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Advice on playtesting heavy (war)games

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fgeo
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It is a well-known fact that game designers have a hard time finding playtesters for their games. This is also evident by the posts in bgdf, bgg etc, where designers seek for playtesters and very few actually subscribe.

The problem is obviously much more serious for "heavier" games, such as grand strategy wargames and similar, which could last several hours per session, have long rulebooks, and/or require several plays to fully grasp the strategic notions around the game.

As I have recently completed the design of a heavy grand strategy wargame themed around WWI, I am now seeking for advice on how to proceed. I have had several rounds of self-playtesting, and the game seems stable enough and ready for blind playtesting; nevertheless, I feel that asking for playtesters online is futile, as the game is only addressed to hardcore wargamers and probably none would be willing to commit enough time for a complete game, even in PBeM (but if anyone reading this is interested, drop me a line! :) ).

So, does anyone have any advice/idea on how to proceed? I have been thinking of paying for professional playtesting (but this might be costly), or start contacting game publishers right away (but again, would they pay attention to an unplaytested game?).

As I have seen several people describing themselves as "wargamers" in this forum, I was hoping someone would have gone through the process and help me out...

Thanks in advance.

mcobb83
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I have not designed a "heavy"

I have not designed a "heavy" wargame, but my current project has a play time of about 2 hours. So after I did solo play tests, I moved on to Family and Friends. If you have a few people who you know play that sort of game, ask them first. Other wise, start hanging out at your FLGS and try to find someone there. A lot of cities have gaming groups, and its just a matter of figuring out where and when they meet. Lots of those people might be willing to help you out too.

Soulfinger
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I'd look for playesters among

I'd look for playesters among the reenactment crowds, like SCA meetings, rendezvous, and Civil War events. The last hardcore historic wargamer I'd met lived in a yurt, so fringe society and off-the-grid types. Maybe put an ad up at the library.

let-off studios
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Euroquest etc.

You can find a number of wargame fans at wargame conventions. World Boardgame Championships is a good one (though during the summertime, so the 2016 event has passed), as is an East Coast US event called Euroquest, which is happening this coming November. Here's a link:

http://www.euroquestcon.com/

Look for local conventions if you can and see if you can reserve space to demo your games. It seems like designers are becoming more welcome these days, as more and more come out of the woodwork to make themselves known to convention organizers. They see the demand is there, and some work very hard to accommodate.

You may also want to see if anyone's organized any Unpub designer's events at FLGS's or conventions:

www.unpub.net

Of course, you will need to promote the fact that you're seeking testers for one of your new wargame prototypes. That takes hard work and hard thinking to do well.

Hope you find some success in recruiting. :)

Tedthebug
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Disclaimer: I haven't designed a heavy wargame

I have designed, with a friend, a 2-player arena style battle game that takes around 2hrs to play & have had trouble also finding play testers especially in the early stages.

The best advice I've heard but have yet to implement is to try & break the game into reasonable chunks/scenarios to test specific elements. Build the scenario so that you can take the players through set moves (e.g. Let's assume you just rolled X, or stack a deck of cards so you know what they will draw each time etc). That way they see the moves/options & learn those bits of rules & then you step back & let them have 2-3 moves themselves. Get feedback, go away & analyse it, come back with a refined scenario or a scenario for the next stage you want tested. Hopefully as the game progresses players know you care about the time they as putting in (by trying to keep it short to respect their time) & are serious about the feedback that they will start to commit to longer sessions to test how a&b scenario play when put together.

Tedthebug
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Delete duplicate post

Delete duplicate post

Arcuate
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How long is a typical game?

You might not be able to answer that yet.

I would be happy to help playtest, but it would be difficult to set aside more than 2-3 hours at a time.

Importing the game into Tabletop Simulator could be a useful exercise. Games can be saved and picked up again later.

fgeo
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Joined: 02/15/2016
Thanks!

Thanks for the thoughtful suggestions. Looks like one needs a physical presence to events to be successful, which might be difficult if you live in some corner of the world (like me).

