My name is Rob and I love playtesting

So here is something new to the blog, though I have been sitting on it since May.  I took another trip to London on Sunday for a Playtest UK meetup (no problems with trains this time, and the bits of the underground I used were running fine) and took along a little game that I call "My Name Is...".  This is something that has only been played once before, during an evening at UK Games Expo, and showed some promise there, but I just haven't really got round to doing more work on.  But this weekend I fancied trying something fresh at the meetup.

The idea is based on the sort of icebreaking activity that you might have come across on training courses, large meetings, theatre workshops, or any number of other places, where everyone is meant to introduce themselves along with a little tidbit of information. Then conversation occurs where everyone is meant to remember the names and information they have been given.

My name is Rob and I design board and card games as a hobby.
Cards for this game happen to be the simplest I've made yet.

In order to turn this into a game I made a deck of cards with a number of subjects, like dogs, cats, movies, and vegetables.  Then each card had one of these subjects along with an attitude, "love" or "hate".  Game play is then to pull a card, introduce yourself by name, and state your opinion as defined by this card.  The card gets added to a growing stack in front of you, and play passes to the left.

What actually makes this a challenge is that you need to state when you have an opinion on a subject that another player has already declared on: "My name is Ermintrude and I love comics, unlike my friend Zebedee, who hates them."  You can challenge other players if you think they have missed something or made a mistake, and if you mess up you take an "oops!" token, the aim being to have the fewest tokens at the end of the game.

Oh, and to mess with heads a little more, there are "I've changed my mind" cards, which reverse the opinion on all the other cards in your stack.  Hilarity ensues.

There are a few more details, but not much, and the couple of test games I have now done resulted in much laughter as well as very furrowed brows, which is all pretty much what I was hoping for.  The group of other fellow designers at the meetup, however, after giving me a general thumbs up, were kind enough to keep me engaged for a good little while with great observations and suggestions.

One of the key points was a suggestion that, from a psychological (and marketing) point of view, it might be better to find a way to have players requiring high scores to win the game rather than low.  Plenty of good games award victory to the player with the lowest score, but it still seems more natural to aim to get more.  We discussed assorted ways of doing this, but as is often the case, it required sleeping on the matter to come up with a plan that I liked.  In the game as it has been so far, a penalised player discards her stack of cards, thus simplifying the game state a bit.  Well, I thought, how about if the discarded cards were given to another player to add to their score pile?  This has the attraction of reducing the components required for the game, as counters would no longer be needed.  However, I need to figure out if the score gained in this way is one point per pile of cards, or one point per card; at least in this case I can run playtests, record both scores, and see which seems to work the best.

Another very interesting thought was that some of the subjects on the cards go in pairs which occasionally get confused.  So Ermintrude declares an opinion on dogs, and remembers that Zebedee likes some sort of mammal, but can't remember whether it was dogs or cats.  I was encouraged to have more pairs like this.

A theme of discussion throughout the afternoon was varying levels of difficulty of play, and this thread came up in most of the groups I was involved in.  For my game, it was observed that if the "I've changed my mind" cards were taken out, the game should be a lot easier, so possibly more friendly to families, beginners, or drunk people.  It's always nice to have simple options like this.

Other games tested during the day were a few different variants on a colour-based card deck, a game of mining gems from asteroids, and a competitive deduction game of hunting for an alien.  All very enjoyable, and I missed out on some great looking other games as well.


  1. My suggestion is that the cards are reversible - love at the top, hate at the bottom - turn them around if you "change your mind"

    1. Interesting thought, Ed, thanks. I suspect having both opinions printed on the card might lead to the wrong sort of confusion, though, and I don't think this is a problem that needs solving right now. But it might turn up later as I see the game played more, so it's worth having ideas like this floating around. :)