Working with beta testers for your board game – a story of Beta testing

Working with beta testers… creating board games isn’t easy! A crucial and oftentimes overlooked stage for creating a commercial board game is the beta and alpha testing.

I was commissioned to create a board game prototype to teach children about youth homelessness. My primary role was – mostly – visual design and gameplay, and illustration. And… consulting and guidance on creating a game.

When working with Beta testers, I tried to create an environment that was open and invited constructive feedback.

While I took notes, I allowed the Beta testers to play how it suited them to play. Down to opening up the initial black packaging box to reading the rules, in whichever order they chose.


Setting up the Playtests for a board game prototype

This was my first playtest in quite a while. In the past, I have been involved in both helping to set up alpha testing and the follow-up stages of a Beta test. Beta testing on behalf of a 3rd party client was a new experience for me. And there was a lot involved.

Before preparing 2 different environments for beta testing. I had to get the testers to sign NDAs on behalf of the client.

It should also be noted that a large amount of effort was involved to find both beta testers, and finding a space to carry out the beta testing. Money also needed to be paid to the venue for lunch.

Alpha Testing vs Beta Testing

There are some key differences in the alpha and beta testing stages. With alpha testing, this is often a case of a game or game prototype being experimented with and developed internally. In my case, I was the first tester of the rules. I created the rough rules to see how the game mechanics may work and wrote these down as I went along. This is typically the very early stages of creating a working board or card game. The more alpha testing you can do before going to external beta testing, the better.

Alpha test of game
This is a photo of some of the first game components and alpha

Beta testing the game involved finding other parties to look at and play the game. These people had never read the rules or knew what the game was or anything. Once I sourced the beta testers, found spaces to play the game – this then set about into motion the gameplay.

The beta stage is the more developed stage of creating the game prototype.

Creating the gameplay | My experience of working with beta testers

I was involved in creating the initial gameplay as well as working on all the visual design for game. This was part and parcel of the commission of the game project – from top to bottom. Finding board game testers can be tricky ( external website on finding beta testers ) , but I feel that these beta testers offered tremendous value to creating the board game prototype.

Here are some initial screen grabs from the playtest. An important stage when creating a board game prototype.

The first draft low-fidelity prototype

Working with Beta testers
Working with Beta testers
Working with Beta testers board close up - making a board game

The later stages of the playtest | working with ‘other’ beta testers

I would advise when doing a playtest of your game, to try the game on people you don’t know. ( although I do know Paul here – thanks Paul, Paul is also a drummer I’ll have you know! ) The wider the pool of people… the better. Below are some visuals of the playtesters in action doing their thing!

And me… taking notes on how the game is being played.

Doing these live tests is not always easy on the ears. But they can be essential for making a better and more rounded board game.

Working with Beta testers
Working with Beta testers
Working with Beta testers

A special thank you to the playtesters for this game

This lot should be proud – although the Conwy Council may not know the names of the playtesters I would like to announce who helped make the prototype a more rounded and playable experience.

( me, I was the first tester ) Faye Willets + Family, Helen Edmonds, Jake Joung, Paul Whibley, Steve – and a Special thank you to Liz Chadwick for introducing me to some fellow playtesters!

If you would like any advice or a design service to design your board game you can read more here – freelance board game designer

Are you a playtester?

If you are a playtester for board or card games? Feel free to drop a message across with a bit about you, what you do, where you are based, age, your demographic, and the types of games you like to play. ( please note that many of my playtesters are currently based in the South East – UK )

Are you looking for playtesters?

Playtesters or beta testers can be tricky to find if you are just starting out. This article here on Dragon Bone games About finding playtesters may be helpful – ( Alpha ). Or if in the later stages of development – where to find Beta Testers. ( external website )

Notes – On Prototype

It was a fun project to work on. I would like to say I have no idea what the mass production or future edition of the game will look like but either way – I was happy to be part of the pre-first edition of the gameplay.

Are you looking to create a board game? I was involved in the visual look and feel of the game along with the vector character illustration. Feel free to get in touch if you want to discuss your game project!

Tips For design around board games

3rd Party websites – External

Jimmsdesign – Game content and design Copyright Conwy Council and its respective partners ( artwork shown for portfolio purposes only )