Building Monuments but Getting Off at Victoria

Yesterday I took another trip into London for a playtesting session.  So, that's three trips into the capital so far this year, which is more than I usually do in any given 12-month period.

Anyway, this time around I took my current version of the inappropriately-named Explore and Settle, for which I managed to recruit three testers, and I joined in for a four-player game.  At this point, the game is still in a very early stage of development, having had little testing beforehand, so the aim was really to see how the game flows and whether there is something there that could be built on.  I admit to being nervous with such an unready game, but previous experience told me that this was one of the friendliest and most helpful places I could be, so I had confidence that this would be productive.

And it was.
Just a few turns in and the map is developing nicely.

We identified a number of problems, including:

  • After the first few turns, supply of gold vastly outstripped the need for it, so we ended up running out of coins and besides people got to the point where they just didn't bother taking their income. 
  • Resource supply got a little fiddly with trying to remember which spaces had been used for supply each turn.  
  • The end-game was ill-defined, and benefits for building monuments (in terms of victory points and other benefits) just didn't seem right. Plus the game felt like it needed some form of "hidden" victory points to give some uncertainty at the end.
For all of these we discussed possible solutions, so I now have tweaks that address these issues and may help overall, so I know what to do next.

Finding problems -- especially when accompanied by plausible solutions -- is definitely a benefit for me, but there were also some things that were simply straight positives, including:
  • The flow of the game was good, with not too much downtime for players between their turns.
  • The testers all game thumbs up for the general idea and style of the game.
  • The map grew in a pleasing manner.
  • The cards comprising a square and a resource tab was considered something that was sufficiently new and interesting.  (I wouldn't be surprised if I later find someone else has done something very similar, but it felt reasonably fresh to this table of players.)
  • The game took about an hour to play, which I think is a good target time, so I will be aiming for maintaining that game length.
Of course, I wasn't only playing my own games, and this time got to try out two other prototypes.  One was an auction game with partial information about the value of lots and some interesting risk/reward decisions for the auctioneer.  The other was about aliens trying to abduct sheep from fields while being shot at by angry farmers with shotguns. What's not to like?!

Once again, these meetings are proving to be a great inspiration. Aside from the fun of playing other people's games and getting feedback on my designs, just getting to spend time with and talk with other designers is really encouraging and helps me to keep going when my drive is flagging.  It's worth going from time to time just for that.

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