First steps towards the crown

Again weeks have passed and i am happy to tell you that i sucessfully entered the phase IV of the development of my new boardgame Westeros. As i mentioned before, this phase deals with playtesting and thats what we did, at least once. It might sound easy to just test if everything works out but let me tell you, it is not. After almost 10 hourse we weren’t near the goal of the game. Its because there are some steps in playtesting that are crucial for the whole process and cannot be left out. For example, it would be much easier just to let the players know how to play the game. That could be done in half an hour or less, depending on the complexity of the game. If you do that you are making your first mistake before even having started to play. And i tell you why. As said in my last post, there is nothing more difficult than writing the rules for the game in a way that other players can understand them and play the game properly. So what you have to do when you present the game for the first time is, to hand over the rules to another player and let him, together with the others read and figure out how to play the game. You have to be completely passive and just make notes. When something goes wrong, e.g. they prepare the game wrong, its not their fault, its yours. This is really hard, because you see how they understand what you have written and how difficult some things can be that seem so easy to you, who knows the game. So you take notes and when it goes completely wrong, you let them know and adjust the setting so that they can continue. The temptation is huge to just tell them how its done, because the process takes a lot of time. In our first try, it took three hours to just figure out the rules. This time of course depends on the complexity of the game and the rules. After that part the game started and very slowly we played through all mechanisms. This time you have to take notes on how things work together, keep an eye on the different values and how they influence eachother. You also have to get a feeling of how fast the game progresses and make out reasons for that. Most of the time, the material for the game is more complex to be remade than adjusting only a few numbers in the rules. After another 6 hours we had played a little and i took many notes that dealt with misunderstandings of the rules and adjustments. The game was stopped after that and we talked a little about other ideas and features that the others liked/disliked.
It was a very fruitful first play. I know, after reading this, it may sound like it was a failure, but let me assure you it was not. Its quite normal to have that many notes when first playing. I actually was pretty surprised on how good the mechanisms and numbers worked together. I guess thats because i have some experience in that area so my pre-calculations were pretty good. What i did next was, i rewrote the parts of the rules that were not clear, added new parts and removed double entries. In addition i had to replace one type of cards for the new idea for the gameplay to work. Thats why you shouldn’t invest much time and effort in the material for the first versions of the game, because there is always a chance that you have to redo all or parts of it and then you feel better when you can do it fast and cheap.
All in all i am very happy on how the first try worked out. What comes next is more and more playtesting and finetuning. I guess i need at least another 50 plays to have a real first stable version of the game. So, see you in 49 reruns.

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