One of the most important aspects of developing any board game is playtesting. I’m sure many game designers thought they had the most exciting game in existence, until they actually played it.
I’ll analyze a game design in my head, consider theoretical outcomes, but until I bring it to the table, I don’t know how it will play. I discover that there is one dominant strategy that someone can always choose and win the game. Or one of the choices that I thought people would always select is never picked.
With Portals and Prophets I had to playtest the game over 100 times to get it where it is today. While many aspects of the game are similar to how they I conceived them, other features are unrecognizable.
The initial version of the game had unnecessary rules complicating the game. There wasn’t much player interaction. Everyone did their own thing, with little care for the choices of others.
Over the course of 18 months I streamlined the process. Taking out anything that didn’t feel intuitive and wasn’t adding to the game experience. I made each players actions more interdependent on the actions of other players. On other’s turns you now care about their decisions because they will impact your own.
What I learned from watching others
I learned a lot from watching other players and how they respond to the game. I take note of which aspects of the game confuse them. When do they seem most invested in the game? Are they interested during other player’s turns or are they looking at their phone? (That’s never a good sign.) At the start I played the game a lot with family. Overtime I branched out to playing it with friends and acquaintances. Anyone who would play with me. I love playing it with all ages to see how different age groups respond to the game.
The playtesting phase began over a year and a half ago and is still going strong today. I’ve shifted more into blind testing. I give a group a copy of the rulebook who know nothing about the game. They attempt to figure out the game from reading the rules and playing without input from me. This where I truly discover if my game works.
The process has been gratifying and I’m always looking for ways to refine the rules and improve the game. The game is at the point where dramatic changes are not made every time we play. Only small tweaks to enhance the game experience.
I’m so thankful for all those who have given their time to play the game, from its infancy to where it is today.
In the next several weeks I’ll be sending copies of the game to professional reviewers. They will play the game and give their feedback before the Kickstarter launch later this year.