David Wuensche
United States
Nebraska
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Solo play-testing has been a nightmare. A single play punched gaping holes into my original design. I've gone through about 100 of my blank cards, and now I'm not using cards at all (they may get reintroduced later). Now there are tiles and clips and small player mats and things I never imagined would be in the game.

What makes the solo play-test so difficult is the veto system within the game. On a player's turn, they propose two (or three) moves. The player to their left or right vetoes one (or two) moves until there is only one left. This means I not only have to simulate the player I'm playing, but up to two other players on any single turn. This has turned into long and incomplete sessions, often only getting to about 8 turns instead of the intended 12. I'm not normally given to AP, but these tests have suggested otherwise.

How to expedite things? Personality cards. I've made up 12 cards with phrases like "Hoards meeples" and "Hates the wall", phrases that define the way each player plays the game and how they decide to veto. I shuffle these and assign three to each player. I'm already starting to see combinations that could result in game-breaking scenarios, things that I can adjust. Choices become more obvious and the AP is gone.



Not as fast as a computer simulation, I suppose. But it produces streamlined and easy-to-assess results.
 
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Jeremy Lennert
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California
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Clever. I'd guess this probably works well for quick testing, but not so well for balancing advanced strategies (where opponents might have to tailor their vetoes based on what they think you're trying to accomplish).
 
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Aerjen Tamminga
Netherlands
Tilburg
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Heh, I've got many imaginary friends playing when I playtest too. You might want to try out a random player to simulate a newby too.
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Michael Brettell
Australia
South Turramurra
NSW
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I agree with this. I also need to do this a lot when play-testing (by myself) the game we're in the middle of designing.

Coming up with a particular strategy for either player to follow helps with two things:
1 - Deciding what one of your pretend players will do
2 - Testing out that particular strategy, with a view that you don't want a single strategy to work well in every circumstance.

"OK Blue is going to follow a strategy of maximising his computing skills, transmitting viruses every chance he gets, hold off, then go for guns skills and hopefully blast his way to victory when they get close. Red's going to be as aggressive as possible, do whatever he can to hurt his opponent every change he gets."

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Sturv Tafvherd
United States
North Carolina
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Cool. I had "imaginary friends" for alpha playtests as well. But not as structurally assigned as having 3 personality cards per player. That's a cool idea.

Here's how I'd modify it, and why.

First, the why: since it is an alpha (solo, by designer) playtest, I need to make decisions as if a person was actually playing ... and not as someone who can see over everyone's shoulders and read other people's minds.

And I need to make these decisions quickly.

The problem is that I'm playing for all the "friends" playing the game... and it is hard to divorce "what I really know" vs "what this friend knows."

Even with the 3 personality cards ... once I've seen what they are, I am tempted to start manipulating one friend's behavior. Like: "I (Bob) know that Andy is a Hoards Meeples, so if I do this, I'm sure he'll react like this. Ha, checkmate!"


The modification: introduce randomness, or act to the contrary.

I'd roll a die for each of the 3 personality cards... reroll ties. The card with the highest die has "priority" in the decision process.

If I rolled a "1" for a card, then (depending on the card) I'd act contrary to that personality, or I replace the card with a new one. So if I had the "Hoards Meeples" card and I rolled a "1" for it .... that would mean that I act "Waste/Spend Meeples" instead. (or replace it with a new card)

Also, if I make a decision and another friend is "supposed to react" because of their Personality card, that friend gets to roll a die... on a "1" they would act contrary.

Kinda like a saving throw... "I roll to save against my own stupidity..."
 
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