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  • Writer's picturePaul Nugent

Group Playtest #1 - Rotating Maze Game

So this was it. I'd spent hours getting this game out of my mind and on to the table. I'd created a rotating game board, cut out game cards & tokens, wrote a mechanical draft and play tested the base mechanics. It was now time to show the world... well, a cosy function room in the centre of Nottingham! I'd attended a tabletop game design course ran by James Hewitt and Sophie Williams of Needy Cat Games.

The morning of the course was centred around writing rules (great info) and the afternoon focused on playtesting. After the theory, it was time for the practical element; we were split into smaller groups and had around 30 mins per person to playtest our games and gather feedback. It doesn't sound like a lot of time, but it was enough to understand the basics of group playtesting and how to give/receive feedback.

After playing a short but very fun 'pairs' inspired card game (with a duck pond theme) it was time to fight monsters in a maze. I gave a brief overview of the game, basic rules and away they (Jess, Andy and Daniel) went. I tried not to jump in too much but would explain something if asked, as they didn't have time in this session to go through my mechanical draft.

Play seemed to flow as intended, but soon it became apparent that some things just weren't that fun, which was expected as this was my first group playtest after all! The things that cropped up were; Event cards that didn't do anything, no sense of 'impending doom' as you got closer to the centre of the maze, feeling underwhelmed at the rewards for killing a high level monster (these are currently the same for all monster levels), starting items not doing anything special thematically, dead ends in the maze and the lack of meaningful player decisions to make.

Wow... that's a lot of negative points right? Yes and no, because each one of those points gives me something to work on and improve. There were also a lot of positives to come out of the session too; players really liked the rotating maze gimmick, the 'adventure' element of traversing a deadly maze, having different levels of monsters to fight, the idea of a boss enemy to defeat, they enjoyed the inventory management / weight limit side to the game and having multiple types of items to pick up.

Some key things for me to consider going forward are:

  • Player characters

  • A sense of Impending Doom (I love this phrase)

  • Dead ends in the maze

  • Starting items

  • Player decisions

  • Trophy tokens

  • Card iconography

  • Event cards

I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I was a little nervous before playtesting my game. I'm generally a positive and confident person, but this was all brand new to me and when you've put in hours of your time creating something, you don't want to see it fail. However, I learned that playtesting is super important because you need to find those areas of improvement to be able to correct them and make a fun game.

I want to say a huge thank you to Jess, Andy and Daniel for their time and feedback. I'd also like to thank James and Sophie from Needy Cat Games who ran the design course; they've both been brilliant and super supportive!

Below is a an early-game picture of me explaining something to the group;

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