You’ve gotten through the difficult part of designing and developing your wargame. That’s a lot of hard work, now behind you. But is it over? Not yet! Even if you’ve been very careful during the creation of your game, ensuring all elements make sense and nothing feels out of place, the reality of it is that you don’t really know until the game’s been played. And for something that’s just reached or is reaching the end stages of development, playtesting is the most viable means of running such a test.
You can and absolutely should run your game solo. In fact, you should do so several times to make sure the rules make sense and everything, for the most part, works. However, you’ll need others to actually put the pressure on your game, and finding playtesters can be more difficult than you’d think.
How Do I Find Playtesters?
If you have friends or family that are into wargaming, you’re ahead of the curve. The playtest doesn’t have to be with strangers, just with players that know how to manipulate wargames to see how all facets work. If not, you’re going to have to do some networking.
Reach out to local wargaming groups and retailers to try and cobble together an evening of playtesting. You can sweeten the pot by offering a free completed copy of your rulesets to all playtesters. Don’t feel bad if no one is initially interested. It’s common for wargamers to like to stick to specific periods and games, or yours may be a bit too intimidating.
Should your local search leave you with no one, consider signing up as a Game Master at a convention under the stipulation that you can playtest your rules. Some conventions even have a section for unreleased games, which you can use for effective playtesting.
No matter who you have playtesting your game, the goal is always the same. Believe it or not, you’re all trying to break the game.
Why Am I Breaking the Game?
At first, it may seem odd to think that your first directive is to show where the game’s weak points lie, but on the contrary, breaking the game helps finalize development. By breaking the game, you can determine:
- If the breaking point is fixable
- If the breaking point is unlikely to ever be found
- If your game is ready for distribution
As time allows, you’ll keep playing the game over and over with the intention of finding the fatal cracks that make it unplayable. Putting this kind of stress on your game also highlights imbalances that need to be fixed.
If you’ve been playing with the same playtesters for a while, consider switching it up. It’s possible they weren’t pushing enough to break it.
Analyzing the Playtest
Your playtest means nothing if you don’t take the data from it and use it to perfect your game. During the playtest, pay attention to mechanics that don’t work or bog the experience down. Is there anything that creates an imbalance between players? Unless it has something to do with accuracy for a historical conflict, it needs to be fixed.
You may also receive feedback from the playtesters. Pay attention to it. Make notes to review later and be sure to take every point into consideration. You don’t need to agree with the feedback and you definitely don’t need to implement it, but having an open mind will be beneficial in the end.
A wargame needs to be fun and fair, and if it’s missing either of those elements, it’s going to fall flat within the community. Your analysis of the playtest will give you the data needed to fine-tune the game and make it ready for public play.