A 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).
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”.
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.