Game conventions can serve many useful functions for gamemakers, but they infrequently offer dedicated space to one of the very foundations of the gaming industry: the playtesting of game prototypes.

Of course, stand-alone Protospiel and Unpub events are focused exclusively on game testing and refining, but here I’m talking about the more traditional bread and butter game conventions. At these traditional cons, you can usually get playtesters for prototypes, but the playing conditions may be less than ideal. In addition, the designers may end up having limited contact with one another, being on separate schedules and scattered throughout the convention, missing those critical opportunities for networking and collaboration.



Set aside dedicated space at EVERY GAME CONVENTION for game designers to playtest their games! Encourage designers and publishers to come together with prototypes, keen minds, and a collaborative spirit. Make it easy for them to get their games to the table, and to interact with colleagues. In doing so, it will also be easier for publishers to scout for new games.

After all, everyone wins when we help designers and publishers build better games. A designer or publisher should be able to show up at a convention, walk up to the information desk and say, “Where is your Protospiel room?”

This is the formula for Celestispiel, a prototype testing event taking place at this year’s Celesticon game convention. Celesticon will be happening from August 29, 2014 through September 1, 2014 at the Fremont Marriott in Fremont, California.

Celestispiel: Link to the Website
Celestispiel: Link to the Facebook Group


I’ve been working over the past few months with the Celesticon planning team, especially the amazing Kris Miller, to help make this convention specifically designer-friendly. The Celesticon planning team has been more than accommodating. Rather than just giving us a corner of the open gaming area, we will have a dedicated 50-person capacity playtesting headquarters open throughout the convention, specifically for playing prototypes.

(Editor’s Note: The final room arrangement had two rows of smaller tables and three large rounds, allowing as many as seven games to be played at a time, plus spillover space was available in the open gaming area.)
But we’re not cramming the room full of under-sized tables. We’ve created a spacious environment where 5 games of any size can be playtested at a time. There will also be a table where people can leave sell sheets, business cards, or other information about their games. Designers are also free to take their prototypes into other open gaming areas if they need to. The Celestipsiel headquarters will always be there for them to drop in, see what tests are going on, or to start a new playtest.

Other than the Saturday morning orientation, there is no pre-established schedule for Celestispiel. This is a relaxed, free-form creative environment where participants are each expected to give as much as they take. In other words, designers will be playing one another’s games and providing meaningful feedback and assistance.

Lanters with Tom Lathos, Randy Hoyt, and Ben Rosset
Luke Laurie playtesting “Lanterns” with Randy Hoyt, Ben Rosset, and Tom Lathos.

League members Tom Jolly and Luke Laurie playtesting Drill, Baby, Drill with James Mathe of Minion Games.



Celestispiel is not a game design contest. It is an event for designers to personally bring in their own games to playtest.

An introductory session to Celestispiel will occur Saturday morning at 10 am to discuss some concepts of getting the most out of playtesting, and to introduce the participants to one another. (The room will also be available the day prior, however, as well for those who wish to use it).


Some big name designers and some new faces will be participating in Celestispiel. Three members of the League of Gamemakers will be in attendance. You are welcome to join us!

Tom Jolly, Designer of Wiz-War, Drakon, Cavetroll, etc.
Bringing to Celestispiel: “Market Day”, a resource management game in a renaissance marketplace. “Asteroid Miner” – a worker-placement/resource management game in the asteroid belt. “Barons” – a worker placement and area-control game in feudal times.

Ted Alspach, Designer and Publisher: Bezier Games. Titles such as Ultimate Werewolf, Suburbia, and Castles of Mad King Ludwig.
Bringing to Celestispiel: New prototypes of potentially great games!

Teale Fristo, Designer of Corporate America and Shadow Throne
Bringing to Celestispiel: Shadow Throne: Shifting Shadows – Drafting, hand management game of Machiavellian intrigue. Bird Watching – 10-15 minute simple collecting/trick-taking-ish game. Wizard Writers – Drafting, engine building game about wizards studying magic, trying to write the most influential book about it. Pretty early in development. Techies – Bidding, Drafting deckbuilder about tech start ups trying to balance making money with being cool to attract talent. Very early in development.

Ryan Walters, Zynga Games Developer by day, game designer by night
Bringing to Celestispiel: Bringing Wu Xing. It is a deckbuilding war game in which players become masters of the five elements and unify ancient China! Players must build decks to overcome neutrals, develop technology, and wage war on each other! Players must control capitals or take large swaths of territories to win!

Scott Caputo, Designer of Völuspá and Kachina.
Bringing to Celestispiel: “Cheez”, a simultaneous spatial puzzle solving game with a mouse and cheese theme for 2-5 players, and “Ruthless Pirates”, a filler game for 5-8 gamers involving dividing loot, negotiation and voting. And other prototypes

Jeff Cornelius, Cofounder of Cosmic Wombat Games – publishers of Stones of Fate and Campaign Trail
Bringing to Celestispiel: Ascendant, a drafting tableau building game with a unique new mechanic of persistent odds management; Campaign Trail, a resource management and area control game set in a presidential campaign.