As for the duration: the game is played in turns, having a maximum of 18 turns (one per 3-month season of the war), unless one of the sides is defeated earlier. Depending on how much you want to analyse, each turn might take from 30' to 90'. This is typical of the "heavy wargame" type, even though it might look extreme to a typical gamer.

PBeM would work best, with a typical turnaround time of maybe a few days or a week, depending on players' availability.

adversitygames
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fgeo wrote:It is a well-known

fgeo wrote:
It is a well-known fact that game designers have a hard time finding playtesters for their games. This is also evident by the posts in bgdf, bgg etc, where designers seek for playtesters and very few actually subscribe.

The problem is obviously much more serious for "heavier" games, such as grand strategy wargames and similar, which could last several hours per session, have long rulebooks, and/or require several plays to fully grasp the strategic notions around the game.

As I have recently completed the design of a heavy grand strategy wargame themed around WWI, I am now seeking for advice on how to proceed. I have had several rounds of self-playtesting, and the game seems stable enough and ready for blind playtesting; nevertheless, I feel that asking for playtesters online is futile, as the game is only addressed to hardcore wargamers and probably none would be willing to commit enough time for a complete game, even in PBeM (but if anyone reading this is interested, drop me a line! :) ).

So, does anyone have any advice/idea on how to proceed? I have been thinking of paying for professional playtesting (but this might be costly), or start contacting game publishers right away (but again, would they pay attention to an unplaytested game?).

As I have seen several people describing themselves as "wargamers" in this forum, I was hoping someone would have gone through the process and help me out...

Thanks in advance.

Not to piss on your parade, but you're trying to get people to notice a game concept that has been done to death hundreds (thousands?) of times over. If your game lacks novelty, no-one's going to notice.

So to get people interested in playtesting, one thing you need to tell people is what's *special* about it.

Why should they use your system to move infantry and tanks around and blow up the other guys? How does your game stand out compared to one of the other many many many systems that already exist?

fgeo
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Game's special characteristics

My intention in the original post was not to look for playtesters (though I would welcome offers) or to get the game noticed (I didn't even mention the title!), but to ask for advice on where to look for playtesters and how to proceed now that the "in-the-closet-design" phase is over, given the special characteristics of the genre (limited audience, long duration, high complexity).

I agree that the genre is overcrowded with games, and whether mine can stand out remains to be seen. It's a long shot, but the design process was worthy even if it doesn't get published.

But I'm glad you asked about the special characteristics of the game, because it gives me the opportunity to give the following short description:

The game attempts to simulate the events of WWI in a truly global scale. It is not only focusing on military aspects, but also considers the logistics and industrial capacity of the belligerents, as well as the civilian morale; properly managing these aspects is critical to win. Moreover, diplomacy is important, as in the original campaign.
Finally, most of the historical events (e.g., Spanish flu, Russian revolution, unrest in the home fronts, rebellions) and contemporary weapons (e.g., zeppelins, aircraft, submarines, tanks, chemical weapons) are also modelled neatly in the system.

In terms of mechanics, it's a typical wargame with some interesting twists (e.g., NOT hex-based).

And, by the way, the title of the game is "WWI: The Longest Trip To Paris". :-)

Soulfinger
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fgeo wrote:The game attempts

fgeo wrote:
The game attempts to simulate the events of WWI in a truly global scale. It is not only focusing on military aspects, but also considers the logistics and industrial

Wow. You aren't kidding about it being a heavy wargame. That is a beast of a game. I wasn't kidding about the SCA and reenactment crowds being a good potential pool of playtest candidates for such a game. If your town has a historic society, that may be a starter, or even a cork board at the museum.

There's a guy on here called The Professor. I remember having an exchange with him some time ago about games like yours. Aside from him being a very courteous and helpful user, I think that he is most qualified to help you. Consider sending him a PM.

X3M
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@Soulfinger Have you seen the

@Soulfinger
Have you seen the documents?

***

I get it now, where the 90 minutes come from. I misread that.
Depending on how new players are to war games. I would say, a doubling of time for new players is a standard.

