Saturday was the monthly meeting of the NYC Board Game Designers group. I playtested three games for other designers and watched the "beginner" version of Titans of Industry with four players.
The first game, about storytelling and lying, seemed to be relatively early in development. Very quickly I found holes in the incentive system that strongly discouraged both lying and calling someone out on a lie. These two activities were really the only fun thing about a game. The rest was just an obvious playing of a small number of randomly-drawn cards.
Design Tip*: incentivize the fun parts of your game.
Following that, I moderated the Titans of Industry playtest. There are some interesting issues to discuss in designing beginner's versions of an advanced game. I will give them the treatment the deserve in my next post.
Next, I played Gil's game. At this point, it's an action-selection/economic-engine game with too few actions and an economic curve that feels choked off. The highlight (for me, probably not for Gil) was when I forced him to change the rules mid-game by creating a way to abuse the special cards and get six consecutive actions in a game where it is incredibly important that you only get to do one thing at a time.
Last up was Mark's train game. Unfortunately, I don't think I was very useful in this test. I played the game fine. I even won. But I don't feel like my feedback helped much. The only thing I spotted was that his version of the steam-engine-level mechanic was much too expensive to justify purchasing the fourth (and final) level. The issue with me is that I'm just not able to engage well with train games, including the Railroad Tycoon-type games, to which this seemed to belong. It is odd, because my preferred game profile (heavy/economic/stock) would suggest train games are right up my alley. Somehow, they never clicked with me.
After the test, a handful of us went out to get some dinner and talk shop. I enjoy socializing with other designers. I feel camaraderie with the others yet unpublished and am reminded success is possible with the ones who have a box with their name on it.
*Design Tips are furnished with the caveat of eight years of design failure and zero published games.
My green rails won the day.