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Complexity through Simplicity

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Three
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For the most part I believe in complexity through simplicity. From my own personal experiences it allows and encourages players to formulate deep strategies that wouldn't be possible for a more “complex” game.

Not to say that I don't appreciate depth built into the game, but on that same token no one but hardcore gamers will want to play a game that takes twenty + minutes to set up. Not only is it daunting in and of itself, but it already puts a strike against the game in the eyes of a new player. Again, most experienced gamers won't mind playing an extensive game. I personally don't mind reading multiple rule books and the like, but if there is a better way to make the game more accessible to a wider audience wouldn't it be in the designer's interest to look into it?

My idea of a well made game is one that doesn't make the player feel like they're on auto-pilot. For board games in general I think there is a layer of intimidation that new players will always experience. But when the game starts to feel like everything is happening without much involvement from players there is a problem.

For example, Games like Spades and Chess never have this problem, because there is such a huge amount of strategy behind their relatively simple rules. When I take your Queen I feel way more accomplished than when I play a card that blows up your space station. With no luck or rules involved other than my piece's movement I had to rely on out thinking you instead of waiting for a lucky draw. That's the kind of depth I always shoot for with my personal projects.

Enough of my rambling though. Anyone agrees/disagrees?

Redonesgofaster
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I agree with the idea of

I agree with the idea of keeping things simple, but I may agree with it in a different way. All of the depth should be reserved for decision points for players.

It is funny, of your two examples obviously chess is a game that doesn't have a problem it is incredible but it is not at all accessible, a grandmaster will never lose to a casual player. Spades on the other hand has a huge random element and really boils down to a memory game. There is a constant debate about known information that is played as hidden in board games (IE victory points) for spades that is the only real skillful element.

Making a game more marketable to more people does not make it a better game, in some cases (historical wargames) it will almost certainly be a worse game. So when you say it is in the interest of the designer to make the game more accessible, maybe that is true by way of finances but for the sake of the game I hope he doesn't. All that being said, I do think board gaming/gamers should make an effort to be more inclusive so that it can find a way into the mainstream and everyone can be a "hard core" gamer.

Three
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I can elaborate more on the

I can elaborate more on the games I used. Spades does have a random element in what cards you're dealt but you never have to draw new cards. Even when you're given a bad hand you can destroy your opponents by planning your books and playing a little less aggressively. As for chess, no casual player who's just learning the game is going to go up against a grand master. On that note what I meant in using those two as examples was that when you win in those games it's because you're good at the game and knew how to strategize.

I'm not saying making a game more marketable automatically makes it better. What I'm saying is that games can be simple to understand and offer an oceans level of depth outside of the written rules. That way it could appeal to more players from both worlds.

Yort
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I Agree

Three, I agree. When I'm designing a game and something doesn't seem right, or I have to put "Patch" rules in. It really means that I have to go back and work on something more fundamental to make it more organic. The best games are indeed simple rule-wise, but allow the players a lot of room to create their own strategy and make a multitude of decisions. Nothing worse than a fiddly/wonky game that feels like it is scripted and playing you.

As far as marketability; I think a lot of gimmicky games get marketed, because of their novelty appeal, not because they are necessarily good games. This might hurt in the long run for the industry. It reminds me of the video game crash in the 80's. On the other hand, I think a lot of publishers are in a "Samey" trap, because they kinda know what their customers like and aren't going to stray too far from that and take a risk.

So, we think alike on this.

Redonesgofaster
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For chess my example was

For chess my example was exaggerated. Even a more subtle skill difference makes the game unplayable. My group will not play chess with me and as far as the chess world goes, I barely know the game.

I don't want to get too nuanced about these two games because I realize you were using them as examples of good games with simple rules, and as far as that goes I agree with you. I certainly agree that there are games that are great and very simple. Blokus Carcassone, smallworld, and in that order they prioritize strategy over theme less and less.

I guess what I wanted to point out mostly is that board games often bring more than the thrill of strategy to the table. Thematic elements can really engage an otherwise uninterested party and those usually necessitate some added complexity. There are also players that love crunchy rules, they get the feeling of excitement through parsing the information.

I don't know if you have read Robin's laws of good game mastering, and it does concern itself with RPG's, not board games but I am confidant that the player types extend all throughout gaming.

larienna
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I have not read through all

I have not read through all the post, but my idea of simplification is like simplifying fractions, you try to find the smallest common denominator.

In board games that means having the simplest mechanics to implement all the features you want. More features always mean more complexity. So you have to decide what features you really want, and how simple could you express these features. Sometimes simplifying too much will remove a feature.

For example, in another thread, we tlaked about advance wars and that in board games, the concept of refueling is done by keeping active supply routes. The problem is that it removes the feature where a player will be forced to pull back to resupply allowing the opponent to start an offensive. So if that is a feature you really want to keep in your game, then you need to find an alternate way to implement this feature.

Three
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I've read that one, yeah. I

I've read that one, yeah. I agree that board game design really is trimming down your access ideas to fit into the box. Referencing you, Red, having a good theme is always great. It's just for some games that theme never comes out of the box and onto the board. In that case it just ties boat anchors on what might have been an okay game.

