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Subject: Daunting Playtesting rss

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Pierre Rebstock
New Zealand
Auckland
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Hi all!
I'm hoping some BGGers will have some wisdom to pass along about the following matter.
I've been working on a worker placement based game for a while. Everything is working rather well but I'm running across the problem of the initial pitch to new players who've agreed to test my prototype. I've seen many references to needing multiple plays to really "get" the options offered by WP games.

Generally, my testers are very lost for the first few turns (and there's the danger of loosing them sometimes) but, after that, I have to fight them with a broken bottle to get my game back I realise that the initial confusion might play against me if i want to pitch it to publishers so I'd like to improve that ever important first impression.

Since there is no artwork at present, the prototype is fairly drab so it's hard to hook them with the theme. I was thinking of introducing some kind of warmup turns where players can get used to how the game plays instead of throwing them at the deep end straight away. Since it would feel a bit forced and artificial, am I better off not doing that and insisting/begging that players give it another go right after they're done with their discovery/practice game?

I don't think I've ever taught/explained a WP game to anybody so I'd love to hear people's stories on that matter.
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Craig Somerton
Australia
North Ryde - Sydney
NSW
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If you don't mind me asking... what is your theme?

A theme that is good enough will set the scene for you, provided your mechanisms correlate to that theme.

Are you able to condense the basic mechanisms down to several small steps?

It may be worth investing a bit of effort into some artwork to "pretty-up" the game and make it more visually attractive. Even if you don't have that skill, there are many others here who would willingly volunteer for simple things like this. Or find some crappy clipart on the net.

As an extremely visual person, the image of the game counts a lot toward my initial enjoyment and filling in those blanks.
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Nigel Buckle
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Thornton Heath
Croydon
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Playtesting with a minimal graphic prototype is always a bit of a challenge (mine are always woeful ...)

I'd suggest doing a detailed 'walk-through' of the first couple of turns - a script if you like as you explain the game.

So rather than read out the rules or explain everything, get everyone sat down in front of their bits and the board and just start playing, but you explain what they do for each action and what effect it has, and keep doing that until the players say stuff like "ok, get it, lets play" or your script runs out ...

Then explain how you actually win (fast forward to the end of the game, or say something like, ok if the game ended now you'd get X for this etc)

Then reset and let them loose on it.

Where it will be more problematic is with blind testing where you just give someone your game and rules and let them get on with it ...
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Angelo Nikolaou
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I strongly believe in 'intuitive' rules. Make the rules feel as natural as possible. Make the rules fit the theme. Have the rules be simpler or less interesting in the sake of intuition. Use other games' solutions, so you can explain the game 'works somewhat like X'

Examples:
Stone Age (and many others) has circles in each area where you can place a worker. If there is no circle left, you can't place there

In most games, a higher roll/more resource is better. Don't change that design, it will be counter-intuitive

Give fitting names or codenames to your abilities that will help the player visualize the general idea of the rule just by its name. For example 'Exploration' or 'Building'
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Mike Kollross
Canada
Carvel
Alberta
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A detailed turn order player aid is a must. If players stumble over the same terminology every time then you need to change it.
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Chris Stanton
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If they are all getting consistently confused for the first few turns, an illustrated walkthrough example may be needed
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