Playtesting Essentials

As I’ve mentioned previously, March is going to be a huge month for playtesting for Koalatie Games. By the end of the month, I’m hoping to have at least Center Stage ready for blind playtesting and hopefully Icon as well.

For those new to the world of board game development, playtesting is the process of putting your unfinished game in front of others to play in hopes of gaining constructive feedback. True, there are good and bad playtesters, but you can still learn a lot from the bad ones.

What Should I Playtest?

Simple. Anything about your game that you want to find the answers too. Whether it’s game mechanics, theme integration, tempo, etc.  Almost anything is testable.

The real key in a playtest is to have a plan in mind, if not on paper. My philosophy is test as many things in you want in a single game as long as you can keep track of what you are testing. If there are too many variables that are you are trying to test, then either you’ll lose track or they become dependent on each other.

For example, Icon is a 45-90 minute game, depending on the modules set up. The latest playtest that I ran, I decided to test several variables and setups that were independent of each other. They were:

  • Use of player shields versus player boxes
    • Does one take up more space?
    • Does one feel “better” to the players as far as presenting information?
  • Using meeples instead of chipboard tokens on my platter for markers
  • Changing a card power on a certain set of cards in a game.
  • Changing the way another deck of cards work.

I could have tested these things separately. However, that would take 4 full games. Instead I decided to test these relatively independent elements and mechanics on their own. Only you will be able to decide what’s possible for your games.

What Should I Bring?

If it’s a small playtest, I usually play one game. Then play other peoples’ games or games that are already out there. Have a lot of fun, and bookend the playtest. For example, play a light, well-known game. Then your game. Then another well-known game. Even ask for feedback if your game will hold up with the “real” games.

If it’s a large-scale playtest like a convention, that’s a whole different story.  Here’s some lists to help you out. Remember, they’re nowhere near all-inclusive. Just a guide.

Small Scale

  • 1-2 games
  • Notepad, sketchbook, or something to take notes on
  • Pen or pencil to take notes or change components on the spot
  • Sharpees, dry erase pen, paper towel, and card sleeves for clear on-the-fly changes

Large Scale (as in a playtest convention)

  • 2 copies of each of your games (in case you misplace parts)
  • Notepad, sketchbook, or something to take notes on
  • Pen or pencil to take notes or change components on the spot
  • Sharpees, dry erase pen, paper towel, and card sleeves for clear on-the-fly changes
  • Surveys or other method to record feedback, such as a recording device
  • Water and/or other drinks
  • A one-sheet of your game(s)
  • An acrylic stand to display a one-sheet of your game on the table
  • E-mail lists for people to sign up on
  • Business cards or other paraphernalia for people to take your contact info
  • Tablecloth (optional)
  • Snacks (optional)
  • Extra tools and game bits (to make changes on the fly)

I’m sure I forgot some things on these lists, but you’ll figure out your own system. Have fun!

Myke

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