I went to another meeting of the Playtest group in London yesterday (like last month), and again had a jolly good time. Despite the trains still being buses and most of the tubes non-existent. It made for about a 3-hour door-to-door journey, which is a bit much I think for a 75-mile distance. But hey ho, it was worth it.
This time I took along a game of my own, or rather of mine and T’s, to be playtested. We came up with the idea when we were on holiday in Sheringham a few weeks ago. We’d been musing on some interesting thoughts that one of the guys at last month’s one had expressed, about boardgame-as-story; and set ourselves the challenge of writing a game around the first suitable story that we could think of. Glancing out of the window we saw fishing boats, and so Fishy Business was born. We spent a morning designing it in rough, an afternoon making up a crude prototype, an evening playtesting it the two of us, and it worked surprisingly well. Since then we had a revision cycle, made a proper prototype and tested it on a willing victim (TheHattedOne), had another revision cycle, and then it was time for yesterday’s meeting.
- So that was the first thing I did, ran a playtest of it on three of the attenders. And it went pretty well! They seemed to enjoy it, had some great suggestions, and overall were very positive. For this first game designed by this method, my only ambition really was to have it be playable and not actively boring (as my previous, mechanics-first, games have tended to be). So I count that as a victory.
- Next up I played Alea Carta, by Valery. This was not a ‘hobby game’ at all, but a whist variant. Based on standard four-hand partnered whist, but before each trick the leader to it has the option of throwing a die whose result may make the values of some of the cards change up or down; so, for example, if you roll a 4, then queens and aces swap value, so do 9s and jacks, etc. I thought this was really ingenious and fun, but the other testers were a bit more ‘eh what??’ and got rather lost. I think to enjoy it you pretty much have to be sufficiently expert at whist (-type games) that all the stuff like counting suits, tracking the high card, reading your partner’s signals etc are all second nature and so games of plain whist have become predictable and dull.
- Then Rob and I sqeezed in a quick test of a mini-game which will be used during Small Town Folks at Consequences in a few weeks. Won’t say anything more about it here, as some of you will be involved! Suffice to say it was a lot better than the last version we tested, and we’re pretty happy with it now.
- Finally played Sailaway, by Michael, which is a family game. Quite traditional in style, it wouldn’t have been out of place in the 1970s. (He initially wrote it for BT some years ago when they were sponsoring some sort of sailing event, but it got canned when the event was called off.) You move around a board collecting pieces of ship to assemble a whole one. The clever and fun bit is that the central section of the board slides back and forth in response to players ending their turns on certain squares. So with slightly cunning play you can shut your opponents into creeks, cut them off from reaching the remaining boat components they need, and so on. It’s aimed at 6–9-year-olds, but 30- and 40-somethings will also have a great time with it, I can testify.
So basically, a great time was had, and I recommend it again. It was quite interesting that this time, apart from my own, I didn’t play any hobby games at all, but still enjoyed it hugely. Next meeting is on 18th Nov, although I won’t be able to make that. Do go along though if you think you might like it!