Monday, April 28

Now Recruiting! The Blind!

My games design efforts tend to occur in waves. The game pootles on for a while and then I make some sweeping changes and then we're back to pootling again. It's usually (though not always!) the case that the sweeping changes improve things, but at the same time if they are sweeping, then they tend to break a few things at the same time as improving the overall game. So I tend to go through a cycle where I make a sweeping change and then have to spend a few weeks fixing up the various things I've broken as a result of the changes. Then the game settles down, the broken things are fixed one after another and it pootles along until it's time to make the next set of sweeping changes - and then the fixing of brokeness.

Over the last couple of months Zombology has been through this cycle a few times. I made some huge changes back in February and then spent the next couple of weeks fixing it up. The March version simplified things a bit and then needed fixing up again and finally last week I came up with the April version.

I got a chance to play the April version at Games Night on Thursday (we couldn't get a quorum together for lunchtime playtesting as loads of people were off work last week) and it kinda worked. Which was unexpected. I was expecting the usual "well that's better, but also hideously broken", but instead it seemed to go ok. Admittedly that's from a sample size of one, so I'll need to play it a few more times to get a better handle on how it really plays, but it was encouraging. One of my concerns about the March version was that the game was too easy. It's supposed to be semi co-op, either one player wins, or everyone is eaten by zombies and loses. But there are six ways of winning and in most games two to four of them happened, so it looked like everyone losing was going to be incredibly unlikely. In my head I want the everyone loses outcome to happen about 30% of the time, not 0%!

Thursday's game had only one of the six win conditions come out and it felt a lot more close to the bone, so I liked that about it.

As I mentioned a minute ago, I'll need to test it a bunch more times, but at the moment I'm getting a good feeling about this version. The next stage, once I've confirmed that it's not broken and is working as I intend, is to get some blind playtesters on board to try it out and give me some feedback on:

  • The clarity and completeness of the rules
  • Whether or not the game is fun
  • Whether or not the game is worth pursuing
  • Critical feedback on what works and what doesn't
  • Plus a boat load more data on the outcomes of the game from a much bigger sample

I reckon I'm a couple of weeks from sending out blind playtesting copies, so what I need now are some blind playtesters lined up and ready to go. I'm looking for people who can commit to playing the game a bunch of times and providing me with written feedback on the rules and the game and the results of their plays (e.g. score cards and win/loss ratios). For those of you that have come here from Google+ and BGG, the game is a 15 minute filler about fighting the zombie apocalypse using science not shotguns. It's for 3-8 players. If you're interested in taking part, please comment on this post stating:

  • Where you heard about Zombology (if you've only just heard about it, that's preferable)
  • Any playtesting experience you've got
  • What groups you can try it out with (numbers, make-up)
  • Whether you're happy to print and play (preferable) or you'd like a physical copy sent out to you

People who provide high quality feedback/comments/data will be listed in the rules as playtesters in the event that the game ever gets published.

Any takers?

Monday, April 21

I Fought the Flu

And I won! Eventually.

So the sickness I was winging about last week turned out to be the flu. The real flu, not man-flu. The real flu. So the beginning of the week was joyous. I spent the first half of the week in bed, able to watch Netflix on the iPad and pretty much nothing else. Unable to sleep due to a bunged up head and difficulty breathing I ended up sat on the sofa at 4:30am on Tuesday (while The Daughter slept! Wasted!) wrapped in a blanket reading the flu symptoms on the NHS Direct website and as I went through the long list, ticking them all off (except nausea & sickness, thankfully), I had to except I probably had the flu. Then I got to the bit about if you have a long term condition, e.g. neurological condition or are immuno-compromised, you should go to the doctor. Seeing as I have Multiple Sclerosis and have received an immuno-comprising treatment for it, I figured that probably included me, so I gave them a ring when they opened that morning. The returned call confirmed I probably had the flu and that I should rest and drink loads of water and I should be aware that it could take me up to ten days (!) to get over it because of my situation.

Thankfully after four or five days I was starting to feel vaguely human again (though pretty weak from not having really eaten for nearly a week). Now I feel fine, and I spent most of this weekend feeling fine too. Which was great, since Easter is a four day weekend in the UK, so I got to spend time hanging out with my family and friends lying in the sun, eating food and drinking beer and playing with various sets of kids. It was a great weekend, it felt really summery too, which considering it's only April was great. It was certainly just what I needed after the flu.

