Tag Archives: play test

picturing a round house

I always mean to take more photos at Roundhouse, but I’m always too engrossed with whatever it is we’re doing. Here are a few moments I did manage to capture.

I drove to Roundhouse Wednesday night, with my good friend Jeph Stahl. We stopped on the way at Dark Horse Brewing Co for a late meal and a beer. The Dark Horse brew pub has a well-worn, comfortable atmosphere and the biggest collection of mug-club mugs in the country. Andrea the waitress thought Jeph might be a werewolf.


inappropriate ice cream cone
The local ice cream parlor is run by our generous host’s family. The flavor of the week when we’re in town is usually lemon: my favorite! James’ brother was working the counter when we arrived, and made me an extra-extra large lemon cone. It was way more than I could finish!


Sure, there’s plenty of nutritious food and drink, but Roundhouse Retreat is also for play testing! Here, Chris Young contemplates his next action in my game, LXIX: YEAR OF FOUR EMPERORS, while James Kyle looks on.


Sometimes, players in LXIX can surge ahead with big scoring leaps while others struggle to catch them, as this final scoring shows: red is 37 points ahead of black! The discussion after this game led to a really great suggestion from Greg Daigle that will help to even out these kinds of point spreads. A couple more play tests and I think this game will be ready to send off to a publisher.


I never pass up a chance to play test the latest game in the Birth of America series. Here, Greg Daigle and designer Beau Beckett face off as the French against the British, represented by James Kyle and me. They got an early flush of Native reinforcements, so James and I enacted a risky third-round double-Truce play to force an early end, and took three flags to make it 4 to 2. Due to my own tactical blunder in not leaving a unit to cover the back door, Greg and Beau were able sweep a massive army in and re-take a critical location, and won another location on the final roll of the die to win the game. Agony! Such a good game! Jeph and Beau had this one in heavy play test rotation all weekend, hammering out some exciting new rules not seen in the first two games.


You never know what kind of wild life will show up at the Roundhouse. This year, we had a juvenile hawk we nicknamed ‘Crazy Hawk’ stalking and attacking his reflection in the house windows every morning, while a momma deer and her tiny fawn browsed in the back yard. Previous years featured an angry gopher and more spiders than I care to consider.


We got the word that absent Roundhouse alumn Dave Chalker’s fun game HEAT had finally funded on Kickstarter and took a quick break from the dice game design challenge to send him a virtual congrats!

There’s still time to back Dave’s game HEAT on Kickstarter!

Update: Dave’s game HEAT was successfully funded!

in a round house in the woods

I’m excited and distracted today, because tomorrow I’m driving to Michigan with my buddy Jeph for the annual Roundhouse Retreat.

Roundhouse is four days of intense play testing and development, game design discussion, debate, camaraderie and a little goofing off, with a group of game designers I deeply respect and admire. It’s my favorite game event of the year.

Internet access can be spotty out in the middle of nowhere, but I hope to be able to update periodically throughout the long weekend. On Thursday, we’ll try to record an episode of Design Time with James and Kory with absent Roundhouser, Kory Heath.

feedback on feedback: your play testers and you.

My designer buddy, Kevin Nunn, is exploring the different ways we game designers utilize play tester feedback. That series of articles has sparked an interesting discussion in the comments and is worth reading.

“Give me problems, not solutions.”

So said our mutual friend. He’s interested in a play tester’s gut response to his game, to help pinpoint elements of the design that aren’t working as intended or which cause un-fun moments in play. His job as a designer, as he sees it, is to analyze those faults and propose solutions to them to achieve the play experience he’s looking for.

Kevin has a somewhat different philosophy of utilizing play tester feedback. He sees the designer’s role in play testing as a winnower. Kevin listens to everything his play testers have to say and sifts through the inevitable chaff to glean the fat kernels of insight that will inform his future design choices.

Our mutual friend’s mantra struck me as something of a revelation: I’d never imagined so direct an approach to play tester feedback. “Give me problems, not solutions.”

so many solutions

Considering the argument from a data analysis perspective, if a dozen play testers offer a dozen solutions to a single problem, the useful data is the problem, not the solutions. 

Food for thought.