It was a cold winter’s night and two shadowy figures were waiting outside the empty house. One of the figures paced back and forth obviously growing impatient.
“He probably just forgot, you know how his memory is.”
“Probably, but it’s not like him to have his phone off…
…I hope he’s alright”
This was the situation I found myself in on the night of play testing my semi-developed board game I have been working on. I had organised with a mate of mine to come over to his palace at 6 with another mate so I could playtest my game with them. This did not end up going according to plan. My friend and I turned up at my other mate’s house at 6, and after 45 minutes of waiting my mate finally turned up. He had forgotten, got caught up at work, and his phone had died. So, we had 15 minutes before everyone else arrived for D&d and I had to teach my mates how to play my game, play through a game, and then leave time for them to give feedback.
So with all of that in mind here is how my play through went.
The concept of the game didn’t take long to explain, they had both talked about it with me beforehand about it, and as you’d expect from people about to play a game of D&d they both easily coped with the level of abstraction in my game.
In terms of material my game was far from complete. My floor tiles were made from printed out copies of a floor plan that was no longer under copyright, cut into tiles with markings I made with a whiteout pen to show what happened on each tile. I used the life, mana, gold, and strength counters from Talisman, as well as any encounter/equipment card I thought would work in my game. The only real material aspect of my game that was close to the finished product where the character/boss cards I had made. So with this dog’s breakfast of things, we played (quickly) a very crude version of the game I have in mind for the final product.
Play was quick, both of my mates picked up the game mechanics pretty well. We revealed tiles, killed some monsters, got some loot, killed the boss, no worries. It is good to keep in mind that both my mates are pretty seasoned gamers though and I’m sure it wouldn’t have run as smooth with less experienced gamers.
So, what went well?
The combat in terms of encounters went well, using the tried and tested method of rolling off using one stat. I will need to include some stronger monsters though.
The player cards where easy to understand, players all used their ability’s at least once. Thankfully I don’t think any one character ended up being over powered either.
What needs to change?
One of the comments my mates gave me was that too much was happening, pretty much every tile had an encounter of some kind, and they said they just needed some time to think and take stock of what they had and what they wanted to do. So I’ll have more tiles with nothing.
Something I noticed was that in making the movement only one tile a round made the game monotonous. I think adding a counter showing how many spaces you can move, like in Betrayal at House on the Hill, would add another element of play, deciding what would be the best use of your turn for that round.
The other major thing was the Boss. Having the boss appear after a certain number of rounds, with the players then being forced back to the centre to battle it did not make for fun combat, or an exciting ending. I think letting the players know what they’re up against, will add a level of strategy, rather than just hoping for the best. I think having the Boss spawn after a certain amount of rounds still works, but I want to give players the option of when to attack and if they want to attack all together or go one on one. Obviously I’ll have to add a consequence for if the players take too long to defeat the monster, a buff to the boss, environmental impact, instant death, something.
So definitely some things to change and tweak, but I think with the feedback from playtesting and just thinking through the mechanics some more I’ll be able to make some big improvements.
Special thanks to Laurent and Will for being my guineapigs.