After a year or so away from any kind of playtesting I decided to dive back in at Games Expo. I had taken the decision to not play in the Netrunner nationals and knew that the nice folks at Playtest UK were running an area at the convention. I'd talked to Rob Harris a couple of times over the last couple of years and he kindly pointed me in the right direction to get a session booked.
The game I decided to test is currently called Minions and the pitch is that you are climbing the corporate ladde in an evil organisation to fill the role of Henchman as he has just been offed by James Bond and the base needs rebuilt along the way.
I admit I was feeling a bit rough on Saturday morning, mostly due to a horrible hacking cough than any imbibing of the alcohol. A hearty breakfast and liberal application of caffeine saw me right though and I popped along to the Board Game Redesign competition seminar before picking up my bundle and jogging along to my slot at 10am.
It was great to finally put a face to Rob and talk to him in person rather than through twitter. I found a table, set my game up and had a chat with some of the other Playtest UK dudes and designers that were milling about early on. They were swift to gather up a group and wrangle them onto my table and so the first playtest began.
It went pretty well I think with folks liking the theme and me doing an Ok job of explaining how the game should work. I'm not doing blind playtests at this stage as I am WAY off that point at the moment, so I stood and directed play as they climbed their way up the Evil Corporate ladder. Few things came out of that first playtest:
1) There is not enough disincentive to not contribute anything at all, in fact for this test there was none. This left people who didn't feel they could effectively contribute doing nothing and not being involved for a round.
Solution: Upped the number of cards people start out with, allow for a discard and redraw phase after the Demand phase to allow hand management. Introduce penalty for not contributing to any Demand in a round.
2) It was possible to bank all you assets for a couple of turns then jump massively up the ladder.
Solution: Incentivise people to play cards at a review early on, maybe earlier reviews are easier, whereas later ones are tougher as the Evil Genius gets more picky about who he promotes (I just thought of that as I was writing this, think that is pretty good actually). Also fiddle with how you play assets, at the moment it rewards sequences and 3/4 of a kind giving you interesting choices about what to bank. Might be something else I can do to make the asset play interesting by itself. Matching symbols?
3) The failure pile triggered way too early on in the game as it has done before. I like the idea of the mechanic but at the moment it just isn't working too well. Have to think on it more. I want to keep a coop aspect otherwise I think the game just becomes a massive free for all.
Solution: Make Failure pile bigger, maked demands go there under different circumstances.
4) It's too hard to fall back down the ladder.
Solution: Another one I have only just thought up, but I might make it that as you climb the ladder you have to contribute each round to a minimum number of demands. This might create problems as you get less cards as well. Hmm, tricky balance as I don't want to have players hard earned promotions too easily undone.
In the second playtest I managed to sneak in before my time was up I changed only the number of cards and when you draw and discard. I felt this made a positive difference on the game so will be integrating that rule permanently.
I got great feedback on my game and the forms that Playtest Uk gave out are really good at pinpointing useful information. The thoughts I was having on how the game worked seemed to align with most of the playtesters so it has given me a good direction to work towards.
Thanks again to everyone who tried the game out, Rob Harris and all the guys who ran the Playtest UK area.