Gabriel J. Cohn, Designer of several unpublished games, a few of which are being reviewed by various publishers.
Bringing to Celestispiel: Biosphere: Players compete to develop settlements on a new planet while fighting over development of the atmosphere using auction and action allowance mechanics.

Jason Doyle, Newbie Indie Game Designer
Bringing to Celestispiel: Starship Admiral: A sci-fi tabletop minitatures game with a very high degree of customization.

Greg Allen, Co-Developer of the New Conquistador
Bringing to Celestispiel: New Conquistador: 4 Player game of the Exploration of the New World 1492-1615. Complete remake of the 1970’s S&T/SPI/AH game Conquistador now featuring area movement and cards for random events.

Jeff McArthur, Author and game designer whose work includes Command Combat: Civil War, The American Game, and The Command Combat Battle Reports Youtube show.
Bringing to Celestispiel: Relic Worlds: The Lost Worlds. Bandwagon Games

Jarrett Ford, Project Manager Star Wars: The Old Republic and Dead Space 3; Designer/Founder/Owner Shadow Balance Games, LLC.
Bringing to Celestispiel: ELEMANCERS™, a 2 player strategy-based fantasy board game that puts you in the polar conflict between the Light and Dark Factions, wielding the powers of Creation or Death to secure your elemental dominance in the world!

Chris Roberge, Long-time gamer most excited by family strategy boardgames.
Bringing to Celestispiel: Genome – a tile placement and grid movement game about the research and manufacturing of a new microbe, Donut Time – a set collection and network building game set in a donut factory where players try to bake and collect different donut flavors.

Luke Laurie, Designer of Stones of Fate, blogger on the League of Gamemakers.
Bringing to Celestispiel: Dwellings of Eldervale, co-designed with Peter Vaughan – a fantasy themed worker placement area control game, and Drill, Baby, Drill (co-designed with Tom Jolly) – A euro worker-placement, tableau building game with an energy and environment theme.

Jack Greene, Old School game designer wading into the EURO pool
Bringing to Celestispiel: 1658 EMPIRE OF THE SEAS – a four player card enhanced game of trade and empires set in the mid-1600’s. Players are Spanish, French, British and Dutch trading and fighting from Manila to Europe to the New World.

Candy Weber , Designer of BoardGameGeek The Card Game, coming out in November
Bringing to Celestispiel:
Ye Olde Toy Shoppe: Run around the magical toy shop grabbing the best toys. Move your player card around a grid of toy cards, picking up each card you land on to put it in your shopping cart. But you can only actually buy (score) 2 cards of each category (suit) except in one category where you may get an educational toy and buy all those toys. Family card game and filler for gamers, 2-6 players, 30 minutes.

Interstate Trucking: Move your truck around the US on the interstate highways, picking up and delivering goods. Most efficient deliveries will make the most money. Gateway board game, 2-6 players, all ages, 60 minutes.

On the Grid: Build a great word search for your temporary partner to find lots of words, progressing through more interesting scoring in successive grids. 2 dice are rolled, all players write those 2 letters anywhere on their own grid. Repeat until grids are filled, then pass the grid to a neighbor who has a limited time to write down all the words they can find. 1-6 players per copy of the game, 30 minutes.

Museum Heist: or Who is Stealing the Great Treasures of Europe? Become the richest thief by stealing sets of national treasures. Rummy-style game, each card has a country and a type of item from a museum. Players collect cards by type or country to meld on the table, cannot meld cards from their own country. But watch out for the alarm that may go off at any moment! 2-6 players, all ages, 30-60 minutes.

Scrambled Fairy Tales: A vindictive fairy scrambled the elements from the traditional fairy tales, so story tellers need to unscramble and/or make new tales. This rummy-style game has suited cards with more than one number on them, as well as curses, wishes, and wild dragons and unicorns. Also includes an optional story-telling element. Family card game and filler for gamers, 2-6 players, 30-60 minutes.

Mark Schynert, Events Scheduler, DunDraCon; editor/co-author, Compleat Arduin RPG
Bringing to Celestispiel: Nation State–a multi-currency euro board game with role choice and tempo management, and an imperialism theme.

Brandon Raasch Designer/Publisher of Dubious Alliance
Bringing to Celestispiel: Retail Mogul – a simple, ‘area’capture’ ,euro-style board game. 3-5 players, ages 12 and up, approx 60 minutes or less. Theme- Players compete for Manhattan real-estate in a contest to create the most lucrative franchise of retail stores.

Josh Sawyer, Newbie entering the design arena.
Bringing to Celestispiel: Threshold: Ascension – A tactical table-top miniature skirmish game, designed to give players depth and the ultimate control in determining the outcome of their encounters. Gameplay is fast, with players alternating single model activations so the players are never left waiting to interact. Full games play in 90 minutes or less, with smaller scale encounters lasting 30-45 minutes. Rule mechanics are simple to learn, but will take time to master.

Payton Lee
Bringing to Celestispiel: Monster Mansion, it’s a wonderful little dungeon crawler where players can meet all the monsters of myth and legend, with an additional element of hidden identities between the players. The game is intended for 3-8 players and is strictly timed. Each game players will have exactly 5 minutes per player to reach the exit and escape, so in a typical game of 5 players this is equal to 5×5=25 minutes.