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This is a blog following the development of new analog and digital games. 

Bragging Rights: Playtests and Rules feedback

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I've spent the last few weeks organising playtests with friends and friends of friends to get some more feedback on Bragging Rights. Especially regarding the rule book which we're writing/editing at the moment. 

1. People try not to read rule books

Our rule book is split as follows: Game Story, Components, Setup, Storytelling, Swapping, Challenges, Winning.

I find having the components and setup near the start is always good for people returning to the game but over the playtests I've found an interesting problem. A lot of players open the rule book, do the setup as they read then try to start playing with reading about the core mechanics of the game i.e. Storytelling, Swapping and Challenges.

2. People really try to avoid reading

Even when a group agrees to read a rule book the chances of them getting a page or two in then deciding to go it alone are pretty high. Because of this I'm looking to shorten our rules a bit... but I'm not sure where the line between coherence and less reading is. As it stands, when players read the rules they can play the game with no problem. So the rules are descriptive enough to get the points across. Paring them down is going to be hard.

3. Make sure jokes are obvious

We have a jokey tie breaker in the game. This seems to cause a lot of confusion with some people. Generally half the group seem to realise it's a joke, the others just get confused. The result of this is we're gonna have to make it more obviously ridiculous, which isn't necessarily bad, but wasn't something I thought we'd have trouble with.

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4. Highlight sections

Bragging Rights has a slightly odd turn order. The story telling goes clockwise, with the first player order goes anti-clockwise. I thought this would be an issue in the beginning and I was right. I'm pretty sure it'll be fixed by having a  highlighted hint box in the rules to draw attention to it, especially when people look for the information during play.

5. Use illustrations where possible

We used as many illustrations as we could think of in the instructions but it seems like it wasn't enough. This ties into points 1 and 2, people hate having to read things, so pictures are a great shorthand. The only problem is you can lose a lot of detailed information in them. Especially when discussing a narrative and social based game. But we'll see what additions we can make for the future.

6. People really like the character cards

When we first started playtesting Bragging Rights we didn't use any character cards. We focused on the narrative building and interaction mechanics and figured the characters would be kind of flavour text to help with story creation. We were so wrong. People love the characters. Every group that's played bee lines straight for the character cards. (They're described as optional in the rules.) And everyone seems to love weaving their personal pros and cons into the story. It's unexpected but awesome. 

7. Never leave anything out

After a challenge, it's stated the the other players vote on a winner. I thought "other" would suffice to say the challenger and defender couldn't vote, but this has been brought up multiple times with players asking if they can vote for themselves. I really should have seen this coming, but in the final draft we'll have an example of who can and can't vote.

A lot of these points are extensions on well know rule writing advice, but it's always interesting to see them happen in real life. Knowing that people don't like reading and seeing groups actively avoid it like kids trying to ditch some homework are two pretty different things. It also helps to know what priority to give advice for your given game. Depending on what your game's about and who your audience are, some of the general rules advice might not work too well. A lot of this advice is, as always, aimed at mid to hard core game players. When making a causal to mid level game, the styles of explanations need to be a bit different. I'm a proponent of never using game terms in books (like trick taking, hidden roles, card draft) because a lot of people aren't familiar with the terms, even if they know the mechanic. It's compounded when making games that should be accessible to a non-games audience. Something as simple as a play pile might be confusing if it isn't explained properly.

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