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Alternatives for a regular game group to test with

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Jimmy
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Joined: 01/23/2009

Hi Guys
I'm an old-new member on the site, left the design hobby during my degree but now I'm back on track.
I've finished designing two of my games up to a level I feel comfortable with: 85% of the mechanics are in place and the games seem to be balanced and fine tuned enough to have a good playing experience. Naturally it is time to enter the playtest phase...
That's where I met an obstacle: I know it may sound odd but I don't have a regular game group, heck I don't have one at all. I do play from time to time with the same groups but not too occasionally to be considered regular.
Here are some of the options I have with pros and cons:
1. Playtest with the groups (mentioned above).
Pros - Get good feedback from an experienced game group.
Cons - Not sure how welcome they will be (for many reasons).

2. Form my own group of playtesters.
Pros- My games will get tested
Cons - Need to rent a place ($$$ but I have the resources for that) and convince people to participate, less excited to pay them too.

3. Playtest world wide, send prototypes to groups around the world.
Pros - There are a lot of wonderful people who will gladly test my game, I'm sure their feedback will be very valuable.
Cons - There are some costs to that (shipment and prototypes making). less dynamic. I feel it's too early for playtesting world wide.
----

Would love to hear your comments about my situation, your experiences and stuff.

The Game Crafter
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Joined: 06/09/2009
I recommend two additional

I recommend two additional options:

a) Find a new group through meetup.com. I have a game design group on there if you're around the Madison, WI area: http://www.meetup.com/madcabal

b) Go to your local game shop and play games with people there on their board game night. You'll meet some new people to become your regular game group.

Shoe
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Joined: 12/21/2012
when i was preparing my game,

when i was preparing my game, I presented it to my FLGS and they let me organize and run playtests at the shop. It went well and I got a lot of good feedback

Jimmy
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Joined: 01/23/2009
Hi Crafter...

Hi Crafter...
The first option is kinda my situation today. I'm registered to some Facebook groups that opens game nights in my area and near it, but they are usually full. That's why I play with these groups seldom.
The second option though might have some potential, I know my game store used to organize gaming nights but I'm afraid the situation has changed due to lack of audience.

EDIT:
I'll try run some playtest session on my local game store.
The thing is that since they don't do game night's anymore they close the store at 21pm. that's hardly 2 hours from when I'm leaving my office till they close... not enough time to test and play some real games IMO, but it worth a try.

Shoe
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Joined: 12/21/2012
Try to organize a game night

Try to organize a game night FOR them. I used to run Magic tournaments for the FLGS and got a casual crowd to amass there and buy things. After that, I had a good relationship with the store owner, and he was more than happy to help facilitate playtest sessions. Even now that I have moved away, we still occationally chat and I still buy things from his shop via the mail from time to time.

Game production and completion is all about who you know once you get beyond the initial design. I even got to use part of my game shop owner friend's table at a convention for free to release/ help promote my game!

larienna
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Joined: 07/28/2008
Finding playtesters is always

Finding playtesters is always a pain.

There might be people online willing to print and play your game. That would cost you 0$. I did that with my game, offered a free PnP copy for a review and got 2 takers. It might be possible to find play testers this way. In the future, I intend to put my new designs as PnP for free to make sure a lot of people play the game before trying to release the game.

A few months ago, a cafe opened in my region. It's a place where you can play games, and one a month it's designer day where people can bring their prototype. We actually met quite a few people this way, and people seems to be willing to play prototype compared to my other experienced gamer groups.

Shoe
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Joined: 12/21/2012
that cafe sounds quite

that cafe sounds quite awesome...needs to be more like that

Black Oak Games
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Joined: 11/07/2012
Prototype Penpal Program

Check out the Prototype Penpal Program: http://hyperbolegames.com/2012/12/16/prototype-penpal-program/

Grant Rodiek just started it up - it's a bunch of game designers sending their games around to other designers to playtest and give feedback - and you only need to send one copy on and you should get several plays from several different groups, with quality feedback.

Lofwyr
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Joined: 02/16/2010
FOOD and GAMES!

I have a great deal of experience gathering play-testers from unusual areas. I have organized groups from local hobby stores, the public library, and from a renaissance fair! You can get gamers to gather and be excited about your prototype with a few easy steps. Please try to keep in mind the reality here. This IS your first shot at marketing your product. If you can’t convince some random gamers to give the project a go then what chance would you have in a real market setting?