With that in mind and adding to it, the fact that 1 turn takes 90 minutes for all players combined.
3 hours for the first few rounds perhaps? If this time creeps down to the smallest of 30 minutes. Than I estimate a total of about 32 hours. That is one work week for most. With, me, for example, time of only 2 hours a day, including weekends, it will take me 16 days to complete from start to end.
That's... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9v-33jcEDk4

Sorry, but I guess, it is a "lets get started" type of war game. Forget about getting play testers. It would simply be a "here it is!". Players play, and give feedback. Then you adjust the game to the next version. And a whole new set of players will be playing the game.

With so many choices out there in war games:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_board_wargames
And so few that undertake such a long time.

I think that this game will probably never be completed in balance in one lifetime.

***

I think I stick with reading the rules that you have provided. I don't have sufficient space for that board any way.

Soulfinger
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X3M wrote:@Soulfinger Have

X3M wrote:
@Soulfinger
Have you seen the documents?

I didn't need to. As soon as I saw mention of Spanish flu modeled into the system I knew that it was one of those classic mega wargames. Weeks of play doesn't surprise me at all. I can't remember what the term is for that size of a game, but there is definitely a niche for it. The closest thing I own is FASA's Prefect, which ties together three other individual wargames into one planet-spanning campaign. I have never had enough to table space to play it properly.

X3M
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Soulfinger wrote: I have

Soulfinger wrote:
I have never had enough to table space to play it properly.
Honestly. I once planned on the same thing. But I cut the map in little pieces for the little skirmishes. Simply, I know (board gaming) people don't have the room, nor the time, to have such games.
Eventually, the idea got banned completely because most people don't have the time for the full game/story, even if it is cut into pieces.

A multiplayer in my game also takes too long for some. Henceforth my crunching on getting to use the whole map. That can be smaller as result.

@ fgeo

I just printed the rulebook. In bookform on A4 paper. It is stil readable for me. I think you had this in mind, didn't you? There is great order to the rules. So I suggest, give the summary book the same format. Or don't supply the summary book. That one was a no-go for me.

I have to hand it to you. You did a great job on the primary rulebook. That is, at first glance. I still have to read it though, for checking details etc.

I am less happy with the 117 paged, 57 country stats. I know you want those to be ordered as well in the way how you created the pages. But players will loose themselves in that chaos. Most players start by comparing 2 sheets. Then add 1 more each time. But your game requires them all at once, right? Correct me if I am wrong, ok?

Maybe you can find a way to crunch that down a bit? However, I don't know how to advice you on that. At least remove some empty space. Try to get each country on 1 page, not 2. That will halve the document in weight.

Before the rulebook. People don't know what they are getting into. After the rulebook. They only have a rough idea of what they are getting into. With this I mean, that players don't know what they are going to need to play the game. This is normally placed in one of the pages before the rules start. A summary of all the pieces, boards, cards etc. That the game uses. I suggest getting 1 extra page for this. Players also can use this list to check if they have everything in order to play the game.

fgeo
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Heavy

Again thanks for the comments.

I agree with everything written: this is a heavy wargame. I don't consider this a no-go; I have seen heavier ones that are quite popular among wargamers. But of course it is addressed to a very specific crowd. And it drastically reduces the possibility that a publisher will accept it.

These problems were known to me ever since I started the design, and I was very reluctant at first to commit to that. But I love this type of games (though I rarely play them any more -- too much commitment required), and I loved the design process, and I learnt a lot; so even if it never gets published, I don't regret the effort. I just wanted to design a game that would have the features I want, and that was the result.

@X3M: thanks for the specific comments, I will answer in a PM to avoid spamming everyone with the specifics.

adversitygames
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Check out World in Flames. It

Check out World in Flames. It's about WW2 but your game seems to be about on the same scale. It's also a hex-and-counter game. But it may help out with ideas for how to represent HUGE scale stuff.

The Professor
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Hopefully helpful

fgeo,

Good afternoon!

I've actually served as a developer and co-designer on a few games for both Decision Games (Strategy & Tactics and Modern War magazines) and Compass Games (The War: Pacific 1941-1945 and the Expansion Kit for The War: 1939-1945), so hopefully this information will prove helpful.

