Playtesting Muskoka: The Board Game
When my husband Trent (game designer) first told me about his idea for making a board game and then further expanded on his vision for creating it with a Muskoka theme, I was so excited to see it come to life. After hearing many of his different thoughts for game play, getting to finally test it out was something I was so looking forward to. I have always enjoyed playing games, whether it be card games, board games or interactive games – I like them all! My favourite part is the connection it facilitates and the memory it leaves. Growing up, it was definitely a favourite pastime.
In this phase of life with four boys under the age of 7, when it comes to sitting down to play a game there has to be a pretty narrow criteria in order for the game to be manageable and enjoyable for all participants. These were some of the considerations when Trent was thinking of game play. He really wanted something that wasn’t going to be so big a time commitment that it would be unattainable to play for the young family age, but also wanted it to have enough of a challenge for a variety of ages to sit down and enjoy. When thinking of cottage games, he was wanting something that could just be a light hearted way to connect, picturing the board being left out often for anyone who wants to get in a quick game.
My first time testing it with him left me pleasantly surprised, even with a few little glitches it was still a lot of fun and I was impressed! There are so many things to consider in order to make sure the game ends up playing out evenly for each player, so Trent would take an inventory after every game that was played. We played it through together many times, played it with the kids, with family and with friends and were so thankful for all of the feedback that helped with this process immensely.
It was important to see how it played out with different amounts of players and how that changed the balance of the game. By taking an inventory after each game, we were able to figure out what cards were used the most; whether the cost of different adventures and advantage cards (called “Rest & Relax” or “R&R” cards) made it too easy or hard; whether certain routes on the board were attainable enough; and then we would also come up with different interactive cards during some of our test games. We played a few different options through and made several changes along the way.
Choosing a final score that would make the game long enough, but also keep it tight enough between players, was something that we altered a couple of times. We would also play different versions by changing up the value of cards and ensuring it would be a close game between all of the players. Considering how advantageous to make some of the R&R cards was also something that was considered and tweaked a few times, in order to include some risk while also making the cost and reward of buying these worth it. We wanted there to be enough interaction within the game to have a little rivalry where players could disadvantage one another, without it derailing their game. A healthy competition with room for a mix of strategy and luck is what he was going for, so we would change things up to find that balance as we played games over and over.
My favourite component to the game is the R&R cards. I find it fun to take a chance and not know how it will change your game and I love how creative each of them are. They make me feel the excitement of doing each activity and bring back any memories that are already associated with them. The one I like the most is the “portage” card as most of my cherished Muskoka memories are from camping in the deep woods with family and friends. As soon as I see that card, they all come rushing back to me! I hope that each person who plays the game will create new memories with friends and family and have an opportunity to reflect upon the ones that have already been made in the great North of Ontario.