I hadn't played Codename: Vacuum for four weeks. During the Newcastle Playtest session a month ago I had some great feedback with cracking ideas from Paul and Olly. Then as I started making those changes, the power pack on my laptop died and with it any chance of getting those changes ready in time for the Newcastle Playtest session a couple of weeks ago. But I got a replacement power pack off the internet, and one week later I was ready to make those changes in time for this week's Playtest session. Sadly, it was not to be again. I had a couple of early nights to recuperate from a few sleepless nights and then got out the printer ready to print out an assemble the prototype the night before the Playtest session and ... my printer went on the blink :(
The next morning I tried out a few cleaning and calibrating cycles on the printer and managed to get it to play ball, but the prototype was printed before I went to work, not cut out and assembled, so it missed yet another Playtest session.
So instead, I went along purely as a playtester again, and played a couple of games by Dan, the other organizer of the group. First up, seeing as we were the first two to arrive, was Mainframe, a two-player game of head-to-head hacking a corporate network to steal its information. The prototype was fresh back from the White Goblin Games 2-player games competition where it had been a finalist (though didn't win). It was an interesting game which I thoroughly enjoyed. I gave Dan some feedback, with a couple of minor things I'd change the names of and some ideas to make it feel more thematic to me (with my programming background).
I found it interesting that as I was playing the game I was thinking what I would do from a graphic design standpoint if I was publishing the game. It took me right back to my thinking during my Reiver Games days when I received a prototype I liked. It also reminded me that a lot of the pleasure I derived from publishing games was working on the graphic design elements of the games to make the as easy to play, attractive and clear as possible. I'm not saying I did a particularly good job, just that I enjoyed doing it. I wasn't able to do the art (Border Reivers is proof of that), but I did do the graphic design.
After Mainframe, we played a couple of games of Samizdat, Dan's game about publishing illegal books in 1950s Russia. We'd promised to play each other's games - I'd play Samizdat and Dan would play Vacuum, but with Vacuum languishing at home, uncut, we just played Samizdat twice. It was another good game, a bit more involved than Mainframe, but everything tied nicely together. It was the first outing of this particular version, and we spotted a couple of things that didn't see much action (and hence were probably a bit weak) and Michał was keen to have the variable turn order reinstated from a previous version. Another enjoyable game, and both in pretty good shape too.
Since the weekend, The Daughter had been sleeping better, so despite a late night on Tuesday at the playtest session, and another late one planned on Thursday for my regular Games Night I went all out and had a late night on Wednesday too - three on the trot! - and cut out and assembled the new version of Vacuum. One day too late for the Playtest session, but it did mean it was ready for Games Night where Wilka, Dave and I played and also for the lunchtime session on Friday with Chief and Dave. Chief couldn't make it in the end so Dave and I ventured out again, just two player.
Early indications are that the new changes are a big improvement. The events make exploration more exciting - it can go alright, very well or really badly. I'm slightly concerned that there might not be enough locations any more though. To really confirm that I think I need to have a five player game...
Of course, after my three late nights on the trot, The Daughter came down with another fever, so Friday and Saturday nights were pretty bad, and the weekend was a bit of a wash out. I did fix a couple of errors I found on cards in the new Vacuum though, and started to make some improvements to the graphic design of the event cards.