My game is great … don’t you think?

Jessica Berlin Playtesting 0 Comments

You ignored your spouse and kids for an entire weekend so you could precisely measure out all the spaces on your player board in Photoshop or Gimp. You brainstormed new player powers for your game when you had some down time at work. You convinced your spouse to play your game on date night. You only ever watch TV if you also have to cut out some cards or tiles for your game. You pulled apart your old Settlers, Puerto Rico, and Lords of Waterdeep games to take out all the bits and bobs and use them for your own game. You’ve spent more money at The Game Crafter than you’d care to admit. You buy printer ink by the …

Is your next playtest scheduled?

Jessica Berlin Playtesting 3 Comments

When is your next playtest scheduled? Is it on the calendar? Is it firm? Nothing’s going to change it? You’re going to get your game ready and actually do the playtest, right? Have you ever had a playtest on your calendar, maybe at a local convention, an Unpub Mini or Protospiel event, or just a meetup with other game designers or your local board gaming group, but then when that date actually came around you didn’t really think your game was ready to be playtested, so you decided not to go, or maybe you went, but didn’t bring your game out? You figured it could wait until the next time, right? No big deal. But, what do you think you …

Getting gamers to play your prototype

Jessica Berlin Playtesting 2 Comments

Recently, we’ve struggled a little bit at our last couple of events to get people to play our prototype game and I’m sure other game designers have this problem also. If you take your game to a board game convention that isn’t specifically for playtesting prototypes, then it seems like gamers aren’t usually all that interested. They want to play published games. Or, they already have a group of people they’re playing with and a plan for their day, which doesn’t usually include playtesting prototypes. We need as many people as possible to play our game and give us feedback, so we can make sure that it plays well and we can work out all the bugs. And we can’t …

Fill in the blank: teaching your game to new players

Jessica Berlin Playtesting 0 Comments

You’ve signed up to playtest your game at an Unpub Mini or Protospiel event or local board game convention. Or, maybe you’re taking it to the First Exposure Playtest Hall at Gen Con. You have a limited time slot – maybe 60 or 90 minutes. You have players sit down to play your game. You start explaining the rules of the game and then 30 minutes later you realize your players still haven’t started playing yet. This is a problem. One of the hardest parts of running a playtest for your game is explaining the game in a way that is simple, easy to understand, and gets the basics across quickly. Your ultimate goal when you’re running a playtest is …

The Death of Prism

Dave Berlin Playtesting 5 Comments

This is part 0 of a series about our new game, The Council of Adventurers. I’m documenting the development of this game in order to keep myself honest about its prospects for publication, and to share some mistakes I’ve made with others on the same journey. This first post is about the death (at least shelving) of our last game in development, Prism. Part 0: The Death of Prism Part 1: Starting fresh but with constraints When I heard that a publisher wanted to meet with me to get a demo of our wizard themed, mostly co-op adventure built around the idea of a prisoner’s dilemma, I was more nervous than excited. I had just changed the “finding a portal” mechanic and its effects …

Learning lessons from running Unpub Mini SD

Jessica Berlin Playtesting 0 Comments

We hosted our fourth Unpub Mini San Diego playtesting event on Saturday, June 4, and I think it was our best one yet! We had a great turnout. We had 30 game designers registered (a couple ended up dropping out or not showing up, so we ended up having a few less than that) and we had a packed room of playtesters almost the whole day. We’ve learned a few things along the way, since we hosted our first Unpub Mini event in 2014 and I wrote the blog post, “How to host your own Unpub Mini event,” so we thought it might be good to write an updated post on the event. We changed things up a little bit …

What do my playtesters’ nonverbal behaviors mean?

Jessica Berlin Playtesting 1 Comment

You’re running a playtest of your game and you look around at the players and notice a few things. One is on the edge of his seat, leaning forward, looking intently at the board. Another player is leaning back, legs crossed, arms crossed, and frowning slightly. And the other person is holding her head up with her hand and tapping her foot on the floor. What do all these different nonverbal signals mean and should you be paying attention to them? What do these players say (verbally or in writing) about the game after the playtest is over and is what they’re saying verbally matching what their nonverbal behaviors are saying? I recently read a book called “Body Language: How …

What to ask on your playtesting feedback form

Jessica Berlin Playtesting 7 Comments

Collecting feedback about your game from playtesters is a critical part of the game design process. When you first start playtesting, you may just be playing through the game and trying to figure out what’s broken and how to fix it and make it better. But, at some point, you’ll probably realize that you need a way to collect more structured feedback from your playtesters. You need honest feedback, not just someone saying, “that was fun,” after the playtest. And you need a way to evaluate if your game is improving over time. You need a feedback form. But, how do you figure out what kinds of questions to ask and how much to include on your feedback form? I’ve …

Finding playtesters beyond your dining room table

Jessica Berlin Playtesting 4 Comments

Playtesting is key to game design. You need people to play your game. If you can’t playtest it (like a million times), you’re never going to get anywhere with your game. But, sitting at home with your carefully crafted prototype waiting for playtesters to come to you isn’t going to work. You’re going to have to get out there. Go forth and find playtesters! But, where do you start? For our games, we started at our own dining room table, but then soon learned we needed to venture out past that. Where to find playtesters: Yourself/significant other: When you’re very early in the design process, you’ve just come up with this game and it’s a very rough handwritten prototype, you …

How to host your own Unpub Mini event

Jessica Berlin Playtesting 8 Comments

This post was originally published on the League of Gamemakers blog on Feb. 25, 2015. Since this was posted, we have organized two more Unpub Mini San Diego events and we are currently planning another event for Saturday, June 4. Designer preregistration begins April 1. To sign up for email updates about the event, visit unpubminisd.com. Unpub Mini If I told you that I hosted an Unpub Mini event in San Diego last November for tabletop game designers to run playtests of their prototype games, you might think I’m part of a big game design studio, that I’ve done this before, or that we even have a published game. You’d be wrong on all counts, but we did it anyway! …

Five tips to make your first public playtest a success

Jessica Berlin Playtesting 6 Comments

You’ve made an amazing new board or card game. You came up with an awesome idea, put together a prototype, forced your spouse or close friends to play it with you, refined it as much as you could, and now you’re planning to take it out into the wild. Playtest, playtest, playtest, right? You know you have to playtest this game as much as possible so you can refine it and make sure it’s really great. So, you’ve scheduled your first public playtest. Maybe you’re taking it to a board game Meetup group, a local gaming convention, or an Unpub Mini event. But, wherever you’re going, people who don’t know you are going to be playing your game. What do …