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BGDF Albany "Playfest"

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nosissies
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Joined: 07/26/2008

Hey folks,
As our various scheduling threads were lost in "the hack" here's a quick update.

We have settled on July 10. Anyone interested/hoping/planning to come should pm me with your email address so that we can get the rest of the details settled quickly.

peace,
Tom

nosissies
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BGDF Albany "Playfest"

ahem... Just so you all know, albany isn't too far from certain parts of quebec ...*cough* hpox *cough* , nor is it terribly far from connecticut *cough* rkalajian *cough*

:wink: ;-)

edit: hm, looks like the emoticons aren't operational yet.

rkalajian
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BGDF Albany "Playfest"

Don't cough on me! You might have TB or something! :)

It's not too far for me, about 2 hours drive. I would come, but my wife and I are off to a housewarming party for her grandparents that weekend. There's also an engagement party i'm supposed to be attending, but *cough cough* I think i may have already caught that TB!

nosissies
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BGDF Albany "Playfest"

Just a quick reminder ... yes this is actually happening, and you still have time to jump on board. Send me a PM for directions and details.

For those who have already RSVP'ed, see you Saturday, I'm looking forward to it.

peace,
Tom

IngredientX
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BGDF Albany "Playfest"

Well, here's some news... my car decided that this would be a fine day to release a heavy gasoline-ish odor while idling. All the mechanics around here are closed for the day, so I'll need to take it to the shop tomorrow morning.

Just a warning, there's a slight chance my rickety vehicle may not be up for a 300-mile round-trip journey... I'll call Tom if this actually turns out to be the case. :(

nosissies
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BGDF Albany "Playfest"

doh! I hope this works out for you. Talk to you tomorrow either way.

peace,
Tom

IngredientX
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BGDF Albany "Playfest"

It's 1:00 am, and I just got in about 30 minutes ago from the Playfest.

It was a blast. Thanks to everyone who attended, and a huge thank-you to Tom and Maya for hosting!

Crappy cameraphone pictures will be posted shortly...

IngredientX
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BGDF Albany "Playfest"

So... now that I've had a full night of sleep, I'll let you all know how it went...

I really wanted to go to this meeting. How badly, you ask? Well, on Friday, I noticed an odor of gasoline as I was driving home from work. By the time I got home, all the repair shops were closed, so I couldn't get anyone to look at it until Saturday morning.

And wouldn't you know it, when the mechanic popped the hood and looked around the engine, he noticed gasoline leaking out of the engine. Ohno. An O-ring probably slipped out from around an injector. There was no way I was driving that car 300 miles.

That wasn't going to stop me, though! After much calling and haggling, I finally found a car available for rental. I grabbed my EZ-Pass from the old car, two of my prototypes, and off I went!

The drive took me two and a half hours, but there was very little traffic, and things went pretty smoothly. SiskNY was coming from Rochester, so he had a longer drive (four hours), but since a busted engine couldn't keep me away, I guess I stole a little bit of his thunder... :)

Tom lives in a nice, secluded suburb of Albany. I walked into their kitchen, and found Jeff (jwarrend), Mike (fanaka66), Steve (SiskNY), and Tom (nosissies) sitting around the table...

That above pic is from later, but you get the idea...

I'd missed Mike's game, which was apparently a kid's game that was scalable for different ages. They were just getting started on Tom's game, so I agreed to sit on the sidelines while my brain unscrambled from the drive...

Tom's game has an Old English name which I can't remember, but the alternate name is "gatekeeper." It consists of a couple of decks of cards, four pawns of the same color for each player, several colored rings, and a "board" of wooden card tiles.

I won't get into the game rules; I don't know how much the designers want me to blab about their games, so I'll describe the components and let them post follow-ups about the actual game rules.

The tiles look great, as you can see from the above picture. The game system was particularly impressive, because it was very open to lots of little house rules, which, along with the modular board, could provide lots of replay value. The game also offered a surprising amount of depth, as players started to figure out clever offensive and defensive moves. Tom's been working on this game for two and a half years, and it certainly shows.

