$20.00
$15.00
$5.00
Recommend
4 
 Thumb up
 Hide
23 Posts

BoardGameGeek» Forums » Board Game Design » Board Game Design

Subject: How do you do enough playtesting? rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Tim Murray
Canada
flag msg tools
Everyone's heard it and everyone knows it: A good game takes hundreds of playtests before it's ready.

In about 2 years of working on a game, I've managed to convince people well enough to run 9 playtests. That's a far cry from said hundreds that I know I'll need.

When people quote PLAYTEST, PLAYTEST, PLAYTEST!, are most of these playtests solo runthroughs or played with others? I can't possibly imagine ever getting people together to play my game 200 times so I conclude that playing it solo is what this must be referring to...but is playing my game 2 or 3 dozen times with actual human players enough to finish a game? That also doesn't seem possible because that's the context the game will actually be played in!

What's going on here? Do people only play their games with people a few dozen times at most and doing the rest solo or are people actually doing hundreds of live tests with other people?
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Pete Belli
United States
Florida
flag msg tools
designer
"If everybody is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking."
mbmbmbmbmb
A good playtester is worth his or her weight in gold.

How much is enough? There is no magic number but multiple tests with a variety of different players is essential... and playtesting with people who are not your friends or your relatives is also essential.

The typical game released today has not be adequately playtested.
18 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Pelle Nilsson
Sweden
Linköping
flag msg tools
designer
mbmbmbmbmb
VASSAL helps to find time slots for non-solo playtest.

Play with coworkers over lunch if game is short enough.

But then when you have something somewhat stable and find some remote/blind testers, that is when the number of plays can really go up. Even if only a few testers contribute much, if they each have a player group and each find time to play regularly the total number of plays will reach into the hundreds. You need to find the right testers. I have experienced from a few that reported back 0-1 play up to one guy that did well over 300.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Haakon Gaarder
Norway
Oslo
flag msg tools
designer
mbmbmbmbmb
I think what people do is send their games to many other people, who then independently playtest a few times. This is a lot easier to pull off if you're a famous designer. The back of many rulebooks list the playtesters. Sometimes there are many, often there's just a few. The bigger companies have people working full time with their games, making it possible to do many playtests at work with the same people. I agree playtesting yourself a hundred times sounds very hard, unless it's really short like love letter.

It seems to make a lot of sense to make your first game very short, so that extensive playtesting is possible. Print and play might also be a good way of getting testers.

My plan with the game I'm working on is to playtest a few times with friends, refine the game then try and find some interested people here on BGG to send it to for "blind" playtesting. After getting feedback from those, I'll refine the game some more, then repeat the cycle.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Mark McGee
United States
Cary
North Carolina
flag msg tools
designer
Click to view this user's profile.
badge
Uncertainty and Innovation
mbmbmbmbmb
The thing that helps me the most is being in a designers guild. We meet often and we play each other's prototypes. Having a group like that is a super helpful thing for getting prototype plays in.

Outside of that, you could hang out at a game store and try to round up people. There are often people who are glad to try out a prototype.
8 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Gil Hova
United States
Jersey City
New Jersey
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
mbmbmbmbmb
Your best bet is to find other designers and exchange playtests with them.

I highly recommend the Game Artisans of Canada. They're a fantastic organization with many accomplished designers, and they may be able to find testers for you, depending on where you live.
5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jeff Wood
United States
Davis
California
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
If you can afford to, also seek out conventions that have playtesting services. Usually this is an area for prototype games that people drop in and participate in one of the games offered. You can explain the game, get feedback, and reset as much as players drop in with a couple hours to try something 'new'. You get exposure and feedback.

3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Craig Stockwell
United States
Seattle
Washington
flag msg tools
designer
mbmbmbmbmb
In addition to some great suggestions above, if you're able (and comfortable) striking up friendships with other designers, you can blind playtest each others' games.

For example, my friend Scott (lives ~450 km away) and I send PnP files (PDFs) to one another, and play them with our local groups. =)
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Carl Qwerty
Canada
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
patience
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Joseph Betz
United States
Hamburg
Pennsylvania
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Get copies of the game to those who can play with a variety of groups. I helped playtest two games. I had teenagers at the time and helped with the youth group so I could playtest with that age group. Also I am in a board game group so I could playtest there with gamers. Also my family plays games and I have aunts and uncles in their 60's who like games such as ticket to ride and I could playtest with them. I think with the games I play tested I was able to get the one game played 13 times and the other game played about 8 times. So if you got your game into the hands of about 10-20 people to playtest you should easily get over 100 plays by a bunch of different types of people.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Chris Hayes
United States
Carrollton
Ohio
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
I've heard very positive things about using Tabletopia for playtesting games.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Craig M
msg tools
mbmb
We are running a playtest exchange group using Tabletop Simulator... You won't get hundreds of plays that way, but you could get a few.

https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1649386/playtest-exchange-g...



