Thursday, 28 October 2010

Saturday 23rd October

After a day of playing and discussing new games, we sat down and playtested what we hoped would become the best games of Essen 2011. This week we were joined by Pete Burley of Burley games, the designer of SDJ nominated ‘Take it Easy’, 'Kamisado' and new game ‘Take it Higher’. Many suggestions also came from Pete’s demonstration team, sons Oliver and Jonathan and friend, Lawrence.
Games playtested were: Island and Dig.

Rob Harris' Design Notes
I thought I would try the new prototype of my card game Dig (working title) as I was really interested in how Pete and his sons would experience the changes I had made since they last played it in June. The new prototype individualises the artwork for each player and everyone seemed to enjoy this aspect. I am still a little unsure of whether to make the graphical design realistic or more cartoon-like in appearance. Consensus seemed to suggest that a mix between the two approaches might work well. The basic gameplay remains the same as before just with an added theme and some action cards. After several games, the Burley playtesters were enjoying the gameflow, but had suggested improvements about the action cards. A quick re-write of one card and discarding another seemed to help the game. Importantly everyone was having fun disrupting each other while trying to build their strategy. It was interesting to play with playtesters who were very game-literate and realised how a good game should work. I was a little worried that the beginning seemed to feel repetitive and drag a little if players took too long over their turns. At this early stage sometimes it feels as though the player has little control over the eventual outcome. I don’t think that casual players would mind this much, but it might put off more thoughtful gamers. Pete came up with a great mechanism to create some more conflict in these early stages and I am very excited to work out how this will affect the gameplay. As we packed up, Pete also came up with some very interesting ideas for the final name of the game. It has made me think very carefully again about how I will present the game and also which gaming demographic I am trying to reach.  

Playtesters: Jonathan Burley, Oliver Burley, Pete Burley, Katarina Harris, Mark Hypolite and Lawrence.

Sunday, 17 October 2010


The Playtest (London) group are on their travels.
The next meeting will be at the Essen Spiel 2010 on Saturday 23rd October.

Games to be playtested:

Dig (working title); the 4th prototype of a family card game design for 2-4 players (Rob Harris)

Island (holding title); new prototype of board game design for 2-4 players (Mark Hypolite)

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Sunday 3rd October

On Sunday we met at the Old Star pub and quickly got down
to playtesting.There were only three for this first session,
but the ideas flowed as easily as the beer and several games
took further steps into their adolescence. Often small, gawky
and broken-voiced steps, but forward movement all the same.
Games playtested were: Ladders, Dig, Island, and Riposte.

Rob Harris' Design Notes
This meeting of Playtest was the perfect opportunity to try out two family
card games that I have been prototyping for the last couple of months.
The first one, Ladders (working title) is the most recent and unrefined.
It had only been tested once before. The following points came up during

* The difficulty in picking up the cards, which is necessary for gameplay.
Hopefully some of this will be solved with rounded corners.
*Whether to add a top and a bottom border to the playing area.
This would mean more cards, but would it make the game surface easier
to see and understand?
*Mark suggested perhaps players could have an extra piece, which would
allow them to block other players' moves.
*The gameplay could easily be extended to 5 players. There would be
minimal need for extra components, but perhaps it would be less fun with
more downtime and more randomness.
*Even though I had actively avoided it during development, because I
thought it would create more of a memory game dynamic, Mark suggested
having several types of cards. This would add variety and a much-needed
reveal and suspense to the gameplay.
*We discussed possible names for the game and established a favourite.

Overall the gameplay is fairly solid, but quite bland at the moment.
I have got plenty of new ideas to put together a new prototype and see if it
creates the fun that I am aiming for.

My second prototype was for a family card game called Dig (working title).
This game has been playtested several times by many different groups.
I have established that the gameplay works. This playtest was very useful
in identifying how to present the graphical approach so that it was colourful,
full of character and clear. I want the game to be language-independent and
it is the little graphical touches that can often point the players in the
correct direction. The gameplay still stands up well and the card art and
iconography seemed to work well with all of the playtesters. There was
enough positive feedback to follow this artistic direction and create a more
complete prototype.

Mark Hypolite's Design Notes
At this first session we did a 3 player test of my family game Island (working
title) and I ran through a discussion session with Rob on Riposte (working title),
a 2 player duelling game.

As time has passed I have realised the value of discussion sessions on game
ideas. My initial tendency was, once I had the idea, to leap straight into the
prototype and playtesting. However, it is amazing how much a simple 1 hour
discussion, with an experienced gamer, can aid you to head off problems and
challenge your idea of the game before you invest time and make unnecessary
errors. It makes you ask questions like:

* Can you clearly articulate and explain the rules of the game?
* Is the person attracted by the theme of the game?
* Is he or she excited by the prospect of playing the game?

I think that it is a good idea to write and draw an outline of the game idea,
then discuss it with somebody before investing too many hours in making the
prototype. Among the many positive points that I got from my discussion with
Rob, he helped me to identify potential problems with the system that I had
devised for each players’ actions, leading me to revise it. So playtesting has
begun even before a single card has been printed!

Friday, 1 October 2010


The next meeting of the Playtest (London) group will be on Sunday 3rd October 2010
at the Old Star pub opposite St. James' Park tube station.

Games to be playtested:

Ladders (working title); the 2nd prototype of a race card game design for 2-4 players (Rob Harris)

Dig (working title); the 3rd prototype of a family card game design for 2-4 players (Rob Harris)

Riposte (working title); preliminary prototype of card game design for 2 players (Mark Hypolite)

Island (holding title); prototype of board game design for 2-4 players (Mark Hypolite)