Belle of the Ball Playtest Feedback from UnPub3!

Courtesy of Dice Hate Me

Yay! I just got the feedback form results from the Belle of the Ball playtests at UnPub3. The data below is split between quantitative responses about the game's length, ease of learning, and so on. The qualitative responses get a sense of context for the player's preferences in gaming and what they liked about this game in particular. At the end are some findings and possible courses of action I could take in response to this data.

Many thanks to Car Trunk Entertainment for scanning 35 handwritten feedback forms from the show!

Overall the data was positive. Most said the game was easy or very easy to learn, which for some was possibly a negative aspect. Also many found the game length to be appropriate, though several comments in the qualitative section wished it was a little longer in a four-player game. A surprisingly small minority didn't care for the theme. I say "surprising" because I expected a core gamer audience to be a little put off by the frou-frou premise. Perhaps my presence at the table made players feel more generous? I've already talked about the effect of designer presence can have at a playtest.
Learning the game was
Very Easy   ***************
Easy        ***************
Appropriate ******

Length was
Short       ****
Appropriate ********************************

Luck was
A lot       ***
Appropriate ************************
a little    *********

Interactivity was
Complete    **
Frequent    *********
Consistent  **************
Occasional  ***********

Game was
Hilarious   ****
Humorous    ***********
Fun         ***************************
OK/Boring   **

Was the game predictable?
Yes         ***
Maybe       *****
No          *****************************

Was the game balanced?
Don't know  ****
Maybe       *
Yes         ********************************
("Yes, very")

Did you enjoy the theme?
Maybe       *
No          ****
Yes         *******************************
("Hell yes!")

Would you play again?
No          *
Maybe       **
Yes         *******************************

Did the game feel original?
Yes         ******************************
Maybe       ********

Would you buy this game?
Yes         ********************* ("Def!")
Maybe       *******
Don't know  *
No          ******


Ah! Now this is the good stuff. I've compiled all the responses into a single dataset, so you're going to see a mix of negative and positive responses all mixed up together. Most of the positive responses liked how easy the game was to learn and the short play time (usually hovering around 20 minutes for 4-players). The hardest responses to pin down were the favorite and least favorite types of games. I expected players who liked Belle to prefer set collection games with light themes and easy gameplay, but there was a really wide variance in these two responses.

Did you like this game? Why/Why Not?
  • Easy to learn, quick game
  • Fun, moves quickly
  • Great theme. Light and quick.
  • I enjoyed this game. I always am up for some quick moving, lighter games to play between my deeper game experiences.
  • I felt like it was alright. I didn't feel like there were enough strategic decisions. Also, I'm not sure of the balance of Belle cards.
  • I liked it. Simple and strategic with a lot of choices. It's also very short.
  • I liked the fast pace. I think once I got more practice, you could have a lot of fun with character names.
  • I really liked the theme as well as grouping for the scoring component.
  • It was okay.
  • It would appeal to people who like lighter, more random games.
  • Proper luck/skill balance for length of game with not-so-serious theme
  • Sure maybe still good with more than four players?
  • The presentation (cards) were great, the mechanics are few and it is well-paced.
  • The theming and art are consistent and add to the enjoyment of the game. Cards are fun to read. Game has a good mix of luck and strategy.
  • Very easy to understand and play.
  • Yes, creative, easy to play, appeals to a wide amount of people
  • Yes, easy, fun and casual
  • Yes, interesting mechanics
  • Yes, it felt unique even though it used familiar mechanics
  • Yes, it made you think, but not to the point that it was tedious.
  • Yes, it was fun and kind of like a puzzle, and personally I like puzzle games
  • Yes, it was quick enough to keep interest and always kept you guessing.
  • Yes, it was something that made me think
  • Yes, moved quickly, good theme
  • Yes, quick and easy to learn.
  • Yes, silly names, fast-paced.
  • Yes, there is good interplay and chances to interact with others
  • Yes, to a degree. Set collection is my least favorite type of game, but I enjoyed it.
  • Yes. Easy rules. Interesting concept. Fun theme. Short duration.
  • Yes. Original theme. Fun play.
  • Yes. Should announce the guest as they arrive.
  • Yes. Simple mechanic plus creative flavor (names and art) is a very fun combination.
  • Yes/No. Loss of bribes sets game into crash course. Need mechanism to pull bribes.
  • Yes, theme fit the game well, solid art, balanced play

Favorite part?
  • Interesting Belle cards
  • Theme
  • Scoring/theme
  • Belle cards.
  • The cards, both appearance and their mechanics are fun. Some of the card actions were brilliant!
  • Drafting.
  • Light. Good player interaction.
  • Matching interests
  • The Belle powers were very well thought out and varied
  • Names and symbols
  • Makes you think with an element of luck
  • Being able to affect other player's scores
  • Light amount of strategy required
  • Card based, so no board or crazy setups
  • Interaction with other players
  • The theme drew me in but the gameplay is solid and highly repayable. I enjoyed trying to find a good winning strategy when I played a second time.
  • The theme
  • The bribe and belle cards.
  • Collection line of the cards in the middle
  • It played quickly and was easy to learn.
  • The ease of gameplay. The ability to see it and pick up and go.
  • Design and creative cards
  • Winning!
  • Every part was fun
  • The ability to score fast.
  • Matching cards
  • The Belle cards are fun to play with
  • Cards were elegantly designed. Play was easy. Great for kids.
  • It moves quickly. Decisions are meaningful, but not complex enough to bog down.
  • It was all good, really.
  • Winning, silliness
  • Speed

