Tuesday night Dave came round again for games. As before, the headline act was Space Hulk the old Games Workshop game with a very similar feel to the Aliens film. As a bonus, this week we had a warm-up act: a game of Dave's own devising.
We set up Dave's game and he talked me through the rules - it was interesting being on the other side of this, in the last few months I've explained the rules of Border Reivers a lot, but this was the first time I'd ever played another designer's prototype. I'll not go into much detail of Dave's game as it's his job to decide how much information about the game he wants to make public and when, what I'll try to do is get across how the evening felt from a playtester's point of view.
First impressions of the game were good, the prototype was well-made and visually interesting, and I could tell from one look at the board what the theme was. If anything, the prototype was over-produced, as this was the first time Dave had played the game, so a lot will change over the coming months. While he explained the game Dave was quite self-deprecating, which I was told I was doing at The Cast Are Dice - it's obviously a common reflex. However, if you start disparaging the game you've designed, you'll put players off. The game had several things I really liked: fixed length; a clearly defined beginning, middle and end; some excellent events. It also had it's fair share of weaknesses, as you would expect from a game in the very early stages of development. The first few plays of one of my games are awful, as it takes time and practice to take the ideas in your head and turn them into something that works in reality. It came in at around an hour, and although I was at a loose end a couple of times, at no point was I bored or regretting playing it - a good sign.
After the game, we went through the notes I had taken about the things I liked and disliked about the game. We discussed possible solutions to some problems the game had and ideas for ways the game could be changed. It reminded me how much my playtesters had influenced the design of Border Reivers, especially The Wife and Mal, who contributed some excellent ideas to the finished game. One of the things I do is keep a list of people who have playtested a game I'm working on - they definitely deserve a mention in the rules for their contributions.
I'd definitely be up for playing it again, and I'll be interested to watch another designer's game evolve over the coming months. Perhaps we'll play Jorvik or Sennon next time too...
After that we played a couple more games of Space Hulk. We played the second mission again (I was the Genestealers this time), and then the third mission from one end only. Again, I really enjoyed the Space Hulk, good clean fun, and since I was the stealers both times, I got a side order of vicious disemboweling of my enemies with my good, clean fun. The theming of Space Hulk is really well done, when playing as the marines you feel very claustrophobic as the unknown numbers of enemies swarm around your limited troops. Coupled with the enhanced maneourveability and faster top speed of the stealers you feel very vulnerable. I remember a computer version, which really laid the claustrophobia on thick - the cramped corridors felt tiny when a stealer swarmed towards one of your marines, followed by static as contact was lost...
Both sides have definite tactics, with the stealers wanting to stay out of LOS for as long as possible. They are also far more powerful when they attack in waves, that way you can maximise the chance of a weapon jam being capitalised upon by a stealer, as you will undoubtedly lose a few before the weapon jams. Marines on the other hand want to keep as much distance between themselves and the stealers as possible, and excel when they can cover a long approach with overwatch fire. Great stuff.
In the end I won all three games that evening, I'm keen for more though :-)
I had hoped to do a load of construction this weekend, however I might have to go to Bristol instead. The reviewer from the BBC magazine had some difficulty getting their head round the game, and wanted to play it with my parents (which would be a case of the blind leading the blind :-) ), and conveniently there's a do on, in preparation for my sister's wedding this weekend so I've an excuse to be down in Bristol. We shall see.