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Sunday Time Waster: The Play Test Game

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Short and sweet Sunday Time Waster today. It’s 11 PM as I write this so I am getting it in right under the wire.

I spent all day today continuing to play test a friend’s boardgame design.

His company, Conquistador Games, is gearing up to release its first game, Road to Enlightenment. I’m not ready to talk about the game much but you can view the website here: even though the game has changed a great deal since I first saw it. Much of that info is outdated but it’s still a card driven game at heart and Newton is still a bad ass.

When I get the go ahead from the designer to talk about it I will but it’s been truly fascinating to sit in and grind out a prototype until it starts to sing. To see a game that’s not quite ready for primetime get beaten down and built back up again. To see how mechanics can initially run into each other and then after tweaking things start to work together. It’s like a machine. When it breaks down you can see why – and when it works it hums.

I have never been this close to a boardgame design before and it’s been an incredible learning experience and one that I have also been able to experience with my wife as she’s been apart of every playtest session we have conducted. (As my other buddy learned tonight, never trust my wife, even if you are supposedly “allies” and both fighting the good fight in the name of The Pope. The treachery of Poland vs. the Holy Roman Empire will live in infamy. The woman is not to be trusted.)

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The testing process is something I’ve never experienced. To deliberately try to “break” a game design and to then talk with the designer extensively after every playtest – to see what works, what doesn’t, and what needs tweaked. Every new play session as the game has progressed has been a better experience. Things are getting tighter with each test which is great to see and I’m thrilled to be a part of it whether the game succeeds or not. I’ve loved this process. To witness the actual “birth” of a game like this is something I have enjoyed more than I thought I would.

The process of game testing be it computer or cardboard can be exhausting. But it’s amazing how rewarding it’s been and to see how much the game has evolved over the past 6-8 weeks—from a card game with scoring tracks to a game with a full on map of Europe in the 17th century (think Mount & Blade With Fire and Sword time period) and I hope to be able to talk about it with you guys soon enough.

Bill Abner

Bill has been writing about games for the past 16 years for such outlets as Computer Games Magazine, GameSpy, The Escapist, GameShark, and Crispy Gamer. He will continue to do so until his wife tells him to get a real job.

One thought to “Sunday Time Waster: The Play Test Game”

  1. That’s awesome. Boardgamers of Greater Akron has a playtest night at my local hobby store. Local designers bring their games and you get a crack at them. While I don’t think any of them are near being published I’ve always thought it would be an interesting experience.

    Thanks to your story I think I just might.

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