 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Nik Macmillan
Canada
flag msg tools
I'm struggling with this myself but what I can say is that I learn something new each time I play test the game I'm working on. My testers have caught some hilarious endgame stalemates and loop holes in the rules that I never would have caught myself!

I agree you shouldn't test your game with people who are going to tell you what they think you want to hear, but I've received some awesome feedback from friends and family. I just ask them to be critical and I don't provide any information other than what's written in the rule book. They want to help (i.e. they'll point out issues) and are, hopefully, available to play through the game as many times as you want.

Those are my thoughts anyway. I guess the long and short of it is, 100+ play tests may be difficult to achieve but it could make your game 100 times better.

 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Bojan Prakljacic
msg tools
Arcuate wrote:
We are running a playtest exchange group using Tabletop Simulator... You won't get hundreds of plays that way, but you could get a few.

https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1649386/playtest-exchange-g...





Where do I sign? :}
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Craig M
msg tools
mbmb
Just send me your email address, and I will send an invite to the Slack group.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Eli Lester
Romania
Bucharest
flag msg tools
designer
mbmbmbmbmb
Get friendly with a local traveler's hostel in your area and playtest your game there. Lots of fresh faces from different countries, different walks of life, and different levels of gaming experience.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Laughing Lizard Games
United Kingdom
Southampton
flag msg tools
publisher
mbmbmbmbmb
In addition to friends/family/coworkers we have run several play tests at a local university. There seem to be loads of people interested and board game groups that meet up regularly. Plus the huge range of nationality's and people adds some diversity to our play testers.

The other source of play tests we have had, is by leaving a copy of our game at a local board games cafe with feedback forms to get some blind play tests. This has not produced hundreds of play tests but is an very small time sink for us to get extra play tests in.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Keng Leong Yeo
Singapore
Singapore
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
aka Uncle
badge
小富靠勤,中富靠智,大富靠德。
mbmbmbmbmb
action9000 wrote:
When people quote PLAYTEST, PLAYTEST, PLAYTEST!, are most of these playtests solo runthroughs or played with others? I can't possibly imagine ever getting people together to play my game 200 times so I conclude that playing it solo is what this must be referring to...but is playing my game 2 or 3 dozen times with actual human players enough to finish a game? That also doesn't seem possible because that's the context the game will actually be played in!

What's going on here? Do people only play their games with people a few dozen times at most and doing the rest solo or are people actually doing hundreds of live tests with other people?

This is speaking from our own experience. We playtested our first game, Three Kingdoms Redux, maybe 200 times or so.

The first 20-30 playtests are very rough tests to feel out the main game mechanics. These playtests are not included in the 200 I quoted above, because the game changed a lot, even within those 20-30 playtests.

The next 100 playtests was after we nailed down the main game mechanics. There were some sizables changes made but we did not change the main mechanics. These 100 playtests are included in the 200 I quoted above as the game more or less had its identity by then.

The last 100 playtests was fine-tuning of cards and such. Small changes were made here and there but nothing major.

The first 20-30 playtests to get the main mechanics was carried out by ourselves, i.e. we would play for multiple players, as this is just to feel how the main mechanics hold up.

We were helped by two good friends and my Significant Other's younger brother in the next 200 playtests. I believe one of those good friends sat through 100 playtests, while the other good friend sat through maybe 50-60. Most of the rest was with my Significant Other's younger brother, during the late stages.

My Significant Other has recorded down the final 100 playtests in the BGG system. Only the final 100 because the game did not change much in those playtests.

Link to records of those last 100 playtests (anything before May 2014 is considered a playtest): https://boardgamegeek.com/playsummary/thing/145371?userid=30...

We are working on our second game now. There are probably 10-20 playtests unrecorded to feel out the main game mechanics. Since January 2016, we have been playtesting the game with my Significant Other's parents' help. She just told me we are on playtest 40 or so now.

It's tough work! gulp
8 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Tim Murray
Canada
flag msg tools
Quote:
This is speaking from our own experience. We playtested our first game, Three Kingdoms Redux, maybe 200 times or so.

The first 20-30 playtests are very rough tests to feel out the main game mechanics. These playtests are not included in the 200 I quoted above, because the game changed a lot, even within those 20-30 playtests...


That was amazing to read, thank you for sharing!
I tend to see my board game development project as "my project" and not "my friends and my project" and it feels relentlessly selfish to keep dragging my friends into my project when it was my idea to take on this game to begin with, not theirs. They're basically at the mercy of what I decided to do with my spare time. This feels unfair to me, which is where I struggle most with playtesting. Why should they have to put up with the fact that I developed this hobby just because I find it interesting?

