Running Convention Playtests

Getting ready for GenCon I did my research as best I could and figured out how I was going to run my playtests. At the First Exposure Playtest Hall a designer gets a group of people for a 2 hour slot. My game plays in 30 minutes. Since I needed feedback on the rulebook I ran two different types of playtests, semi-blind and explained rules.



The idea behind the semi-blind playtest was to get feedback on the rulebook. I call it semi-blind because I was sitting there the whole time observing how they were reading and interpreting the rulebook. If they couldn’t figure something out, I was there to answer questions.


Explained rules

This is what most everyone does when playing a new game, one person has read the rules and is now explaining it to everyone else. Skipping the whole feedback on the rulebook.


My Playtest Plan

  • Always make sure I had my notepad when starting.
  • Start with a quick intro to the game (Back of box type description).
  • Either hand them the rulebook, or explain game play.
  • Observe as the do the game setup and getting started stuff; take notes.
  • Observe as they play the game; take notes.
  • Take notes on any feedback they gave, even if I didn’t agree with the idea.
  • At the end of play, offer them a feedback form where they can be anonymously honest.
  • They may also give verbal feedback, again take lots of notes.
  • Tell them they could sign-up for email on my iPad (MailChimp App).
  • Have business cards and info sheets for them to take.
  • If they were into the game/gave great feedback/or just awesome, I gave them a T-Shirt.
  • I would then thank them for their precious time and shake their hands.


Taking Notes:

The reason why I took notes no matter what was said, was it showed them that I cared about what they were saying. They then were more likely to give me more feedback, and hidden in some of those off idea’s were some real gems.

There will always be that one person that keeps giving you idea’s thinking they know better than you what your game is about, and that person usually doesn’t read body language at all. So they keep hammering away. Even then, I found some good nuggets that I may incorporate.


Feedback Form:

I had specific information I wanted to gather like their age. Their age was the most important thing after they filled out the form because it put into context the answers.  This is the feedback form that I used. It was based on the feedback forms UnPub uses. Make sure the feedback form is well thought out, and specific to your game and needs.


Hand Outs:

Most people took business cards as they are easy to carry. Just make sure you have enough information on them so they remember why they took it. On one side is the games cover and demographic information. On the other side is my company and contact info, with website and twitter account.

The info sheet was more like a sell sheet and gave a lot more information. Some people took them, but they probably weren't needed for the playtest groups. The were definitely a huge help when talking to publishers.



This was probably overkill, but I’ll tell you what, walking around the dealer hall and seeing my shirts on people was pretty damn cool!