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Subject: Do you enjoy playtesting new board games? rss

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Mike L.
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I am curious what the board game community thinks about this.

Poll
1. Do you enjoy playtesting new games? (aka games that have yet to be published but could be in the future)
Yes
No
2. Are there any stipulations when it comes to playtesting games?
I will playtest anyone's game at any time
I prefer to playtest games made by companies
I prefer to playtest games made by close friends
I need to be in the right mood to playtest games
I prefer to only playtest games that have already been heavily playtested
I want to see that others have already enjoyed the game before jumping in
      102 answers
Poll created by nitro9090
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J C Lawrence
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My largest constraint is whether I think the game is (likely to be) interesting, not whether or not it is a playtest.
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CHAPEL
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I find playtesting games to be a big pain in the ass.
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Brad Johnson
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I realize that all games need to go through a long series of steps, usually along these lines:
1) Vague idea
2) Partially-solidified prototype
3) Prototype that doesn't work
4) Prototype that almost works
5) Prototype that works
6) Polished pre-publication game

I would generally prefer to playtest a game that is at least up to step 4 or so, but I'd probably be willing to playtest at step 3 for friends and/or established companies with decent reputations.

I think the main thing that game designers need to be aware of is that playtesting isn't really possible, and certainly not very fun, at steps 1 and 2. I would generally stipulate that a game has to at least have some playable rudimentary components and some written rules before I would even consider playtesting. It seems like a surprising number of game designers think there's a much shorter distance between "vague idea" and "playable game" than I do.
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Bryan Thunkd
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The degree to which you can be an effective playtester is the same degree to which it isn't fun to play.

So you can play an early version of a game and give a lot of good feedback... but not have a lot of fun playing. Or you can play an almost polished version of the game and have very little useful feedback... but it'll be a lot more fun to play.
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Donald Walsh
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I didn't pick any of your stipulations, but the only real stipulation I have is that it be a game I or my group might be interested in playing.

I've been a part of playtests from established companies to self-published stuff. Sometimes I misjudge and our group doesn't enjoy the game, or we collectively deem the game non-viable. One game we continued to test, even though we didn't really enjoy it. Another I ended up forwarding the playtest kit to another group.

We tend to do our playtesting in spurts, for no apparent reason. After a couple years not testing anything, our group is just about to start one, and I've applied for 2 more (of which I'm pretty confident we'll get one of those assignments, which I'm excited about because it's an expansion to a game I enjoy.)

I don't mind testing in alpha stages, because I can see if a game is broken or not. More fully realized designs are harder or not possible to break. Note that big designers and big companies aren't immune to bringing a broken game to market.
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Chris Tannhauser
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MWChapel wrote:
I find playtesting games to be a big pain in the ass.

Real playtesting should be called worktesting, it's so arduous. It can be satisfying when done right and you get to see the raw clay spun up into a fired vase at the end, but most of the time it's your head being held to the pottery wheel while you recursively scream the scab of your face and wet yourself.

On principle I won't do it unless asked by someone I respect, and even then I have to be sure I'm down for work instead of play. And usually I'm not.
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@OP, I'm "by companies" also implies "by designers"? Established ones at that? I suppose you may run into a situation where there's a pub you haven't heard of whom you've played a game or 2 by that designer before. I for one playtested a game by such a designer, but couldn't remember which pub published his games.

Interestingly, but not surprisingly, they have cons where it's mostly or exclusively playtesting games. One in NJ comes to mind.

I've been to quite a few normal bg gatherings, let alone cons, where folks have asked if attendees would be willing to playtest their games.

For one game, the person asked the designer to describe the game, whereas he responded "do you like Stone Age?". Response... "I hate Stone Age!". As his game used elements from it, there was no need to go further with that request

I've seen such regular bg events explicitly prohibit playtesting of games. I guess it got out of hand for a while, so they did that to keep things under wraps. You're free to attend other events hosted by that group that don't have such a restriction to get stuff playtested.

tempus42 wrote:
I realize that all games need to go through a long series of steps, usually along these lines:
1) Vague idea
2) Partially-solidified prototype
3) Prototype that doesn't work
4) Prototype that almost works
5) Prototype that works
6) Polished pre-publication game

.....

.... It seems like a surprising number of game designers think there's a much shorter distance between "vague idea" and "playable game" than I do.
What step would the latter fall under given your list?
 
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MWChapel wrote:
I find playtesting games to be a big pain in the ass.
You gotta appreciate the irony how some published games are more awful/less playtested then the ones that are still in playtesting/unpublished.
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Donald Walsh
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MWChapel wrote:
I find playtesting games to be a big pain in the ass.


How designers/developers/publishers handle their playtesters has a big impact on how big a pain in the ass it becomes.