Tom also got some good feedback about suggested house rules, board modularity, and card power. Still, it struck me that this game was awfully close to being done.

When they finished, I suggested that since Jeff was going to have to leave early, that we play Disciples next. He couldn't argue with that, and brought it out. Unfortunately, I forgot to get a picture of it... maybe next time?

The rules to the game are available from the GDW, though they've changed since then. I wasn't sure what to expect; I knew that Jeff was sick of Bible trivia games, and wanted to make a game that simultaneously had a Christian theme and strong, deep gameplay. Being an unreligious person myself, I was curious to see if the game holds up for non-Christians.

The game occupies a peculiar intersection, as it is designed for both Christians moderate-to-heavy gamers. Had Jeff screwed this up, it would offend both groups! I'm happy to report that this isn't the case; I think it will appeal to both sets, with the only catch that they be open-minded. There are some gamers who will hear "Christian game" and refuse to play, thinking of players rolling dice, answering Bible Trivia questions, and moving tacky, smiling Jesus pawns. And as Jeff has mentioned, there will be some Christians who might not like the idea that a player can score points by betraying Jesus.

Nevertheless, the rest of us can enjoy a game that is a game about Biblical times, and with a good amount of depth. Reflecting on it now, I wonder if having more available Deed cards will offer a more significant choice to players... but I don't want to make any real suggestions until I play the game a second time (hint hint), and get a better feel for it.

After Disciples, everybody had brought something to the table except Steve and me. The game I wanted to test was also fairly heavy, so since Steve brought a lighter game, I suggested he bring it out first to give our brains a break. He couldn't argue with that either, and reached into his Stanley organizer and brought out a couple of boxed, shrink-wrapped games.

"Very nice, Steve," we said. "Where did you get these manufactured?"

"I made them myself," he said, and there was the requisite pause as our jaws hit the floor.

Steve definitely won the Best Game Bits award. The two games - a standalone card game about animals, and a Sherlock Holmes CCG - look staggeringly good, good enough that you'd be forgiven for thinking that they were part of a 1000+ copy production run. No, I didn't get pictures of them, clever me. It turns out that Steve has figured out how to shrink-wrap without a shrinkwrapper, and laminate without a laminator. He can't mass-produce games this way, but his completed prototypes simply look astounding.

We wound up playing a newer game of his, Ghost Hunter, that hadn't been as tested as his more polished-looking games. Therefore, the components to this game aren't as impressive (which, if you're scoring at home, is the proper way to do it... FIRST you make a quick, cheap prototype, THEN you work on the rules, and THEN you make a nice-looking prototype), but they were quite functional.

The game was light and pleasant, with plenty of cards and an oft-rolled 20-sided die. This is really a game system, with lots of opportunity for expansions and variant rules. We offered ideas to give the game more of an arc, or even a narrative. It's got a good amount of potential, and I'm curious to see how it evolves... and how the polished prototype will look!

Jeff had to leave after the game, and dinner was on its way. I had actually brought two games, and I suggested we play my lighter, quicker game first. I'd mentioned this game, Body Parts, a couple of times in the forum first. Its last playtest was particularly brutal, and I'd come up with a simplified, quicker ruleset since then. I was curious to see how the game played.

It took about an hour to play, but that included the rules explaination and a break when the pizza was delivered. The game would have probably played in about 40 minutes otherwise, which is perfect. It was one of those things where I wondered why I'd stuck with the older ruleset - this one was clearly much quicker, easier to understand, and more fun to play, while still offering the same challenge and choices. It needs more testing, but I feel like I'm on the home stretch.

We polished off the rest of the pizza. Mike had to leave, so that left Steve, Tom, and me. I brought out Wag the Wolf, which is - don't laugh - my Doomed Civ entry. That I never completed. Man, I hate deadlines.

