The People's Test
As Cogs and Commissars Kickstarts and comes to the end of its development cycle on the way to production, it’s time to blindtest. When I present or talk to people who are interested but new to tabletop game publishing, blindtesting is sometimes a new concept for them.
Blindtesting is simple: It’s handing a group of players the components of a game as you intend to send them to press, then silently watching to see if they can successfully learn how to play using nothing but those items. During the previous and more familiarly named game production step called “playtesting,” the designer or publisher is often present at a test to explain the game, gloss over inconsistencies, and so on. But as we like to say, “The designer doesn’t come in the box.” That is, when a gamer buys a game in a store, they’ll have to learn it for themselves, without the designer’s help. Blindtesting is how we make absolutely sure that process will go as well as it can, before we spent five figures of cash to print thousands of copies.
Common changes from blindtesting often include streamlining the description of the game setup process, unifying game terms to make sure they’re consistent every single time they’re mentioned, calling out overlooked rules to make them more prominent, adding diagrams in places where testers were puzzled, and clarifying what happens in unusual conditions.
Previous projects I’ve worked on, like Witches of the Revolution, saw substantial revisions to their rulebooks as a result of multiple iterations of the blindtesting process. Other games, like Cursed Court, didn’t change much as a result of that process. Sometimes that’s because the rules are simpler, or more time’s been spent teaching the game to different groups and those insights were brought to bear when writing the rulebook. But as a designer, developer, or publisher, sometimes you’re just plain lucky.
If you’re interested in even more detail on playtesting and blindtesting, there’s a whole chapter on it in The White Box Essays.
If you’d like to give blindtesting a try yourself, you can grab the print-and-play files for Cogs and Commissars, try to play using the cards and rules as we currently intend to send them to press, and tell us how it went! Send your comments to game producer Kyla McT, who you can reach at kyla at atlas dash games dot com. You’ll have fun, we’ll be grateful, and Cogs and Commissars will get that much better on its way to release. Thanks in advance!