Play-testing at BGG.CON

Recently, I completed a series of blog posts about our first major board game convention, BGG-CON, which incorporated the Tabletop Network conference. Here’s an update on the prototypes we play-tested at BGG.CON and the ones we left at home – where are we now? What’s coming next for Drayer, Ink games?

We arrived on the Sunday with 7 prototypes:

  • The Valley
  • Wordy Laundry
  • The Way Out Is Through
  • Intertidal Survival
  • Bubble Net
  • Mycelia
  • Campfire

We need to have a meeting about each game, once our kitchen renovations are complete, review our notes, and then start iterating the next versions, but in the meantime, here is a progress report!

We are working with several manufacturers to get quotes for several of our prototypes, based on our TGC versions, which is really exciting! Drayer Ink games will be on actual shelves in actual houses one day, not just ours!

The Valley is the closest to finished, and the heaviest by far, and as I am still not very experienced at leading my testing sessions, I was particularly nervous about this one. The main things I wanted to determine were to do with player count and component requirements, and I will go over those in detail soon. The good news is that both look like they will work, once I make a few small tweaks. The look and feel of the game is most of the way there, and with the restrictions of prototyping through TGC removed (because our bulk manufacturers can do whatever is needed), we will be able to overcome the last hurdles. My next step after we have reviewed the videos and our notes is to start thinking about how to address those opportunities.

Wordy Laundry is coming along nicely – it’s a back-burner collaboration between me and Emily from Small Furry Games, and the main reason I brought the prototype was that we have never actually met in person, so being able to also play the game we worked on together was pretty cool. Emily has the prototype now, because as expected, it will need a lot of plays and tweaks – it was a competition entry that we only tested as much as you can in a month or so, and will need a lot more work as we find time between other projects. Overall, though, it played well and was well-received. We played it at least twice at the convention, and Emily has been playing it with other people since, too.

Cat and Emily

The Way Out Is Through got by far the most tests during the convention – I have lost track, but George will cover that in his own post about the progress he has made. I was really impressed at his stamina in demoing that game over and over – I burnt out pretty quickly, and only demoed each of my own game prototypes once.

Intertidal Survival went a great deal better that I expected – I got a really interesting mix of designers to play it, and while I knew they understood it was a prototype at an early stage of development, I really appreciated the way that they still treated it seriously and really applied their experience to making it a better game. They agreed both with my assessments of the issues, and my suggested solutions, and that was really reassuring. After this test, I felt like I was really going to succeed, both with Intertidal an as a designer in general. I have a few simple fixes to address, then I can move onto the more complex calculations that needed the simple choices made first – I didn’t want to plot out the exact score values of the resources players gather, for example, until I had decided how they would be gathered, and which ones should be scarcer than others.

Bubble Net was, surprisingly, much closer to ready than I expected for such a new design – a few minor changes, and it was ready to submit to The Game Crafter Lunchtime Challenge. The main things I tweaked were: the number of fish, the size of the spirals, and the design of the board (which I expected to update anyway).

Mycelia was also a big surprise: in once session, we resolved the only major issue I had with the game, which was that the end felt like it dragged on a bit – so we just cut the un-fun part out by stopping when there’s only one pile of tiles left. So simple, but not always that obvious when it’s your own game! Thanks to Dave and Will for that one.

Campfire was supposed to be the third game in the series, representing Fire, with Bubble Net as Water, and Mycelia as Earth. Somewhere along the way, I started feeling that it wasn’t working the way I wanted, as a bonfire on the beach – it kept pulling me back towards a wildfire, which is what the original idea was about. I brought it out and ran my challenges past a large group of designers late on the last night of the convention, and I got a lot of really useful input.

I wish I had recorded each session, and my biggest investment for future conventions will be a small, portable camera with an excellent mic and long battery life – let me know if you can recommend anything! I tried to record several of them, and if any of the footage I got is useable, I will include it in my detailed summaries, but from what I have seen so far, it’s not going to be very interesting to anyone but us – kind of like your notes from class only make sense to you until you explain them, we need to translate those comments and add them to our notes to get anything worth sharing to our readers.

Another interesting outcome of BGG.CON was the birth of another small game, Magma, which slipped easily into the “Fire” position for the trio of Bubble Net and Mycelia, all three of which I hammered out in time for The Game Crafter Lunchtime Challenge – art, graphic design, rulebook, video, and all.

More on each other them once we have worked through the details, but for now, I can report that our designs are moving along nicely.

As for our other game prototypes, here’s a quick update:

Brambleton – in the final stages of printing a prototype via Launch Tabletop; hopefully, we will have that to show you within a month or two.

Ladybird Logic: Mushroom Maze – stuck on a component to get the flowers to work the way we want them to physically, but otherwise, very close to finished. Bubbling away on the back-burner to see if a rest gives us the answer we need.

One Person’s Trash – on hold, awaiting testing for a possible alternative card layout when time allows.

Short Circuit – on hold, awaiting play-testing to confirm how finished it is. We think it’s done, which means it probably isn’t.

Any Other Name – on hold, awaiting some graphic design work and some small rule decisions. Other games are higher priority.

The Plot Quickens – while this started as a possible entry for another TGC competition, we decided not to keep trying to force it to be a choose-your-own-path game when that’s not what it wanted; we have several really cool interactive mechanics that we like in the game, and some great ideas from the conference and the convention to include – perhaps you might recognise something from our Positive Player Interaction presentation

Long Lankin – hoping to be able to chat to Jay Cormier about how to implement some of my ideas in a way that will convey the experience I want – probably early next year, if we ever both have matching timeslots available! In the meantime, going to do some research and play some hidden movement/hidden traitor games, and maybe even some TTRPGs.

We have a lot of others in progress, at various stages, but nothing to report on them at this stage.

Published by Drayer Ink

Artist, designer, ideas person

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