Thursday, 25 April 2019

As we're in the final stages of the current project, here's a few great deals to get your weekend full of gaming.

Renegade Scout - our premier Rogue Trader revival game is available for only 9.99

That's 150 pages of hardcore gaming content, extensively illustrated and well regarded by oldhammer reviewers.

If you like to do things yourself, or want to play together with your friends instead of against them, you can grab either Five Parsecs From Home or Five Leagues from the Borderlands for 5 bucks a pop.

Build a crew, go adventuring, fight bad guys, level up, get loot, all the stuff we like to do and written to be as solo-friendly as possible.

Don't forget we have several bundle deals as well.

Did you know you can buy a bundle if you own some of the products already and you will just pay the discounted price for what you don't own?

If you already got into some of our Five Parsecs titles, you could for example grab our Solo Games bundle

and round out your collection.

Monday, 22 April 2019

Playtesting. What you think you need vs what you actually need

We've all bought books that boasted of YEARS of playtesting on the back of the book.

I'm going to contend that playtesting is not a linear progression or a progress bar in an RPG. More isn't better. Better is better.

Let's dive in.

This goes for board games, card games, miniatures games, roleplaying games, probably all manner of other stuff too.

There's a few different things you can do that I would fit under "testing" all of which has varying amounts of value.

* Casual reading

This is the most basic level: Have other people read your game and tell you what they think.

This is good for providing a basic gut-level "does this look cool?" impression.
However, it rarely provides substantial feedback.
If you are soliciting feedback from random strangers, you have no idea if they are crazy and most will be incapable of providing the kind of mechanical insights you need.

Get a little bit of this, but don't rely on it.

* Critical reading

A line by line reading of the text with an eye towards rules that aren't explained well, references that aren't repeated, etc.

This requires a person with attention to detail and an understanding of game mechanics.

You need at least one person doing this.

* Proof reading

A thorough read aimed at catching typos, wrong words, grammatical problems etc.
This is best done by someone with experience in editing, but reasonable results can be obtained if you have a few people go through the text.

You need at least one person doing this.

* Math testing

Sitting down with dice and a calculator and crunching the numbers.
How likely is an attack to hit? How many attacks will destroy their target? If X amount of troops fire, what is the expected outcome? What are the best and worst case scenarios?

This often leaves out the "soft" factors that happen on a gaming table (for example a unit is often not able to fire in every turn of a battle) but can be invaluable in establishing the base lines for how the system is going to function.

Just remember that theoretical effectiveness is always higher than actual effectiveness (miniatures units have blocked lines of sight or are forced to redeploy, RPG characters take non-combat actions etc.)

This will save you a ton of time and ensure you have a sound basis for your game.

* Personal play test

Play testing done personally by the writer.
This is often solo or with personal friends.

This is the initial "Crash test" to figure out if the game works at all.
Beyond one or two games, this is a diminishing return because you already know how everything is /supposed/ to work.

* Directed play test

Play testing set up by the creator (or a close associate) but with people who aren't inherently in your play group. A club or store game f.x.

Pay close attention to what rules the group internalizes quickly vs what rules they keep struggling with or flat out forgetting.
What rules do they get excited about? What parts do they protest?

Try to let the game "run itself" as much as possible.
Is your reference sheet enough to let them play through a few turns?

* Blind play test

The gold standard:

A group plays the game without you being there to tell them what to do.

This is where the real play testing happens: Your future customer will not have you present to explain exactly what that rule means. Your text needs to stand on its own feet.

To be of value of course you need a group that is willing to provide feedback in detail, isn't afraid to interpret how they think things should work if the rules aren't clear and explain that to you.

This also means you need to take it in stride. They might hate your game. They might do it wrong. They might love it BECAUSE they did it wrong.
You want to write games for people, you gotta play in the big boy/girl/robot/non-binary leagues and take your lumps.

* * * * *
So now that we know the ways you can put your design through the paces, what should you focus on?

First and foremost get feedback. Any feedback.
If you are an unknown, that can be hard. The gaming hobby is full of "idea guys" and you have to convince them that your idea is better than the 100 other guys who just re-invented D&D but with different hats.

It can help to put out a beta version. Make it clear it's a work in progress. Make it substantial enough to be a game in its own right and put it up for download.
People love the idea of a game they can help influence.

If nobody bites when you put it on a forum, put it on rpgnow and charge a dollar or make it PWYW:
The capitalist priesthood teaches us that only things that cost money have value.

Once you have people's attention, look at the feedback you get.
Some will be people who just casually read through it and will give you the equivalent of "this sucks" or "this is cool". Those are a handy barometer but aren't really that useful to go anywhere.

Look for and listen for the people who put in the effort to read it in detail. Who asks questions about that optional rule on page 34, who says "we tried this over the weekend and had some questions".
There's a lot of nerds out there who love doing this stuff and play testing is a skill just as well as writing is.

Some of the people will be crazy.
Some will convince themselves that your game would be PERFECT for [insert concept here that you have no interest in].
Don't argue, just politely thank them and move on.

