6 tips we were given playtesting in LA
So welcome to the first post from team Lab Wars from 2016!
Let's get down to it: A few days ago we had the pleasure of playtesting LabWars with other designers and seasoned board gamers. We had the pleasure of learning about Robert’s secret election game and Josh’s combative army game. Here are a few points we learned when we played with these guys and their friends:
1. The illustrations of the characters were fantastic
Something we were really pleased about was the consistent feedback that the characters were drawn so well and so professionally. Having had our original playtesters telling us this artist (Nizar) was their favourite really paid off. One of the other designers admitted he accidently slowed the game down due to being side-tracked by staring at the cards haha! That was nice to hear!
2. The graphic design of the cards is good but still needs to be improved
All the playtesters agreed that the general graphic design of the cards was very good. However, they did give a few suggestions which made a lot of sense. Firstly, the font size. Due to unwarranted pixilation of the cards and having to give the cards a border from the first manufacturer of the first prototype the text wasn’t easy to read. In addition to this the font was too small. Luckily this is something easily rectifiable. Secondly, the icons will need to be more clear and bigger. We may have to go back to the graphic designer to discuss ways of incorporating the specialisms of the item cards to be larger but also not too intrusive. We specifically wanted the design to be nice and clean so people can appreciate the illustrations as for us, artwork is one of the main reasons we buy games.
3. Sabotaging each other is great but needs to be increased
One of the things we learned at the dragonmeet convention which we discussed previously was that sabotage was one of the favourite parts of Lab Wars. The playtesters we met in LA said the same thing. They loved the unique mechanism in which the sabotage is conducted and the thrill of having successfully attacked one of their competitors. However, once the sabotage has been done in the first phase it doesn’t translate that well during the players’ turns using the action cards. Therefore we have come up with some solutions already to this problem: A) The probability characters attack one another has been slightly increased; with one character retaining immunity from attack. This way gaining the thrill of having sabotaged someone will be more abundant. B) Related to A, we have given one of the characters a free attack so that the player running away with all the victory points can be targeted more often. C) The professor card now has a bonus and instead once you have played all five characters only then do you pick up your characters again. D) We will incorporate more sabotage cards into the action deck but in a way without slowing the game down. Previous prototypes allowed the destruction of lab items, while being frustrating for the player being targeted, it also slowed the game down significantly. We are therefore not going to do this. However for instance the Stuxnet Virus card which shares the value of a centrifuge between two competitors may be used as a template for newer action cards.
4. More interaction is needed!
In previous prototypes we had two cards called “Collaborative sabotage” and “Collaborative acceleration”. These forced players to work with each to sabotage someone else or to help each other out respectively. We took these out to fit with the gameplay of newer versions. However, based on what the new playtesters were saying (as well as some previous playtesters) when we suggested the reintroduction of these cards we had a huge thumbs up. We will also give the Professor card a mechanism which allows some sort of interaction or discussion with another player, without it significantly increasing the time which is required to play. That’s something we will need to privately playtest.
5. Introduction of “flavour text” based on reality
Magic The Gathering players will know what this is. Essentially it is a sentence to describe the card like a quote or a fact. Many previous and these current playtesters said they would like this for Lab Wars. We already have this for a small number of cards but we may have to expand this. We were always weary about making this game “educational” as personally we didn’t want to learn science while we were having fun. However, it appears that despite this, a small amount of text is actually WANTED by the players to give a real sense of achievement in the cards that they were playing with.
6.Introduction of a bonus if you fail to attack a player?
Something we may introduce or at least look into was the suggestion of getting a small bonus if you failed to attack another character. This is something we can try in private playtests to see if this works or gives the game another dimension.
Anyway, enough of the rambling. The night was hugely successful for us and we hope for the other two designers who got to play their games. We thank the playtesters very much for their time! Let us know what you think of these changes!
Caezar and Kuly