Playtesting and Developing Out Hackronyms

March 21, 2014 Leave your thoughts

From the initial concept to now, Hackronyms has gone through a series of evolutions. I wanted to take this opportunity to go through some of the biggest changes to provide both insight into the development process and show where Hackronyms is currently.

The Cards

Hackronyms has almost always been comprised of two standard decks of cards. The initial proportion of acronym to action cards, however, was different. Action cards have replaced some of the acronym card slots in an effort to increase their frequency and overall use within the game.

Although still fun, there were some noticeable difficulties with acronyms that had the letters J, Q, X, and Z in them. This became pretty apparent when the game was first played at PAX Prime. Some acronyms were clearly easier to use than others, creating a situation where, more often than not, players would have a whole bunch of acronym cards in their hand that they wouldn’t want to play.

Borrowing from my experience in developing Anagram Twist, I solved this problem by creating a small algorithm that I then ran against new and existing acronyms. I took the top values from this process to generate a new list of cards for gameplay.

The Original Actions in Their Simple Glory
The Original Actions in Their Simple Glory

There were also only four action cards. Two of the cards remain the same, “Skip” and “Break.” “Pass” was previously called “Play(er)” as you chose a player to play next. This textual change to “Pass” helped clarify the action behind the card some more. There was also a card called “Switch” which allowed you to switch your hand with another player and skip your turn. This process made the game a bit clunky as players would have to stop and taken a decent amount of time to make this interaction.

The Rules

Hackronyms has always been a tense, high-energy, creative game. The first version of the game was much more difficult though. For starters, the initial hand size was three cards. By upping this to five, players were able to have more choices and a higher chance of beginning the game with an action card.

The addition of “Shuffle,” “Reverse,” and “Hack” serve to throw a few wrenches into the mix and make the game one where after a player has played a card successfully, they can’t simply relax for a few turns (not that one would want to zone out anyway).

Spreadsheets FTW!
Spreadsheets FTW!

Perhaps the biggest change from the initial version of Hackronyms to now is the way in which points are distributed. To win, one still had to amass a specific number of points. Each point was represented by a card, however. Cards were also solely given to the person prior to the person who would mess up.

For instance, Carlo, Sally, and Susan are playing a game and there have been five acronym cards successfully played on the table. No one has lost yet. If it was Susan’s turn and Sally played last, if Susan lost, all of the cards (points) would go to Sally. Sally would be at 5 points with the others at 0.

A situation kept on arising where the first player and, more importantly, player order would matter–players would generally win if they were seated around the weakest link. To alleviate this, everyone now enjoys the spoils of continuing the chain, the losing player now gets to take any one card that have been played (including action cards), and the starting player rotates.

Try it Yourself!

What’s left is a cohesive word game that has been called by some “the best game ever.” Don’t take their word for it though. If you’d like to playtest Hackronyms, drop us line. We’d love to hear from you!

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