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"Playtesting of Convention Games" Topic

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26 Feb 2010 7:56 p.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

  • Removed from TMP Poll Suggestions board
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1,083 hits since 4 Jun 2009
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian04 Jun 2009 9:18 a.m. PST

In your opinion, what percentage of convention games have actually been playtested prior to the convention?

(Of course, not counting pick-up and tournament games…)

leidang04 Jun 2009 9:24 a.m. PST


Although 99% of mine have been. The one humiliating occurance I had when I didn't playtest shall never be repeated.

Personal logo Pictors Studio Sponsoring Member of TMP04 Jun 2009 9:31 a.m. PST

I've playtested all of mine at least a couple of times. Now that may not be with all of the figures but with the vast majority of them.

This is to prevent things like what leidang describes. :)

rddfxx Inactive Member04 Jun 2009 9:34 a.m. PST

All of mine have been playtested, often multiple times, beforehand, although once I ran a variant scenario that I ginned up minutes before the start time. It worked because it was based on a well tested basic scenario.

Cpt Arexu Inactive Member04 Jun 2009 9:38 a.m. PST

All but one, and that one went okay, albeit with limited participation. Players asked for it again the following year, so I guess it worked for them too.

The real drag was the time they scheduled two games with similar themes (mine and another) for the same time slot and put me in an out-of-the-flow area, so when the other scrubbed all my players thought it was me and didn't show up.

rddfxx Inactive Member04 Jun 2009 9:39 a.m. PST

I have also helped others test their games. It has been so long since I played someone else's convention games that I really can't estimate. I have over the years played in many wonderful games and perhaps only a very few games that didn't work so well, for whatever reasons. If you have a cadre of veteran gamers playing, they can often make a game fun even it may have had limited potential.

I Jim I Inactive Member04 Jun 2009 9:52 a.m. PST

I actually played in a game at a convention in which the GM said that he was play-testing the game at the convention to work out the bugs before running it at his local club.

My jaw dropped.

Waterloo Inactive Member04 Jun 2009 10:14 a.m. PST

All mine have been play-tested to the point that my local group threatened physical violence.

The G Dog Fezian Inactive Member04 Jun 2009 10:25 a.m. PST

What's a play-test?

I've had two that didn't get playtested prior to being played at a convention that didn't go so well. After that, I generally try to playtest them before performing them at conventions. Though I'm about to break this rule for the next game, its based on a system that should yield reasonable results (and as the moderator, I'm able to exercise some control to keep it from spinning out of control).

Personal logo Saber6 Supporting Member of TMP Fezian04 Jun 2009 10:29 a.m. PST

I'm @ 50% I find that no game survives contact with gamers

richarDISNEY Inactive Member04 Jun 2009 10:51 a.m. PST

Personally ~ 80% I might not do the entire game, just set up little portions of it to see how it flows… then 100%

Games that I have participated (Its just a guess you understand) ~ 50/50…

James… You are kidding right??? Please tell me yes… If not, I may have been that game. I had one soooooo bad, the GM was reading it from a book, which I think he never opened it up before the con…


Condottiere04 Jun 2009 11:33 a.m. PST

I just like to bring a cooler of beer. After a short while it matters little whether the rules/scenario work. laugh

Kutusov Inactive Member04 Jun 2009 11:50 a.m. PST

Like waterloo

All ours are tested on club volunteers


Baldwinbob04 Jun 2009 11:54 a.m. PST

All mine have gone at least 3 complete playtests before moving out of the house and usually a few small conventions before taking it to Historicon. My sons and friends are some of the toughest critics and greatest help. Maybe that's why they have won awards.

I have played one game at a con where we only moved 4 turns in 4 hours and I spent the time moving through hedgerows hunting for the enemy only to be ambushed on turn 4. He thought he had a "great realistic game". Needless to say I have avoided him since then. His games look great but…..

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP04 Jun 2009 12:39 p.m. PST

I have playtested ll of the games that I have run at conventions.
I am not so sure about some I have played in.

redbanner414504 Jun 2009 12:40 p.m. PST

I've certainly never run one without testing and I can only think of a couple I've played in that seemed untested (ie some player commanding reserves that never get into the fight or other obvious screwups). Of course testing a game with your buddies that all know the rules does not replicate the convention experience of strangers (sometimes very strange) playing unknown rules. My quess over 90 percent.

quidveritas Inactive Member04 Jun 2009 12:48 p.m. PST

Tough to say -- maybe half.

I have played some real dogs in my day.


BCantwell04 Jun 2009 1:03 p.m. PST

I'm not sure about the general level of playtesting. At a large convention (e.g. Historicon) the number is probably 75-80%. At regional conventions that number will be much lower. I always playtest at least once, although I admit to seldom having the time to playtest the same scenario multiple times. I will run a lot of playtests "in silico", replicating the map and units in a graphics program and moving them around to test various possibilities. This works very well for resolving certain issues such as whether a unit has enough time to actually reach their objective, etc.

As has been noted, playtesting doesn't guarantee a good game though. It's very hard to incorporate the inexperience factor into most playtests since your playtest group is usually familiar with any rules you use. The other factor is expectations – one man's great game is another man's painful exercise in miniutia.

