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Reviewing Playtest Games

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Joined: 12/25/2012

Hey Everybody

I have designed a fantasy-based RPG board game and constructed my first prototype. The game is not finished yet (maybe about 80-90% of my envisioned game content is designed), but enough is designed for the major mechanics and design to be tested. I want to start playtesting for fairness, balance, fun, and overall execution of the mechanics, as this will be take a long while (it's an in-depth game with many mechanics and options).

My question is, do you you all know of a good system for playtesting and/or reviewing a newly-created game? This is my first time doing this, and I want to be efficient. Is it best to keep a log of playtest games, with an outline of what aspects played well and what didn't? Maybe the log can have room for ideas for new and/or alternate ideas?

I'm just wondering what you all think, as some of you probably have valuable experience in playtesting and reviewing games.

Thank you very much in advance for your assistance,

Dralius's picture
Joined: 07/26/2008
How you test it will depend

How you test it will depend on the game itself. Very simple games get very simple notes.

If the object is to gain points/gold I would keep track of how many points/gold are earned by each player. For an rpg I might also track how well each class does on average. Also pay attention to player order as subtle things at the beginning of a game can affect the outcome. If you have effect cards keep an eye on which ones are used often and which ones don’t get used. Same for magic items & spells.

Once you have decided on making changes only change one thing at a time. If you change more than one and an unexpected effect occurs it will be hard or impossible to determine what caused it.

Good luck.

Joined: 01/30/2013
If it is a complex game, expect it to be a longer process

I have two games going through playtesting at the moment - one is a large-scale strategy game with asymmetrical armies (lots of balance subtleties there), and the other is a simpler family game with fewer permutations. I have radically different testing approaches for each.

In both cases, I did start with solo play, and I played them as far as I needed to in order to detect major gameplay issues, then I'd stop and correct those. Eventually, I'd get them to the point where I'd be playing games through to completion.

For the family game, I jumped right into blind playtesting - I got my kids to sit down on Sunday afternoon and pound through several games, and then I interviewed them afterwards. I didn't even watch them play (although I wanted to!) - I really wanted to make sure that feedback was unbiased. It worked fantastically well - my oldest scribbled down some notes on observations they made as they played, and that has led to some fairly significant retooling of parts of the game.

The strategy game is too big to go there yet, as I am not at all convinced that my solo play has been enough to uncover all the game-breakers. Next stage is to introduce a couple of friends to the game and play some guided games with particular test objectives in each set of games (first is keyed on battle mechanics and unit combat balance, next is keyed on resource and territory mechanics, next is keyed on full battle reports, last is the same again but adding in downtime and total time checks.

There are parallels in software testing: testing the small pieces individually first before trying to analyze the whole will probably make sense for a big game. Then, as Dralius said above, making sure that you minimize the tweaks per iteration will only help you - it is amazing how changing two or three things can radically change the way your game plays out.

Good luck!

Joined: 12/25/2012
RE: If it is a complex game, expect it to be a longer process

I am expecting it to be a long process for playtesting, as it is a complex game with many many options. I think your idea of breaking the game down to text single and/or smaller number of mechanics at a time is a useful way to hone in on the individual game component designs.

My goal is to be more efficient during the review process, especially since there are so many options, mechanics, and depth to the game. Maybe I will create a spreadsheet of all the various components, with questions and rankings of how each individual piece of the game plays out for fairness, playability, fun, and synergy with other components.

The good thing is that much of this review can be numerical or categorical, so the review should not be so complicated (however, the volume of the review will be pretty extensive). This part can definitely be started by myself, and then once it's at least somewhat balance, I can bring others in to help review it.

Thanks a lot for your input.

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