This weekend I'm at the GameStorm boardgame convention, ostensibly in Oregon but actually just over the border in Vancouver Washington. For me the high points so far have been seeing my in-laws (Joan is an avid gamer), gaming with my design buddy Seth Jaffee, and presenting Hammer and Spike.
GameStorm has a "GameLab" track for game designers and playtesters. I got an appointment to present Hammer and Spike to a panel of local game publishers, not so much in hopes of getting it published but in order to get feedback on the game and its presentation. It was a good session, maybe 20 to 30 minutes. I got good advice and answers to a few questions I had about the industry. (For example, I learned that the game duration shown on a game's box is for new players, not experienced ones! I didn't know that.) There wasn't time to play the game so the panel doesn't really know if a game is any good. But they were impressed with what they saw, which was very gratifying; and I got invited to bring Hammer and Spike to an invitation-only playtest session on Sunday (tomorrow, as I write this) for the best of the games they have reviewed this weekend.
I had one informal playtest yesterday with Seth, his friend Jeremy, Joan, and myself. It went well, but we all agreed that it went too long. I currently set the game at a constant 20 rounds, but the game was definitely "over" after 17 or 18 rounds. This is a point I've been dithering over, and I now think that 20 really is probably too many. I'm going to try 18 for a while: a bigger cut than it sounds like, since the last rounds are analysis-paralysis festivals and take way longer than earlier rounds. I still want a typical game to come in at 2 hours or less.
It's now Saturday morning, and I'm looking forward to playing some of Seth's designs: Terra Prime, Homesteaders, and/or Brain Freeze. I played Terra Prime two years ago and I'm eager to see the changes he's made since then. Homesteaders (designed by Alex Rockwell, but Seth helped with development) and Brain Freeze are games I haven't played yet, and I'm eager to see them.
I'll update this post with a few links later on, but right now it's time to gather our aggies and head for the con. Game on!
P.S. Saturday evening—I've added those links, and here's another: Seth's GameStorm reports.