Disco Dominion – Playtesting and Feedback

Last week I pitched my game, Disco Dominion. As a primarily solo gamer myself I wanted to create something that I would be able to enjoy and would offer choices and challenges to others. After playing some games of Railroad Ink and Bargain Basement Bathysphere I decided upon trying to create my own roll and write game. I really enjoyed the process of rolling dice and making decisions of what to do with the results in both games and attempted to make that the core mechanic of my game. Much like Bargain Basement Bathysphere there is an element of “push your luck” – how deep do you dive before resurfacing or in the case of my game, how many people (Groovers) can you fit on the dancefloor without overfilling the space. Railroad Ink really cemented what I wanted the game to be visually, a 7×7 grid that could be filled in by players. I felt inspired by these finished Railroad Ink boards and wanted to create a space for more creative players to experiment:

After settling on the Disco Dominion name, I wanted to try and build a complete world. I decided upon an alternate history with an alethic value of possible. This would be a world where Disco remained prominent. I also considered that the technology in the world would be slightly advanced beyond our present day, but mainly focused on creating the best Disco experience e.g. floating dance floors, the moon being made into an artificial mirror ball. Everything in this world would be influenced by or support Disco in some way. The people living in this world would be augmented; regular people that have a bit of a 60’s fashion vibe and attitude. I had 2001: A Space Odyssey in mind:

The game puts players in the role of a DJ – one of the most highly valued members of Disco Society. The player is tasked with trying to attract Groovers to their club by putting on a lightshow to accompany the music they are playing. This is abstracted in gameplay by having the player draw lines of different coloured light onto a grid (the club). Success of a lightshow is evaluated by the longest light beams, how often lights of different colours cross, if lights connect to specific points on the grid and how close the player gets to filling the club without forming a queue outside the club.

Disco Dominion is played in three rounds. Each round the player rolls 5D6 and then uses the values on the dice to draw four different colored lines and add Groovers to the dance floor. The first act of the game begins when a player first rolls the dice. The second act of gameplay occurs when the player realises that some planning may be required to maximise their score, this usually happens during the second round when space on the dancefloor for Groovers becomes limited or the lines of light start to block each other. The final act consists of scoring after the third round when a player evaluates their club and how well they did.

I have performed several playtests of the game myself, experimenting with number of rounds to make for a quick, yet enjoyable experience. After a few games I found that three rounds offered me enough time to achieve some goals while still feeling pressured that I wouldn’t be able to achieve everything I intended. The idea of blocking the middle nine spaces out was inspired by Railroad Ink but used in a different way. In Railroad Ink, the middle nine squares offer bonus points if you fill them all. For Disco Dominion I found that they offered a way to restrict the options of players, increasing the chance that poor planning will lead to complications rather than simply joining point A to B across the grid. I had the idea for “Groovers” as a way to give players another choice with how they spent their dice and possibly mitigate their rolls if they are aiming for specific goals. I also added bonuses for the corner spaces and “inner ring” of the grid to encourage players to take some risks/ offer some other strategies for scoring points. Here are the results of my first playtest of the current iteration:

And a video of a playtest conducted by myself:

I have enlisted my children to help test the game as well. Being teenagers they didn’t want to read the rules because it seemed complex and didn’t enjoy the scoring at the end because its “maths”. My observations during play however were that they both seemed to understand what they had to do after a verbal explanation and both hit the second act of gameplay in the second round when they realised they had filled the dancefloor a bit too quickly. My take away from this was that I might need to simplify the rules and revisit the scoring to make it friendlier somehow. I should also be clearer about the scoring up front to have the player make better choices. If I could incorporate this into the board design itself would be idea. Chris’ testing in class also highlighted a need to provide some upfront scoring hints and possible rules clarifications. His suggestion of a table to check your score against and a global leaderboard are ideas I had been thinking about but I need more playtests to know what an average score or a good score is.

For further testing I created the following How to Play Prototype pack. Feel free to download, try and provide me with feedback:

One thought on “Disco Dominion – Playtesting and Feedback

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s