Prepping for Protospiel
As a small indie publisher, we have to get our fans’ buy-in for any project of size. Conquest Princess is an epic adventure in a full size box. In proper grassroots fashion, we hit the road bolstering the ranks of the Fight Fans and letting folks know about the magic & excitement of the adventure ahead. Knowing our goals, we gather our prototypes for ProtospielMN and the final shakedown before the convention circuit begins. But what does being “ready” for a Protospiel look like when the games aren’t complete?
Your prep depends on your goals, where you are with your projects, and how many you’re hoping to get to the table. I suggest focus - 3 titles at most, one a day, but I prefer less. Remember to be a good citizen and spend an equal amount of time playtesting other designers’ games. Additionally, you’ll need time to eat, contemplate feedback and make adjustments. A good day might look like 5 different 1 hr playtests - 45 min of play/teach with 15 minutes for questions & feedback.
Think about everything you’ll need to keep a table engaged for 1hr and how to make that easier on them & yourself. The first and most important item on the list should be your project's story in 30 seconds or less. Why people want to test
your game & later demo it is something you’ll work on indefinitely. After your story, be ready with your game's hook - 3 seconds or less, the promise of fun. The hook is how you get folks to sit down at your table. This is an invaluable bit of word salad that helps with community building, retailers & other publishers. In Conquest Princess, we currently say “Want to use space fashion to overcome galactic tyranny?” Be ready with your hook. The “Why” of your game is often just as important as the “What” of your game.
After your promise of fun & the story the next most important thing to prep is your game’s teach. You should run and time your game with instructions BEFORE the event. One thing that will rapidly improve during a Protospiel is your demo and instructions. To make the most of this opportunity, you should have practiced a version of your game’s teach. This is another reason you shouldn’t split your focus between too many projects. Be sure to start with where you are with the project, what they can expect during your playtest and then the goal of the game. During your playtest, be sure to refer back to these three things to reinforce them so you can get the most value out of feedback.
Now that you know what you’re testing, why it is fun and how long it takes. The next bit of prep is reaching out to folks who you know are going to the event. If this is your first time, then join the Discord or FB group for the event & introduce yourself. Otherwise, reach out to the folks putting on the event. Get your project onto people’s schedule or plan a lunch or a chat away from the Protospiel. A lot of the value of these events is becoming a member of the community. We’ve met friends for life at ProtospielMN, folks who helped us personally & with Fight in a Box. Give yourself the opportunity to make those kinds of connections yourself.
Finally, fix up your physical prototype focusing on clarity before all else. This is last on the list because it's easy to spend time here, but it has LESS impact than the hook, story, teach & outreach. The goal with a physical prototype is to remove distraction & reduce cognitive load. Anything more is probably overdoing it.
Next blog, we discuss going to Protospiel, how to act, and what to expect.