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Playtest 1: The Power of Brains!

July 5, 2011

[This post contains no zombies, sorry.] On Saturday we playtested the Team Event for the first time. This was a small-scale experiment, like in Mythbusters and with equally explosive results! There were five of us – RP, Adam, John, my wife, and me – and each of us played a whole team rather than one character. That was very useful to the goal of actually doing a playtest for a game that is supposed to have a minimum of 12 players, but it did cause some complications and some of the aspects of the game just can’t be tested that way. The most important one was scarcity of the white tokens – the currency of the game system. Without having to share the pool of tokens with two or three other players, it was a bit too easy to solve some problems by throwing money at them.

But what I think this scale test did well was demonstrate the feel of the game. While the game is fun to play, there is a feeling that there are many separate stories going on and an uncertainty as to whether or not they are connected. The quick question/response mechanics at the end help with that, but we’re going to copy those mechanics forward so that the entire group feels part of the same story throughout. So at each half-hour break in the action when the teams total up and post their assets, the refs will ask a question of one of the teams (or maybe two if there are a lot of teams). The answers to these questions will give a bit of insight into what’s going on with that team at that moment and hopefully that will serve to keep everyone connected to the story.

We’re also adding some direct teaching of the rules through demonstrations. One of these additions is to create relationships between team captains in front of the groups as whole. This will also serve to better introduce the teams and what they stand for – again another opportunity to connect the whole group to the fiction they’re creating together.

I went in to the playtest expecting to find a few things, but mostly wanting to verify the economy doesn’t crater in some unanticipated way (it doesn’t). But I underestimated the power of brains – specifically the brains of the three people that weren’t the co-authors. Thanks to them we’re going to have a much stronger game when we first do a full run. Of course, that means a bit of a rewrite – but I’m actually looking forward to that.

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