It was late July 2009. Stronghold was ready. I had scheduled few more test games to test icons and overall functionality of the board but basically I was close to finish this project.
It is Saturday night. We are at my friend’s house and I ask them to play Stronghold prototype. I set up the game, Bogas is defender, Salou is attacker. I watch.
We are in the first phase of the first round when something happens. Something I was not prepared for. Something I was not expecting.
Salou looks at cards with actions. Then he looks at me and says: ‘I don’t like these icons. I don’t get them. Fuck them.’ and he takes all his cards and throws away. ‘I will play only Dispatch action today.’ he says.
‘What?!’ I am more than in shock. ‘What are you going to do? Dispatch only?!’
‘I don’t build machines, I don’t train people, I don’t do spells. I just march towards the walls.’ he says and begins to play.
30 minutes later he enters the castle and wins the game with a smile on his face. ‘Have I just found winning strategy?’ he asks.
‘You must be fucking kidding me.’ I say . ‘You guys play again’ I order.
And as a side note – Bogas, player who was defending the castle was one of my best testers, one of the best players in my gaming group. I was devastated. Bogas was pissed off. He was doing his best, and yet, Salou’s army just walked into the castle…
So we play again. Salou is attacking without any other actions than Dispatch. Bogas is defending. I help him. In a fact we work together to stop this bloody army.
In 40 minutes we fail. Salou wins again. He is happy as a kid.
I take prototype and go home. I don’t sleep. I correct the game. Next day I play again with Salou. I loose again. I tweaks prototype again. And again. And again.
Finally it is fixed. Just few weeks before the game is in print…
This story is a great example of 4th type of testers and testing. The crazy ones. The ones who act ridiculously. Who do something stupid, and yet, are able to shake the game.
My best tester in this category is Michał Oracz. He tests most unbelievable ways of playing the game. He looks for not straightforward strategies. He looks for holes in my system. He is damn good at this.
We designers and publishers need crazy ones among testers. If we don’t have them, we will read at BGG about one tiny hole in the game that let’s you earn 100 points just from nothing…
These are those 4 types of testers I have. These are 4 phases of testing I do. I hope you enjoyed this mini series and it showed you that testing games is not just sitting with friends and playing for fun. This is work, this is very organized work, with different phases, with managing people and different goals at different phases of process.
Keep testing games. This is damn important.