Home Forums General Game Design Thoughts on playtesting

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    Avatar photoIvan Sorensen

    If you will forgive me linking to my blog, I shared some thoughts about playtesting, the different ways to “test” your game and maybe avoiding some of the traps you can run into.


    Avatar photoDarkest Star Games

    Some good thoughts there sir.  I am consistently amazed by the number of people that will raise their hands to playtest, then either never give any feedback or turn out to just have wanted an “early copy”…

    "I saw this in a cartoon once, but I'm pretty sure I can do it..."

    Avatar photoIvan Sorensen

    Cheers mate.

    Yeah, that’s a risk as well.

    A lot of people genuinely want to help, but realize that it’s a lot of time or they don’t realize that careful reading of a 100 page game is not something they actually have time for. On internet forums, most will be like that. Enthusiasm tends to crowd out realism 🙂

    Hang on to the people who actually do provide the feedback and have something valuable to say.

    Avatar photokyoteblue

    Then there is me, who can’t seem to be able to read rules and play them, I need someone who knows the rules to teach them to me.

    Avatar photoChris Pringle

    Wise words there, thanks, Ivan.

    I playtest a lot of wargame scenarios for the BBB rules, and yes, the great majority of that gets done in-house with a fairly regular cast of a dozen or so players. A strength of the group, though, is that it has a range of talents. We have the cunning competitive tournament-minded players who will discover and exploit every loophole in your scenario and drive a corps through it; the history buffs who will let you know if the scenario is getting the shape of the battle wrong; the players who aren’t worried about winning and just want the game to tell a story; the ditherers; and the guys who don’t mind what happens so long as they get some death-or-glory charges in. If a scenario provides a good game for all of these different players, you’re doing OK.


    Bloody Big BATTLES!





    Avatar photoIvan Sorensen

    Yeah, a diverse group with every kind of gamer can be a real asset.

    You want some guy who can power-game and find the loopholes as well as the peeps who can see the bigger picture.


    Avatar photoTim Snoddy

    Getting anyone to playtest I think is getting harder and harder.  With so many great games out there and more arriving daily how can you convince anyone play testing a game system which will probably have flaws and ambiguous bits is a better way to spend limited game time than playing the system you know and love.  I recently played Armies and Hordes mass battle fantasy rules from Ganesha games and I simply can’t believe anyone play tested it.  There is so much good stuff there but the most critical parts of the rules are the most ambiguous.  You can’t attack the same unit from multiple directions at once, eg front and flank which IMHO means it cannot be a serious attempt at representing mass battle warfare.  I can see how mechanics are designed that getting onto the flank or rear of an enemy unit is very worthwhile and this may well be what the author envisaged.  In reality though it is so difficult to achieve no one even tries.  Best game winning tactic seems to be to stand in as big a clump as possible and let the opposition try to attack you.  If the game was play tested I cannot for the life of me see how no one raised these sort of issues.

    Avatar photoSteve Johnson

    I’ve play tested and given feedback on several Osprey titles as well as BKCIII & IV. One thing I’ve learned is that quite often your (and others) feedback is not always taken on board for a variety of reasons. This can also happen with proof reading. One ruleset failed to correct several glaring errors prior to publication, despite many playtesters/proof readers warning them about said errors. Sadly the printed rules then had to go down the errata route.

    Avatar photoIvan Sorensen

    Thank you for your hard work 🙂

    Yeah, there’s definitely another step to the process once you have the feedback.

    I can’t (and won’t) speculate on a specific competitors product of course, but I know it’s easy to get “hung up” on a favourite mechanic.
    I’ve had a few instances where something I really thought was cool turned out to be really unpopular with testers, and I had to cut or change it. That sucked, but you have to trust that the game will be the better for it.

    Avatar photoJavier

    My experience is that if they like your rules, they play them and sometimes give useful feedback. But if they don’t like them, they do not say a word. It’s like they were afraid of saying negative things about it.

    I usually receive silence as feedback 🙁

    Avatar photoStephen Holmes

    The blind playtest is indeed the gold standard.

    How many here remember the club days, when we used “Bob’s Rules”, which worked really well.

    Except those three weeks when Bob was on holiday, when nobody could find any of the important rules clauses.


    Avatar photovtsaogames

    I used to playtest for SPI back in the day. I like playtesting but my small group isn’t up for it. They feel we already do enough different games. As a result, I tend to proof read instead. Sigh. Yeah, blind testing, the gold standard.


    One more for testing your own rules: if you can’t remember a rule (that you designed) for several games, it’s time for that rule to hit the trash.


    I once played a board game I did for Operation Crusader. One game convinced me it was a disaster. I junked the whole thing.

    It's never too late to have a happy childhood

    Avatar photoThuseld

    I used to play test for the community made Star Wars Miniatures sets, created after the game ended. It was fun, but it involved playing a lot of games and I eventually ran out of time to do it.

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