Our Monster Play-testing Weekend

If you have been following for a while, you may have noticed that we are ALWAYS really busy chez Drayer. When it’s not a small-to-medium weekend project, or adventures exploring Oregon, we are working on our home and garden to get it where we want it to be – and that takes a lot of time and energy, which often leaves us with very little to play and test board games.

With our kitchen 95% finished, and TokenCon on the horizon, we decided we deserved a weekend to just catch up on our testing. I will cover each game in detail in a follow-up post, but it’s handy to have an overview!

On Saturday morning, we started the day with a team meeting about Bubble Net, to catch up on all the feedback from Protospiel Online in January, and share our thoughts and suggestions based on that feedback to start working on a prototype to test at TokenCon.

Testing Bubble Net at Protospiel Online in January 2023

Next, we started play-testing The Plot Quickens – it was the first proper test of this prototype, so it ran long, as they often do. We originally designed TPQ together, from the ground up (for the first time) as an entry to a Game Crafter competition, but the narrative part felt glued on, and we dropped it. This was our first time playing the new version, with all of our other ideas added into the mix.

We took a break partway through and rushed off to Barnes and Noble in Hillsboro to support our friend Ami Baio of Pink Tiger Games, who was having her first presentation in-store to celebrate and promote you Think You Know Me, her game, which is the game of the month at B&N (!!!). We bought a copy and had it signed, because of course, and then we played several rounds while we enjoyed our lunch of coffee and a cookie – we forgot to eat while we were play-testing. We were both surprised by how much we enjoyed the game – I enjoy conversational games, party games, and trivia, but George often doesn’t. I also liked how we were honest about whether or not the answers were correct, to the point where we were penalising ourselves and causing ourselves to lose the hand. The best part of it is that we know each other a little better, and after almost a decade together, that was a surprise, too!

Once we got back, we picked up where we left off with The Plot Quickens. There’s a lot to work through with an early prototype, so even though it will eventually play in under an hour, it took us much, much longer to get to the end of the game – even with a dinner break in the middle – so we decided that was enough for the day.

Sunday morning, we started with two rounds of Mycelia. We are testing a new prototype with the same artwork but very different graphic design, and while it’s still nowhere near perfect, it’s MUCH more legible. There’s still a lot to test here – my new prototype allows for 3 different tile layouts – but I will cover that as we get to it.

After that, George tried to go to his BJJ training, but after realising that he would be unacceptably late because of the traffic, he turned back and came home for lunch, then we launched into testing Brambleton. Our last full play-through of the game was almost exactly a year ago, so we were able to blind play-test the rulebook to a certain extent, and that was a great thing to be able to do! There were some issues with the data merge and layers in the cards, so two of the three new packs are misprints – but given how many changes we found we wanted to make, that ended up being fine. I will be working on those changes over the coming weeks, and we will test again once that’s done, but in the meantime, we used the old packs. They skewed the results, because they didn’t contain all the changes and balancing I have made since then, but they were enough for us to test the overall feeling of the game. And overall, it feels GREAT!

After a delicious roast dinner, we swung into the final round of testing – this time, a game that was entirely George’s design.

One of the things we both need to practice is the teaching part of game design – while teaching someone else’s game is already pretty difficult until you get the hang of it, teaching your own is even harder – when you are so familiar with how something works, it was be hard to remember all the things a new player needs to learn. Imagine showing someone who has never seen a car how it works – would you remember to explain the steering wheel, or the fact that it rolls on wheels, or any of the things we take for granted about a car? Probably not until they asked, right? With a game, it’s harder for the new person to ask because they can’t actually see it until they have finished playing.

In this case, I knew absolutely nothing about the game, not even the name – we were still calling it “the Ponzi game” long after George had removed any elements of Ponzi schemes from the design. So it was pretty interesting to try to figure out what it was and how it worked, especially after a really brain-intensive weekend!

Because all our games deserve attention, we ended up playing late into the night to complete a full run of “Hell Makes A Yummy Bagel” (working title), but I think it was worth it – we now have some serious impetus for all of our current designs, and we are in a good place to get them ready for bringing to TokenCon in a fortnight – more soon, as we work through our notes, photos, and video, and make our updates!

Published by Drayer Ink

Artist, designer, ideas person

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