Be ready for a VERY SPECIAL SNEAK PEEK into the process, folks! What follows are notes collected during the first EVER playtest of Starcraft: the Board Game. None of the components, mechanics, or rules referenced below are final. We just finished the first draft of the game, and now we’re trying to break it …
Rob: Playtesting is interesting for a fairly new board game developer like me because you get to see how other designers do MATH! It may seem a little off, this whole ?math? thing; board games are about cool figs and neat powers, right? Wrong. Usually, they?re math equations first, THEN you add fun. If that sounds boring, keep in mind that the better the math, the more solid and interesting and smooth it all is, the more fun it inherently is, so the less fun you need to add later.
All of this is independent of the flavor, of course, which is what captures the imagination and allows a non-math-guy like me, a storyteller and roleplayer and adventure gamer rather than a strategist, to get into a game. I mean, I?m the guy who plays CCGs because I like the art and the story . . . which is very uncool in game design circles, let me tell you.
The game we?re playtesting right now (we being Dan and I, along with the game?s designer, Kevin) is Starcraft, which turns that normal setup on its head. The fun and the flavor are in some ways predetermined for you, because you know what the races, powers, and special abilities HAVE to be.
Dan: Well, we know that we?re going to play Protoss, Terrans, and Zerg, natch. In fact, here I am with my Terran Dominion Terrans from Korhal IV ? go me! I?m setting up on my homeworld with some Marines and Firebats and looking to smash me some Zerg. (Kevin?s playing Zerg. The default assumption is: Gang up on the game designer because he?s the only one who knows he?s doing!)
The fun part is seeing how the Terrans (and the others, but who cares about them?) are realized in this board game format. I can already tell that I have more flexibility than my enemies ? I have the special ?Regroup? order, which is way better than their puny special racial orders. Honest. I hope.
Oh man, Kevin just cranked out a transport and a whole mess of Zerglings on his homeworld. I see where this is going.
Kevin: Now, I?m only going to be semi-coherent since I?m running the playtest, but Rob just built a really nice tech building and Dan has started moving towards his coveted Goliaths.
Rob: Everyone else has lots of scary troops, and I don?t. I?m setting up good for the long term, but I hope they don?t stomp me early. Pshew, Kevin just researched and ?creeped? (Zerg don?t teleport things like nice, civilized folk like the Protoss . . . which is me). Everyone seems jealous of my tech, but I think they?re just trying to lull me into a false sense of confidence before they eat/shell me.
Dan: HERE THEY COME! Oh man, Kevin just loaded four Zerglings up into his transport and launched to orbit. Hopefully, they?re not coming for my homeworld.
You?re not coming for my homeworld, right Kevin? Because humans are not very tasty in their hard metal shells with lots and lots of guns ? I need to make more Firebats. And maybe a transport of my own.
At least Rob?s Protoss are being nice and peaceful over there with their scientific discovery and ? hey, hang on, he just built another Zealot! Those things hurt!
Kevin: Geez, you leave your first planet and people start panicking. We?ve gotta eat, right? Anyhow, I?m just heading out to wrangle up some resources.
Rob: Never trust a Zerg.
We end our dramatic re-enactment here, dear reader! Will Kevin’s Zerg descend onto Rob and Dan’s unsuspecting heads with tooth, claw, dripping slime, and other unpleasantness? Will the heroic Terrans drive the alien menace from this corner of the galaxy? Or will the long-term planning of the Protoss pay off as Rob’s advanced technology pays dividends later in the game? We’ll never really know, because we only played two turns to test out the basic mechanics!