The Board Game Design Course

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Game Design

The Benefits of Intensive Playtesting

Most of the time when you go to a board game design event, you’ll get the opportunity to playtest your game once. You have a short window of time and everyone wants to get their game to the table. Sometimes, you won’t even get that playtest in due to time constraints. That’s why intensive playtesting events can be really helpful.

An intensive playtesting event could be in the form of a Protospiel, a convention where there are a lot of opportunities to playtest your game, or a game design retreat.

Let’s look at each of these opportunities and then discuss how they can be beneficial to you in moving your game forward faster.


A Protospiel is a game design event, typically held over 2-3 days, where game designers converge in one location to playtest each other’s games throughout the weekend.

These Protospiels are held in various locations across the US and we even have one here in Toronto, Canada, called Protospiel North, which is happening this November (tickets are now on sale!). I’m one of the organizers of this event and I can say that the previous 2 events have been a blast!

Often, the organizers will book a room at a hotel, community center, or somewhere similar for the whole weekend. People from out of town will often stay at an attached or nearby hotel. Game designers will meet up and play each other’s games over the course of the weekend, gathering feedback, and making improvements.

Protospiels are also often sponsored by companies like The Game Crafter and/or Print and Play. They provide components that participants are welcome to use in their games and even some discounts on purchases from their site. Just another nice little bonus for attendees!

There’s even an online version of Protospiels, called Protospiel Online. Digital iteration is even faster than making physical iterations, so you can imagine how quickly you can iterate over a weekend at Protospiel Online!


Some conventions offer areas dedicated to playtesting, such as the Unpub rooms at Origins and Double Exposure at Gen Con. These may have costs associated with them but also guarantee you a table and the opportunity to playtest/demo your game with many people.

Other events may have open play areas or dedicated rooms for designers to playtest their games with others. For example, Fall Con in Calgary offers a “Prototype Alley” for designers to showcase their games.

You’ll need to look into what each convention offers and decide whether they will provide you with a good opportunity to playtest and get feedback on your game.

Game Design Retreats

I was fortunate to be invited to an upcoming game design retreat, which I’m really excited about. These are one-off events that you or another game designer would organize.

They typically involve renting out a cottage, Air BNB, or other large space where a group of game designers can stay. You can stay overnight and spend all day working on games.

I think this scenario will really allow not only a lot of progress and discussion of your games, but also the opportunity to get to know other game designers better, make new friendships, and heighten existing friendships. I mean, you’re eating, talking, and playing games together for days on end. It’s a great bonding opportunity.

The Benefits of Intensive Playtesting

The main benefit of any of these types of intensive playtesting events is that you’ll have the opportunity to playtest your game many times over the course of a few days. You’ll be able to try it out with different groups or with the same group to identify whether the changes you’ve made have improved your game.

If you have multiple games on the go, you’ll be able to get them all to the table. Rather than a game design night where you may or may not get one rushed playtest in, you’ll be in a more relaxed environment where everyone gets their turn (and multiple turns at that!).

It’s a great way to get lots of helpful feedback and move your game(s) forward faster.

Wrapping it up

Intensive playtesting is one of the best ways to improve your game quickly or playtest a number of your games in a short period of time. You’ll get insights that you can implement and test faster, plus you’ll have many more opportunities to try different variations or rules, one after the other. It’s much easier to ask “do you mind if we try a round this other way?” when everyone knows there will be plenty of time to playtest their game after, and even do the same with their game.

Have you attended any of the above events? Were they helpful for you?

Please leave a comment and share your thoughts.

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