Playtesting Your Game

In my last post, I introduced my design project, Heartland. With any new board game design, there is a large amount of playtesting involved. Playtesting gives the designer insights that he or she can’t see on their own. As much as you may think your game works, most of the time it will fall flat during the first few playtests. After many other tests, a polished product begins to emerge. There isn’t a particular method to playtesting. I’ve adopted a sequence that has worked for many other designers in the past.
 
First, there needs to be a short period of testing the game for “fatal flaw.” Many designers call this the “insanity test” for the game. After initial creation, I made errors in the game that made it unplayable or “broken.” “Broken” is a term used by gamers to denote game mechanics that don’t work, or work too well. In my initial tests of Heartland, the fur-trading mechanic was too strong. It was so strong that to compete, you had to play that space every time. We adjusted mechanics and tested again. You continue with this until you have something to show to others.
 
The next phase is a time of playtesting among folks you know well, but aren’t invested in the game. The goal for this phase is to weed out things that may seem confusing or unnecessary. Because I’ve been so invested in the game, everything makes sense to me. Yet, during my first playtest of this nature, a friend asked a good question. He asked, “So, you explained it, but I still have no idea what I’m supposed to be going after.” That’s good info. Something needed to be clearer. I’ll continue to weed these inconsistencies out until the game is ready for a wider audience. I’m currently in the middle of this stage.
 
The next stage is “blind” playtesting. This stage involves giving a prototype of your game to a group of people who have shown interest in your game. They take the game, read the rules, and play it a few times, taking notes. You may even ask them to video the experience. This is the real test of a game. It mimics the experience that future game owners will have when they open their game for the first time. This is the process I look forward to the most.
 
Are you interested in blind testing my game? Please let me know. I’ll be looking for testers by the end of the Spring.

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