NDA's are expected. So are session report forms, to a degree, but some forms are so long and non-functional that it's a big detractor.

Also, sometimes you are updating components several times a week. (most, actually all of the time at your expense. I suppose a updated test kit could be mailed to you, but I've never been involved with such a test).
 
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Brad Johnson
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ackmondual wrote:

tempus42 wrote:
I realize that all games need to go through a long series of steps, usually along these lines:
1) Vague idea
2) Partially-solidified prototype
3) Prototype that doesn't work
4) Prototype that almost works
5) Prototype that works
6) Polished pre-publication game

.....

.... It seems like a surprising number of game designers think there's a much shorter distance between "vague idea" and "playable game" than I do.
What step would the latter fall under given your list?

I think "playable game" is a highly subjective term, but on my list above, I would generally consider a game to be "playable" by definition at about step 4. Games at step 3 (and possibly some at step 2) are probably "partially playable" at best, meaning you might be able to play out some isolated game actions, or maybe even a couple of turns, but then the whole thing may very well fall apart and need some additional design work.
 
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Pete
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I'll playtest anything, but I will probably tell you why it's terrible afterward. My complaint is not playtesting games...it's when you give your feedback and get arguments for your trouble.

Pete (thinks you have to be willing to take the criticism if you want playtesters)
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Caleb
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ackmondual wrote:
MWChapel wrote:
I find playtesting games to be a big pain in the ass.
You gotta appreciate the irony how some published games are more awful/less playtested then the ones that are still in playtesting/unpublished.


Perhaps. However, my gaming time is limited so I will restrict myself to published titles with some reviews/info in hopes that what I play will be most enjoyable. I don't have the time to spend testing someone else's ideas. I'm glad there are people that can do that, or else we'd never get any games publsihed at all, but it's not for me.

I stay away from Kickstarter for basically the same reason. whistle
 
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Some games for playtest aren't on the BGG database (or yet), so gotta use a dummy entry until it gets published and its entry created.
 
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Keith Carter
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Playtesting is one of my favorite forms of gaming. I did not pick any of your stipulations because I prefer to start playtesting a game when it has only been lightly playtested. The partially solidified prototype to use tempus42's term. I prefer to playtest a game many times so there is opportunity to test for fun, test the rules, test by trying to optimize play, test the impact of multiple versions of a proposed rule change, and to stress the game by testing the dumb strategies to make sure a player can not take the group experience in a direction far from what the designer intended. For me HiveGod is right on target that playtesting could be called worktesting.

Playtesting for friends has the advantage that I have the resources to help them create prototypes and more control over how feedback is delivered (with pizza is a favorite of mine). Otherwise it is the same as playtesting for a company. The focus is improving the game design. I play the game a lot, I analyze, come to conclusions, and provide feedback with reasons and examples.

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Max Jamelli
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plezercruz wrote:
I'll playtest anything, but I will probably tell you why it's terrible afterward. My complaint is not playtesting games...it's when you give your feedback and get arguments for your trouble.

Pete (thinks you have to be willing to take the criticism if you want playtesters)


I'm probably guilty of this - but my arguments are coming from prior playtests. The parts of the design process that have been the most frustrating for ME are:

playtester 1: I don't like mechanic A, you should try B.
playtester 2: Not a fan of mechanic B, you should be doing A instead.

If I agreed with PT1 that B was in fact a better option, if I explain to PT2 that, yes I did try A and we like B better, is this considered arguing? Personally, I'd call it discussion but 6 of 1 is half a dozen of the other.


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mark w

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We have a local meetup group for play testing prototypes that I love to attend. I do not mind testing games at any level we mostly get level 3-5 but level 2's will also so from time to time. I have as much if not more fun testing than playing published games.

I would like to find more testing groups I know it has helped me with my game and it is fun to help others with theirs
 
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Melody Hill
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I'd love to be asked to playtest a game for a budding designer or an established one. I've never been asked But maybe one day, I'll be useful in someone's game
 
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Max Jamelli
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thinker800 wrote:
I'd love to be asked to playtest a game for a budding designer or an established one. I've never been asked But maybe one day, I'll be useful in someone's game


There are events called "Unpub" that run playtesting conventions. I've been to one in Chantilly (not sure how far that is from you) but there were a lot of great prototypes there.
 
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sigtaulefty wrote:
plezercruz wrote:
I'll playtest anything, but I will probably tell you why it's terrible afterward. My complaint is not playtesting games...it's when you give your feedback and get arguments for your trouble.

Pete (thinks you have to be willing to take the criticism if you want playtesters)


I'm probably guilty of this - but my arguments are coming from prior playtests. The parts of the design process that have been the most frustrating for ME are:

playtester 1: I don't like mechanic A, you should try B.
playtester 2: Not a fan of mechanic B, you should be doing A instead.

