Edinburgh Playtest Meetup – The First

I’ve been lacking a playtest group for a while, which is one of the reasons that I have stalled so much on my own designs, including my complete failure to progress any further in that boardgame competition from Games Expo.

With the recent opening of Tabletop Cafe in Edinburgh I decided to try to setup a regular group, starting off with monthly meetups then maybe increasing the frequency as we build members. Last night saw the first of these meetups and it was a blast.

First up we played a game called Cactus designed by Ross.

This was a speedy game of building your own cactus whilst simultaneously sabotaging others. As you grab tiles you can put them in reserve or add them to your cactus.

Once you have completed all the branches of your cactus, and have at least 4 tiles, you can shout ‘Cactus’ and everyone counts up the depth of their cactus, how many levels from ground to furthers tip. You then deduct the number of uncompleted tips and the number of tiles in reserve for your score. The person with the highest score for the round wins a point and you go again.

Really liked this, played fast and the introduction of a tile that allowed you to steal from other people brought a lot of entertainment to the game. We discussed how to produce such a game, tiles being harder to do than cards, and made some suggestions for larger base tiles that represent the ground as well as talking about the possibility of using laser cut mdf to produce it.

Second was one of my own creations called C.O.N.S.P.I.R.A.C.Y. a micro-game using worker placement mechanics about taking control of a global conspiracy.

The core idea is that when you place an agent on a card you get to use it’s ability and when you have enough agents you can take control of a card, the first  person to have 3 orthogonally adjacent cards under their control wins.

Each card represents a global spy agency and you start with a few of these in play and some in your hand. This game had only been tested once before so we spent a good while noodling out the nuance of the game in an aborted first play through. I then made some changes that vastly improved the game based on the player’s feedback.

The game still goes on too long at the moment and I need to change quite a bit about it, but there is definitely a core interesting thing to play with. I’m going to be posting about the game properly later in the week along with some print and play files so you can try it out yourself.

Last up was +Aaron Billingham‘s game of courtly dances and whispered conversations called Queen’s Court.

This is a really interesting game that I have played before and it is absolutely starting to come together.

Essentially this is a game about getting into the right position during a dance to talk to the people that you want to talk to about political things. The game revolves around a combination of manipulating a set of pre-determined moves, the dances, and managing the resources your gather to score points.

We all found it to be a lot of fun, and quite difficult to always get in the right position. It was frustrating in a good way, in that it allowed for some excellent plays and moments of ‘I shouldn’t have done that’ style realisations of what was about to happen.

I’m really looking forward to this one coming to fruition as it has such a unique theme and an interesting combination of mechanics. Hopefully Aaron will take our suggestions away and come back with an even stronger version.

I had a real blast playtesting again and it was wonderful to stretch the design muscles once more. I’m looking forward to taking some more polished prototypes to Games Expo next year and get myself properly on the playtest track. I might even join the board game redesign competition again and actually try and do something with it this time!

Iain McAllister

Tabletop games reviewer and podcaster based in Dalkeith, Scotland.

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2 Responses

  1. You still have time to make something for UKGE Redesign! No need to give up, unless doing so improves your quality of life/takes away crippling stress.

    Loving the theme of Queen's Court. Specially the old formal dances have so many rules that – although they generally lack in decision points and victory conditions – are such a natural starting point for a game that I'm surprised it hasn't been used before.

  2. That seems like our ordinary life starts to be more and more like James Bonds movies with all those spying pens, phone shoes etc.

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