Ultimately, what you want is the blind play test:
Each game played by a decent group that you are NOT a part of is worth 10 games you put on yourself.

* * * * *
So why does the book say "playtested for a decade" and you found 5 mistakes and a rule thats outright broken?

Because what they mean is usually "the author and his group played this twice a month for years and they already knew how everything is supposed to work".
The authors copy has "+2 for cover" pencilled in the margins but it never made it to the final version you just paid 50 dollars for.

Even blind playtesters can't always catch everything.
Some options don't get tested.
A particular character weapon+ability combo may simply never have come up.
RPG playtesting is notoriously difficult, because 90% of an RPG session tends to have nothing to do with the game system at all.

A group may have playtested your RPG for months and provided good feedback, but their campaign didn't involve [thing] that the problem exists with, so it never came up.

Playtesting seriously often means ensuring that situations happen that won't do so in a conventional game.
Launch a charge, just so you can see the close combat system.
Try to persuade the orc villain.
Level up in a strange way.
Try having both sides dig in their forces and shoot it out, instead of marching on the objective.

You have to be willing to push the boundaries of the system to find out if the boundaries even work at all.

* * * * *

I hope this helps a little bit with getting better testing for your games.

Let me know what you think and what your own experiences offer.

Good luck out there.

Saturday, 20 April 2019

I'd just like to say "welcome aboard" the entire glossy book gaming industry for finally catching up to warband-level gaming.

2 years ago, it was the province of the likes of 5150, In the Emperor's Name and the stuff I write.

Now, it seems every 7 minutes a big company announces a new warband-level game with exp advancement and this and that.
Glossy kickstarters with miniatures too. Even GW is getting back in the game, realizing that half the reason all those games popped up is because they stopped publishing Necromunda and Inquisitor.

Which means the time before the market gets choked on that particular idea is also counting down fast.

What's the next trend going to be?

Saturday, 13 April 2019

Weasel news

Cheers gamers.
It's been a while since I've posted anything new, so after a kind reminder I thought I'd take the time to lay out the situation with Nordic Weasel Games, where we are and where we're headed.

I don't want to delve into too much detail, because well, you're here to hear about gaming, not my pity-parade, but in short order we ended up having to find a new place to live on very short notice, my wife having to switch jobs and drop her classes, the kid changing schools, changes to health insurance and general economic insecurity.

Basically, anything that could change did, over the course of like 2 months, in the middle of a snow storm.

So that kind of knocked the wind out of us for a while and there's still some major uncertainties facing us going forward.
For one, since our old landlord tried to evict us, even though it was dismissed in court, the fact that it's on our record might make renting more difficult in the future.

The good news is that we're back on our feet in general and the stress levels have decreased.

Throughout the process, we had a small horde of incredibly generous people step in to help us out, which allowed us to get through the move and come out on the other side.
Some were close friends, some were people I knew online, some were just random strangers and gamer dudes.

I'd put out a list with thank you's, but I don't know if people want their names known, so I decided not to.

Just know that there were a lot of you, and you reduced both of us to tears on several occasions with your selfless generosity.

It's incredibly humbling to realize that when the world goes to shit, you have people out there looking out for you.

* * * * *

So on to the gaming talk then!

If you didn't get the email notification, we're creeping back into the game with the expansion pack for Trench Hammer (and October Hammer, it's sister). 

As usual, this is a pack of alternate rules, options, new units and other goodies to help spice up your games and help you set up a wider range of scenarios, including more support for Eastern front and early war battles.

Some of the ideas are culled from Hammer of Democracy which leads us to:

* * * * *

Hammer of Democracy has been delayed out longer than I felt comfortable with.
I guess since the campaign didn't fund fully, everyone was expecting it to be slower but I still feel bad about it since fast turn-around times is one of the things I pride myself on.

On top of that, as with any project of that size, re-writes and adjustments happen.
The original approach to army building was far too convoluted and impenetrable to be workable, so that had to go back on the drawing board.

There's still an open question whether we'll have a formula for calculating points values or if they'll be eye-balled.

A few players have mentioned that rather than a giant list of obscure vehicles, they'd prefer an okay list of vehicles and then a system to be able to calculate "this gun plus this hull" similar to how the old WRG rules did it.

As a positive, a lot more playtest feedback has come in during these few months, which should help ensure the game be as good as possible.

What does all that add up to?

Hammer of Democracy will be next and it will hopefully not be too much longer.
If you have final thoughts before "feature lock", now is the time to hit em up.

* * * * *
The Squad Hammer Toolkit will follow after that. We're about three quarters done I'd say, but once it's a bit closer, I'll start providing it to some of the inner circle and the hardcore *Hammer players, so they can kick the tires a bit before we release it.

I think it will basically allow you to upgrade/replace/exchange/tweak almost any aspect of the game to your liking.

* * * * *
Finally on the Hammer front, we're at the goal for the Squad Hammer license so thats exciting.

I am reviewing some similar licenses online to try and find out how to do this practically, and what exactly will be included in it and what will not.

More on that later.

Once we're through all this, the attention will turn to providing updates for some older products, but I'll talk about that when we get there.