I had a little hiccup this week and found that my old blog theme was about seven years old and way out of support. I was wanting to add a nifty plug-in but trying to get it to play nice crashed the site hard so I went shopping for a more recent theme and was glad to stumble onto the one before you. I hope it’s not too jarring of a change but if anyone has any feedback, I’d love to hear it.
In addition to the new look for the new year, I also am excited to test out a new board game. I’ve actually been testing games for big publishers for the last five years or so but I’m usually under a Non-Disclosure Agreement to not talk about the product even after it is released. However, the current game I’m testing has a unique “Disclosure Agreement” instead where the publisher is encouraging the testers to discuss their experiences openly.
Restoration Games is a new game publisher started by Justin Jacobson, Rob Daviau, and Jason Taylor. Their mission is to bring back older classic games from the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s and after a brief shout out to get recommendations, they settled on resurrecting a few classics. You can read more about their announcement here.
Shortly after their announcement, Restoration Games reached out through their email list and asked for playtesters. Having done a lot of testing before and enjoyed several of Rob Daviau’s games, I jumped in with one of their new titles, Downforce.
In their instructions for testing, they had a curious note about how this was a public playtest. I’ve heard of and seen “open” testing (typically done on large RPG releases) but this is the first time I’ve seen a publisher ask for open feedback and not told me to keep everything behind closed doors.
I love testing and have thought about talking about playtesting for game publishers for awhile but with this open call from Restoration Games, I’m glad to put some actual examples together instead of talking in vague NDA-speak.
To start off, playtesting is not particularly glamorous. It’s not economically beneficial and the bulk of the work you put into testing most people will never know about. You are the stage hand, the grip, the matte painter of the board gaming world. They definitely need you but you won’t be walking down any board game red carpets because you helped test a blockbuster game (if there even was such a board game red carpet… maybe at Essen?). You do this because you love game design. You love seeing something mediocre develop into something great and being part of a team that is working to better the hobby you love.
You also do it because you like crafting, which, in an odd way really pushed me into pimping out games. After testing for a few years, the tricks and techniques to scratch-building artless board game prototypes helped teach me economical and quick ways to pimp out my own collection of games. Testing also helped me get set up with the proper tools to make prototypes quickly and efficiently.
Most of these tools you should have in your home already but if you don’t do a lot of papercrafting, you might still want to pick up a paper cutter (rotary trimmers are the best and safest not mention really cheap at hobby stores). Other than that, scissors, tape, and maybe some old card board boxes if you want/need a stiff backing to some of the prototype components. Lastly, you’ll need a printer or access to one as you will be printing quite a bit of material.
Downforce is a pretty light prep job for a full board game. It required 21 pages to print out and cutting out about 60-70 cards out of some of those pages. The game board prints easily and the files were set great for light printing and cutting.
Game components are not supposed to look great at this stage (the better they look, the faster they will run you out of ink and that can get really pricey). It goes without saying that all the components you see here are full-on prototypes and it should be obvious that the final product will look nothing like the art-less prototypes in the images.
Like most Print-N-Play productions, you usually need to provide the more common game pieces like pawns, dice, or tokens. For this game, I raided an old box of Micro Machines to work as the car pawns. The game requires money but I mainly have coins in low denominations in my collection, so it took a little longer to find what would work best. I settled on pillaging the money chits in Fantasy Flight’s underrated Black Gold.
And with that, I have everything assembled and I’m ready to play. Downforce comes with an optional kid variant so I’ll likely rope my kids into playing a game or two before I try the game out with my normal gaming group.
If testing games is something you might be interested, this could be an opportunity to try it out with a new game publisher. Their testing period might still be open so go to Restoration Games’ contact page and let them know that you are interested.
Disclosure: I am not affiliated nor have I received any compensation from Restoration Games for discussing the testing or creation of testing material.