So, somebody has asked you to playtest their board game... is this a honor of the highest order or a clear clue to what a creampuff/pushover/Weeble you are?
I guess I fall into the "creampuff" category, as I've done a decent amount of playtesting & have volunteered to do more.
Why, you ask? Well, I think there's probably a healthy dose of "I got to play it first" along with the whole "I helped build that" thing that happens when you walk into a game store & see something you had a hand in making better. In most cases, I playtest for friends - people I genuinely like & respect as designers - and so there's an element of "get by with a little help from my friends" vibe going on as well. (Yes, everyone may now spend the rest of the day humming various selections from "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" - but you get negative victory points for using any cover versions from the late 70's movie except Earth Wind & Fire's cover of "Gotta Get You Into My Life".)
I've been involved in a three different types of playtesting:
- the "let's see if this will work" phase
- the "try to break the game" phase
For the uninitiated, "blind playtesting" is where the designer gives or sends you a copy of the prototype & the rules and lets you try to learn the game on your own. It is, btw, an ESSENTIAL part of good game design that is too often neglected. (Hint: when many of the playtesters have the same last name as the designer and/or publisher, it probably hasn't been blind playtested.)
We had a lot of fun sending Ray Mulford bizarre e-mails about his "Everybody Limbo" when we discovered that our playing style was completely different than his original playtest group. (It, btw, is a neat card game - I wish someone would pick it up.)
More recently, I've been part of the early playtest waves for Rob Daviau's SeaFall... which I signed a NDA for (that's "Non-Disclosure Agreement"... and it's kind of unusual for board game playtesting, except in cases where secret-y things are happening.) In other words, I can't tell you any more about this soon-to-be-published game - but it's really, really awesome.
- the "tweak the little things" phase
As a final note, I will say that having your name printed in the rules is really cool. What's humorous is that while I've tested a number of games for Frank Branham, the only published game of his that has my name in the credits is Dia de los Muertos, which I only played once and that VERY late in the development. OTOH, I did a lot more work & play on the "Evil Geniuses" prototype (which became Nodwick: The Card Game) and my name's not anywhere on that one. I figure we can call it even.