Tag Archives: heartland

Heartland – March Update

The state of my game is good. It has gone through several iterations in the past few weeks. I think the changes have been good and have improved the “fun factor.” After one playtest, I was sad to stop playing. 

One part I’m thrilled about is the effects the changing of the seasons has on gameplay. When Spring arrives, you may think it’s time for planting. One card has a late freeze set in, thus making farming more difficult. Not only does the late freeze affect the current season, but in the fall, livestock won’t have enough food. This will affect their production. The game forces you to interact with the random elements presented by the seasons. It also makes you prepare for their future impact. This creates a density of important decisions that is satisfying.

One aspect that I’ve had to tinker with more than I had hoped is the building upgrades. Each city will be able to construct buildings that help them thrive in the new economy. I have waffled between two choices. One is for the playings to each have access to every building type. The other is a common building “pool” for players to choose from. With the latter, once a player buys a building, it is no longer available for the other players. Both have their advantages.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your input to help me make a decision.

Heartland – February Update

 

My board game, “Heartland” is still under construction, and will be for several more months. Even after the construction phase, there is much playtesting ahead. I decided to finish the game before playtesting anymore. At first, I was playtesting individual facets of the game. After some thought and advice, I decided that it would be best to playtest with the full game. The last element I’m adding creates the most variation, so it is crucial to see that element in action.
 
Another idea I’ve been toying with is how I plan to publish the game. Kickstarter has made publishing more feasible for the average person. If you are willing to put in the work, a successful Kickstarter campaign can get your game out to lots of folks. “If you are willing to put in the work” is the key here. I’ve read about lots of successful campaigns and backed a few as well, and the workload is quite large. It is alway very easy to mess up. Traditional publishing may be the best bet for me and my current state of affairs. (husband, father, pastor, school teacher, graduate student, etc…)
 
Along with that same idea, I’ve decided to design a smaller game to test the Kickstarter waters. I’ll be posting about it soon. It should be a popular theme with a small production cost – perfect for a first game.
 
I’m still looking for playtesters for “Heartland.” I’ve had several from different parts of the country express their interest. That thrilled my soul. Once I get working prototypes (late summer goal) I’ll begin sending those out. If you’d like to playtest, let me know. Also, I’d love to hear any questions you have about my future games.

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.

Heartland – A Board Game Design Project

Decades of drought have made life hard in America’s “Heartland.” Hard times can bring opportunity. Five once-depressed cities now search for a ray of hope.

With that sentence, I embark on a new project: designing my first board game. Several things inspired my new game idea. The place I grew up – America’s Heartland – gave me the lion’s share of that inspiration. The hard-working people and the beautiful countryside were my muses. Though I’m from the Missouri’s Bootheel, all the Heartland’s people see the world in a way that has always impressed me
 
My board game will be about survival after a time of difficulty has come upon the land.  Droughts have caused water to be scarce, so states must ration it, and sell it, to the highest bidder. The cities then decide how they will use their resources. Will they farm and feed their people? Will they gather and prepare for more hardship? Will they sell their goods to prosper? These are questions the player has to consider as they play the game. 
 
I’m currently playtesting the game, which I plan to write about later in the week. If playtesting goes well, I’d like to have a marketable product by the end of this year. After that, I’ll test the waters among available publishers. 
 
Publishing a board game has been a dream of mine for some time. I’ve been creating games since I was a boy, and this is an extension of that same spirit. To see this come to life, I’ll need the help of my friends from the Heartland. Would you like to see a game about the area you live? Do you know someone who would be into this? Tell them about it. Subscribe to my blog, and have others do it as well. I plan to give regular updates on the process along with my normal posts about gaming with your family.
 
I look forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas about this project. Please share in the comments section below.