Minnesota Protospiel Here we Come!
BRRR IT'S GONNA BE COLD
Winter is my favorite time of year. I don't know if I'm secretly a lizard person, but I've never been able to regulate my temperature. If I have the choice to sweat or freeze, I'd much rather freeze and bundle myself to warmth. I can only take so many clothes off until I get the side-eye at the Target self-checkout.
With that in mind, I've decided to brave the winter chill in Minnesota to attend the Minnesota Protospiel. I was hoping the San Jose Protospiel would make a return, but it looks like it hasn't emerged from its own COVID coma. That's unfortunate, especially since I met so many great people there. Nevertheless, time to pack up the bags and see what the north-central state has to offer.
ABOUT MINNESOTA PROTOSPIEL
All the details for the event can be found here. What I liked about the event was how bare bones the agenda is.
That's it, and that works for me. As much as I understood the intentions of what the San Jose Protospiel was doing, it was a little unwieldy. There was a lot going on. Game giveaways, an open-air smorgasbord of food, which now in the time of COVID makes me cringe a little, game design challenges, and meet-and-greets that overlapped with my assigned table time.
This is less fuss, but it also removes any structure that San Jose offered, so we'll see how the two compare. I also like that they set the behavior rules right out there in black and white. Players and designers will know what is and isn't expected from them.
PREPPING FOR PLAYTESTING
Before I disappeared into the fog that is pandemic living, I made some great progress on Fate Weaver Zadarra and Her Unfortunate Misfortune and Weavlings in the Wilds. Zadarra was ready to ship out to playtesting services when they all went the way of the Dodo. The good news is those copies can now be used for playtesting in Minnesota.
Weavlings in the Wilds is the only game that needs to go to print before the convention, so here is me panicking as I format files to get it out in time. With some last-minute tweaks, I'm happy with how the little card game is shaping up, and I'm looking forward to what feedback players will have for me.
Kingdoms of Immacus is in the same state as it was last Protospiel since I didn't get any boss hardcore gamers to break the thing. Minnesota will be a good opportunity to get more playtesting in. With art budgets holding the game back, I'll be focused this year on getting the game back on the art track, so it can inch towards completion as I start putting these other games on Kickstarter.
Trolltem Poles needs some hero ability tweaking, and the art is 90% done with only two heroes remaining. I'll spend extra effort with this one to get the hero abilities right this Protospiel as well as the touchy end game timeline. We need more stacking, and the game needs to speed up a bit. I feel the achievements can also be moved to an expansive or a stretch goal.
LESSONS LEARNED FROM SAN JOSE PROTOSPIEL
San Jose Protospiel was a success and a great learning exerience. This is what I'm taking with me to Minnesota.
Player aids - Even if the game is crystal clear, players really like player aids. The Trolltem Poles aid went over well , and I have player aids for Weavlings in the Wilds. For Zadarra and Kingdoms, a simple paper with the round phases should suffice.
Handling disruptive players - Really wish I didn't need to address this, but I learned a single disruptive player can ruin the experience for others. I only had one disruptive player in San Jose, but it completely derailed a very important 6-player game for Trolltem Poles. The best way to handle it is to ask them to be a good adult, and if that doesn't work, cancel the game and invite the other players to rejoin at a later time.
Locals Dominate - One thing that was very clear was that the locals are friends and friends playtest friend's games at the expense of the new guys. This only really mattered because it threw reciprocal altruism out the window. I played other designer's games, but the kindness wasn't reciprocated as they had obligations to play their friend's game X times. There's nothing you can do about that other than being more outspoken about your needs as a designer. Tell them you could really use their eye on something once you finish their game and give feedback. It's much harder to say no when you're at their gaming table.
Designers all want something different - I went to Protospiel not only for playtesting, but to make connections. With the exception of my amazing game table partner, this didn't happen. Not everyone wants to do this. I met designers that only wanted to interact with the publishers to try and sell their game, and that's fine, just know everyone's path to what they want to achieve is different.
Good luck with the noise - Trolltem Poles was a beast to playtest at larger player counts. It requires call-outs and people paying constant attention. In an obnoxiously loud convention, this was ungodly difficult to manage. I can't fix this, and with assigned tables in San Jose, I was plopped into the middle of the din. Trolltem Poles is a game that is better suited for smaller events, and that's okay. Know how your game handles noise.
Leave the hardcore at the door - Kingdoms of Immacus is a gnarly game with loads of mechanics. It's overwhelming for someone without a gaming background. Even though the mechanics are gated, getting to the gate without overload is rough. To tweak this, I'll have an adjusted starting game state that gets the player going right away.
Get out of your head and have fun - San Jose was my first Protospiel, and my insecurity and depression kicked in. I introverted and struggled to keep up with the rules of other designer's games at times. I wasn't having fun most of the time. The most rewarding parts of San Jose was the friendship I made, and the venting I was able to do with other designers.
Well, I'm excited to to get back on the horse and get my games out there. I think they are in a good place for playtesting, and I'm hoping with this smaller venue, it'll result in some more intimate and nuanced feedback. I'll report back, and if all goes well, I'll have a game ready for release this year.