I was a little nervous about this, because this was the game's first actual playtest. I'd solo tested it, but because it has a deduction element, I really had no idea how it actually played. I also didn't know if the ruleset was overly complicated, or if the central concept of the game (which is a little weird) would be too difficult to teach. And since it was my first playtest, it was also my first explaination of the rules to others. So I was a little worried.

First off, I was absolutely shocked to see that the game ended - rules and all - in less than an hour. That's probably a good thing, and it "felt" like a full game experience, but I wonder how much the game would slow down with its full complement of five players.

Steve won the game in a blowout, and judging from that along with my solo playtests, I will probably have to change the scoring to make things a little closer. But people enjoyed the game, they caught onto the central mechanics quickly, and they were comfortable with it. I hope to have the game in better shape in two weeks for PowWow!

One other note... Tom's wife Maya (or Maia?) floated in and out during the entire evening. She is also a gamer, and does lots of playtesting with him. She has a remarkable talent; she'd miss the rules to a game, walk into it in the middle, and immediately understand the game's rules in five minutes. She was able to figure out the gameplay to both of my games very quickly without sitting in on the rules, which impressed the heck out of me. A couple of their friends dropped in during dinner, and they were also gamers... man, I wish I had an army of playtesters that close to me!

Steve left after this game to get started on his four-hour drive back to Rochester, and I started packing up. I stayed for a little while longer, chatting about games with Tom and Maya. I mentioned the Knizia game High Society, and they said they had bought it at a GameKeeper closing sale, but it hadn't escaped the shrinkwrap yet. I offered to teach it to them.

What a great way to end the night! High Society is a game that amazes me with its simplicity. It's an auction game that forces you to manage your money, because the poorest player at the end of the game is eliminated, even if he/she has the most points! And that's how the game ended... Tom and Maya ended the game with $25 million, and I had $26 million, so I won by default. It's a peculiar rule twist, but since the game only takes 20-30 minutes to play (and this game ran long, because we went through the whole deck... the very last card in the deck was the fourth red card), I think they enjoyed it.

And with that, I thanked them profusely and headed back to New Jersey.

I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to play Mike's game. I understand that it went well; perhaps next time?

I'm looking forward to doing this again soon!

phpbbadmin
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Joined: 04/23/2013
Awesome!

Gil,

I'm glad you were able to make it and meet Jeff, Tom, Mike, Steve and Maya. Didn't you guys get a chance to play Tom's The Shrubs? I'm glad you guys took the initiative to arrange such a meeting. How did this meeting come about? Did you use the Designer Registry or was it just through chats and private/instant messaging? I'd like to see more of these little 'pockets' form within the community, especially in my area, where the closest member is about 200 miles away!

At any rate, good luck at Pow Wow also. I wish I was able to make it this year, but alas it isn't meant to be. Perhaps next year.

-Darke

IngredientX
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Re: Awesome!

Darkehorse wrote:
Gil,

I'm glad you were able to make it and meet Jeff, Tom, Mike, Steve and Maya. Didn't you guys get a chance to play Tom's The Shrubs?

I'm glad I could make it, and if only we could supply a wormhole for you to fly through and join us! Alas, The Shrubs didn't make it to the table; I was surprised and lucky to have two of my games hit the table.

Quote:
How did this meeting come about? Did you use the Designer Registry or was it just through chats and private/instant messaging?

We had the general post in the "Playtest" forum, and once we had a quorum, it was mainly e-mails from there.

Quote:
At any rate, good luck at Pow Wow also. I wish I was able to make it this year, but alas it isn't meant to be. Perhaps next year.

I hope so, and I look forward to it!

nosissies
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BGDF Albany "Playfest"

Firstly, it was really my pleasure to be able to host this crew. We really owe Michael, Matthew et al for creating a place for this sort of thing to happen, and a thanks to everyone who participates for really keeping this place unreasonably civil :-)

And a little on the "genesis" of this gathering...

