What is Playtesting


Any player will tell you how quickly he usually discovers whether a game has been properly playtested. A well-tested game makes the difference when setting-up and starting to play. I have known players who made just this their main criterion. They have little patience for an underdeveloped and unplaytested monster.

How does playtesting begin? Before you can start playtesting you must have a fairly definitive orbat and map (85-90% of final). The “game” we are testing only takes place on that map, between those units, so until you can start setting-up, there is no game to test.

We cannot test something if we do not know what kind of animal it is, how it behaves and what it is supposed to do. Every game is different, every battle is different. It seems that every battle has some twist, heretofore unknown and unanticipated, and requiring special rules to handle it. At Bautzen, it was the imbalance of artillery and cavalry that gave the Russians command of the battlefield. At Laon, it was a combination of factors that permitted Napoleon to escape from odds of more than 2:1 against him:

• Blücher’s repeated failure to co-ordinate forces, exposing individual corps to defeat in detail.

• Jealousy and suspicion between the Prussian and Russian contingents and between head-quarters and the corps officers. Blücher alone could ameliorate these problems. Once he was laid low, these factors emerged in force.

• Demoralization of the veterans of the February battles—lack of supplies, sickness, disease and exhaustion. Blücher's LOC had been cut.

The game we are testing is a moving target, changing from one playing to the next and from player to player, depending upon their strategy and gaming habits. That is why it makes sense for us to test all possible openings—not just pursuing what we think the “correct” or “historical” strategy was or should have been.

Different playtesters have different personalities, but most wargamers are usually a little too aggressive, always advancing toward the enemy—just like Napoleon always did! It is unusual to find a playtester who looks at the whole map, and all his options, who is going to find unexpected ways to “break” the game.