This past weekend, Bill and I went to our favourite annual event, ProtoTO! This board game prototype and designers convention gets bigger every year, and we love it. Designers from all over come with the games they are working on to try them out with other designers and playtesters to get feedback and ideas to help improve them. The designers bring prototypes at all levels of completion, from almost ready, covered with near-finalized art work and solid mechanics, to those that they thought up recently and just wrote out some cards and hand-drew a board.
But this isn’t just a place for designers. The event wouldn’t be as successful without all the people who sign up to be playtesters and come in to try brand new, unreleased games and give their feedback and opinions on the experience of playing the designers’ games. If you think that you wouldn’t go to ProtoTO because you haven’t designed a game to bring, then think again! They would love to have you there, and I think you’d have a great time there!
We arrived Friday evening and set up our games for the showcase. This is where designers put out their games on tables, and then they and playtesters walk around looking at the games to decide which ones they would like to try over the next couple of days. Unfortunately, there isn’t time to play all of them, (because there are so many interesting-looking games!), so attendees write down the ones they’d like to play, and the time slot in which those will be played, and sort of develop their own weekend timetable.
That evening we ran into some old friends from previous events, and made some new friends pretty quickly. It’s that kind of event! We saw Tigh Tiefenbach who had his game Dice Heist, which we got to play at Protospiel North. We didn’t get to play it this weekend, but we did play it at Protospiel North, which you can read about here.
Since we arrived before the showcases were to be set up, we wandered around and looked at some of the other games that people were already playing in the open gaming time. I was immediately drawn to a table that had games I recognized… it had On Pointe and King of Indecision on it! This was the Analog Game Studios table, but I didn’t see owner Richard MacRae nearby. (It turns out he was attending the talk that was going on in the next room.) As Bill and I were standing there, other people approached, so we told them about King of Indecision, and how good it was, and how it was a finalist for the Canadian Board Game Awards, (as was On Pointe), and was currently on Kickstarter. People assumed that this was our table, but we had to tell them that we were just, in fact, big fans. Seriously, this game is really fun. Go and back it on Kickstarter!
After, though, they did ask about our games, and we sat down and had a great game of Mathemagician’s Duel, which they very much enjoyed.
We were also reunited from Protospiel North with Brad Bachelor, whose game we did get to play (more about that later), and Clay and Calder Holmes of Homeward Games, who brought their games Re-Action, and Invitation. Re-Action was another one that we played at Protospiel North. They joined us that evening for the first ever 4-player game of Sinoda! I finished last, without losing a single one of my pieces!
I decided that there were to many interesting games to make a plan to go see, so I would just go in Saturday morning and see which table needed an extra player. But then I saw that Sean Calligan of Flippant Games was going to be there with his game Reckless Overdrive! I played this previously (but can’t now for life of me remember if it was at an earlier ProtoTO or a Snakes & Lattes), and since Sean told me he had made some changes, I wanted to see how it played now. I liked it before, but it’s even better now!
I played the same character I played the first time I played this game, in which I finished in last place. But I got to be purple, so that was good. In this game characters race around the track, trying to be in first place at the end of the last leg (round). Each leg has a different terrain type (turn, straight, offroad, etc.), and each character has a rating for each of these features. The track features are drawn randomly, so it will be different each time you play. The track itself serves more as a scoreboard to see your relative positions. On your turn you choose which speed you want to go (how many spaces you move), and a “driving style” for that turn. This might be “attack”, which causes damage to the racers closest to you, “dodge” which makes to immune to attack damage for that turn, “boost”, which gives you an additional 50 movement, “item”, which lets you use an item you have picked up, or “special”, which is your character’s specific special ability. The characters are fun and clever, with a great art style. Speed and style are simultaneously chosen secretly and indicated on the dials on your dashboard, and then revealed simultaneously. Once your speed is revealed, you roll your dice, and must roll higher than your speed on your dice, or else you suffer damage equal to the difference. Don’t forget to add your bonus to the dice roll for that terrain feature though!
I spent the first few legs playing it safe with low speeds to avoid damage, and was near the back of the pack while the speed demons pushed their vehicles to the limits and accumulated damage pulling ahead. Then in one fortuitous turn, I risked pushing my speed (taking a little damage) while using an item that gave me bonus boost equal to the number of players ahead of me. That same turn, several vehicles wrecked due to damage suffered from others’ attacks and their own enthusiasm for speed, giving me a huge lead!
In the end, I hung on to the lead and won by a decent margin. Maximus has his revenge! And the whole game played in just 45 minutes! Having played once already, the players were keen to try different characters and play again. I noticed that Bill had finished his game from session 1, so I got him to take my seat for the second game while I went to see what else I could get in on.
So what did I do next? Well, you’re going to have to wait until tomorrow to find out, I guess. Stay tuned for part 2 of our ProtoTO adventure!