Here's the deal, I discovered BGDF last fall and did the requisite lurking for a few months before finally jumping in with both feet in January. Shortly there after Jeff made a post indicating his plan to move to the Albany area. Thinks to myself "hmmm that's wierd." So I contacted him via pm partly to request a workshop slot for shrubs, and partly to introduce myself and let him know that there was the possibility of a gaming "group" to plug into, among other things. Along about the same time Gil made a few posts suggesting a NYC gathering, which would have been close enough for us upstater's to get to. ... then Mike jumped on and contacted Jeff as well. We all of a sudden had a real center of gravity here in Albany. In June (?) we had our first of what will hopefully be regular local playtest sessions with Jeff and Mike and myself. Along about that time it was suggested to Gil that he come up here rather than us trek down there. He being amenable, we opened it up to the larger BGDF membership via some forum posts and we managed to entice Steve. And there you have it, history is made.

Unfortunatly we still didn't get to playtest one of Mike's games which he's been itching to do. Mike, you get the first slot next time! Though, I really think your kids' game has real potential... perhaps more than that. It's hard for us to think like kids, but if I slip into 4-8 year old mode, I think your game requires very little change. I think it offers a great springboard to the complex decision making that kids will hopefully face in games they play later. I must admit that I am partial the the name "Scaredy Cat"... but it's your game :-) And if I didn't say this before, very nice use of the non-transitive dice.

Darke, nope, shrubs didn't make it out. I opted to bring out Othberan ... or, if you prefer using old anglo-saxon characters ... "Oðberan" or possibly Lædan, or the more generally accessible yet ambiguous and possibly overused "Gatekeeper." The meaning of Othberan is "to carry away" which really does capture the game, much better than does Gatekeeper, though 4 of the most important positions on the board are the "gatekeeper" positions. This game is getting close to production and I wanted to expose it to this crew to make sure there wasn't anything totally stupid I've been missing for 2+ years. It came through about as I expected it to, lots of possible house rules, which is really one of my favorite aspects of this. As a "system" there are a lot of places you could take this one, so I consider my job as a designer here to be to solidify the fundamentals of the game. Though, there was one suggestion in particular which may very well make it into the final version (the wraparound concept). This will require a few playtests to solidify. Many other suggestions involved the use of jokers. This is a natural jumping off point into house rules, and an area I've played around with, but I've avoided making it a part of the core rules because I don't want to cut off a very fruitful area for house rules.... That and I really like all the possibilites and I'm unwilling to settle on one to be "official"

I don't have time at the moment to post thoughts on the other games we played, but I'll try to do that over the next 24 hours or so.

I expect that this will probably happen again. We'll figure out what the schedule will be and you'll all know when it's happening. Perhaps once or twice annually depending on interest.

Oh, and by the way, I still haven't opened the possible billion dollar winning pepsi that came with the pizza. You'll be sure to hear about that if we're anything but losers.

peace,
Tom

Anonymous
BGDF Albany "Playfest"

I had a great time at the playtest! It was great to meet and playtest games from some of the forum members. Was it worth the four hour drive from Rochester? Definately! I'd do it again if the opportunity comes up again in the fall (hint, hint).

It was amazing to me that there were so many well planned and though out games presented to experience.

MANY thanks to Tom and Mia (Maya? is there an award for the first person to guess how her name is spelled?) for hosting and to Gil for providing great notes and images.

nosissies
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BGDF Albany "Playfest"

hehe, yes it is Maya. I would have suggested that she register as mrsnosissies and answer this herself, but she's out of town this week.

oh, and in case you were wondering, Kevin and Shellie stopped by totally out of curiosity, the garage sale foosball table thing was a hastily constructed front :-) Next time we can perhaps schedule in time to invite some of my playtest group to participate which would allow us to cover a larger number of games.

