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Doomscroll Visits Protospiel Milwaukee

Doomscroll Prototype

I feel absolutely spoiled to have not one, but two fantastic game designer events in south-central Wisconsin – Protospiels Madison and Milwaukee! I just got back from a day at Protospiel Milwaukee, an event where designers share their game prototypes for feedback and then play others’ games to give them critiques.

After over two years of playtesting Gamestormers, our first game release, I’ve shifted my focus to our next major design, Doomscroll. While the theme and main mechanic of building a social media feed to sell ads is working well, Doomscroll needs plenty of work to balance the gameplay, ease the player experience, and tighten up the turns. Thankfully I got tons of actionable feedback!

In addition to playtesting Doomscroll, I had the chance to try out three great game prototypes – I’ll share a bit about each and what my main takeaway was from each game.

1. Rift Contractors – Pursue Unique Game Mechanics

The first game I had the opportunity to play was Rift Contractors from Aaron Yoder. One aspect of the game I loved was the marriage of a unique mechanic (a reverse auction) with a clever theme – each player is a contractor in a futuristic space world trying to get the lowest bid on various construction projects. I was incredibly excited to get into the headspace of an intergalactic space crew trying to lowball the other players for contracts on planets and moons.

We were the first people to play the game prototype, and it was a great opportunity to see the game in its infancy. In the beginning sections, we had the chance to discuss how to incentivize everyone to bid aggressively in the beginning phases for contracts. By the end of the playtest, the designer had some great ideas on how to make his game goals a reality.

2. Ant – Build Not Only a Great Game System, But Game Choices

One impressive feat at every Protospiel is the designer who has created a balanced and compelling game system. As soon as I played Ant, I realized the creator had found a fantastic mix of area control, resource management, and economy optimization. Although I am TERRIBLE at these types of games, I was enthralled with the decisions I had at my disposal each turn, and I genuinely wanted to forge a path that gave me a chance to maximize my scoring.

In Ant, your workers can pursue a variety of options, whether it is harvesting resources on a honeycomb board, climbing a power-up chart, or even flipping resource tiles to determine values of what you collect. The system was both complex and approachable all at once, and I enjoyed trying to navigate its variables.

3. Waywords – Yes, Word Games Can Still Be a Novel Concept!

The last game of the day I played was Waywords, a delightful word game from Justin Nichols in the vein of Codenames and Just One. In Waywords, you aim to give a one-word clue that helps you pick the correct number between the four words spread out in a diamond formation, each with 3 options of guesses between them. The challenge is getting your teammate to determine if you’re trying to give a clue between two words (Opera as a clue between Australia and Ballerina) or closer to one word versus another (Mechanical as a clue closer to Robot than Windmill).

Waywords demonstrates that a saturated field such as word games still has opportunities for innovation. Playing the game reminded me that creativity exists in every genre of board and card games. We’re only limited by our own imagination.

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