Sen and I recently attended ProtoSpiel North in Hamilton, ON where we got to playtest some of our games, playtest some other designers’ games and also pitch our games to some publishers that were present. ProtoSpiel is an event that started in Ann Arbor, MI where designers would get together to playtest each others’ games – and for three years now, Hammercon – a board gaming event in Hamilton, ON – has been holding ProtoSpiel North with the same intentions.
There were many Game Artisans of Canada in attendance from all over Ontario, which is great for many reasons:
- We chat with them on our private forum all the time and it’s always great to spend some time with them in person – learning more about who they are and actually getting a chance to play the games that they’ve been talking about online
- Playtesting with game designers is always awesome. While you always need to playtest with non-designers (and sometimes non-gamers), the feedback you get from designers is almost always awesome!
- We continue to extend our presence and awareness in our quest for global domination…er – better board games.
I’m going to break this down into three topics:
- Playtesting our games
- Playtesting other designers’ games
- Pitching our games to publishers (including a video of us pitching!!)
Playtesting our games
What’s That: Sen and I partnered up with Stefan Alexander and have been working on a party game the requires an App. Stefan is a programmer and has been able to program the app, and we’ve been tweaking it over the past few months. This is the game that I actually pitched to Repos Productions at the Gathering back in April – but we still haven’t handed it over fully as we’re not happy with the App yet.
The game involves players individually looking at the smart phone and their own unique clue, and then everyone has to make their clue out of an artisitic medium. Then players cooperatively try to guess what everything has in common.
Our latest playtest was very rewarding. We found out that it is indeed fun and that it creates a lot of laughs, and we learned that we need to do three things to make it all work:
- Currently players have to type in the answer using an assortment of letters that appear at the bottom – but this actually can turn the game into a bit of a word guessing game. We will revert back to what we had previously – where any player can shout out the answer and check to see if they are right.
- We need to more artistic mediums as people didn’t like having two of the same in the game. We brainstormed and came up with two fun ones!
- We need to ensure the clues are super easy by themselves to create – but not too easy that you can guess what the answer is without even knowing the other clues. Should be do-able!
Sen and I were very happy with where the game was at – but after one playtest on the Friday night, one of the other playtesters gave us an idea that sounded awesome! The idea was to remove the very fiddly tracks that kept track of what players built, and instead resolve the effect more immediately. After brainstorming we realized that we couldn’t do everything immediately, but we could do it for some of the tracks. We woke up early on Saturday morning and changed some cards and found some tokens just in time for pitching it to publishers!! I’ll get more into this crazy plan in my next post!
Rock, Paper, Wizards: Sen and I have partnered up with Belfort artist – and game designer of Wasabi and other games coming soon – Josh Cappel – to make Rock, Paper, Wizards. We had pitched this game to Z-Man games at the Gathering in April and Zev really liked it and took it back with him to assess with his playtesters. A month or so later and we get some notes from them saying that they don’t want to give the prototype back to us yet, but they also don’t want to publish it as is yet. They gave us some feedback on some things that they’d like us to fix.
Since then, the three of us have tried so many different variations that tried to fix it, but we always ended back where we started. It has been one of the most frustrating games for us – mostly because it always felt like we were so close to something really good.
We learned that a game with guessing whether someone is bluffing or not – that players need two things: motivation on who to attack and information about some of the cards so they can have some odds on whether someone is bluffing or not.
It’s rare that the three of us are in the same room, so we spent a good deal of time brainstorming ideas on how to fix this idea. One of the ideas from Josh was something as simple as “What if the spells we’re casting always hit their target?” At first it was dismissed since that would entirely remove the bluffing element altogether – but later on we thought more about it and realized that the fun part of the game is throwing hand gestures at each other – not the bluffing. We were so locked into the game being a bluffing game that we forgot our own advice: follow the fun!
So we brainstormed our new idea and quickly came up with some motivations and parameters. A quick playtest later in the week proved that we were on the right track! I’ve playtested it a few more times and am very excited with the direction the game is taking!
It was great to playtest these games with other designers. We got some great feedback and we’re excited about each of these games now more than ever!
2) Playtesting other designers’ games
I like to think I spend more time playtesting other peoples’ games rather than my own at these kinds of conventions. I got to playtest these games:
by Yves Tourigny and Al Leduc – an interesting fed-ex kind of pick-up-and-deliver game
–Tip Top Towers by Daniel Rocchi – a cool balancing block game played on a wobbly plate
–Wild West Poker game by Francios Valentyne (can’t remember exact title!)- a very thematic Wild West deck building game in which all fights are done with poker hands
–Superhero co-op game by Mark McKinnon – a game where superheroes are trying to save aliens from planets that are getting sucked into a vortex
by Josh Cappel – a flicking game that should get published! You play on any table and use things on the table as obstacles in an effort to rescue astronauts from planets – very neat!
–8-bit Bomber by Daniel Rocchi and Daryl Chow – a Bomberman kind of game with a cool puzzley movement mechanic that is fun and interesting
–Londonderry by Daryl Andrews and Stephen Sauer – Daryl asked if I could be his wingman during the play session of this game with Mercury. It was great playing with Doc and Kevin from Mercury! Not only have I pitched games to them twice before, but I’ve even played a game of Keyflower with them at the Gathering this year. It was fun to play a game with them again! You know you’re in a publisher’s good books when you’re both smack talking each other throughout a game! It was a great play session and they expressed some serious interest in the game.
It’s always interesting playtesting other designers’ games as you can see how that person thinks and how they try to balance aspects of the game, or come up with solutions to problems that Sen and I have also encountered. I’ve always said that if you are a game designer – then surround yourself with other game designers!! You learn so much – even if you just playtest their games all the time.
In our next post I’ll share how we pitched our games to the publishers that were there, including sharing a video of one of our pitch sessions!