Least favorite part?
  • If you ran out of bribes, your choices were limited.
  • Could over analyze, but we played quickly.
  • Having to slide the row of available cards after each draw.
  • Bribes/Not enough defense cards
  • Sometimes choices felt pretty automatic.
  • I felt like the decision of what to select was a bit proscribed.
  • Theme. It's fine, but it doesn't seem organic.
  • Really need to learn the Belle ability to master
  • Not much interactivity, but we had a very bad shuffle. Five out of the last six cards were Belles
  • Cards with words (Belles)
  • Would have liked the guest deck to be bigger
  • Wish it was longer
  • Needs a better way to keep track of score.
  • Potential for conflicts with Belle cards (could be fixed with a first or last played Belle card rule)
  • Some wording tweaks need to be made to clarify how the Belle cards are used.
  • I had no least favorite part.
  • Bribes
  • Set collection
  • N/A, I very much enjoyed the whole game.
  • Losing…
  • Nothing, I liked it.
  • I felt bad for the other guy
  • The end-scoring system requires strategy to change when within a certain number of turns from the end. This is something the newbie must realize or be at a disadvantage.
  • Can't think of anything. My main suggestion would be to have the game last 10minutes longer. Perhaps have a specific quantity of cards per people playing. This might have had enough cards for 2 players.
  • Can't think of anything, but placing line of cards on a spinner so they face players may be handy.

Favorite type of game?
  • Worker placement
  • Tichu, card games.
  • Euro
  • Fun ones (not particular)
  • Aw man, I don't know.
  • Family
  • Medium weight euros
  • Adventurous endeavors
  • Strategy
  • Party games
  • Casual strategy / Resource mgmt
  • Abstract strategy
  • Abstract
  • Thematic games
  • Video games
  • All
  • Board games/puzzle games
  • Cards, visual perception games.
  • Co-op
  • Strategy
  • Board games
  • Games that involve trading/auctioning
  • Games that have a lot of social interaction, humor.
  • Word, card, strategy
  • RPG-themed
  • Strategy, RPG

Least favorite type of game?
  • Fluxx
  • Agricola
  • CCG
  • Politics
  • Bluffing, diplomacy
  • RPG
  • Auction
  • Abstract war games like chess. Games that overstay their welcome.
  • Chance games
  • Crazy strategy where your brain hurts!
  • CCG
  • PVP
  • Set collection
  • Puzzles
  • Video games
  • Boring games
  • War, strategy, make-believe components (power, magic, etc)
  • Luck fests
  • MMO
  • Games where enemies are auto controlled
  • Word games
  • Worker placement
  • Fluffy, non-strategic party games
  • War

Additional notes:
  • Let me know when it comes out!
  • Please email me when I can buy this!

You know I'm excited about those last two notes! But still, there are some good actionable data to take into consideration from the negative responses. Here are a few takeaways:
  • A more convenient way of moving the line. One suggestion from the show was to deal six cards in a line, then six more parallel to that. Only one line is "active" at a time. When the active line runs out, the neighboring line becomes active and you deal six more cards to replace the former active line. In this manner, you're not moving cards down every turn, but it may get confusing which line is active at any particular turn. Maybe a "front door" card to indicate this?
  • Players hoarding bribes can really flatten everyone's choices. There ought to be some risk to hoarding bribes, like Belle cards that explicitly target the player with the most bribes. Belle cards in particular seem to be a popular element, but they do take a little bit of learning to understand how they can be used to their fullest effect. This may be something I include in the rulebook under a "tips" section.
  • Some outside feedback has said the game is too simple, but dang near all the positive responses have shown that this simplicity a good thing. If I add any more elements to the game, I'm going to keep them through a few channels: New Belle cards, maybe some unique Guest cards, but that's it for now. Adding "event cards" whose effects are immediate and continuous as long as they are in the line could also easily be added, but it creates just one extra level of complexity that I hesitate to add to a light filler game. This is where expansions would probably be best.
Once again, many thanks to Car Trunk Entertainment for hosting the UnPub program and doing us game designers such an excellent service. 


  1. Hah! Cards with words is a great comment. :)

    Good feedback, and great that it was both overall positive and useful for your tweaking. Let me stress - TWEAKING. No overhauls on this one. You've got a winner here.

  2. Thanks! Yeah, I learned my lesson this time. That's why I am reluctant to make big changes this time around.

  3. On your last bullet, don't be afraid to target the audience you want to target. It sounds like Belle of the Ball is targeted as players who WANT a fairly simple game. You could make a different, more complex game in the future with some Belle elements to appeal to the people who want more complexity, but if there's an audience for simple games, keep it simple!

  4. My concern isn't so much finding an audience for simple games, but a *publisher* for simple games. The ones I've talked to have all said it feels incomplete to some degree, usually citing a lack of a multi-layered strategy.

  5. The front door card would be a good idea, me thinks.

  6. If there is a spare card in the sheet when it goes into production, I'll put that into consideration.


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