If I agreed with PT1 that B was in fact a better option, if I explain to PT2 that, yes I did try A and we like B better, is this considered arguing? Personally, I'd call it discussion but 6 of 1 is half a dozen of the other.




I think that the job of the designer is not to persuade playtesters to adopt your position but to form the best possible position that you can from the information that you get. I let most of my testers know that I aggregate information from lots of playtests and that their opinions matter but sometimes the game might not go exactly in the direction that they'd like, most people seem to accept this.

Sometimes you can get something out of a discussion but it helps to be specific. In this example I might say something like "I tried B but it created an issue with C, there are ways to solve that issue but everything I could think of hurt the game in some other way to the point that A seemed like a better solution - but do you have any other solutions for how I might overcome issue C with solution B?"
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Eric Jome
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I love it so much I host a convention for it.

My favorite way to enjoy games these days.
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x_equals_speed wrote:
I think that the job of the designer is not to persuade playtesters to adopt your position but to form the best possible position that you can from the information that you get.


It is generally my experience that most testers mistake suggesting changes to a game for feedback on the game.

The testers are not the designers. A good tester asks about the goals of the game and validates the design as meeting those goals. They should be practiced at understanding and expressing more than approval and disapproval, but don't need to suggest changes.

Quote:
I let most of my testers know that I aggregate information from lots of playtests and that their opinions matter but sometimes the game might not go exactly in the direction that they'd like, most people seem to accept this.


You work with savvy testers.
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Pete
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sigtaulefty wrote:
plezercruz wrote:
I'll playtest anything, but I will probably tell you why it's terrible afterward. My complaint is not playtesting games...it's when you give your feedback and get arguments for your trouble.

Pete (thinks you have to be willing to take the criticism if you want playtesters)


I'm probably guilty of this - but my arguments are coming from prior playtests. The parts of the design process that have been the most frustrating for ME are:

playtester 1: I don't like mechanic A, you should try B.
playtester 2: Not a fan of mechanic B, you should be doing A instead.

If I agreed with PT1 that B was in fact a better option, if I explain to PT2 that, yes I did try A and we like B better, is this considered arguing? Personally, I'd call it discussion but 6 of 1 is half a dozen of the other.


As a general rule, I try not to give comments like that, partly because they are likely to lead to arguments and partly because the designer is better situated to solve the issue.

My comment will be something like this:

Mechanic A is not working properly. It causes problems A1 and A2.

If the designer asks for suggestsions, I'll offer up B. But I don't volunteer it unless I am asked.

Pete (also knows that many such critiques are subjective anyway)
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Why should I playtest anybody's game at all?

What I meant is, I am not interested in playtesting at all, unless there are compelling reasons to do so.

It so happens that I am in the business of designing and publishing children's games, so I do have to get others to playtest my games.

Playtesting is therefore a necessary part of game publishing. Luckily for me, it is an easier process than those heavy games for adult gamers.

I have playtested a designer friend's games before, cos I wanted to gain knowledge on game design. I also applied to playtest for stonemaier on Viticulture, but didn't manage to get a slot as I lost out in the draw to pick 15 out of 150.

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Wes Erni
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cosine wrote:
I love it so much I host a convention for it.

My favorite way to enjoy games these days.


I completely agree -- which is good, because playtesting is the only way I play nowadays. I used to have a love/hate relationship with breaking published games, it was cool and satisfying...for a minute. Then, it struck me that I would have to redesign a game I had paid good money for. The usual company line of "If you don't say anything, maybe no one will notice" annoyed me as well.

Then I discovered Victory Point Games. You tell them you have "cracked the code" of one of their games, you are instantly put in touch with the designer. The take their slogan "The Gameplay is the Thing" very seriously. Due to their diligence, I have been their "go-to" final playtester on a number of projects, as well as designing a few games for them as well.

Admittedly, the designs I see are always "near release" (so I never have to struggle with early difficulties) -- but really, I now get the best of both worlds. I get all of the "puzzle satisfaction" of breaking a game, have the "gravitas" to enact change (sort of an assistant developer), and then get to enjoy a polished game -- all the while feeling I am doing a service beyond mere personal enjoyment, VERY cool.

There is considerable pressure -- I am often the last "line of defense" against an out-of-balance or (worse) broke game, so I have to apply something akin to hatred toward the game I am tasked to "destroy". And it is a lot of work -- the last project (Dawn of the Zeds 3) took hundreds of often very long and elaborate e-mails interchanged. The VPG staff is very "hands-on", and everything needs to be cross-checked (among other things, to see if I have gotten the rules right). But it is very rewarding, and a fair amount of fun as well.
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