My biggest problem with playtesting is the scale factor. Our local gaming group is fairly small, so playtesting a game designed for 8 players with only 4 players requires a little bit of interpretation of the outcomes.

wrgmr104 Jun 2009 2:05 p.m. PST

I always try to playtest before a convention.

kyoteblue Inactive Member04 Jun 2009 9:37 p.m. PST


doug redshirt05 Jun 2009 9:16 a.m. PST

Due to the fact that only 10% of the con games I have played in ever finish on time or even close to finishing, I would say only 10% were actually playtested.

I have an attention span of about 3 hours. After that I start looking at my watch and trying to figure out how to do a banzai charge. Of course when your units only move 4 inches in a turn it is a little hard to charge into the enemy guns.

114th Pennsylvania30 May 2010 7:49 a.m. PST

I have play tested all of my games before the Cons (Test with local gamer groups) but I would venture to guess that 75% are play tested before the Conventions. True most of the play test are with people I know and they want to have fun, Cons are another story with the types of players you have to deal with. (Hard to play test that scenario)

jimborex Inactive Member05 Jun 2010 7:39 p.m. PST

What a timely thread. I have just completed the second playtest of a scenario I've been contemplating for a year or more.

My playtests have been solo events, and have been as much a test of my ability to set the terrain up competently (timing myself), of packing up and unpacking the game (again, timed), as well as playing the game (yes again, timed).

Herein lies my dilemma. I am becoming bored with what at first seemed a very interesting scenario. I've read about it ad nauseum, I've modified the force levels to fit the game rules I'm using, and I've pushed the lead over the battlefield solo two times. Perhaps because I'm so familiar with the scenario, or because the scenario is so well balanced, my Americans and Germans are unable to achieve anything against one another but a draw. I admit it is only two playtests, and I admit further that solo play may be skewing my results.

I plan a first player-attended playtest in the next week or so with my 12-year old son and his novice friend, which may show the scenario in a fresh light. Another test with weathered wargamers (some weathered so much they're a bit hard to look at, anymore) will occur in a few weeks.

Question you now, dear readers, as I end my rant: am I the only one who grows bored with a scenario as I test it? I ask the question because I contemplate that it may just be a boring scenario.


jimborex Inactive Member05 Jun 2010 7:41 p.m. PST

In answer to Bill's original question; I'm guessing half of the convention games are actually playtested.

I have been guilty of non-playtested games in the past. Some worked out wonderfully; others not so much. I now run only playtested games at conventions.


Bizzbum Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member07 Jun 2010 8:52 a.m. PST

From years of experience acting as the game director at Millenniumcon, I would guess the following:

50% are just variations of previous run rules and games already run

30% are playtested using the rules but not particularly completely through the entire game

10% are just by the seats of their pants

5% are just to get free admission and they select stuff they know no one will register for

5% are the massive games that they are still gluing flags on immediately before the game and there was no time to even play the current rules…

Personal logo Dervel Supporting Member of TMP Fezian07 Jun 2010 11:07 a.m. PST

I always try a dry-run if not a full blown play test for mine. However since many of them are for large groups you can only catch so much in a limited play test.

I would have to say Bizzbum is not to far off what I have experienced in the past playing in convention games.

So to Bill's question I would guess 30-50% are play tested.

47Ronin07 Jun 2010 2:44 p.m. PST

To answer the original question, my guess would be that less than 50% of the games at a "large" convention have been through a real playtest. By "real," I mean same number of players as listed in the convention game outline, same figures/OBs, and played until conclusion. As I've said before and as others have pointed out, some GMs are still painting figures for the game the night before the game. Look at the PEL for Historicon: 500+ games. Do you really think that 250+ playtests are going on across the country right now? Some people are still painting figures. Many of the games, I'm sure, are variations of prior events that have been played out before in some way.

I've helped to playtest other GMs convention games in the past. I consider the playtest "the game the GMs play" before they host the game at the convention. It's a fun way to get the bugs (if any) out of the game and it rewards people for helping out with the game. Plus, if you playtest a game at your home or your club, you know those people won't (or at least shouldn't) show up for the game at the convention.

There are problems with playtesting, however. First, convention gamers are often less experienced than the playtesters, both in terms of knowledge of the rules and the tactics of the period. This often results in the second problem that I've seen before: what happens when the convention game doesn't run like the playtest? The temptation for some GMs is to try to move the game back "on track" so it follows the results of the playtest. My preference is just to let the players go in their own direction without being influenced by the playtest. You can run the same scenario a dozen times, but if you change the players, you will get a different result each time. Don't worry about it.

If the GM knows the rules, the scenario and the period, it shouldn't be a problem whether the game was fully playtested or not. If I'm wrong, you can file your complaints with me at Historicon.


cheese Inactive Member09 Jun 2010 5:33 a.m. PST

I try to playtest at least once before a convention.

RudyNelson09 Jun 2010 6:28 a.m. PST

Most massive games are playtested ahad of time.

SMall games or skirmish games seem to have less playtesting before shows in my area.

corzin09 Jun 2010 3:35 p.m. PST

we always play test our game , usually 4-5 times.

i have definately played in games that were not adequetly play tested, but i would say most are playtested.


BTCTerrainman Supporting Member of TMP09 Jun 2010 8:10 p.m. PST

Imperatore: You have the idea! I like that……8-)

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