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Break the game: Local tabletop game playtesters push the limits of Warzone Eternal

There’s a lot that goes into making a tabletop game.

There’s even more that goes into making a good tabletop game.

For local gamers Kevin Smith and Norm Nevins, the idea of participating in the process of refining and bringing a game to market is exciting, especially because they are lifelong tabletop enthusiasts. They’ve played every type of hobby game there is … from elaborate board games to complex role-playing games.

Recently, they’ve focused on one particular game: Warzone Eternal, a title that’s scheduled to be released later this year.

It’s a tactical miniatures skirmish game in which several factions duke it out for supremacy in a dystopian future.

Hugo Phan
/
KMUW

Over the past several years, they’ve logged numerous sessions playing the game.

“If you look over three years, that's 150 weeks, I would guess … at least 50 plus games, right?” Smith said. “I mean, maybe even more.”

“Oh, well more than that,” Nevins interjected.

So how did Smith and Nevins get their hands on the game before everyone else? They’re playtesters — a role in the development of tabletop games that test-drives the product to make sure the rules are fair and accessible.

In 2022, the board game market was worth nearly $19 billion. It’s projected to become a $40 billion industry by 2028.

With money on the line, it makes sense for a tabletop game company to ensure that players have a good experience.

Alex Kanous is the CEO of Res Nova Games, which publishes Warzone Eternal. He said the role of playtesting is crucial in the game-making process.

“With playtesters, one of the most important perspectives to have is … somebody who, for lack of a better term, is looking to break the game,” Kanous said.

When it was time to find playtesters, Kanous immediately thought of Smith, someone he knew from playing previous incarnations of Warzone. Smith then recruited Nevins, who — because he was not familiar with the franchise – offered a fresh perspective.

Smith and Nevins set out and tried to “break the game” … over and over again. Each play session, the duo would set up a scenario within the game and tackle it with a series of “stress tests.”

They then reported their findings back to Kanous so he could decide whether changes needed to be implemented.

“From our side, we've tried really hard to create a rule set that has as much balance as you can get into something like this,” Nevins said. “And that still has all the fun packed in the box, if you will.”

Hugo Phan
/
KMUW

The duo has gone through six versions of the Warzone Eternal rules. For Nevins, experiencing the whole process and seeing the changes over time is satisfying.

“When you put your hand to something and you're walking through a process and you do see a problem, and you've got that input directly back to a designer, and you say, ‘Here's what we saw.’

“And then iterations of the rule set later, you begin to see, ‘Oh, hey, we've modified that based on the input we sent.’ And that's really gratifying to know that you're actually making an impact … into the design process.”

And for many seasoned players, insight into that process is a reward unto itself. According to Kanous, it’s an opportunity for them to look under the hood of a game.

“It's getting to participate in something that's still is in its formative stage,” Kanous said. “So you get to see … kind of warts and all, you get to see how the sausage is made a little bit.

“But you get to engage in this thing you are doing, which is gaming.”

In the end, Smith hopes Warzone Eternal will attract an audience … so he can keep playing the game he’s spent so much time testing.

“The hope would be that the game play is solid enough,” Smith said, “and that the models are solid enough that additional players out of our local stores would find that the game is worth looking at and investing in. That’s what you hope as a player.”

Copyright 2024 KMUW | NPR for Wichita. To see more, visit KMUW | NPR for Wichita.

The success of maneuvers and attacks carried out by varying units and factions is determined through dice rolls.
Hugo Phan / KMUW
/
KMUW
The success of maneuvers and attacks carried out by varying units and factions is determined through dice rolls.
Warzone Eternal is played on a 3'x3' surface with forces of 10-20 models.
Hugo Phan / KMUW
/
KMUW
Warzone Eternal is played on a 3'x3' surface with forces of 10-20 models.
A game of Warzone Eternal consists of players alternating activations of the units in their force, with each unit able to perform a number of different actions during their activation.
Hugo Phan / KMUW
/
KMUW
A game of Warzone Eternal consists of players alternating activations of the units in their force, with each unit able to perform a number of different actions during their activation.

Hugo Phan