I don't recall ever winning a game for several months after joining my first boardgame group in the now-defunct Berlin cafe Alte Welt. The group would open one colorful box after another from the stacks that piled up on the ends of the tables. I would concentrate as best I could as they explained the rules in my second language. Every game was new to me, and most of the mechanisms of the games were new to me. I was learning the vocabulary of game design just as I was expanding my German vocabulary.
But I was curious about a small group of gamers who would often be the first to take their places around the table. In fact, they were usually already engaged in a game before the others arrived. The games they were playing, however, did not come out of boxes with Ravensburger or Hans im Glück on them, and the materials were often ink-jet printed bits of paper. I soon discovered that this group-within-a-group was made up of game designers.
Needless to say, after many months of testing prototypes from such established designers as Andrea Meyer, Thorsten Gimmler and Hartmut Kommerell, I finally asked them to try out a prototype I had been working on. It wasn’t an instant success, but I found the feedback from the group and their own creative ideas intoxicating. My mind was filled with so many ideas, my pen could barely keep up, and soon I had files of game ideas, themes, and mechanisms I wanted to try.
After the café closed, and the group-within-a-group decided to meet elsewhere, some newer designers and I began meeting in a newly-opened gaming café. Bernd Eisenstein, Peer Sylvester, established self-publisher Günter Cornett and I met Monday nights mainly to test our prototypes, although we enjoyed a published game now and than. Now others come to playtest our games or bring their own prototypes as well. The creative atmosphere is proving to be a productive one too—many of the games we've tested here have been published, and many more are scheduled for release in the near future.
This blog is simply a record of the great experiences we’ve had together as game designers and friends, as well as a place to jot down a few thoughts on game design and the process behind our games.
If you are ever in the area, please come by the Spielwiese on a Monday night and join us as a "guest playtester" -- or even a guest designer, should you have a prototype with you.
-Jeffrey D. Allers