The Board Game Design Course

Where great games begin

Game Design

Blind playtesting your game

So, your game runs smoothly when you teach it to other players, but what happens when you’re not there?

One thing that all designers have to keep in mind is that when somebody buys a game and takes it home, they’ll have to learn this game on their own or from someone else, and you won’t be there to help them or correct any mistakes.

That’s why it’s crucial to not only create well-written rules but also blind playtest these rules with multiple groups.

Here’s how the process works…

Hand over the game box with your rules

First, you’ll want to find a group of players who have never played your game. Even if one person has played it in the past and remembers your game at all, this playtest will not give you the information you need to bring your game closer to completion.

Next, you’re going to hand over the box with your game, rules, and all components to the group. You won’t explain how to set up or play your game, as this will be up to the players to decipher.

Have one player read through the rules, so that the group can set up your game up, and let them explain your game to the rest of the group.

Let the games begin!

Observe but don’t answer questions

Unlike previous playtests where you answered players questions and helped them to understand what they could and couldn’t do in your game, with blind playtesting, you’re going to act as if you aren’t even there.

It is completely up to the players to set up and play your game without your help. If they have any questions, just shrug and ask them what the rulebook says.

It would be even more ideal to run your blind playtest when you’re not even there. By recording the playtest or having someone else run it (and optionally record this as well), you can gather even more information. However, this is not always possible, so the next best thing you can do is sit back, observe, and take lots of notes.

Note anything not set up or followed correctly

While the players are setting up and playing your game, watch exactly how they set up your game and make note of anything that is done incorrectly, out of order, or put in the wrong place.

Once the game begins, you’ll continue to observe and take notes about anything the players find confusing, are being done wrong, or require repeated referencing of the rules.

It’s going to be really hard, but you need to hold yourself back from interjecting or correcting anything the players are doing. Pretend this is a science experiment and you are on the other side of a glass panel without access to your guinea pigs – uh, I mean players. ?

Blind playtesting your game is going to give you so many insights.

  • You’ll see where your rules are unclear
  • You will identify any steps you missed or are out of order
  • You may find that you have some clunky rules or exceptions that don’t need to be part of your game
  • You’ll also see how players think and where more examples or images could be beneficial

Take action

OK, it’s time to blind playtest your game. Hand over the box with all components and rules to a group of new players and watch as they try to figure it out. Take lots of notes so that you can improve your rules further and make it much easier on future players.

Next week, we’ll talk more about your blind playtesting results, and how to use them to finalize your game.

Any questions about blind playtesting? I’d be glad to answer them. Just comment below.

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