Game Design

My Tabletop Game is Almost Ready for Alpha Tests

What are Alpha tests, you didn’t ask?

I didn’t ask.

Glad you asked! Alpha testing is still that super experimental form of testing where you only slightly expand your project outside of the realm of you. People in your tabletop circles, other game designers, and friends who enjoy playing board games—those are the people that you want in your first round. Have them give you honest feedback and know one thing: they’re still likely trying to coddle you.

My friends are too real to do that, they’d rip the bandaid and cauterize the wound!

Nah, they’re totally biased to try and help you. This means that they’re not giving you the honest feedback that you need to ensure your game’s success. But they still are extremely important to your process. Here’s why: if your friends who play board games are able to work up the courage to tell you that your game is trash, then you know your game is in deep shit. If they tell you that your game is fun but needs work, then that’s something that you can build on.

How do you plan on conducting these tests?

I need to start testing at the 2-player, 3-player, and 4-player levels. I’ve already tested at the 2-player level internally, but I need to expand that out to two other dumb-dumbs so that I can make sure the flow of the game is going well, interactions are top notch, all that great stuff. Here are some guidelines that I’m working on finding out from other humans during my alpha tests:

  • Be aware that my prototype is awful
  • Can you honestly say that this tabletop game is mechanically fun?
  • I’m not looking for thematic ideas or for you to tell me that my game is littered with typos, I’m looking for you to tell me whether you got board of this game halfway through or not
  • Did you feel like the game had a sense of balance?
  • Was this game actually different than anything else you’ve played before?

That’s what I want to know, plain and simple.

What will you do with your results?

A few things, in this specific order:

  1. Figure out whether I’ve wasted a year and a half of my life.
  2. Cry or not cry.
  3. Go for a run.
  4. Think hard about whether I want to keep going down this path or just stick to writing.
  5. Take the feedback to heart and figure out how I can change the game accordingly. —OR—
    Take the feedback to heart and figure out how to burn the game and not set off the smoke detectors.

The moral of the story is this: find a way to burn something. Fire is cleansing.

By Neutrino Burrito

A writer and board game designer currently puttering about the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

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