Yesterday I managed to get a lot of games of Zombology in. I had set myself a target of playing four games in this final week of the month. I'd played two on Tuesday lunchtime, and I was hoping for one more Thursday lunchtime, and then either one at Games Night or one at Newcastle Gamers tomorrow.
In the end we played three games at lunchtime (with Wilka who'd played several times before, and Steve, fresh back from his honeymoon, who hadn't played yet). We completed those three games and the rules explanation for Steve in 28 minutes. It's fast!
At Games Night we played another three games, so Steve and I played six games, Wilka, Hoops, Dave and Gav three games, The Wife two and His Nefariousness one. Everyone seemed either interested in playing several times or at least not averse to it. Obviously, these are all friends of mine, so there's a bias involved, but still that's really good. In addition, Steve said what must be any designer's favourite words during a playtest: "I'd buy that!"
At the end of Games Night, I got my first feedback from a playtest not involving me. Konrad (@pidaysock) who'd been one of my best customers during my Reiver Games days had printed a copy out and solo'd it a few times last week. Last night I got an email with feedback from his first three games with other humans.
Konrad's feedback was much more critical (and hence useful, five PIPs for you, sir!). His friends in Germany really didn't experience the theme in any meaningful way, none of them felt the game had anything to do with Zombies, and most of them didn't even get the science bit of the theme either. Our group (as well as others I've played with) really got the science feel, especially with the conference rounds in the newer versions, but we all agreed the zombie link is tenuous. I'm alright with that, the games I'm trying to compete with, things like 6 Nimmt! and Hol's der Geier are very quick games with very tenuous themes. I've no idea what the bulls have to do with 6 Nimmt! And while the cards in Hol's der Geier all feature mice or vultures, all you really care about is the numerical value of the cards played. A bit of zombie art will help here, but it's never going to be as thematic as most (shotgun heavy) zombie games.
The other major criticisms from Konrad's group were that the game was too short and too chaotic and there wasn't enough information early on for you to be able to plan a winning strategy. Again, that's definitely on the money, especially since I changed to the three different types of cards. Now you have no idea which suits will have the fours and fives until the fourth round - halfway through the game.
Konrad had a few ideas about how to address these issues, if I can make it along to Newcastle Gamers tomorrow, I'll see if an opportunity arises to try some of them out...