In his article about vanity, Alex mentioned the importance of playtesting and acquiring useful information from playtests. In this article, I’ll give some examples from the recent open playtest of the next edition of Dungeons and Dragons and how the principles applied there carry over to strategy game design. While the goals in designing a roleplaying game aren’t the same as for making a board or card game, some of the lessons learned in the D&D Next playtest are valuable ones for all sorts of game design.
First, well designed games can (nearly) be played right out of the box. One of the key lessons that the design team learned was that players have certain pre-conceived notions about how a game ought to operate. In a strategy game, these ideas might be based on the game’s theme, its genre, or even its designer. Players might expect a game about empire building to reward controlling a large amount of territory on the board, or a game with colorful cards to contain a set collection mechanic, or a game by Stefan Feld to involve a menu of available actions based on rolling dice.