I had a playtesting session yesterday. It was the best I’ve ever had.
Notably, it wasn’t intended to be; we were supposed to play published games at my co-working space to say goodbye to another member moving to Bali.
I brought some of my top medium-light games to not scare anyone off; Santorini, Magic Maze, Exploding Kittens – you know the drill.
“This will get some of the non-gamers into the hobby”, I well intentionally thought…
🤞 Bear With Me
Instead, we played my new game, Unbearable.
New as in, started designing it on Tuesday 13th August 2019, new (so 3 days ago today). It’s still a hand-drawn prototype – a pretty ugly one at that.
We started with the honest intention of playing a quick game, grabbing some feedback, and swiftly moving on to the ‘main course’.
I wasn’t too keen to inflict a raw prototype on a variety of gamers and non-gamers looking for a good time – especially at a leaving doo.
That was the plan, anyway.
Three hours later, and five games deep – we were still playing Unbearable.
Not only that, people were laughing, screaming, cheering, and throwing their cards in anger/delight.
🐻 Unbearable Wasn’t Unbearable (Far From It)
I couldn’t believe how much fun everyone was having, asking to play again and again.
I couldn’t believe how much fun I was having, seeing my creation be given life, and watching everyone at the table going through the full range of emotions.
If it sounds like I’m tooting my own horn, I guess I am a bit. I’m feeling pretty proud of this production.
Proud, and surprised.
I’ve had my fair share of placid, boring playtests of other designs.
Even worse (but probably for the best), I’ve had some pretty dire playtests – people outright didn’t like those games.
In this case, however, it appeared I built a system that felt good in theory, and surprisingly, stood up very well to the first contact with the enemy – the playtest.
Not only that but as we were playing, other players were revealing cool interactions they found that I’d not even considered – and all of them held up.
I didn’t have to insert some jank rule to keep the game a-flowing, it just worked.
That was really special for me, I was beside myself watching everyone deep in the layers of simple decisions, but complex strategy.
Even when a player was eliminated, it was thrilling to spectate.
🍎 Bearing The Fruit
I was repeatedly asked if an interaction was intended.
Most of the time I’d have to hold my hands up and say it was a happy accident. The only conclusion was that the system was more robust than I realised.
The core system involves competing for initiative to get the turn order you want, and it worked wonderfully.
The way the map developed felt clean and clear and added a unique game board each time.
All cards felt powerful in their own way, and there are very few turns that you can’t do something useful.
And if you couldn’t, we all agreed it was mostly the player’s fault.
The most important compliment I received was this; though the game allows players to screw over one another, it didn’t feel unfair.
Practically, it may have been unfair, but it didn’t feel it.
I thought that too while we were playing, but to hear it from another player made me so pleased, it was unreal.
🏁 Barely Begun
You’re probably wondering what the game actually is at the moment.
I’ll be keeping that info tight to my chest for now, but you can see a teaser at the top of this blog post.
As stated, this was a two-day project, starting Tuesday evening, and having the prototype ready for Thursday.
As such, give me some time to get the graphics sorted for it, then I’ll be elated to share more with you.
One thing is for sure – I’ve had this feeling before with my other best game, Tinderblox.
A short development time, immediate positive reaction from playtesters, and just a feeling that it’s a quality game.
As such, this has rocketed up my project priority, and I’ll be back with some sexy graphics and juicy sneak peeks to share with you all.
I can’t wait.
So there we go, that was the best playtest session I’ve ever experienced. Let me know on Instagram what your best playtest session was like!
On a side note, I’ve been a bit more hands-off on the BoardgameBud IG and blog.
Some life stuff has kept me preoccupied (namely separating from my long-time partner, and thus moving house), so it’s a mentally, physically, and emotionally taxing time.
To counterbalance that, I’ve been spending my remaining energy surrounding myself with friends and focussing on game designs.
It’s been a welcome positive distraction, I suppose.
Hopefully, I’ll be back up to making the regular blogs, and higher quality IG posts once I normalise.
Bear with me a bit. 😉
Looking forward to sharing more as my many games progress – there’s a lot to talk about at the moment.
Until then, much love, and have a fantastic weekend full of tabletop titillation!
– Rob Sparks (@boardgamebud)