Do you like solo?

Testing a solo variant of Masterwork

While Masterwork was originally conceived as a game for 2-4 players, I’m now testing a version that will allow players to go it alone. [Setting aside the argument that a ‘solo game’ is not actually a game at all, but a puzzle.]

There seems to be an increased interest in solo gaming, and the benefits are obvious: your gaming needs might not be met by the availability of people to play with, or perhaps you like to rapidly try different play strategies. Solo gaming is obviously a different experience, so I’m wondering: what do you get from it? Does ‘winning’ feel the same as when playing with other players? Are you rewarded with a different type of satisfaction?

So, do you play board games solo? If so, which ones? And what are the best and worst parts of solo play? Please message me (or comment below) and share your experiences!


PDXAGE 2017 recap


Whew! What a whirlwind weekend of game testing at PDXAGE! After a multi-week sprint to get ready for the event, it’s nice to be able to take a brief break as I prep for the mad dash towards Kickstarter next month. For those interested about the game testing experience at the con, I through I’d share a few notes about the experience:

Testing frequency

I was fortunate to be able to run about fifteen play sessions over the weekend, which is pretty good for a 45-60 minute game. There were a few periods where I was looking for players, but overall steady throughout. More would have been better of course, but I’m super-excited about all the tests that I did get to do.

Learning to teach, teaching to learn

As part of running all those the tests, I got better at teaching other how to play Masterwork. A game convention isn’t an environment where you spend a ton of time reviewing the rules, so I had to learn how to quickly get players up-to-speed and having fun. It really is a skill. Showing the game over and over taught me which bits are essential elements before play, which ones need some explanation, and what can be introduced progressively over time.

Repetition… repetition… repetition…

Unless you’re running a marathon Pandemic Legacy game, it’s pretty uncommon to play the same game a dozen times in a weekend. Good thing I enjoy playing Masterwork or it would have gotten old, fast. I got a little fatigued by the end, but overall it was a great experience. If you’re making a game, expect to play it a lot.  A lot a lot!

Convention size matters

PDXAGE is a smaller con; perhaps 500 people playing, in one enormous room. Compared to GameStorm last month (which was 4-5x larger), this was at first a bit disappointing. However, despite the size I found plenty of players interested in trying the game. One huge benefit was that everyone could find the Masterwork table, so interested players could find it easily.

Quality feedback

The gameplay was proven solid (whew!) and I got some helpful ideas for tweaks that will make Masterwork play even better. My players were thoughtful, generous, and extremely positive in their feedback. The biggest post-convention change will be a layout update to the Artwork card; to make it easier to use during play and more accessible for color-blind players. Given that color elements are critical to the play experience, the importance of this color-blind feedback was huge! Masterwork is designed to be interesting for avid gamers while still having mainstream appeal… so it needs to be as widely accessible as possible.

Theme appeal

One of the core tenets of RonJohn Games is to cultivate interest in the humanities: the Visual Arts, Music, Philosophy, and Culture. I had some concerns that, because Masterwork didn’t feature zombies, cats, Cthulhu, or dungeons, I’d have trouble finding an audience. I needn’t worried. Nearly every tester expressed appreciation for these Renaissance masterpieces (and even more so about the prospect of playing with the Impressionists too (spoilers!)).

A couple of images of the action

A huge thanks to everyone who came out and gave the game a try. Your feedback made Masterwork better!


Masterwork prototypes are here… let the games begin!

It’s finally all in the box

Game prototypes have arrived at RonJohn Games HQ and the ‘pretty-much-final’ rulebooks are done… we’re ready to play at PDXAGE tomorrow!

Come join us for some game testing, light strategy, and beautiful renaissance artwork.