A La Kart playtests - UnPub Mini at Atomic Empire


The Game Designers of Carolina held a great UnPub Mini event at Atomic Empire last Saturday. This is the third year for an UnPub Mini at Atomic Empire, the second organized by GDoC, and it's grown each year. We had fifteen designers with full tables for nearly the entire event.

(Photo Source: Matt Wolfe)

My plan for playtesting A La Kart was to run two concurrent two-player demos of Fish vs. Chips at the AutoBun and Sugar vs. Spice at the Sundae Speedway. I made significant edits to Fish's deck after March's extensive outside playtesting revealed how overpowered it was.



I made some minor tweaks to the other decks as well, and kept track of win rates for each deck over the whole day. Sugar and Spice went back and forth a lot over the day, with minimal repeated final scores. That says to me a lot is riding on each player's decision and a little bit of luck, so I feel pretty good about where they stand now. Here is my handwritten record.


I found some odd results at first in Fish vs. Chips. The first two games had the exact same scores. Like, exactly. I made some edits over the course of the day to hopefully break that pattern and luckily I was able to get them closer to parity, but Fish still didn't win most of the time. Fish vs. Chips had some odd patterns where 21 point and 25 point final scores appeared three times each. 11 appeared twice as well. Despite tweaking the decks towards the end of the day, that pattern persisted, which tells me a lot of this comes from how the Autobun course scores.

I also compiled a few comments from the anonymous feedback forms:

  • Different characters was fun. It was cool that there were different themed race-tracks also, if I got into the game it\'s the kind of thing I would buy the extra tracks for.
  • More clear instructions
  • It didn't feel terribly strategic, maybe because there were so few cards & they were all pretty similar. Felt a little go-fishy in that sense. I had a few cards at a time & it was always really obvious which one to play. (high or low, or middle if I didn't care). Partially could be because of the "beeping" to move faster... maybe if there was more time to think, I would have noticed some tricks that I missed? I didn't feel like the cards for burying, scraping, etc. really had time to matter. Time in the sense of, there aren't that many turns in a game. I'm not sure how to make it feel more strategic to me. Also: take my feedback with a grain of salt, I spend way too much time playing abstract strategy, so maybe my expectations are tainted.
  • It was a really cute theme & concept. Would definitely feel comfortable playing with my 30yr old friends, or with my daughter in a few years when she\'s old enough to play it. The game is coming along great & seems like it\'s really close to completion :) Great job!
  • As suger, playing against spice, felt there were too few opportunities to buff steering, thus lowering my chances of winning desired card. 
  • Theme is fun and unique, cards were well designed with good art and keywords for easy learning. 
  • Could be a bit more tweaking with making the asymmetrical decks more equal. The defensive decks seem to have more of a learning curve. 
  • It\'s quick, it\'s not \"pay to win\" (MtG), it\'s strategy based and still randomly generated. Each game is a new course. 
  • Very fun! Might be nice to add a few more action cards to sugar\'s deck to balance it out a little bit more, I felt like almost every card almost was an engine card aside from maybe two or three.
  • Maybe make the decks slightly larger, so there are more choices left at the end, but at the same time the limit adds some strategy.
  • Knowing the numbers of the remaining cards makes what choices you opponent predictable, but the effects can add surprise 
  • Create a system to display each players current scoreboard, it will lend to strategy. I really like that the art in the game features non-sexualized images of women. 
  • Love the artwork associated, love the food puns. game play was fairly balanced, second game would be better for both players so that you know all of your cards for aviable.
  •  Needs a LOT of racer for replay ability sake. Different tracks only matter so much.
  •  Put out one course at a time instead of all three at once
  • The theme is a blast and the way each deck plays very differently is super cool        
Overall verdict is that folks love the theme, but the decks need more variety and the game needs to be easier to learn. Doing both is going to be tricky.

I must be getting older because I used to be able to run demos non-stop for a full eight-hour-day. I had to tap out two hours early because I was just spent. Apologies to anyone I missed that evening! It was a great, productive event and I even got to squeeze in one test of Trickster: Fantasy before I left. It was a lot of fun!
Daniel Solis
Art Director by Day. Game Designer by Night.