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Solo Playtesting - How much is Too much?

5 replies [Last post]
Joined: 07/29/2008

When I do manage to create a board game, one phase of that process is solo-playtesting. I essentially take on the role of all of the players in a bid to find something wrong with the game. I figure that solo-playtesting is a good way to see if a board game design is viable or not.

However, solo-playtesting also has it's drawbacks (as I have discovered over the years).

First, because you are playing all of the players, you 'know' your opponent's moves and can counteract them. This can lead to drawn out games and skew just how quickly a game resolves itself.

Solo-playtesting might also not detect first- or second-player bias unless you are really careful. I had one design that I thought was really good. However, upon further testing, I realized that an aggressive player of that game would (almost) always win; I hadn't taken into account certain variables that were obscured by assuming all of the player's roles.

When do other designers take their designs from solo-playtesting to playing with actual other people? Part of my problem is that I solo-playtest until the point of exhaustion (mainly because I want to catch any major flaws before even tell other people that I've made a game at all) and then let the game cool off, psychologically giving myself the excuse that "I've done enough" and it's time to move on to other projects.

pelle's picture
Joined: 08/11/2008
Not sure if too much is a

Not sure if too much is a problem. Wasting the time of your playtesters by having them find the issues you could have found in solo-playtesting does not sound so good. But I agree it is a waste to spend too much time alone with the game, possibly polishing details when there are fundamental flaws to fix that makes all the small fixes irrelevant anyway. Or that you don't learn that the game just isn't fun.

X3M's picture
Joined: 10/28/2013
Depending on the time of the game

My approach:

You solo playtest until you find no flaws.
Have 3 games like this.
Now do one with other players.


They find a lot of flaws anyway.

questccg's picture
Joined: 04/16/2011

Once you have FINISHED a DRAFT of the Rulebook... You can do two (2) things:

1. Ask for members to REVIEW your rulebook for clarity and the general sense of the rules.

2. Afterwards when the rulebook is more SOLID, you can contact someone like Joe (@The Professor) who is a professional Developer and has been doing it for more that 20+ Years. He'll blind playtest given the rules, validate the cohesiveness of the rules, see if there are ways to "perfect" the game and give you an overall assessment of the game.

For point #1... There is not much to do except maybe use a Google Document and share a Link/URL or PM to only the people who ask to view/review the rules doc. Or if it is a PDF or Word document, you need to host it on another site.

For point #2... Contact Joe directly:

Believe me he is well worth it and he has an AD on to his website too. So I naturally promote people in the industry for all patrons of and offer them potential customers and so forth...

BTW contacting "Markus" for 3D Printing Questions is fine... He too is a Patron of He only has one (1) Lifetime Slot ... So his ad appears less frequently ... But never-the-less we do promote his Lab/Studio.

I don't chase after many Banner Ads, it's more-or-less when ppl need it for a Kickstarter Campaign (and those only last 30-Days) or if they want to promote their website, services, facilities, product, etc.

In any event... I do have some contacts and have a pulse on what is going on.


questccg's picture
Joined: 04/16/2011
Something to consider

With regards to PLAYTESTING ... I think once you have sufficiently played your game to KNOW when the game's DETAILS are being examined and that you are no longer working on the "core" of the game but details such as tweaking values of cards or playing with stats and abilities, etc. Then from that point moving forwards it's a question of getting the game played by REAL players.

Like @X3M suggests, the players will take a stab at it and see what kind of things that they will want to do or play and you will see how STRONG or WEAK your design currently is.

Then you'll go back to solo playtesting once you workout all the issues that the playtesters reveal to you. Once you fix those, you'll probably want to go solo for another batch of playtests and then you'll be ready for a second iteration of REAL players.

I can say that for TradeWorlds ... I had some playtests with a FRIEND and he actually INSPIRED some of the concepts of things like "Going ALL-IN with your Starships" ... That was something he wanted: to be able to risk it all in return for a total sweep of the opponent.

So you'll maybe get NEW ideas and some rules that may need to be fixed.

The reality is do as MUCH solo playtesting as NEEDED to have the game SOLID in your own thinking. Bring it to some REAL players and let them find holes and weaknesses in the design... Whatever issues they find, analyze and fix them and then kindly as for another REAL players session.

You can be kind and bring the Pizza and Pop (or Beer if preferred) and make it an evening event.

And don't forget that your RULEBOOK will need a review or two... So consider your options (like in my previous comment) and see what works for you.


Taavet's picture
Joined: 08/15/2008
Playtesting Group

A lot of it will also depend on your gaming group/playtesters. My sons had some friends over who are familiar with gaming and I just said hey you guys wanna help me with some playtesting of a game I'm designing (not even fully fleshed out). We played through a drafting mechanic, and went through various options.

Select character, draft, play cards (random selection vs picking)
Draft, play cards, then select character (play cards one at a time clockwise, vs 1st player plays all then 2nd, 3rd etc)
Played with those options with 4 players and also broke them into pairs to look at differences, and just got feedback as they were playing and helping me design the mechanic/feel I was going for.

This could have been done solo but I probably would have missed a lot knowing all the information and not having multiple personalities to explore different paths simultaneously.

Just find some people and make it worth their while. If you keep it fun and inclusive people are usually willing to help out, even if they aren't gamers.

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