Prototype Co-op Playtesting

Sunday , 2, February 2014 Leave a comment

Our family really enjoys a good co-op game.  We enjoy a lot of direct competition, too, don’t get me wrong.  But there’s just something about working together as a team to defeat the game that really resonates.  And, depending on the moods of those involved, sometimes co-op rather than take-that is the recipe for a happy game time.  🙂

We’ve been playing a few of our newer games a lot, lately.  One, in particular, has been requested many, many times.  Brynna and I will play it 2 player, or we’ll get the whole family involved.  It’s always fun!  But, Brynna doesn’t always play it the way that its intended.  She tends to ‘play safe’, focusing on the aspects of the game she enjoys rather than on the direct player competition.  She studiously avoids hazards and dislikes making those hazards focus on other players.  If she has a choice between attacking a player or removing a hazard, she ALWAYS removes the hazard.

Being that the tabletop and boardgame community is SO active in social media, I reached out to the game’s designer.  I LOVE that this community is so open, communicative, and responsive!  I inquired whether or not a co-op mode for the game was ever considered..  Within 24 hours, I had a response email!  Yes, indeed, co-op WAS being considered.  Though thought had been given to it, no official playtesting had been done.  Bummer…  BUT WAIT!  The designer included his initial playtest rules!  He added the caveat that, again, that these HAD NOT been tested, but he was willing to share what he was planning so we could try it out!  It was absolutely not what I was expecting, though again, from what this community has shown me, maybe I should’ve  🙂

So, after basketball, school projects, errands, and chores, Brynna and I sat down to play a version of the game that, to my knowledge, had never been played before!  AND IT WAS FUN!  There were, of course, issues…  Ambiguity in the rules…  Things that just didn’t quite work right..  And, overall, we found that the end result was pretty easy to beat.  BUT IT WAS FUN!  We spent an hour and a half playing and discussing and enjoying ourselves.  Neither of us got distracted or bored (which is saying a lot for her).  And my favorite part was that Brynna FULLY EMBRACED the idea of a prototype game.  When rules were ambiguous, we discussed what we thought the designer meant.  When we came across situations that weren’t covered, she would suggest ways, thematically, that things could work.  And at the end, she gave me feedback on things she liked and didn’t like about the game!  (Those hazards that she worked so hard to avoid in competitive play became too easy for her when she had a teammate.  And she suggested ways to ‘fix’ that to increase the difficulty  🙂  )  All of the components and mechanics of the game that we loved stood out with the playtest.  And the additional teamwork aspects enhanced them.  The parts of the game that produced anxiety for Brynna in competitive mode became obstacles that she wanted to overcome in cooperative.  AND IT WAS FUN!

I wrote the designer and provided what feedback I could.  I truly hope that it is both constructive and useful.  Should this co-op mode for the game ever be released as an expansion (I’d happily pay for it) or a print-and-play download, we’ll be first in line.

My main takeaway from my experience today, though, isn’t the game that we played.  Yes, it was great, and we’ll be playing this version again.  The thing I realized was that the extra interactivity with Brynna ENHANCED the gaming experience.  We always have fun playing…  But the additional back-and-forth, discussion, idea-exchanges..  THOSE made today a day I’ll remember.  I’ve always been a bit leery of playing games that weren’t ready for primetime – that were incomplete.  But with my daughter, Brynna, as my partner in crime, I don’t think that will be a consideration anymore.  It’s something I’ll look forward to.  🙂

Let me know your thoughts!