I can't imagine getting anyone to playtest my game 20 times, let alone 200. It's not that my friends don't like board games, they do, but most of them I'm lucky to have the mutual free time to hang out even once every couple of weeks and I can't imagine using all of those opportunities to socialize as playtest time. Even if I did, 200 playtests at 1 per 2 weeks would take (26 per year x ~4 for 200 playtests) 4 years to develop one game...and that's if the only socializing I ever did was playtesting my game. In reality, I'd probably have to at least double that, to 8 years or more.



As for making multiple copies and sending them out for playtesting, that's an expensive and time-consuming task. It takes me basically a full day to print/cut/produce one physical copy of my game from scratch, not to mention ink/material costs. I can't fathom doing that every time I change something. That would become an impossible money sink.

Really, I guess I struggle with the problem that board game design is "my" hobby, not my friends' hobby and therefore I don't feel like I should keep dragging my friends into my hobby just because I selfishly want to develop a game. It's not fair to them to have to put up with countless years of a significant amount of our socializing to playtesting my stuff. The alternative, however, seems to be never getting enough playtesting done to finish a game.

Ugh...
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Bojan Prakljacic
msg tools
I've fund out that Tabletop Simulator is very good for play-testing your game with ppl outside of your social sphere. It has large community and since the IRC chat is part of the game you can usually find at least 5-6 ppl on the daily basis who are willing to play-test.

Sometimes I just open a room and wait. Random ppl enter thinking it is a game that is already published (I don't tell them it's my game). I teach them rules and then we play together. They don't even know they are participating in play-test. So, at the end I throw some questions about the game and always get the most sincere answers.

Ppl that know you are the game's designer usually don't say plain and straight things like: 'This game is stupid'. They avoid to hurt your feelings or whatever. And, sometimes, that IS the thing you really want to hear in the phase where you can still do some changes, lol.





 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Pelle Nilsson
Sweden
Linköping
flag msg tools
designer
mbmbmbmbmb
action9000 wrote:
As for making multiple copies and sending them out for playtesting, that's an expensive and time-consuming task. It takes me basically a full day to print/cut/produce one physical copy of my game from scratch, not to mention ink/material costs. I can't fathom doing that every time I change something. That would become an impossible money sink.


In my experience almost in every case playtest copies have been sent out as PDF and it has been the task of playtesters to spend hours building their own physical copies. I think that is perfectly fine and what I would expect anyway. A few games have had VASSAL modules including and one had a cyberboard module, so it was possible to playtest even for those not interested in building physical copies (luckily so far no one has required me to pay for softwware to be allowed to help them playtest!).

Also when there are updates, which there always are, even if a physical copy is used I believe the standard approach is to ask playtesters to patch their copies using pencil or whatever. Also at the time of making playtest copies you might not know how many of some components to include, so better include too many. For my solitaire/local playtests when a game has cardboard counters I typically do as many as can fill up a sheet even if the game will only need much fewer that, so I am far less likely to have to halt playtesting to go make new counters when a few more of some type are needed.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Dave Schroeder
United States
Maryland
flag msg tools
designer
mbmb
We did around 100 games using ZunTzu. It made scheduling easier since we could play online, and it made prototyping changes way easier since you just replace the graphics instead of remaking physical components. Once most things had settled down, we did another 100 or so plays with a physical copy, mostly just us two designers, but also with friends when possible. Once you think your game is "done," we have found that smaller local conventions are a great place to find people to test. At that point it is really more of a demo and getting your name out there, but you still get good feedback, and you get to see a varied array of playstyles from far outside your group.

I honestly did not think we had played as many games as we did until I started trying to nail down a number. In our case at least, you're not going into each game looking at the same thing, so they are varied enough that it doesn't seem repetitive. This game we're testing a new enemy, next game a new character, next game a new mission, etc. You still end up testing and learning about the whole game each time, but the changing focus keeps it interesting.

The other tip that I would give is to collect as much data as you can without ruining your play experience. Anything that you think might be an interesting data point ever, try and track from the start so that if it does become something you want to know you already have something on it. We tried to track game length (# of turns,) character stats (bonuses per game,) mission stats (win/loss rate, how much we won or lost by, cost/bonus of mission traits.) Most of those aren't that useful per game, but are very useful once you get a good average going.



1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Benjamin Russell
United States
Pennsylvania
flag msg tools
You are close to game completion if you can bring a prototype to a game night where you know none of the playtesters and they can learn the game by just reading your rule book without having to ask you questions. If they have an inordinate amount of questions, than you are far from done.

If they ask you a question, write down said question. In a proper playtest, you should not be giving clarification, but instead be asking; "how do you think that should work?" doing this will help you improve your clarity of information, as well as thought process.
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.