Theseus – or why I am worst tester ever

First version of Theseus was ready very quickly. Michal told me about his idea and he began design different locations and cards. He is good at this stuff and he was working fast and efficient…

I, on the other hand, got this simple idea with Mancala rules – few days earlier I player Trajan and I really liked this ‘mancala wheel’ there but in my opinion it lacked something. It lacked interaction. When thinking about space station for Theseus I got this cool idea – we take mancala wheel from Trajan, but we change it a little bit – we make every pawn matter – no matter mine or yours – each pawn changes number of spaces you can move from this location.

I showed it to Michal. It worked perfect. In a few days Theseus was basically ready…

***

For the next few weeks we were playing Theseus every Wednesday. I was giving Michal my suggestions, asking him to change things, I was looking for best game play, tweaking in the game and every week he got long list of changes I want him to put into game.

From my point of view we were doing great.

Unfortunately, it was only my point of view…

***

The thing I did not realized at that time was that Michal is not used to work in this way. For me it was damn obvious cycle, my daytime practice – change this, change that, move back, don’t change this, but change that in different way, remove special cards, add special cards, try to shorten game, try to make it longer… 

This is how I work. I play and I test, I play and I look what’s best. I am not wise ass. I don’t know all best solutions from the very beginning. I am testing animal. I play and I play, and I change things as many times as needed till the moment I feel that this is it.

For me all the changes, moving back and forth was fun. For Michal it was not fun at all. Every single week he was closer and closer to loose temper.

So one Wednesday…

***

It was just another testing Wednesday. But Michal that day looked strange. He was damn serious. He sat, put prototype on the table and before he set up the game, he said something like that:

‘I think we are not moving forward. This is pointless. We play and change the game and nothing works. I did some changes, but if you don’t like it today I think I will abandon this project.’

Woow. That was shocking. For the past few weeks I had great time exploring different possible variants of the game and now what?! Abandon? Not moving forward? WTF?

‘What do you mean?’ I asked.

‘Let’s play. If you don’t like it again, we will talk and we will have to make decision…’

OK, that was kind of a shock. I didn’t expect that coming.

So we play. I am quite nervous. It was to be fun afternoon. But it isn’t! Michal is damn serious. I feel like I am playing with Christopher Walken. It’s not cool!

***

I don’t know how it was possible. Was it because of terror Michal introduced at the beginning? Was it because of the fact he spent countless hours on this new version? Was it just because everything finally clicked and jumped in right places…? I don’t know. The fact is – that afternoon Theseus was working damn good. I really liked it. 

I told that to Michal. He took prototype and continued his work.

I am not sure what would happen if I suggested him another portion of changes. His acting that Wednesday was only a bluff or he really was standing against the wall and had enough of my contrary suggestions of changes…

We will never know…

***

We argued a lot for the 12 months. We had many serious and bloody fights with me accusing Michal that he has no idea about design and with him accusing me that I had no idea about strategy… Fights with me explaining him that one faction is weaker and with him kicking my ass playing that very faction. Fights with me telling him that game is too fiddly and with him asking me if I have – by any chance – played Robinson Crusoe… 

We were struggling for every single card. We were struggling for every single rule. It was a one year war.

Both of us loved the game. Both of us wanted to do our best and make this game better. Michal was an author – he had full authority to do any changes he wanted. I was publisher and his friend and his loyal tester – I felt I had full authority to suggest him any changes I wanted.

So we both struggled.

***

Game is ready. War is over. I can say I was the worst tester ever. I was doing exact the thing I hate when my testers do. I was suggesting new rules, I was trying to influence the author, I was pushing my ideas and trying to make Theseus mine game. I was terrible.

If I had such a tester I would kick him off after two test games.

Michal was patient. He fight with me for a year. He kept ignoring most of my ideas and he was doing his job. He made this game the way he wanted.

Conclusion?

Never ever invite me for testing. And check out Theseus. Amazing game, even though most of my brilliant ideas Michal threw to the bin…

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