Aliens & Asteroids: The First Public Playtest, Pt 5

Over the last few posts, I’ve discussed how one two hour session went at Petrie’s Family Games as the first public playtest of Aliens & Asteroids. And honestly, I think it went really well. It went so well in fact, we’ve had three more playtest sessions with a variety of players (and John was in attendance at all of them).

Here are the posts:

In this post, I want to talk about some of the things I did differently in this playtest than in the ones I ran at home with my daughters and friends.

Going Old School

The first thing I want to say is there’s a definite difference between hastily sketched maps on dry erase boards and printing out a map with a grid and using minis. Using a dry erase board is very “Old School” to me — more “Theater of the Mind.” And it worked beautifully in this case. I drew an ugly map that got the point across without hauling a huge map board and a bunch of minis into Petrie’s Family Games.

In all the previous playtests, I used a map from the Meanders 2 Kickstarter that Kris McDermott put together a few months ago. It includes many cool science fiction maps, both with or without grids or hexes, and we used them quite easily to playtest the tactical aspects of Aliens & Asteroids.

What I have come to find out is that, though the fancy maps are nice, they’re not needed and may in fact slow down combat dramatically. I’m not saying that’s good or bad, just different. I suspect that A&A will be played just as much with squiggles on a quick map as it will with full scale, detailed maps with minis.

So that made me very happy, let me tell you!

This  is a far cry from this!  But both will work beautifully.

More Specifics

The other thing that became very obvious was I needed more examples of how to actually use the system mechanics. In the very next session, I started pulling that together in fact — a cheat sheet that included a list of the different rolls and how target numbers worked, as well as examples of how to use the various attributes to attempt different activities in the game. Everything from shooting a gun to hacking a computer was covered.

And we’ll definitely need to go into a lot more detail about how the trait “trees” work and drones should be built, to answer more questions right off the bat.

This is definitely still a playtest, even though we’re finalizing things for a Kickstarter in October. And as we tidy things up, we’ll have to keep these things in mind.

A Successful First Session

As I said in the last post however, I considered this a success. Let me go into the points why I think that’s the case:

  • I had at least one player show up.
  • We were able not only to cover a bit about the game and what it’s about, but create a character and get through an entire mission in less than 2 hours.
  • Though I didn’t get much feedback from my player at the time, I learned several things that need to be cleaned up or reworked so that they’re a little easier to grok right off the bat.
  • Testing using a simple dry-erase board rather than a map and minis worked fantastic.
  • The player said he’d probably come back the next week to play some more.
  • And we had fun.

Mission accomplished. Now, the next few sessions had their ups and downs, but we continued to learn how things worked and tighten things up a bit, so stay tuned for the next wave of posts for sessions 2-4 and beyond!

Thanks for reading!

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