Last week, I recruited several serious gamers to playtest v09. Overall, it went well. The game started out quite slowly, and there were some balance issues, but once everyone had several plants and several lands, and the resources were coming in, it went fairly smoothly. I was also quite surprised to see that all four of these folks chose a fairly conservative gameplay strategy. Based on this, I made a few modest changes intended to speed up the first few turns, and also to make it harder to turtle-up. Aside from that, I got good feedback on a host of details, all of which will be a big help in making this a better game.
That playtesting was in preparation for this week. A very exciting week indeed, as I’d been invited to bring this game to three sections of 7th grade science at my own old high school. So I needed to make sure there were no glaring errors in v09, before bringing it out to them.
While I’ve done a fair bit of gaming with family and friends, this was the first time I’ve been able to play with younger folks. It was fun and unexpected. Well, I’m sure an experienced classroom teacher would have accurate expectations, but I’m only an occasional teacher.
Yesterday was our first in-class test. I gave a quick verbal introduction to the game, essentially a mini-lecture on the rules, then set them loose. It was more chaotic than I’d expected. With a fair bit of help, they were all able to figure out the rules, and had a good time, but it did take some coaching. My introduction was clearly inadequate. At the end of the period, I led a short discussion about the ecological intent of the game, and I was happy to find that they mostly had picked up on the central theme of balance and fire.
Based on feedback from their teacher, I modified my introduction. Today, when I met with the second section of this class, I gave them a slower, more hands-on introduction. I had them take specific cards, and we used those cards as examples during my explanation of the rules. After this, I walked the class, all together, through the game setup process (e.g. shuffling cards, laying out a set of starting lands, doling out starting coins, etc). Lastly, I talked them through the first turn, and then I set them loose to play. This worked much better. There were still questions, but most of the groups understood most of the rules, and mostly played the game as intended. And I think that having less confusion led to more fun. Again, at the end, I led them through a short discussion, and asked them for their thoughts on the game.
In two days, on Thursday morning, I’ll visit the third section. With any luck, that should turn out well too.