The last few weeks have been exciting, with several things, both games related and not, coming to a head. On the gaming front, I've had the combination of my mate Paul from York and his family up this weekend, and Tuesday is the first Newcastle Playtest Meetup at The Bridge Hotel from 7pm.
On the subject of the Playtest meetup, it looks like we're going to have around 8 people, with at least four designers trialling games on the night. I was hoping to take a new version of Codename: Vacuum (the July version) and possibly Codename: Proteome too. Sadly, what with visitors and everything else, I've not got a new version of Proteome ready to go. But the July version of Vacuum was finished off and then corrected last week (with a couple more corrections to come tomorrow night I hope!). I'm really looking forward to introducing Vacuum to some more people, and getting the feedback of other designers. It's at a point where I think it could benefit from an injection of new ideas.
On the subject of Paul's visit, we got a few games in on Saturday night and during The Daughter's Sunday afternoon nap. I introduced Paul to X-Wing Minis and Pergamon and he introduced me to Hanabi. Hanabi's a great fun little game, I can see it being popular as a starter for ten or a closing game on Games Night, so it's going on my wishlist. I loved both the 'cards in your hand are hidden from you but visible to everyone else' mechanism, and the way you have to try to inform the other players while imparting only very limited information. I also got a second chance to try Love Letter. Definitely still interested in that one too...
We played until one in the morning, which considering I'd been up since five am with The Daughter was a late night! I was practically falling asleep during Pergamon, so I had to stop there. On Sunday I asked Paul if he'd like to receive another playtest copy of Codename: Vacuum. He'd received a copy back in March at the same time as my friends in Bedford. He'd acknowledged receipt of it, but then I'd not heard anything - no feedback forms or reports or anything, so I'd assumed it hadn't been played, so I didn't want to send him another copy if he was just going to shelve it.
Paul said that he was interested in another version, that the version I'd given him back in March had been played a few times. People weren't wowed by it, but they didn't hate it either. Yay! More ambivalence :(. He gave me what criticisms he could remember from the games they had played (not all including him). It was really useful stuff, even though the version they're playing is very out of date now. They liked several of the mechanisms in the game, but found them a bit too much all in one game. The wealth of cards (meant to introduce re-playability) was too confusing and made it harder to learn. It took too long to play. Military was overly strong.
Several of those points I've addressed in subsequent versions, but the most telling one was that their games last 40-45 minutes per player!. Ours, with very experienced players, last about 20-25 minutes per player. But I think I'm aiming for 15 minutes per player once you know the rules and the cards. Still more work to be done on that front, even in the latest version. Back to the drawing board.
In other news, I'm going to stay with Paul and his family in early September for a couple of days. I'm going to set myself that as a deadline to get the August version done, printed, corrected and the rules finally re-written. There. I've said it. You can hold me to that!