First of all, a quick 'Hi!' to those of you who found this blog through Boardgame News or Reddit and decided to stick around to see what happens next. Welcome! And I hope I prove worthy of your attention :).
Those of you who aren't new however will be aware that despite talking about it a lot, and re-designing bits of it a lot, I haven't actually been playing Codename: Vacuum much at all.
Part of that is because I'm tweaking it at such a prodigious rate that I rarely have a prototype ready to go with all the latest changes I'm considering, and part of it is lack of time, and part of it is lack of opportunity and part of it is probably a lack of commitment on my part.
Since moving back to Newcastle last August I've only made it to the local games club (Newcastle Gamers) twice, and I've not been to been a convention since I used to run Reiver Games a couple of years ago. I nearly made it to Beer and Pretzels last year, but it ended up coinciding with a work trip to Vancouver, and TCAD coincided with the birth of my daughter, so that was out too.
I also used to have a regular playtesting session while I ran Reiver Games, where all the attendees knew that they'd spend their time trying games that might be badly broken. Whereas attendees to my regular Games Night are coming to play real games, so I feel awkward foisting half-finished games on them that might be joyless experiences.
Enough with the lame excuses! Time to pull my finger out. At last week's Games Night a couple of attendees offered to help me playtest Vacuum, so we sat down to a game of it. Again, it took longer than I was hoping, but that included a couple of breaks and me explaining how to set up the game to them while holding a baby! I guess it was around an hour and a half all told. I'd still like it to be comfortably under an hour, but maybe with experienced players that's still a possibility. I've also arranged some plays during lunchtime at work with a couple of friends this week, and one of the guys who played it at last week's Games Night wants to play it again next time, so there's every chance it'll get played four times(!) in a couple of weeks. That's more like it!
Photo via Wilka
Of course, I've already got a bunch of ideas ready from last week's playtest that I'm in the process of incorporating into yet another version. Some things that I put in, and took out are probably going back in (removed to simplify it, back in for thematic purposes and to boost several of the cards) and I'm making a few tweaks to try to encourage more player interaction (by which I mean fighting!). It won't be ready for this week's games though, so I've a chance to try the old version out a few more times and try to confirm my suspicions that these changes are necessary.