And just because I can't resist throwing in one more random tid bit ... don't forget Lena's ringing endorsement of Mike's animal game ... "more juice please"

ok, back to work now.

peace,
Tom

Anonymous
BGDF Albany "Playfest"

Also, many thanks to those who attended for the great feedback on Ghost Hunters. I have worked out some changes to the game based on the playtest. To give the game more "narrative arc," I'm going to try it with all of the encounter and item cards split by difficulty/value rating. Instead of a pile of randomized cards in each room, there will be 4 piles of cards off the board (1 pile or shuffled value 1 items and encounters, 1 pile of value 2, etc.). Lower level players would draw from the easier pile at the start of the game, and then from progressively harder piles as they explore the mansion and develop their character's abilities. This would also lend itself to a tile laying aspect instead of a game board (something I'm going to try soon). I also like the aspect that someone (Jeff?) suggested whereby each player would have goals that would give them specific targets to try and find/resolve.

The combat/conflict resolution mechanic worked well so I'm going to keep that and see how it goes. I'm hoping that giving players a goal of possessing specifc items or types of items will encourage more player to player combat.

I hope to have the rules written up in a few weeks so I can post them here for feedback.

jwarrend
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BGDF Albany "Playfest"

Just to add to the resounding chorus of praise, I will echo the above thoughts and say that I too had a blast at Saturday's get-together, and I too hope we can do such a thing again sometime. It's always very humbling to playtest a bunch of games in one shot, and see the other great designs that folks are working on.

Steve's prototypes were, as previously mentioned, very impressive, at which point he confessed to being a professional graphic artist. I observed that game design (as Matthew must have found) is clearly the ideal hobby for a graphic artist, and wondered aloud what would be a natural hobby for an applied physicist? Tom remarked, almost immediately, punkin chunkin'. So, if you don't see me around here anymore, you know what I'm doing!

I'll post my impressions of the Disciples session in my usual thread, and the other games, I'll reserve comments for emails or for after the authors have already started discussions about them here.

The one observation I did have about the day as a whole is trying to squeeze 5 different designers' games into one session is challenging, even when some (like Mike's and Tom's) were rather short. This is partly because playtesting with designers probably doubles the typical playing time because people have a lot of comments and suggestions. This is great fun, but I fear that the later games sometimes don't get as fair a shake because people are getting drained. I feel like if we could get 2 more players/designers, we could break up into 2 groups and playtest more games total but fewer per person (which of course would have its own problems since we all are eager to try each other's games...)

I don't think it would be out of the question to have a Protospiel/Pow Wow-like event here in the northeast sometime next summer. Maybe something we could discuss further. But I hope we won't wait until then to have another BGDF regional get-together. It was great fun, and hope we can do it again soon!

Best,

Jeff

IngredientX
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BGDF Albany "Playfest"

nosissies wrote:
oh, and in case you were wondering, Kevin and Shellie stopped by totally out of curiosity, the garage sale foosball table thing was a hastily constructed front :-) Next time we can perhaps schedule in time to invite some of my playtest group to participate which would allow us to cover a larger number of games.

You know, I hope I didn't seem like I was blowing them off. I may have been a little nervous, and perhaps I wasn't acknowledging them as much as I should have. I hope that they come by next time, so that we can have more guinea pi... um, playtesters! :D

nosissies
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BGDF Albany "Playfest"

IngredientX wrote:
You know, I hope I didn't seem like I was blowing them off. I may have been a little nervous, and perhaps I wasn't acknowledging them as much as I should have. I hope that they come by next time, so that we can have more guinea pi... um, playtesters! :D

I don't think they were offended one bit, we gave them plenty of time to jump in. They were just having a hard time coming to terms with what they wanted to do vs. what they needed to do :-)

As for another "playfest" ... I'm getting the impression that the demand is pretty high, so I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that we'll probably do our next one in the fall. This would probably be preferable over winter as the weather may be more predictable.

peace,
Tom

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