Jun 21, 2010

Erasing Expectations

I hosted a game day on Saturday and it went very well. After a couple of games of Zendo and a human victory in Battlestar Galactica (woohoo!), someone asked to play Municipality.

During this session, something unexpected happened. One of the players expressed extreme dissatisfaction with how population growth now works.

He preferred the original method, where population cubes went directly on the buildings and the growth chart indicated absolute growth, not relative standing. Why does this one tester dislike something that everyone else has said was a marked improvement?

Then I realized: he hasn't played Municipality since version 1.0 over seven months ago.

I believe what may have happened was that this tester was expecting to play a specific game. When the game he did play ended up being significantly different, he was unable to form a new strategy to deal with the new dynamics. The results of his choices varied so widely from his expectations that I'm sure he felt somewhat cheated.

I know that if I game I enjoyed enough to ask to play again suddenly changed rules, my opinion of the new rules would be colored by how I think the game "should" have stayed. I would not be objective.

I don't think this is a reflection on the game itself, but instead it reveals something about how to manage a playtest group. It might have been a mistake to allow such a long time between this player's sessions of Municipality. I need to keep in mind that it is not enough to manage individual playtests. I must also manage the entire, months-long arc of playtesting, including the testers.

Below is a clip of the end of the playtest. I am in the lower-left corner and am using the light brown pieces.


  1. d money11:27 PM

    humans rule cylons drool

  2. d money11:51 PM

    also, minor readability recommendation, you may want the star #s that are ON the properties (i.e. the capacity) to be greyed out, rather than the same yellow as the actual star counters. it seems like it can be confusing to look at and process instantly.

  3. I was thinking the same thing. :-)