Thursday, 2 December 2010

Playtest @ Dragonmeet 2010 Report

The week before was a whirlwind of activity, but eventually we arrived at Kensington Town Hall at 9am on Saturday 27th November, ready to set up for Dragonmeet. The playtesting duties fell to Brian, Katarina and Rob as other members had work and family commitments. Angus and Neil, the convention organisers greeted us warmly and showed us to our spot, a set of tables in front of the stage in the Main Hall. We were in a great position for footfall and our neighbours were Leisure Games and Cubicle 7. First of all we put up the ‘Playtest’ banner and then rolled out the table covering, which although it was an end-of-roll cutoff turned out to be the perfect length. Phew!

 The set-up went well and we had time for a quick hello to some old friends and a toilet break before the crowds descended. We had brought some game prototypes for playtesting, but were also keen that designers would respond to our pre-publicity and bring their own designs. The ‘Playtest’ games were Ladders, a card-based race game; Stack, a children’s card game and Labyrinth, a board game complete with revolving maze.

By 11.00am we also had several guest designers; Ian Macdonald with a fascinating design based on the Gods of the Ancient World; Graham Marsden with a great knockabout bar-room brawl card game and David Brain (the designer of Essen hit, Keymarket) with a whole bag of new prototypes.

It was pleasing how receptive the attendees were to playing the prototypes and offering their opinions on how they felt they could be improved. Some games were subject to blind-playtesting with only the rules as guidance, while for other prototypes the designer would describe the gameplay and then sit down to play with the visitors. Playtest feedback forms were on hand for designers and playtesters and provided a valuable reference to review.

There was just time for a quick sandwich break before we were meeting more people across the playtesting table. Miles Ratcliffe brought two games he is planning to launch through his own company, Chaos Publishing in 2011. His prototypes got a lot of attention, because of their superb graphics and playtesters were keen to provide him with useful feedback.

At around this time, Rob was whisked away to record an interview with Mark Oxley for the Control Geek gaming podcast. The playtesting group was discussed and his gaming background. Mark promised that with editing he could make him sound like a well-adjusted individual.

Just as we were beginning to flag mentally we remembered the bowl of sweets for the attendees that we had forgotten to put on the table. The sugar rush came just at the right time and drew a fresh batch of passers-by. The ladders race game had received a mixed reception from playtesters, but with a few suggested changes the set-up was modified and the overall gameplay greatly improved.

We offered entry into a prize draw for each playtester and designer with vouchers for Leisure Games for the winners. Thanks Andy for your help!
By the end of the day we had far more entries than expected and the draw was delayed while we had to separate and fold-up all of the raffle tickets. The eventual winners were Debbie Thompson and David Brain. Congratulations to you both!

Highlights of the day were seeing the enthusiasm of a young attendee while he playtested a card game and sitting down to play a prototype with David Brain themed on an event in modern UK history. It played very simply, but with a surprising depth of gameplay.

The convention hall closed at 6pm and 8 hours had seemingly passed in no time at all. All that was left to do was to pack up and head to the pub. It was a great first convention outing for ‘Playtest’. We learned a lot and met too many great people to list here. We look forward to seeing you next time.

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