Board games Card games

Playtest meetup

On Sunday I went into That London, which was no mean feat as the trains weren’t running thanks to works on the line. But I persevered because I wanted to get along to a Meetup group for people that design boardgames. It’s run by Rob Harris who some of you will remember from Consequences/Peaky.

And I had a great time – would thoroughly recommend it, especially if you’re interested in designing board/card/etc games of course, but also just if you’re into playing new games and working out what was good and bad about them. Nice bunch of people, nice venue and some fun and interesting games.

What I played:

* Pickpocket – a lightish Eurogame about stealing stuff. There are five venues, which get random stuff dealt out to them. Each turn, each player secretly decides which of their hand of thieves to send to which venue, all reveal simultaneously. Some thieves can steal more stuff, some can steal faster (get first choice), some have special abilities. Some of the goods are straightforward, some combine in different ways to score more, some allow actions, etc. The whole thing had a very nice Knizia-meets-Settlers kind of feel to it. Seemed to me that it was pretty close to publishable standard already. Designed by Matt Dunstan.

* [A gangster game] – quite old-school, reminiscent of Family Business in its viciousness. Players send goons from their teams to raid banks, and the player whose turn it is divides up the money and also the deaths and arrests that ensue between the goons who participated. The basis seemed good and fun (although not really my type of thing), but there were heaps of interacting specials (on the banks, on the goons, on action cards) which made it quite complex and fiddly to play. And ‘attack the leader to drag them back’ was encouraged, with the frustrations that can bring. I think there was a bit of a sense of relief when someone surprised themselves by winning. Designed by Mike Nudd.

* Venice – a heavier Eurogame, about Puerto-Rico-like complexity. On the map of Venice, assembled from tiles to give a fairly random pattern of islands and canals, you have a gondola (can move by water and trade goods) and a man (can move on land, build bridges and build buildings). Trading goods gets you money to build stuff (prices move according to a clever market system), building stuff gets you more moves or trade bonuses or VPs. I really enjoyed this, and would happily have played it again right away if time had permitted. It had that nice feeling that it was fun the first time, but would be more fun with each successive play as you worked out better how to make the various aspects work together. Designed by Matt Dunstan and Brett J Gilbert.

So there were designers there who were professionally published and who’d won big European game-design prizes – and both Matt and Brett are off to Catalonia this weekend where they have games in the final of Europa Ludi – but it wasn’t at all a business-focused event, much more just like an ordinary games club (but with all new games).

I shall certainly be going along again in future when I have that weekend (it’s the 3rd Sunday) free – let me know if you’re interested. I even felt inspired to have a bit more of a think about what was wrong with my own game designs, so be warned. Nice One Squirrel (PDF link) may return!

4 replies on “Playtest meetup”

Mm, it’s a bit more manageable scale than Protospiel, which I get the impression is Deeply Serious. Really BoardGameGeek ought to be the place to organize this sort of thing (and maybe people do?), but Meetup worked very well for this in practice. At least two of the people there had found it through Meetup rather than (as I did) knowing a participant beforehand.

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