

-Jay Cormier

Great review of Akrotiri by Naked Meeple!

Akro-nakedmeeple

Photo from Naked Meeple website

Thanks to Naked Meeple for this great write up and review of our new game, Akrotiri! I’m just over the moon with pride when people play our games – and like them as much as we do! :-) Thanks for playing and thanks for a great review. Some things that stood out for me are:

“The game itself is surprisingly challenging”

“My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed Akrotiri!”

“I particularly like that it’s such a small, portable game, but that it has a good amount of depth and strategy involved.”

“I’m happy to have this one in my collection”

Thanks Naked Meeple!!

-Jay Cormier

Mox Boarding House video review of But Wait There’s More!

Mox Boarding House is one of – if not THE coolest board game store/restaurants I’ve ever seen. They have two locations, one in Seattle in the Ballard district and one in Bellevue. I’m hoping they find a way to pop these out all over the place (specifically Vancouver!).

Well they have started doing video reviews and they are awesome! Is there anything that these guys aren’t good at!? :-) Check out this very entertaining video review for But Wait There’s More.

-Jay Cormier