1) Ensure that the game is professional looking. This is often not the case with new projects but I assure you that a little pagination and some images “borrowed” from the internet can make all the difference.

2) Make sure that when you talk to folks about the game you never imply any pressure. You would love it if they come but if they can’t or don’t want to, you wouldn’t be bothered.

3) BE EXCITED! When you get your first chance to talk to people about the game GET AMPED UP! People want to know that YOU believe in your product. If you aren’t excited about it how can you expect them to be~?

4) Keep the groups exclusive. If you have 4 testers and that offers you what you need in testing then tell the group that only four are ALLOWED to come. This feeling of exclusivity makes the gamers feel like they are part of something unique. I can’t tell you how valuable this characteristic is when trying to form a group later (for a new project). You will find that gamers who are familiar with your work and the exclusivity of your groups will be chomping at the bit for a slot in your game night.

5) Pick your targets carefully. You will need to be forthright and aggressive. This is your first chance to “market” your game and convince people it is AMAZING! Try to find a pack alpha, someone that seems to speak loudest in the group. This is usually the GM for a D&D group, the rules lawyer for a 40k group, or the guy who actually OWNS most of the games at board game night. This person will act as your advocate when convincing others to join your ranks. Convince the alpha that the game is worth playing and that SINGLE player will offer you a substantial selection of play testers. This is always my tactic and never fails.

6) Offer them stability. I know this sounds odd but you’re trying to get an alien social group to trust you. Offer food, beverages, proper seating and amenities, a CLEAN playing area. To be frank, don’t take them home if you live like a pig. Some great perks that work nicely are; a home cooked meal, snacks and soda, and depending on the weather…air conditioning!

7) Finally, when you’re trying to get play testers you must keep in mind the truth of the situation. You won’t pay them, they will work. Because these individuals offer such a unique service to you and your project you should be ready to think outside the box.

That’s just about everything. Your approach to the group and your ability to work your product into conversation can be the trickiest of all. Once the material is in someone’s hands make sure you’re ready with a great description. Before any company will sell it for you, it’ll be YOU selling it to gamers!

E

The Chaz
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Joined: 11/20/2012
Summary of ideas, with a new one

Jimmy, you mentioned:
1) Play with gamers you know
2) Play with gamers you (probably) don't know
3) Have someone else play without you there
3.a) ship prototypes to them, out of pocket
Others have mentioned:
2.a) use the internet (meetup.com, facebook, et al) to form a group
2.b) use a FLGS/cafe to advertise/host

3.b) find PnP-ers to print out of THEIR pockets
3.c) the penpal thing

etc.

One more that I'm looking into is creating a VASSAL module for a game. With a Vassal module of your game, you could play with people through the internet, and others could play without you (through the internet).
I've never done this, but it would be a sweet addition to the package.

That said, I am in the position to offer the following *quid pro quo* (to anyone who might be a good match):
"I'll play your game if you'll play mine (viz. King's Cove)"
- our games should be of similar length (KC takes 15 minutes/player the first time, down to ~10 after that)
- our games should be of similar weight (KC is on par with Ticket to Ride in terms of strategic complexity)
- our games should have acceptable theme and mechanics (KC is a euro pickup-and-deliver. War games and RPG's are not a good match)
- our abilities to test the other's game, evaluate sessions, and communicate data should be similar (I can conservatively plan for 2 plays a month)
etc. This isn't a formal pitch (as I don't want to hijack your thread), but any are welcome to contact me for further discussion.

Of course, there are at least a few people out there who are willing/able to PnP games without anything in return. But when you're developing 3 games, well... time is tight!

TL;DR - Vassal. Quid pro quo.

rtwombly
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Joined: 01/17/2009
...and written rules

Biggest mistake I made with my regular group was trying to run a playtest without written rules in hand. I'd done so many drafts, made so many changes, and I thought I had it down pat.

To this day, I still get ribbed by my friends every time we try a new game. We'll do the rules review, play a few rounds, then somebody will hold up a finger and say, "Incidentally...!" as I did several times that dreadful night.

Ditto on the professional look. Though perhaps professional is too strong. What's important is color. Simple but true. Show up with a brilliant, elegant design lovingly crafted in black and white and people's eyes will stray all over the room through rules, play, and wrap up. Fork out a little cash at Office Max for color printing and everybody's attention span quadruples.

ender7
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Joined: 10/07/2008
Can't you just gather a few

Can't you just gather a few people to test your game at your house? Pizza and beer go a long way...

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