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Playtesting with strangers

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diamondroller03...'s picture
Joined: 06/03/2017

Might be a sill question but...

How do you approach playtesting with people you don't know? What quetions would you ask, if a survey is involved?

I'm absolutely terrified of it, yet excited at the same time...

harmon89's picture
Joined: 01/13/2016
If I'm playing with them I

If I'm playing with them I learn the most by observing. Of course I like to know what their favorite and least favorite part of the game is, thoughts on how they think the game could be improved, etc. But mostly I take note of when players seem most engaged, and when do they seem to lose interest in the game?

If it is a blind playtest I like having players to fill out a questionnaire. Some things I like to know:
-Number of players
-Game length
-How did the mechanics match the theme?
- Which mechanics did you enjoy most?
- Did the game feel balanced?
- Did the game feel too long?
- Did there seem to be one dominant strategy? If so, what was it? Would you implement the same strategy next time you played? What strategy would you implement?
- What aspects of the rules were unclear?

joebergmann's picture
Joined: 12/29/2016
I'm most interested in fun

To me, the toughest thing is actually talking to the people. I get really nervous. It is VERY helpful to have your game explanation down to a tee. If the players can't figure out what your game is about and how they win and play it will probably turn them off right away. I have had this problem a lot. I have had to practice my "pitch" a lot.

Get the players names, ask them if they have playtested before, explain that your game isn't perfect yet, but they can help you get closer to that!

My first play related concern is whether or not the game was fun. If it isn't fun, I really take a look to see if it can be fun or if I should let it go...

Here is a form I use for reviewers of my games:


CITY PARK Review – Date: __ /__ /__
How much did you enjoy the game?
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Not It I
At Was Loved
All OK It!

Did anything detract from the game? Comment below:

____didn’t get it/not my thing
____too much theme
____too little theme
____whole game was too long
____each turn was too long
____whole game was too short
____each turn was too short
____I didn’t win
____nothing detracted from the game
____other __________________________________________

How much did you like the theme/concept?

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Boring OK Terrific!

How easy was it to understand the rules?

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Way They They
Too Were Were
Hard OK Perfect!

Thank you very much for playing and for your help in making this a better game!

Please use the back of this sheet for other comments to help improve this game

Mosker's picture
Joined: 03/30/2014
After playing other's prototypes...(with a BGDF member plug)

...I want time to think and will often send long emails of comments and thoughts. Yes, most of the time people (including me) who say they might follow-up do not, but make sure your playtesters have your contact info and you treat them as if they're not blowing you off.

Also, have some specific questions to talk about, and encourage players to ask each other questions about the experiences--especially first and last place players. (When did you know? What kept you going--or was it just courtesy?)

And read John Brieger's twitter stream(he's on BGDF) @DasBrieger committing the 2-3 you like the most and the 2-3 you find hardest to accept and implement to memory.

JohnBrieger's picture
Joined: 11/04/2016
Playtesting Tips

Thanks for the kind words, David.

I could write a small book at this point about playtesting, so I'll keep it short and sweet:

I playtest nearly exclusively with people I don't know – after you get over the humps, it's well worth it.

For questions to ask – I highly recommend getting at things that are about how players feel about different portions of your game – which aids in understanding root causes of problems.

Players may say comments like: "I wish I had more cards in my hand." It's your job to figure out why they are saying that. Is it because they needed more to do on a turn? They didn't feel like they had enough options? The options they had frequently weren't good enough? etc. It's your job to follow up on those comments with probing questions.

So ask questions about how players feel at specific moments to understand their experience of your game.

I'm a big fan of observational playtesting: watching players during the game rather than relying solely on asking questions at the end. I wrote a short article about it here.

and not to be too self promotional, but I do write playtesting tips every day on my twitter. If you click the #PlaytestingTipOfTheDay tag, you can read the whole archive.

I also second Joe's advice on practicing pitching and teaching your game. It's an incredibly valuable skill, because you'll see over many tests: how well the game is taught has a huge impact on play experience. So always be revising and looking for better ways to teach your game (whether that's in person or through rules writing).

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