Diary #33 – Protospiel

76686366_10159019106134377_7832416959302991872_oA convention for designers and playtesters: it may sound like the work of the Birmingham Game Designers, but the UK’s first Protospiel was actually the brain child of Chris Kingsnorth. As dawn broke on a cold November morning I hopped in car with the Dranda Boys and sped off to Nottingham’s Hilton Hotel (interiors the image of Birmingham’s, for those who know the Expo).

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Garry Powell

The keynote address, by designer and consultant James Wallis, was on eight pitfalls of board game design (failing to choose a target audience is my worst). After that we broke out into small groups for “reciprocal playtesting”: taking turns to playtest each others’ games. Space, time and resources for the hundred or so attendees were generously provided. There was a very supportive atmosphere, in Chris’ own words: “no designer owned their table”.

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Stephen Fleetwood-Joyce

I received some useful feedback on my prototype, but this wasn’t really my focus: I wanted to meet people, play interesting games and raise the profile of Birmingham’s playtesting scene. My highlights included a many-jointed, 3D printed octopus; three teddies climbing a pillow mountain and fighting robots on wooden sliders. One game was sold to me as a historical civilisation game: I was pleasantly surprised, on my return from a toilet break, to find our bronze-age nations had been joined by an army of zombies.

I was, once again, let down by my gaming stamina: after just three playtests I was tired and hot (although the latter may have been due to my excessive cosplay). I nevertheless felt totally in my element and cannot wait for the next one. Simon, Ayden and I swapped stories of the day on our rainy journey home. Birmingham is a city of Bashes, Jams*, Spotlights and RPG Testing but not, I suspect, Protospiels. Hats off to Chris and the team: you did this right.

*Hit “previous” to find out what a Jam is.

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