I even had the chance to finish off the next version of Zombology and get it printed out and assembled. It's the version after the NaGa DeMon winners' copies (three of which have now definitely arrived :-) ). I've tried to pare it down a bit further, hopefully streamlining the game a bit more, while at the same time boosting the player interaction and making it a bit more cutthroat. I'd imagine I'll have to tweak it a few times to get things working as intended, but I hope the new changes, once tweaked, will be a further improvement over the NaGa DeMon version. At this rate I'm going to have to start thinking of assembling some blind playtesters before too much longer. I'd imagine that BGG is the place to go for that, I can't imagine I have a large enough readership here to select from (plus, if you're reading this, you're already clued up to some degree and probably a bit biased too!).

Anyway, I'm feeling good about it at the moment. Exciting times!

Monday, April 14

Gone Cardboard

I'll keep it brief today, I've been been feeling really rough since Saturday night, wrote this in bed on Sunday afternoon and am now posting it from bed too.

Earlier this week I did finally finish off the NaGa DeMon winners' copies of Zombology which went in the post. It felt like the early days of Reiver Games again, shipping games that I'd made by hand around the world. This time they were prototypes though, but it still featured what I believe to be the first game I've sent to Africa.

As proof, I offer this photographic evidence from Frugal Dave (one of the winners) who, thanks to living in the UK, received his copy first.

With the winners' copies no longer hanging over me I was finally able to start work on the next version of Zombology incorporating feedback from the epic session at a Newcastle Playtest a couple of weeks ago.

Then I came down with something and spent an inordinate amount of time in bed over the weekend. I hope to finish off the April version shortly so I can start testing the new changes. I have high hopes for them, but they will inevitably be broken to begin with.

On an unrelated note, I've also been using my lunch breaks at work to make some more progress on my Firefly: The Board Game app. It's nearing the point where I'll submit it to the Windows Phone store where it will inevitably languish un-installed.

Monday, April 7

What a Week!

This week, I've had three nights of gaming. Three!

Newcastle Playtest

Tuesday was the latest Newcastle Playtest session. I'd missed the last one, due to my trip to Germany last month for work, so I was especially keen to make it along this time. Also, Dan the organiser couldn't make it this month, so as his understudy it was important I was there. There were going to be three of us: Alex, Paul and I. Alex wasn't due until after 7:30, but Paul was coming along early so I went over at 6:30 with Codename: Vacuum and Zombology. It turns out that Paul had a work emergency so he didn't get there until gone 7:30, so I spent the first hour on my own. It was fine though since my replacement phone - after the Great Spontaneously Combusting Nokia Lumia Event of 2014 - had just arrived so I spent the hour installing apps and setting it up just how I wanted. Once Paul and Alex arrived the three of us played five (5!) games of Zombology. I was keen to show it to them since they hadn't seen it since I made the sweeping changes, which were largely done in response to their feedback. They both enjoyed it I think, and Paul commented that it was nice to spend the evening concentrating on a single game. I've got loads more ideas now for the next version, once I've finished with the NaGa DeMon copies. As time goes on I'm finding Newcastle Playtest to be more and more useful in the development of my games.

Zombology at Newcastle Playtest

Unfortunately, we found out after the event another designer had tried to attend. He'd hung around for an hour, but because I was sat there on my own playing with my new phone he'd not found us :-(

Games Night

Thursday was Games Night, and with enough attendees for two tables and a new phone to run my Firefly: The Board Game app, I was finally able to try it out. As with any live demo, it crashed once, but apart from that and the slightly wrong information about the number of cards in each deck, it worked.

My Windows Phone app for Firefly: The Board Game

I can't tell you how much time it saved, as we played with three instead of four, all who had played it before (unlike last time) and a different mission card. But it came in at 3 hours instead of 4 and it felt like it helped a bit.

TableTop Day

Finally, Saturday was TableTop Day, and with the father-in-law delaying his visit until next weekend, I was able to get along to Newcastle Gamers for their free all day session. I only went for a few hours in the evening after The Daughter had gone to bed, but was greeted with a cheer on arrival as I had broken the all time attendance record (I think I was the 52nd attendee that day!). I stayed for three and a bit hours, but managed to play six games including two games of AbluXXen, which was new to me. I took a bunch of games and ended up playing three of the ones I'd brought, including Sumeria, which I had a hankering for. I'd not played in ages and despite over a hundred more plays than my newbie opponents, I got my arse handed to me - the scores were 41, 33 and 21 (me).

All in all a great week's gaming, when you include the Zombology Playtest at lunch on Thursday and the game of Incan Gold after Firefly, I've played 15 games this week (and in fact in the first five days of April). That's going to help me meet my target for the year!