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Another Glossotechnia playtesting report

From:Jim Henry <jimhenry1973@...>
Date:Monday, March 17, 2008, 20:19
Yesterday I played Glossotechnia again (for the first time
in many months) with my brother and some friends in Athens.
I think this was the seventh game I've played; the second
with this group of players (plus or minus a couple).
Six people played; the game lasted 26 turns, around two
hours or a bit less, and we created 21 words (two with meanings
extended on later turns) and three derivational affixes.  We
used the mix-and-match Subject and Predicate cards for
translation challenges, the phoneme inventory limit optional
rule (a dice roll set the limit to 13; once that many phonemes
were in play, no more could be added), and the rule originated
by someone (I've forgotten who) at LCC2, where, if a word-coining
player can't get the other players to figure out the meaning of
his word with charades, pictures, etc., the others decide
among themselves what it means.

I need to reconsider the phoneme inventory limit; one,
the rule 2d6 + 10 gives a range of 10 to 20 phonemes,
which is rather on the low side [does anyone know what
the average number of phonemes in the world's languages
is?], and two, once the limit was reached it became hard
for us to do anything interesting with the cards on most
turns in the latter half of the game.  Most of us were
drawing and discarding one instead of drawing and playing
one in the last ten turns or so.  I probably need to increase
the base limit rule -- maybe 3d6 + 12, for a range of
15 to 30 phonemes? -- and increase the number of
Increase/Decrease phoneme limit cards in the deck.
Or perhaps increase the number of other kinds of
cards (action, syntax, grammar change, meaning change)
relative to the number of phoneme and sound change

The group's challenge sentence was translated as,

Oqme-qIm en_0sOJ-qU eqsUmU e.
AUG-know Einstein-like father 1SG
My father knows more than Einstein.

The suffix -qU was coined meaning "like, resembling"
but got steadily broader meanings as we used it in sentences
(most of them not translating our challenges, just
having fun with the language).  I pressed the augmentative
prefix Oqme- into use to signify "more"; the player
who coined it intended it to translate the word "very"
in his challenge sentence, "The sculptor's husband very
rarely bathes."

The winning player translated her sentence as,

SOlU SeJe-lI ImImIm-qU O\eI.
sleep light-time poet-like mystery
The mystery writer sleeps in the daytime.

Here she used the suffix -qU (which she had
coined) to form a noun signifying a person
similar to a poet: any kind of writer.

She had introduced an innovation when playing a
"swap challenge" card: instead of swapping both her
subject and predicate cards with another player,
she proposed everyone swapping their predicate
with the player across the table from them,
and everyone agreed it sounded like fun.  I reckon
I'll add one or two cards to do that explicitly
in the next deck revision.

My brother had coined the suffix -l1 "time when X
happens/is done" meaning to use it for his predicate
"...sleeps in the daytime", but traded that predicate
to the later-winning player.  I don't recall what the player
coining the word SeJe "sun, light" intended to use it for.
A later sound change (decreasing the phoneme
limit from 13 to 12, merging /1/ into /I/)
caused -l1 to become -lI.

There were amusing discussions about the pronunciation
of /1/, /C/ and /O\/, and some absurd charades and
even absurder guesses at what they meant ("The Marshall Plan!").
As before, I told the players that if they drew a phoneme card
they couldn't pronounce they could discard it and draw
another card, but nobody took me up on it.

I've made a few revisions to the rules and deck
composition documents after this last game.

I hope to play on 26 March in Atlanta with
Mark Reed, Alex Fink and hopefully Dana Nutter, using
the advanced deck.

Jim Henry