Sep 9, 2009

Pioneer Rules Test

On Saturday I attended a meeting of the NYC board game designers playtest group. I playtested some other designers' games. The first was a multiplayer piece-capturing abstract. The second was a game about building a city using Ticket to Ride mechanics. The last was a farming/bidding game.

I enjoy testing other designers' games, as I find other people's ideas can occasionally blow me away with their ingenuity. However, that is not the main reason I attended. I am about to send Pioneer to a publisher and I needed to get in a test of its rulebook. Not only is it always tricky, but writing rulebooks is something I do not particularly enjoy.

I brought four copies of the rulebook and gave them to the four players, none of whom had seen a previous version of the game. I left to test the city-building game while the players read the rulebook on their own and then attempted to play the game. I told them to not ask me for assistance in interpreting the rulebook unless something would completely prevent them from playing. I wanted to simulate what the publisher would go through as much as possible.

I returned when the test of the other game was complete to find them almost finished with Pioneer. They reported enjoying the game, which was nice to hear. However, looking over the notes they had each taken on their copies, my rulebook was deeply flawed. Some rules were worded incoherently. Others were overlooked completely because of my poor layout choices. As disappointing as the result was, I am grateful to the testers that they spotlighted the problems before it was sent to the publisher.

Thankfully, I think this will be the last revision before I submit the prototype. I has wanted to mail it by today, but there are too many changes I need to make to the rules. I will also want to send out the revised version to the testers and make sure that it addresses their concerns. Friday is my new target to send it out.

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