I'm back now from my week's holiday in Norfolk (which it turns out is a very long way from Newcastle when you've got a baby in the car!).
We went with the entirety of my in-laws, which was great as my brother-in-law, my sister-in-law and her husband are all often up for games. We played a lot of 7 Wonders (including my 100th play!), plus Thunderstone (including my 75th play!), Carcassonne the Castle and I finally got my teeth into all the X-Wing Miniatures stuff I'd bought at the beginning of the year :) I also got a couple of late night games of Codename: Vacuum in with my sister-in-law's husband (aside, is he a brother-in-law too? A brother-in-law²? Something else? I've no idea).
I was keen to play Vacuum of course, and he's a big steampunk fan, so I thought the theme would appeal to him. He plays games less than my regular playtesters, he'll play games when I'm around but doesn't attend a regular weekly Games Night, so I thought he'd be an ideal candidate for trying out the simple, first-play rules I had in mind.
One of the main criticisms I'm getting at the moment is that the first few times you play Codename: Vacuum you're not really sure what to do or why - it's too complex. There are thirty different cards available to you in a standard game of Codename: Vacuum. Like most deck-building games some of those are constant and available in every game, but some change from game to game. There's a lot to take in, and the second time you play, there's a lot more. Confusing.
I thought a way to simplify the game for the first time you play would be to reduce the number of cards. Just keep the twenty that are in every game, and not use the additional ten that change from game to game. But I had no idea whether it would work, or whether it would feel anything like the real game. So I turned my brother-in-law? into a human guinea pig.
The good news was that it felt like the real thing, and Matt picked it up quite quickly (he even won that first game). He then requested a second, and we played the full game which he also seemed to pick up quite quickly. Good stuff. I won that game (good stuff too ;) ).
Matt enjoyed it, it's a reasonably good game. Now I need to do the work required to make the jump from good to awesome. Still aways to go.
In other news, I've started tweaking the border artwork a bit more. I'm starting with the first age cards, trying to make them look a bit more steampunky.
In still further news, through judicious application of wicca, neuro-linguistic programming, voodoo, jedi mind tricks and hypnotism, I've managed to get The Wife to arrange to a weekend pass swap. Which means I get to go to Beer and Pretzels in three weeks time. It's a games convention in Burton-on-Trent in May each year. I've been two or three time before while I ran Reiver Games. I'd spend the day demoing and trying to sell copies of my games and then the evenings on general gaming. This time I get to do the general gaming all day (and evening :) ). It'll be good to catch up with people I knew back in the day, and also get to try out some new games. We play my games on Games Night, and I don't often buy games without trying them, so new games often pass me by.