Perhaps a few years out of date, but so much good advice it's still worth reading.
The purpose of this thread is to share playtesting tips that people might use.
Some of mine follow, hopefully people share theirs as well.
The term itself comes from the concept of playing against a goldfish, which is the same as playing with no opponent. Goldfishing should be the first thing that one does to a potential tournament deck. Goldfishing is simply repeatedly playing the first 2-3 turns of a deck, without accounting for what the opponent does, to see if the gold works out, to see if the fate deck is too expensive, and these sort of things. Here are some things to do while goldfishing.
- Do not reshuffle your deck after each gold-fish draw. Keep going through your deck, until it's depleted. This gives a much better representation of how your deck will function in a tournament. It's possible to flip Fosuta 3, 4, or 5 times in a row if you re-shuffle - this is not an accurate indication of how often you're odds to draw him. If you do not reshuffle, you will draw your Uniques approximately as often as you are odds to in a tournament.
- Keep track of how often you overpay for personalities because they're an odd gold-cost (different for Lion/Unicorn - their strongholds make an odd amount). This will give you an indication of whether or not to include Barley Farms or Diamond Mines in your deck.
- Keep track of when you have a 2g holding unbowed at the end of turn 2. If this happens frequently, your gold scheme should be adjusted. Not using all your gold on the 1st or 2nd turns is devastating to your game.
- For Spider, there's no need to worry about goldfishing much while going first. For mid-honor clans, goldfishing with and without Bamboo Harvesters is very important, to see how your deck performs in both situations.
- Keep in mind various decks that you'll be playing against. On your third (or fourth, depending on what your plan is) turn, can you threaten an honor province, both Crane and Phoenix, through a reasonable amount of resistance? Can you stave off at attack from Crab, Mantis, or Spider?
- Keep in mind all the keywords that your Fate cards may require (Samurai, Shugenja, etc.), and keep track of how often you wouldn't be able to play those cards. If you have cards in your deck that require Monks, Samurai, Shugenja, and Non-Humans - even if those cards are amazing - you won't be able to play them all, because you won't have the appropriate keywords in play.
- Goldfishing is obviously not an exact science, but it does help to make an initial accessment of whether or not the deck in question is good enough to play some actual games with.
2. The Gauntlet
The Guantlet is a collection of playtest decks. These decks are fairly well tuned, STANDARD decks. It's pointless to playtest against odd decks, since that will not give you a good feel for what your deck can do. Great, you beat your friend's Spider Enlightenment/Honor switch, grats! Does you no good if a standard Crab military smashes your face in.
- Playtest decks never get gold-screwed, follower-screwed, anything-screwed. They always get to buy a clan holding on the first turn, along with another holding. If it's a follower deck, they always start with a follower in hand - if they didn't draw one, they get to search for one. For example, if you're playtesting against Honor, and you're military - the honor deck never draws Unfortunate Incident - if they do, they simply discard it, and draw another card immediately. The point is to see if you can beat a deck on a standard draw. Playtesting against bad draws is counterproductive - it gives you a false impression of how good your deck is.
- If the Playtest decks rely on getting a specific non-unique personality into play (Like Ring-Honor of Samurai Edition), they get to search their deck for one of that personality, and set it aside before the game. At any time during the game, they get to place that personality into any of their provinces, and put the card in the province on top of their deck. This, again, simulates a reasonable draw from the Playtest deck.
- Playtest decks get to take back mistakes, you don't.
- The Gauntlet should have 2 decks, at minimum - a military deck and an honor deck. One of the great benefits of playing Spider is you know you'll go second most of the time. This gets more difficult with mid-honor clans, since now you have to have playtest decks that go first, and playtest decks that go second.
3. Deciding which cards to put in/take out
The point of playtesting is not to fully design a deck. The majority of design happens in one's head, and during Goldfishing. The purpose of playtesting is to turn a deck that goes 5-3, and misses the cut, into a deck that goes 6-2, and makes the cut. (Obviously, I'm generalizing, but you get the idea.)
- When playtesting, always think "Is there a card that would be better than the one I currently have, and if so, what is it?"
- If you find yourself unable to decide between 2 or 3 cards for a slot, get a piece of paper that fits into a card sleeve, write down the names of cards that are competing for the slot, and, during playtest games, keep track of which card would be better by putting tick-marks next to each card name. Whichever one has more tick-marks at the end of playtesting gets the spot.
- If you're playing with ANY meta cards, think long and hard about cards that would do the approximate same thing against the deck you're meta-ing against, but also would be useful against other decks. Meta is a necessary evil, but at times, it can be avoided with clever card choices.
- Look at every card in your deck, and ask yourself: "Against commonly played decks, am I ever unhappy about drawing this card?" If a card is not useful against common deck archetypes, there's bound to be something better.
- Look at every card in your deck, and ask yourself: "Am I happy to draw this card in the beginning of a game, in the middle, and in the end?" If there's a point in the game that the card is useless, it's best to try to find a replacement.
4. Getting better.
Playtesting is pointless, if you don't get anything out of it. Here are some ways to make lessons learned during playtesting "stick."
- Get a d6. Start every game with the d6 at 1. Whenever you make a mistake, turn the die up one. If you ever hit 6, you immediately give your playtesting buddy a pre-determined amount of money, and re-set the die. You have to be honest with this method, or it will not work. Once you stop making 5 mistakes per game, do not reset the die at the end of each game, the mistake count carries from game to game. The amount of money should, obviously, not break the bank, but it should also not be trivial. It should sting at least a little bit.
- A more "hardcore" method of the above, and the one that I would HIGHLY recommend is to bring a d6 with you to tournaments. For every mistake you make during the tournament, you increment the die up one. If you ever hit 6, you concede the game you're currently playing immediately. The die does not reset between games. Again, this requires one to be honest with themselves, but the above method worked very well for me.
- Whenever there's a question about what you should do, talk about it with your playtesting buddy. Tell him what you think the correct play should be. Then, show him your hand (you don't get to see his), see what he thinks. Discuss what the play should be, and what each variant would lead to. If your playtesting buddy convinces you that your original suggestion was wrong - the d6 goes up one. Smile
At any rate, this is long enough already.
If anyone has any tips or tricks that they use in playtesting, please, share!