It didn’t take long for Steel & Steam to move back to the front burner. A couple of days ago, Marc Guenette, one of the administrators of the Stack Académie Montréal Facebook page, sent me an invitation to join their group and attend their annual game convention in Montréal, which is taking place from May 4-6. As I already had plans for one of the days that weekend, I politely declined. However, after further thought, with Montréal being only a 4.5 hour drive away, I decided to attend on May 4, as long as SAM can round up some playtesters.

S&S is due for one more alpha playtest. Since the last one, I’ve modified some of the city probabilities and removed two properties from the game, the BSP and the N&W. I’ve also made Hostile Takeovers a part of the standard rules set and have added, during yesterday’s Designer’s Note post, the Controlling Interest payoff. I believe that the property management rules make the game a bit more interesting and add an advanced tool to each player’s toolbox. You should see the look on some player’s faces when I purposely mortgage two properties in order to snipe the AT&SF railroad or one of the other high-priced properties in the game.

Marc’s invitation did spur thoughts and concerns about how to handle one or more beta (or blind) playtests. In order to move to that phase, all functional rules and components must be complete and ready to be shipped out to interested parties. My biggest problem, apart from the amount of work necessary to print and cut card decks, is how to handle the money. Poker chips are great, but my personal kits contain high-quality chips. At $50 a set, I’m not about to ship those out to playtesters. Paper money is much cheaper, but component quality adds to the game experience and I’d like to be able to playtest that as well. A reasonable compromise might be that I can provide denomination stickers that can be applied to cheaper poker chip sets that the playtesters would be responsible for. This issue needs a bit more thinking and discussion.

One component that I haven’t even tested yet are the payoff booklets. I’ve been relying on a custom web page to do city payoff lookups. My friend Chuck, who is accompanying me to Montréal, wrote an iPhone app to do lookups as well. With cell phones being everywhere, most players may just use the web page or a dedicated app, but I should have something in the box as well.

Finally, I need to spend time on the rules and finish them. Most of the information is in there. The rulebook just needs a bit more organization and polish.