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Diary of a First-Time Designer – #6 Testing Times

First-Time Designer Issue Six - Testing Times

Join me on my continuing multi-part series as Martin and I attempt to turn our jumble of half-conceived brain sparks into our first fully functioning board game.

Part 6 – Testing Times

More play-testing..... Arg! Now the Kaiju don’t come quick enough! More changes then.

We did a complete re-design of the Kaijukazi map, incorporating the so-far ignored Australia and the concept of building upon the map. This brought our regions up to six which nicely reflected the six body parts of our Jaeger.

We also re-designed the enemy track, simplifying it somewhat and decided to trial ‘player with the lowest score should be first player’ next time.

Taking a leaf out of Viticulture’s book, we created personalised player boards with their own worker placement spots and starting resources. It also served as a good storage area for building your robot. I imagined the art would have a ‘high-tech warehouse’ look about it, like the helicarrier hanger in The Winter Soldier movie – all girders, steel panels and glass elevators.

Confident we had most of the basics ironed out, we worked on the Tactics cards. Traditionally these are the cards that ‘break the rules’ and provide players with a degree of flexibility. We decided they should be mixed between cards that affect the game and cards that affect combat. We thought of things like ‘Gain five money and an opponent gains three money’ and ‘play during combat to add +3 to your dice total’.

We aimed to give players something that would be cool to play but wouldn’t invite resentment from opponents for being too powerful. I’d noticed this in some games and it felt unfair because you couldn’t do anything about it. We also strove for making the cards continually useful as it’s annoying being stuck with cards in your hand that require a certain situation to play.

As someone who enjoys writing, it was fun for me to think up suitable names. I liked how V:TES named their cards and, combined with the art, resulted in the outcome making thematic sense. It was something of a grammatical challenge to convey all the information on the cards so that it was clear and didn’t leave any room for ‘what ifs’. I’d chosen a set Word template so I didn’t have a lot of room on the card which forced my writing to be concise.

That week we learned one publisher was about to release a Pacific Rim board game. Initially crestfallen, I researched this and phoned them up for a chat. In my naive mind this was an opportunity to collaborate or, at least, get some reassurance that the game would be different from our own. The heavily-accented guy on the other end of the phone was perfectly pleasant but understandably cagey; mostly just inviting us to ‘watch this space’.

A month later, the game funded on Kickstarter and, again we discovered, had little in common with ours. There was some initial buzz on the Board Game Trading and Chat UK group but most people tended to indicate this publisher had a reputation for securing licenses and producing average games. We’ll see...

Martin and I agreed it might be time to involve other people in our play-testing, not least because we’d only tried two players and to simulate four players seemed a bit of a headache.

Next time in the First-Time Designer series - Testing Friendships