As I mentioned in an earlier 4P update, I lost an opportunity to play test with some casual gaming friends last week because I took too long making pretty cards.
However, on Monday night I joined more than a dozen other designers from the Madison Game Design Cabal for their monthly play test Meetup at Essen Haus. It was my first time attending this Meetup, though I’ve played with many of the designers at other events. After making introductions, our host JT Smith encouraged me to get my game on the table right away. I sat down with five enthusiastic testers, including Steven and Peter Dast, two sharp designers I’ve play tested with for years.
I warned everyone going in that, though this was a redevelopment of an earlier game, I didn’t have a solid rule set and I wasn’t really sure how it would go. There was a lot of vague hand waving as I tried to explain how to play. My play testers had questions and I was short on answers; it was going to be a bumpy ride.
There was a lot of vague hand waving as I tried to explain how to play.
We groped our way through this rough draft, pausing every round or two to assess progress and make adjustments. By the halfway mark, we’d sussed out some of the major issues and paused for a pre-mortem dissection.
The debate at this point was lively and I could see the wheels churning in my fellow designers’ minds. I gathered and weighed the many suggestions, key among them a novel idea from Peter and crunchy analysis from Steven. From this, I winnowed a set of rules we’d test the last half of the game against.
From there out, the game played exactly as I’d envisioned it. It was charming and fun, with enough surprises to keep the players on their toes. It’s far from a finished gem, but we ground off a lot of the rough edges and exposed some exciting new facets to polish. There’s no way I could have accomplished that much on a first play test with non-designers.
So, I’m glad I didn’t get to play test Canardo’s Dungeon last Tuesday.
It would have been a disaster.