This Tuesday was the fifth Newcastle Playtest session in The Bridge Hotel. With my laptop out of action and my sweeping changes to Codename: Vacuum still a work in progress, I went along purely in a playtester capacity. Although, having said that, I took Codename: Vacuum (the old version) because according to the Meetup page as I left the house that morning there were only three of us confirmed to be going, with me as the only designer. I didn't want the evening to be bizarrely quiet and there be no games there to test at all.
Thankfully, Meetup was underselling it. Later that morning, Dan the organizer confirmed he was going and Paul piped up to so there were going to be four of us, and three designers. Vacuum could safely stay in my bag. As it turns out, even that was underselling it. In addition to the three of us and Amo, we had several others who I wasn't expecting: Gareth from Newcastle Gamers came along, Alex joined us and three guys from the Northumbria University Gaming and Roleplaying Society had seen a poster Dan had put up in Travelling Man our local FLGS. So there were nine of us! A new record. And then Lydia joined us later after her other event had finished so ten in total.
I got my wish, and Vacuum remained in my bag, unmolested, since between Dan and Paul we had three games. Initially, there were just four of us, so we sat down to play 54 Jones, Paul's game of sci-fi sewage surfing!
As with Mad Monks, another of Paul's prototypes I'd played a couple of months ago, 54 Jones was a lovely laser-cut MDF prototype with laser-cut perspex counters too. It was a fairly quick, light fun game where you were racing to escape the sewers ahead a wave of encroaching sewage. I really enjoyed this one, and when more people turned up I requested a second play so we played it again while the other table broke out Dan's Samizdat - a game I've been meaning to play since the very first session two months ago. Both games of 54 Jones brought up some interesting ideas, we tried one in the second game, which I think improved it and Gareth had a really good idea after the second game (though that would have involved some component changes so it couldn't be tried out on the night).
At the end of the second game of 54 Jones (which slowed down a bit due to very aggressive play), we broke up again and swapped around a bit. I moved to Dan's table and tried his other game: Galactic Contractors. This is a very early prototype (I think Dan said it had only been played three times!) but already it felt like a solid game. There were plenty of options and some very interesting mechanics. From what I remember Dan said he'd come up with the mechanics first for this one, hence the theme being a little flaky at this early stage. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it, and would like to play it again.
All in all it was a very enjoyable evening, and after playing Codename: Vacuum twice at the previous session it was great to be able to go along and play other peoples' games. I'm also very pleased with the way it's taking shape, from Dan, Michał and my initial ideas and email conversations it's great to see more designers getting involved and lots of willing playtesters. I can't wait until next session on the 15th when Dan and I have promised to play each other's games: Vacuum and Samizdat. My replacement laptop power cord has arrived so I can crack on with making the new version of Vacuum, which I hope to have ready in time...