Most military war game publishing companies are very small, where the principal owners often have day jobs to support their hobby/passion.
I'd recommend reaching out to various publishing companies, especially the aforementioned ones. Here's the general process from what I've seen during the past 5-6 years:

1. Individual provides a synopsis of the game (the "pitch") to one or more publishing companies
2. The publishing company either accepts or rejects the game at the point of the premise. If rejected, try elsewhere; if accepted, move onto 3.
3. The publisher will find a developer (that's where someone like me enters the picture) to assist/work with the designer.
4. The developer reviews the rules, organizes play-tests, collects feedback, revises/recommends edits, and engages with frequency with the publisher on progress
5. Once complete, the publisher and the designer work out the details governing royalties, etc. (this is an area for which I have little information to pass onto you)

Again, I hope tis works well for you...please keep me informed of your progress and if there's anything I can do for you.

Cheers,
Joe

McTeddy
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I haven't done heavy war-game

I haven't done heavy war-game design but I have talked to a few wargame designers. My knowledge is limited, but I'll offer what I can.

I know that ALOT of the early playtesting on war games seems to be solitaire. Most of the wargame designers I've talked to play both sides usually with one designated as their "Can I win with" player. They don't consider it balanced until they can win with all factions.

Past that, find people to test in person. While normally I recommend game stores, you may be better off finding some sort of historical society. See if you can find people interested in the topic and set up a time to play.

Also, remember that player's not finishing a game... is every bit as important as when they do. You may be nearing a limit for the majority of players.

Besides, what did they think up until then? Why didn't the want to continue? What was their favorite part? Least favorite? You can learn boatloads from a partial play.

Remember, that even an audience for the full game... the question is how will you find them?

If you can't find players to play for free, what are the odds that you'll find them at a paid price?

When you feel you're ready to get a publisher involved, be forewarned that they -will- put their needs first and that may involve simplifying the game.

Just be ready for anything.

I Will Never Gr...
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Wargames are a tough nut to crack

fgeo wrote:
So, does anyone have any advice/idea on how to proceed? I have been thinking of paying for professional playtesting (but this might be costly), or start contacting game publishers right away (but again, would they pay attention to an unplaytested game?).

War games are a very specific audience and a hard nut to crack, but many war gamers are very open to at the very least checking out something new and fresh, especially if it's complex and in depth.

Professional play testing for something of that scale would be very costly. You could have specific portions tested, but that could also be done yourself, so it's tough.

I would check out any of the tabletop wargaming forums and participate in discussions there. Get some early advice on portions of your game and perhaps garner some interest in it for playtest purposes.

If you have a local gaming group that does wargames, they may have an interest. Finding them, however, is another story altogether. I am fortunate enough to have a large Axis and Allies community around that are happy to check out interesting new wargames and have no issues with games that take hours or days to play.

Tabletop Wargaming Conventions; go, demo your game and illicit feedback and/or play test interest from there. I don't know where you are, but there are a number of these run each year and they attract hundreds of avid war gamers.

Some publishers will be willing to look at a game that's not play tested, assuming you have done a decent amount of testing yourself. This is a long process, but The Professor detailed it better than I can. :)

Perhaps post your rules online so people can go through them and maybe catch something you're missing?

The Professor
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A Follow-up

fgeo,

I would also recommend getting involved with folks at ConSimWorld (Conflict Simulation World) ~ it's a great community of war gamers and predates BGG by a few years, as well.

Cheers,
Joe

fgeo
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Some additional comments on

Some additional comments on my side:

- Someone asked for the rules, so I decided to post it online:
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B_iiHPqAnxiJWWtZMXNDeVR1Qlk
Note that the rulebook is now under revision, but, at the moment, all the planned changes are expected to be inconsequential in terms of gameplay; I am only revising the phrasing in certain positions to improve readability based on some recently received feedback. But the rules are quite readable already, so if anyone wants to give feedback, I'd be happy to take that into account.

- About World in Flames: very interesting. Even more interesting is the fact that the recently published game "Fatal Alliances: The Great War" (https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/62291/fatal-alliances-great-war) defines itself as the "World War I version of World in Flames". That game has very similar objectives as mine, but achieves them in a very different way (mine is simpler). Nevertheless, that is a bad timing for me... :-(

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