Text by Simon Vincent

For the last two months, my colleagues and I have been busy doing the final checks for Fly-A-Way, as we prepare to send the collated artwork for production.

At one point, I was training my eyes to glance anew at pictures and words that seemed to have become so familiar that they could be anticipated before being properly processed.

Then, taking a step back, I noticed something that I had known instinctively but never comprehended in totality before: there were refinements in detail that we owed to the knowledge and feedback shared generously by playtesters and fellow game designers.

They have become a community we treasure and I think, in the spirit of collegiality, it would be fitting at this juncture of Fly-A-Way’s development to share some of the insights we have gained from working with these wonderful people.

Organising play steps

We designed Fly-A-Way with the intention for it to be relatively easy to pick up and perhaps because of this assumed that the play steps we wrote for placing links and playing cards were apparent enough.

As I believe many game designers often realise, what you think is apparent may not be entirely so for new players. Shaun Khiu, a board gamer and someone we worked with in the past for a publication, was one of our early playtesters and helped us to improve our rule book by urging us to create a detailed turn summary.

Singapore Game Makers and Thursday Playtesters, two groups of game designers and playtesters, later helped us to delineate the various steps for the Draw, Action and Clean-up phases in Fly-A-Way.

All of these suggestions might seem like a mere matter of categorisation, but, in fact, it helped us to think and write more clearly about the game as a whole, especially when conveying to players the ways of resolving some of the more complex game occurrences.

Finessing rules

Another kind soul who helped us in the writing of our rule book was Nick T from Board Game Review UK, who wrote a preview post about our game. Without going into too many details, which wouldn’t make sense unless someone has the final copy of Fly-A-Way, he provided some suggestions on how we could refine our rules on link placement. He did this solely in goodwill, while he was corresponding with us to learn more about the game.

Fly-A-Way involves route building and one of the things we wanted to do was to allow players to begin routes wherever they liked, instead of from the first point they place a link on.

At the same time, we wanted to create a challenge for players when they place links. This was done through our “right connection” rule, which states that each link a player places has to be connected with another of their links.

Because a player is able to play up to three links each turn, several play variations are involved when it comes to how these links are exactly played. Nick, basically, helped us cover these in a comprehensive way, through his vast knowledge of game mechanics.

Tweaking graphics

Little artwork touches can sometimes make all the difference in easing player’s processing of gameplay information.

Shiwei, a UI/UX designer and gamer we sent a prototype copy to, was particularly helpful in this area. In one of the many post-it notes that came with the returned copy, she pointed out that the icons we had for the conservation statuses of birds could be replicated in the text for Wing It and Fowl Play cards whose effects were determined by these statuses.

She also suggested that we change the colour of the Bird-tastrophe card to differentiate it from the Fowl Play card, since the two went together in one deck. While we had already differentiated the two through different fonts and text colours, we decided, thanks to her advice, that it would be best to change the background colours, too.

Changes like these may seem obvious, but sometimes they aren’t until they are pointed out to you. We are always humbled when this happens.

Imagining new component designs

As our Kickstarter backers would know, one of our stretch goals was producing feather-shaped links, instead of rectangular ones.

We had some ideas on how we could enhance our components, with enough funding. One of the people who encouraged us to consider as many different designs as possible was Colin Lim from the aforementioned Singapore Game Makers group.

Always gregarious, he showed us game pieces of various shapes and told us not to be confined by what a link would traditionally look like and to think outside of the rectangle we had designed for our prototype.

Out of that feedback and our own brainstorming, we came up with various designs for our links before settling on the feather-shaped one for our stretch goal. In the process, we also designed the house-shaped location marker that became another stretch goal.

As we work on shipping and fulfillment for Fly-A-Way in the coming months, we will be exploring new projects and reaching out to more people from the gaming community.

If you need playtesters for a game or help in any other way, contact us at info@flyaway.sg. As we have found, developing games are most enjoyable when your flock of friends expands.