Since I wrote that last post a few weeks ago, I've been thinking about Codename: Vacuum quite a lot and trying to work out the kinks in this early incarnation of the game. In essence the game works, but it's probably slightly over-complicated, and there are definitely a lot of balance issues to work out.
The first step is to play the game over and over and over again, making copious notes about what works, what doesn't, who scored what, which cards were played, which victory conditions were used and any ideas I've had.
Normally, the first tens of games would be played by myself, trying various strategies, getting the game basically working and trying to iron out the worst of the balance issues to ensure that when I start playing it with other people, it's a working game that won't be an entirely joyless experience for my playtesters.
It's a nice idea in principle, but I struggle to find the time for playtesting, and I really hate playing a game against myself: for me, a lot of the enjoyment of game is pitting your mind against friends in a structured competition. Playing against myself, where I know what cards my opponents have, what strategies they're following and what they are going to do next sucks all the fun out of it.
So I played a very brief test drive against myself early on before making a first prototype, and then I tested it with my games night several months ago. Since then, after a long hiatus I played it with my mate Paul, one of my key Reiver Games playtesters, and I've played it against myself again recently trying to judge whether the ideas I had during and after the game with Paul worked.
While living in York, and running Reiver Games, I had a weekly playtest session with some friends from the local games group (including Paul) where we'd try out several of the over a hundred prototypes I had received. After moving down South to near Bedford I set up a similar arrangement with my games group down there, which slowly migrated from being a playtesting session, to a playtesting session with a few real games, to a games session with a little playtesting and finally to a games session as Reiver Games ran out of steam.
Although I have a regular games night up here on a Thursday, I'm missing the chance to get some proper playtesting in - it doesn't seem fair to subject my games night chums to a half-arsed game that might not work at all, so a semi-regular playtesting session would be great.
I've spent the last week or so doing new versions of the cards using Adobe InDesign on the computer (that's the software I bought to do the real layout for Reiver Games - the final art that I sent to the printers in Germany). Just as I was finishing that I finally snapped the power lead to my laptop so I had to quickly save everything off to an external drive and uninstall InDesign before the battery ran out so I could set it all up again on this machine (The Wife's old one).
On my way home from work last night I got the card I need, so the next stage is printing and then cutting out all two hundred-odd cards. Then we're off to the races again...
The main focus at the moment however has to be preparing for the birth of our daughter, and then after that, raising her! Everything else will have to take a back seat for a while (or until she's off to university!).