This is an archive of a past course's class materials from 2011. Present "Games & Society" students should look elsewhere to find their coursework; consult your current syllabus for more information.
The designer and intstructor of this lab course, Jason McIntosh, has written notes and commentary about this course which may be of interest to other teachers. You can contact the author at email@example.com.
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This week, your classmates will playtest the Dominion cards you designed last week, and your team will playtest some of theirs. You’ll provide the other team with some constructive criticism, and finally you’ll have a chance to read – and respond to – the critique you received about your own design.
Some things to consider while playtesting cards:
Overall, does this card work within Dominion? Was it as well-balanced and fun to use as the cards that come with the game?
How well is the card’s price set? Is it too expensive? Too inexpensive?
Does the card’s name make sense, given what it does? Does it fit Dominion's theme well?
How clear was the card text? Did you feel that you quickly picked up on how it was meant to work, or did you have to make some guesses or judgement calls?
Did you discover any interesting strategies that this card made possible? Did it interact in any fun (or disastrous) ways with other Dominion cards?
Do you still remember how to play Dominion? OK, great: you’re ready for class.
At the start of class, I will use some random method to assign your design team another team’s work to playtest. Your team will receive the card-design sheet that they handed in to me at the end of the previous week’s meeting.
You will then have until 4:30 to play Dominion using the other team’s cards. Just like you did last week, use the “Custom 1” card-stack that’s in the box to represent their design; if they have two card designs, use the “Custom 2” stack as well. Play multiple games if you have time, and feel free to randomize the other eight or nine stacks of Kingdom Cards between games.
Remember that the goal of today’s play is the test the other team’s cards – trying to win the game is a secondary goal. Players should make an effort to buy and use the cards they are testing, and see how well they work. I encourage table-talk while doing so, in order to help form a team consensus about the cards under examination.
You are not allowed to ask questions to the team who designed the cards, at least not before you hand over your review to them. This is important! If the card has any ambiguity in its description or effects, take note of it, and add it to your written critique later. The purpose of a playtest is to simulate the experience of a “real” player encountering the thing being tested, and this person would not have the benefit of the designer sitting in the room with them.
(You are, on the other hand, always allowed to call me over for general Dominion rules help or judgment calls.)
Between 4:30 and 4:45, your team will fill out the Playtest Report section of each Card Design worksheet you have. (If the design team accidentally filled out this section already, write your report on the back of the sheet instead.) Write a paragraph or two that summarizes your team’s overall feelings about how well the card worked, and makes some recommendations for how the design team might wish to improve it.
At the same time, the team testing your team’s design will be writing a playtest report of their own. When they’re done, they’ll hand it to you. At this point, your team has until 5:05 to summarize, in one paragraph per card, how you would improve your card designs, given the feedback that you received. Write this follow-up on the back of the sheet.
You are allowed to talk to your testers at this point, if you have any questions about the feedback they provided. However, the testers are not allowed to change their minds about the feedback after they’ve handed it to you. Their feedback represents what they learned and felt about your design while playing the game; what they learn afterwards through talking to you, the designer, doesn’t count.
When you’re done, turn in your one or two card design sheets to me, one last time. You are all done with this exercise! Congratulations.