Addressing Protospiel Online Feedback

I recently attended Protospiel Online. This is a weekend event run through Discord that matches game designers with playtesters. As you may expect I attended with the goal of getting some public playtesting for A Taste for the King. Previously the game has largely been playtested by friends, family and friends of friends. This was fueled largely by the pandemic so it was nice to discover an online playtest event. While feedback from friends and family is useful it is always a somewhat tempered experience as these people will often have a stake in the game or not want to hurt your feelings.

The weekend was extrememly fun, I got to play some very interesting games from some talented designers. There was a game set in Shanghai with some intriguing play mechanics, a card based escape room, a game based on the eldritch lore of H.P. Lovecraft and a dueling deck building game with a wonderful storytelling element.

I hope I gave as much useful feedback as I received. And this brings us to the meat of the post. During the weekend I received much feedback, nearly 4 full A4 pages of it from 3 playtests (thanks again to everyone who tested the game). Generally speaking people loved the theme and overall they seemed to like the artwork, however as expected people generally had an issue with the relative lack of player interaction, the biggest issue was how long it is between your own turns, with no real need to pay attention outside of your own turn, except in a few key circumstances. As each turn can last several minutes, this is a fair criticism and I’m more than happy to address it.

Now the thing is, I always intended the game to be a lightweight party game and as such I tried to keep it as simple to play as possible, with a fairly light part count. I have plans to increase the complexity with some expansions, potentially turning it into a bit more of a strategic game for long-term players. However, this only works if people like the base game, both enough to play it long-term and to actually purchase it in the first place. Some suggestions would actually be addressed in part by the expansions.

I have been mulling over options for how to implement certain suggestions and work on the feedback and, quite honestly, this has been harder and taken longer than expected as some suggestions were a little contradictory to others and others felt like they would change the tone of the game too much. It’s also a bit of a mental challenge to potentially heavily tweak something that’s already been worked on for quite some time. Options included (but were not limited to):

  • Adding some of the expansion mechanics into the base game;
  • Potentially making the game quite different;
  • Making the game more optional to play, players potentially take a turn or two and can then choose to leave the game to get a drink or have a chat then come back and see if they’ve won.

For now I have settled on two things. The first is to lean into the bingo-like nature of the game, giving each player a slightly smaller, randomised menu to work with, thus increasing the speed at which the game plays.

As you can see from the images above the menu now contains 15 dishes for each player instead of 21. This should, on average, increase the speed of play without changing the feel of the game too much. The only potential issue is during a Distraction action, if no players have a dish the player can steal then it may take some time to realise AND mean that Distraction is less useful overall. But, that is what playtesting is for. You may have also noticed the addition of letters below the dishes, this is a secondary attempt at addressing some feedback but I’m not yet ready to discuss this change.

Distraction allows you to steal a scored card from another player

The second adjustment is a wager mechanic. Players who are out of turn can bet, in secret, on the outcome of the current player’s turn, receiving either extra scored dishes or abilities that allow them to influence the outcome of a turn. This brings its own set of challenges both from a production perspective and a balancing perspective.

In terms of production it likely requires increasing the card count. Now for such a small game this is potentially a problem. If I get the game manufactured at an offset printer where large runs are expected and cards are printed on sheets of 54 the price barely increases as the card count will likely stay on one sheet, however I had planned to release the game through a print on demand service outside of the initial launch and the currently planned price assumed 36 cards. The way print on demand works, adding even just 1 card will increase the cost quite substantially as an extra sheet is needed (my preferred print on demand service uses 18 card sheets, 1/3 of a full sheet size). Now with both models I, in theory, have an extra 18 cards to play with. Using the offset printer this would actually increase the environmental friendliness of the game as currently, 18 cards would potentially be lost from the sheet on each production run, though I believe they try to optimise the sheet layouts before print runs.

In terms of balance, the game actually doesn’t last that long as far as rounds are concerned, with the average game lasting just 2-4 rounds. The time comes from the individual turns. Wagers have the potential to both increase and decrease the time that the game takes and I need to balance it just right so that the game doesn’t end too early due to a successful wager or take much longer due to players messing with each other too much.

I believe the game is now ready for another round of play testing while I decide how to address the potential card count issue. If you would be interested in playtesting the game, reach out on Twitter, Instagram or the Drentsoft Games Discord. As a thank you, the first 8 people to finish a playtest will receive a free copy of the Print and Play Edition.

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