Last night I organised a blind playtesting of Border Reivers. Blind Playtesting is when players get to play the game as if they'd bought it - i.e. from the rules rather than being taught by me - the main purpose was to improve the quality of the rulebook by finding out where the rules were unclear, imprecise or incomplete.
I'd invited a bunch of people from my local games club, plus a few of my gaming friends who hadn't yet played it. In the end we had seven players, none of whom had played it before. The spread was pretty good, three friends (all of whom spoke English as a second (or third) language - which is great for checking the clarity of the rules) and four people from the games club whom I didn't really know. It's important to play with people you don't know as you're likely to get much more honest feedback from them rather than friends - who don't want to hurt your feelings.
I took three prototype copies with me, but in the end we ended up only using two of them - we played a 3-player (and then I joined in afterwards for a 4-player) and the other group played two 4-player games. I'd booked the venue for four hours, and we ended up playing for less than that - the games coming in around the one and a half hour marks, discounting the time taken to digest the rules and fill in the questionnaire.
How did it go? I was pretty pleased. Generally people seemed to like the game, there were bits they preferred, and bits they were less enamoured of (which is to be expected), but overall it went down quite well. The weakest bits (as voted by my audience) were the reinforcements (gambling - which is likely to be unpopular with Eurogamers), rulebook (the whole point of the evening was to improve that) and the artwork (it's all self-drawn, and I'm not a artist or designer). I got loads of useful feedback on how to improve the rulebook, which I'll digest and implement over the next few days.
The million dollar question on the questionnaire was would you like to buy a copy, and of the seven players I could not expect more than six 'yes's since two of the players were a couple. I got four 'yes's and a maybe, evenly split between my friends and the games club members - so I was delighted with that - it's boosted my confidence that I'll be able sell the one hundred copies I'm feverishly constructing.
My favourite quotes of the evening:
It's not as good as The Settlers of Catan with all my expansions, but it's nearly as good as Puerto Rico.
We'd play it again at our games nights.