Designing an Effective Survey for Playtest Feedback on Your Board Game

Refine your board game design through effective playtest feedback. Craft insightful questions and gather valuable insights for an outstanding campaign journey.

Cosma Zhang

May 23, 2023

In the board game design process, playtesting holds immense significance. It enables you to refine your game and ensure its readiness for a compelling crowdfunding campaign. You can gather invaluable insights by approaching this phase strategically and embracing an open mindset. These insights will help you create an enjoyable game that generates excitement among backers when you eventually launch your project on Kickstarter.

The Three Phases of Playtesting: A Comprehensive Guide

Embarking on the playtesting journey at the earliest opportunity, even with a rudimentary handmade prototype, is vital. Throughout this process, you will encounter different forms and stages of playtesting, each contributing to the evolution of your game in exciting and potentially transformative ways. Therefore, it is crucial to initiate this process promptly.

Phase 1: Internal Playtesting

Internal playtesting encompasses both solo playtesting and involving your close circle of friends, family, and collaborators. When conducting solo playtesting, focus on key factors like playing time and ensuring smooth gameplay before expanding to a wider audience.

After addressing any issues during solo playtesting, it's time to share your game with those close to you. While this group may provide more positive feedback than constructive criticism, the main objective is to gain experience in presenting your game and prepare for future playtesting sessions with new participants. It's a valuable opportunity to hone your skills and refine your game for wider exploration.

Phase 2: Community Playtesting 

Community playtesting involves introducing your game to new faces, often individuals you've met through board game or tabletop meetups, playtesting events, or conventions. During this exciting phase, you take on the role of a guide, leading players through the game and ensuring a smooth and enjoyable experience. Should any confusion arise or adjustments be required, you'll be there to provide helpful clarifications or make quick on-the-spot modifications, ensuring the game flows seamlessly. As this stage draws to a close, you'll have crafted an initial version of your rulebook, laying the foundation for further improvements.

Phase 3: Blind Playtesting 

Blind playtesting can be perceived as the most challenging yet invaluable phase of the entire playtesting process. During this stage, you will share your game with playtesters without the ability to intervene or provide guidance if issues arise. Instead, you will present your game along with the rulebook and observe the players' experience.

The feedback gathered during blind playtests serves as a vital resource for improving your rulebook. While it is essential to assess how the game functions, your primary focus should also be on evaluating its intuitiveness and the clarity of the rules. This phase allows you to determine if the game is easily understood by players without external assistance.

Gathering Valuable Insights: Embrace the Power of Feedback

When you pour your heart and soul into designing your own board game, it can feel daunting to expose your creation to others. What if they don't appreciate your game? What if they uncover major flaws that require a complete overhaul? Such thoughts can be intimidating, but don't let them paralyze you. Without feedback, your game won't reach its full potential.

Remain open-minded and receptive to feedback, whether it's positive, negative, or constructive. Approach playtests confidently, setting the stage by communicating the expected duration and whether participants will engage in the full game or focus on specific aspects. As the playtests unfold, be a keen observer, a diligent listener, and an avid note-taker. It's natural to experience moments of frustration or find specific criticisms challenging to digest. However, it's important to remember that every bit of knowledge gained will contribute to enhancing your game in some way.

Let the pursuit of growth be your guiding principle as you absorb the insights. Every lesson learned, no matter how difficult, will bring you closer to refining your game and making it truly outstanding. Embrace the power of feedback, as it holds the key to unlocking the full potential of your board game creation.

Crafting Effective Questions for Playtest Feedback

While the ultimate goal of your board game is to provide fun and entertainment, simply asking playtesters if they enjoyed playing is not particularly informative. A generic comment like "The game wasn't fun" won't help you refine the game's design or generate new ideas. To gather valuable insights, you need to delve deeper into their experiences. What specifically wasn't enjoyable? Was there something difficult to understand? Did any elements take away from the overall game experience?

While taking notes during playtests is essential, the most effective way to collect specific feedback is by providing playtesters with a dedicated feedback form. Consider incorporating the following questions:

  1. What aspects of the game did you enjoy the most?
  2. What aspects of the game did you dislike?
  3. Can you recall the most enjoyable moment during the game?
  4. Can you recall the most frustrating moment during the game?
  5. Did you find the game's theme enjoyable? Please elaborate on why or why not.
  6. Did you find the game's art style appealing? Please elaborate on why or why not.
  7. Were there any rules that you found confusing?
  8. Did you feel the overall game duration was too short, too long, or just right?

Ensure that your playtest feedback form is concise and doesn't overwhelm participants. Limit the number of questions to 3-5 and keep them consistent across different playtest sessions to identify patterns effectively. While it's important to practice, avoid asking leading questions that may influence desired responses. Your role is to create a comfortable environment where playtesters feel empowered to provide honest and comprehensive feedback.

Perfecting Your Board Game

As you are surrounded by stacks of feedback forms and your own notes, you may wonder how to weave all this valuable input into your game. Rest assured, and you don't have to incorporate every single suggestion. This journey hasn't been in vain; it's simply a matter of discerning which feedback holds the most relevance.

Remember, understanding your audience is key. When assessing the comments, consider whether they come from individuals who would genuinely be interested in purchasing your game. This context holds great significance.

If someone outside your ideal backer profile expresses dissatisfaction with your game, it doesn't necessarily mean you need to overhaul its design to please them. Instead, focus on identifying recurring patterns in the feedback. Is there a consistent point of confusion in your rulebook that deserves further exploration?

And now, let's talk about knowing when to put the finishing touches on your board game. While some advocate for running 30 playtests or even 100, there's no specific number to reach. Ultimately, trust your instincts and observe if your game smoothly unfolds during playtests, with fewer questions arising. Pay attention to the resounding joy expressed by playtesters during the blind playtesting phase. These heartfelt indications will guide you toward finalizing your game and preparing for the next step – reaching out to a manufacturer.

Embrace this transformative process, and let the shared experiences guide you toward creating a board game that will ignite excitement, joy, and a unique sense of camaraderie among players.