It seems that every year more board game conventions launch around the country. As board gaming grows, conventions are at the heart of creating an inclusive atmosphere around the hobby. It directly connects, designers and publishers with consumers and makes people feel part of something special. As a result of this growth, board game cafes and public games nights are also starting up in seemingly every city, forming a community feel around gaming.
This year sees the launch of a Protospiel in Nottingham. Sat somewhere between a convention and a public games day, a Protospiel creates an opportunity for budding (and established) board game designers to put their designs through their paces.
I put some questions to Protospiel Nottingham’s organiser Chris Kingsnorth to find out about what to expect on the day, and what sparked the idea to create such an event here in the UK.
1. Why did you decide to organise a Protospiel?
An impromptu trip to UKGE 2018 sparked my interest in tabletop game design. Since then I’ve consumed every game design podcast that I can find. One of the first series I listened to was the Game Crafter Official Podcast. An early episode focused on setting up a Protospiel in the US, and I was surprised that the events hadn’t made their way across the pond. After a few months of research and discussion with organisers in the US, I decided to take the plunge; Protospiel provides a unique opportunity to combine my hobby with fundraising for a cause that I believe in.
2. What is Nottingham Protospiel?
Protospiel Nottingham is a relaxed, not-for-profit board game playtesting convention raising money for Nottingham Children’s Hospital. Protospiel events are an invaluable source of playtesting feedback. They are also a fantastic opportunity to meet and collaborate with other people who share a passion for tabletop game design.
3. What can guests expect at the event?
We are expecting approximately 50 attendees, and the bulk of the day will be dedicated to open playtesting. The ethos of the event will be 'I scratch your back, you scratch mine'. That’s to say if four designers playtest your game for an hour, you should do the same for each of them. If time is tight, you can exchange contact details and offer to help in some other way after the event.
We will have a short talk by game designer and Tabletop Gaming columnist James Wallace. Plus we will have a charity raffle with prizes including games signed by legendary designer Reiner Knizia. There will be a mountain of free prototyping materials will be available for on-the-fly prototyping (kindly supplied by The Game Crafter and Panda Manufacturing). Also, there will be a chance to nominate fellow designers and playtesters for Protospiel awards.
A number of publisher representatives will be present on the day; Protospiel isn’t a pitching event, but designers will be able to get helpful feedback given from a publisher’s viewpoint.
4. Why would people want to play unpublished, unfinished games?
Protospiels represent a fantastic opportunity to influence the board games of the future. Your favourite tabletop game might not be published yet. Giving constructive and meaningful feedback to improve a game is a hugely rewarding experience. You'll be able to try a huge range of different game types, and the experience often inspires playtesters to try their hand at game design.
5. How can any budding designers out there get their game tested at the event and how can they get the most out of the event?
Just book a designer ticket and come along on the day! Once you’ve booked, you’ll get a link to the online prototype spreadsheet where you can upload details of your game(s) for others to peruse.
Often, designers get more out of a playtest if they have a specific question that they’d like to answer about their game. Does this specific mechanism work? Is this player power balanced? Does the game work with this player count? Making your aims clear to fellow playtesters at the outset often results in better feedback. The joy of Protospiel is that not only will playtesters find problems, but they will also often be able to provide solutions based on their own knowledge and experience.
6. What can people expect coming to the event for the first time?
If you’re staying over in Nottingham on the night before Protospiel, we’ll be having an informal get-together in the city centre. I’ll be sending out details closer to the time. It will be the perfect opportunity to relax and meet other attendees before the event. If you’re arriving on the day, just head to the venue for registration; there will be volunteers on hand to help you settle in.
9. What else is there to do in Nottingham for visitors?
If you’re travelling from afar for Protospiel, I’d thoroughly recommend making a weekend of it. If you’re looking for more opportunities to play, board game café The Dice Cup is a five-minute walk from the Hilton Hotel. Along the same road is Cave Escape, a beautiful and quirky subterranean escape room.
If you'd like to pop out for something to eat there are lots of cafes and restaurants less than a minute away from the venue. Nottingham Christmas market will be in full swing on the weekend of Protospiel. If you fancy currywurst or crepe, the Christmas Market has got you covered.
Protospiel Nottingham will be taking place on Saturday 23rd November at the Hilton Hotel in Nottingham City Centre between 9am and 10pm. To find out more and book tickets, visit www.tinyurl.com/protonotts2019. You can contact Chris on Twitter (@ProtospielNotts) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
We thank Chris for taking the time to answer our questions.