1839 external playtesting release

O’ tradition! (I released 1828 for playtesting over Christmas a few years back – might as well continue that pattern)

I’m now releasing the latest-ish draft of the 1839 rules and the game itself for (somewhat limited) open playtesting. Supported player-counts: 2-4. (Yep: 2)

What is (somewhat limited) open playtesting? Pretty simple really:

  • 1839 is currently only present on b17.kanga.nu (feel free to make an account), so all games will be played there.
  • I must be added/party to whatever chat/Discord/email/Hangout/Slack/etc communications venue is used for the game. If it is a realtime game and only voice chat is used, please still add me and I’ll listen in as I can (recordings or transcripts would be much appreciated – GoogleMeets are great for the latter).
  • Please copy me (retroactively and in summary is fine) on any subsequent or out-of-band conversation around the game.

Some caveats/guidelines:

  • I’m pretty happy with the design. No rules have changed for many games now. That doesn’t however mean that nothing will change.
    • The rules are still in flight as a document, but are and have been locked as to design/mechanisms etc.
  • However, this does not mean that there are no currently outstanding items. Specifically:
    • I suspect that there’s (precisely) one too many trains in the 4-player game (the problem is which rank as the one-too-many is spread across three ranks with each individually seeming JustRight). (No, I don’t yet know what if anything I’m going to do about this)
    • The 2-player game has had relatively little exercise (not none, but not a lot, not the 100+ plays the 3- and 4-player game got). If there is a gap in 2-player, I expect it will be in exact train-counts.
  • As any rules changes or clarifications happen, they’ll be announced on the 1838 entry on the Weather Forecast, much as I similarly did for 1828 a few years ago.
  • This does not include release of the PnP files for 1839. That will happen…probably next year.
    • As there’s been no tabletop play of the new 1839 yet, I’m still working token design, colour palettes and other visual elements of the tabletop presentation.
    • Which also means that while the artwork on B17 is functionally correct, cosmetic changes will be coming.

Present Arms

Guidelines, easily tested statements of principle for game presentation design:

  • The only decoration is structure.
  • Everything is equally visible & informative, otherwise absent.
  • No difference without distinction or distinction without difference.
  • Only assume competency.

I’ve come up with such lists before, but they’ve been verbose or numerous or not-so-easily-tested or not phrased in terms of principles etc. eg No distractions, everything presented at equal weight and visibility, no additional emphasis or suggestion anywhere, never ever help the player but also don’t ever get in their way, etc. The above seems better in accuracy, also application and testing against choices.

Playtesting Redux

What may playtesters of my games do or not do? Are there secrecy rules? Expectations that they’ll keep mum and only talk to me or my assigns? That they won’t talk to third parties or potential competition?

No, it is simpler than that. The game-teach and playtesting rules are simple: you can take and send pictures around freely, you can talk about the game freely – good or bad or ugly or indifferent is all fine – but you can only do those things where I can see/participate (tell me about it), and you can only play the game (at all) either with me or with my approval (so I can observe and respond).

My games are all under Creative Commons licenses, I keep no secrets here, but I mind the conversation.

An Own Goal

I’ve a liking for games where the lack of rules is a bigger problem than the rules that are present.

Which suggests an aspect of style: complex, entangled, compromised positions in which extrication/differentiation is frequently worse than remaining in the (?abusive/exploitative?) relationship.

Yeah, that seems good.