Friday, October 11, 2013

What To Ask On a Blind Play Tester Feedback Form?

My game Post Position is traveling across the country so playtesters can test the written rules for the game.  Players will be participating in a blind playtest - learning and playing the game with just the rulebook.  Usually after a game I get feedback on that specific game through conversation with other players, and some written reviews.  Without being present to observe, I need a feedback form that lets me know how well the group understood and implemented the rules. 

To help construct a good feedback form I am breaking down some of the questions on my form and explaining why I think I should ask them.  The word think is underlined because I do not know yet how well my form will work. I will write a follow-up blog later this year on how well each question worked.

There are many good feedback forms other folks have already put together.  UNPUB has a very good standard form they use at all of their game testing events.  The challenge is the UNPUB form is used at UNPUB events where the designer is personally teaching the rules to the player...aka not a blind play test. 

Also, the UNPUB form is used in situations where you can watch the play testers play the game.  So I need a feedback form that really tries to capture what actually took place within the game. These are the questions I think will tell me if the rules are working. 

Feedback From Questions

Were you able to play the game?
Silly? I think not.  The whole purpose of sending the game out to people who have never played the game before is to learn if they can play the game using just the rule book.  You pray the answer to the first question is some sort of yes, otherwise you can stop reading the survey at this point and start burning your current rule book so you can start over.

How long did it take you to learn the game?
Just because someone learned the game did not mean they learned it in a fast enough time for other people to enjoy it.  For example, I love the game Diplomacy, but I spent over 4 hours learning how to play the game with my high school friends.  If we were not dedicated board gamers then there was no way we would have the patience to spend so much time to learn to play the game.  (I know, you are rolling your eyes because only dedicated board gamers know of the game, yet alone consider playing it).

In your own words summarize how to play Post Position?
"Wait," you say, "didn't you already ask them if they learned to play the game?  Why do you need to ask them to summarize how to play the game?"  Just because they think they learned to play the game does not mean they actually learned to play the game I designed.  I am not there to see them play it, so I need to find questions that will reveal to me how they actually played the game.

What was your mood before learning the rules?  What was your mood after learning the rules?
Yes, I am asking questions about emotional stuff.  Why, because I want to gauge how emotional wearing it was to learn the rules.  Rules not only exist to make sure everyone keeps in line when they play the game, rules exist to entice people to want to play the game.  If my rules drains the fun out of the room there is a decent chance that the game goes back into the box before a single horse moves along the race track. 

What was the hardest rule to learn and why?
Notice I assume that a rule was hard to learn.  This will bias their answer to find a rule that was hard.  I am ok with this because no matter what they will identify the most frustrating rule explanation in the rule set.  Odds are improving that one rule will by itself make people much happier with your rule set.

Did the graphics make it easier to learn the rules?  Please explain why or why not.
Post Position includes some graphics to help explain the game.  That said, we need to know if the graphic made it easier to learn to play or just created more confusion.  I ask why or why not because it creates another opportunity to let me know if they created their own house variant of the game or if they actually learn to play the game I intended to teach them with the parchment in the game box.

Did you understand the rules better after finishing your first game?
Some people learn by doing versus reading.  Everyone has a friend who never reads the rules and relies on someone who knows the game to teach them.  I want to find out if those who could read the rules were able to teach the other players how to play by playing the game with them.

How comfortable would you feel teaching someone else the game, why?
Confidence in your ability to teach the game is a measurement in how much you think you know about the game.  I ask why because it tells me which part of the game they are the least comfortable with.

Describe what strategies worked or didn't work for you in the game?
I find it a good idea to ask the same question in a different form.  Details may come out that helps clarify players answers on previous questions.  By describing in this question what strategy did or did not work for the player they are also describing the rules of the game they used when they played.


So are these the only set of questions that you should be asking?  No, you should also include a number of the standard questions found on the UNPUB game review form.  Do you like the game?  What was your least favorite part of this game? etc.

And now we wait.  You wait to see if my forms succeeded to illicit useful feedback. I wait to see if Post Position's rulebook needs minor tweaks or a trip to my fireplace.

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