Playtest Thursday @ NYU Game Center • Mar 14
Returned to Playtest Thursday with my game now in paper form: a deck consisting of hypothetical question cards and random words. After the reception of my presentation earlier in the week, I was unsure how it would play with groups of strangers, but then again, this is an audience that’s invested in playing and making games.
So glad I went. It was so much fun! I played four rounds, and the stories we told were imaginative and entertaining. To my knowledge, only one of my playtesters was a NYU student.
Round 1: Two Players
I ditched the rule sheets from last week’s playtest and following Greg and Jenny’s advice, orally gave the rules and with some example cards, demoed crafting a sentence with a word in response to a topic question. Each player got three cards. In my mind, I explained that players should placed any snuck word face down on the table at the end of their speaking turn, but in reality, my playing partner waited until I played my card to deposit his cards on the table. At that point the conversation had run kinda flat anyway so it was a good stopping point. Before the start, I described that at the end we could guess the words that our opponent had snuck—one guess for each card placed on the table. This game wants to be two things: either an icebreaker to get to know people or a cutthroat competition. My opponent said it felt weird to analyze my speech and watch for tells while engaging in this beyond-small-talk-convo (my words)—yes, I want this! Biggest take away from this round was the need for a timer to cap the conversation and set a sense of urgency.
Round 2: Two Players
More practice explaining the format of the new analog game! Each player got three cards. I set a timer: number of minutes equal to the number of players. (It can’t be too long because there’s a chance you won’t remember those words that seemed out of place.) Player who draws the topic question starts the conversation. And then, one guess per “snuck” card. If the guesser is right, they get the card. If they are wrong, nothing happens. Player with the most snuck cards in front of them wins. The timer definitely helped frame the play, but we decided that two minutes might have been too short.
Round 3: Four Players
What a fun bunch! So much to keep track of with more people playing. Only two of the four people knew each other. We set the timer set for four minutes, and players commented that this felt fine. One player admitted after the game that he was unsure of what to do at the start, which was fantastic, because he won the round through his fantastic improv storytelling. (Maybe for some it’s one those games that’s tricky to wrap your head around until after you play it once.) No defined way for more than two people to handle the “guess-your-words” part after the conversation ends, but we had fun doing it anyway and retelling major moments of the conversation. An observed strategy was to say a bunch of words in succession to hide your word in the mix. It was suggested that players should call each other out on their words in the middle of game: maybe there’s a big buzzer in the middle of the table that folks can hit when they suspect a word. What if players wrote down suspected snuck words on scratch paper during game play?
Round 4: Three Players
Two players knew each other from the previous round. Revealed strategy by a player at the end: hide a word in response to another player’s statement; they’ll be so wrapped in their statement they won’t focus as closely on the response. Still did not have a solution to handle the word guessing after the timer was up so we free-formed it: everyone went in order and guessed words of other players. Again it was entertaining to dissect the highlights and retell the story of the dialogue. One player loved how open-ended nature of the game and how much of the content was player-driven. YES!
Figure out how to catch words at end of game or during conversation (which might impact length of timer).
One way to prevent players from spouting off lists of words is to introduce a rule. A player can be called out on the violation and other players can vote to penalize that player. But how—by kicking them out the round?
Overall, my playtesters and I had a blast. They love the core idea and now it’s just a matter of refining the mechanics. I also HAVE to rethink how to present this game to an audience that can’t play it immediately. I want the audience to feel the smiles and the laughs from playtesters at my table tonight. Thanks so much, everyone!