Personally, I'd say theme is as important as game play if there weren't strong abstract games with very little thematic nuance's. Even then I'd still say theme is a close second. Though a lot of theme-less games are very fun not many of them have kept my interest for long. :V

Yort
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Art doesn't have to work

Three wrote:
Though a lot of theme-less games are very fun not many of them have kept my interest for long. :V

How many games have held your interest on theme alone? I think without a fun game to back it up, you have just purchased some art.

Three
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Short answer, not many.

Short answer, not many.

Being fun and having genuine replayability are two very different things.

AnEvenWeirderMove
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Three wrote:For the most part

Three wrote:
For the most part I believe in complexity through simplicity. From my own personal experiences it allows and encourages players to formulate deep strategies that wouldn't be possible for a more “complex” game.

...

For example, Games like Spades and Chess never have this problem, because there is such a huge amount of strategy behind their relatively simple rules. When I take your Queen I feel way more accomplished than when I play a card that blows up your space station. With no luck or rules involved other than my piece's movement I had to rely on out thinking you instead of waiting for a lucky draw. That's the kind of depth I always shoot for with my personal projects.

Enough of my rambling though. Anyone agrees/disagrees?

Conflating two different things here:
Complexity of system space
versus
Complexity of state space

The imaginary game you described, where there's some large deck of cards, and one or more of them blows away a space station, might have a very complex system space; That is, a lot of individual elements with individual rules, and so on. This type of complexity is, I tend to agree, bad for a game. This is why I prefer the game San Juan to the game Race For The Galaxy... although I recognize that with a smaller system space it is more likely that an overwhelming strategy can emerge (Guild Hall, etc) a larger system space renders the game inaccessible to new players. I don't want to have to play a game three times before I can "really" play it in terms of understanding what all the pieces DO.

State-space, however, is a different type of complexity, and one that Chess has in spades (see what I did there?). In the theoretical space-station game, we don't know what the rules are. It could very well be Fluxx, where I draw and play a card each turn unless something changes... and thus, the state space, the number of possible states I can access from my turn, is smaller. In chess, this is likely to be quite large, and in Go even more-so... though the System Space is comparatively small the State Space is extremely large, and there are many possibilities for both my and my opponent's actions.

Both of these things said, I don't think what you called out, with the space-station-explosion card, has anything at all to do with complexity of either type; That's randomness, unpredictability, and imbalance at work. If all of the cards were the same power level, and it took some number of resources to blow up a space station, you could see and prepare, and probably be less offended when your space station is exploded; and by the same token, you could feel much more proud of your plan, having built towards it and counteracted/distracted your opponent away from blocking it, rather than just happening into a lucky draw.

JustActCasual
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Theme =/= Complexity

Redonesgofaster wrote:
I don't want to get too nuanced about these two games because I realize you were using them as examples of good games with simple rules, and as far as that goes I agree with you. I certainly agree that there are games that are great and very simple. Blokus Carcassone, smallworld, and in that order they prioritize strategy over theme less and less.

I think a good theme actually makes a game simpler (lowers comprehension complexity). Smallworld can actually be an obscenely complex game for newcomers, but the clever use of theme to explain the Races and Special Abilities makes it a lot easier to parse.

In Chess the theme helps with some aspects (what's the goal? you capture their King. makes sense) but not with others (the knight can jump over guys on his horse?? the Rook is a tower that is incredibly mobile??).

dameonunleashed
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I think you make some valid

I think you make some valid points here. However, I feel that your point about not wanting new players to feel turned-off by a game that takes 20 minutes to set up, also applies to games that are all strategy and no randomness. It's fine that you prefer games with little to no randomness, so that you can attribute your victory entirely to your skill and not a lucky die roll or card draw, but this style of gameplay can in many ways work against you when dealing with new players.

It's precisely that "a Grandmaster chess player will never lose to a new player" that send people away from chess. New players know they cannot possibly have a chance against someone who actually has experience with the game, and they won't win unless the experienced player throws the game, which is disingenuous.

Randomness allows a wider spectrum of skill to play together. Skilled players are kept on their toes against a less-skilled opponent, because they know that there is always a chance of their opponent doing something unexpected. New players are more likely to play with skilled players, because they know that a lucky roll here or a good card hand can even the playing field enough to make the game worth trying out.

I feel a well-designed game allows for randomness (when it is part of the core design of the game), but instead of using it to place players on rails (Life, candy land, myriad other children's board games), this uncertainty provides additional options to the player, allowing them to shape that new set of circumstances to their play style.

munio
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i have always been a big fan

i have always been a big fan of the concept of "simple to learn hard to master" (again chess is a great example for this)
I reccomend lookingat some of Reinir Kinizia's games for inspiration on the matter

I have enjoyed magic for the majority of my life and one of the things that draws me to it, that no matter how much better your opponent is, you always have a chance to win if you get lucky. Ofcourse the game rewards good play, but a bad player can luck out and win by chance. However, the more deccisions players have to make, the more likely the better player will win. I feel like randomness should give the worse player a chance but the exact numbers are perhaps an more intrigueing question.

Imagine that for a given game, between one "perfect" and one bad player the win percentageare 80% v 20% is that a a fair number? or is this something we should express entirely diffrent. Is this number fair for either player, and more importantly does it feel fair? should a perfect player accept that a noob is able to beat him 1 out of 5 times?

Now let us consider another question rather then talking about winning or losing an entire game, lets talk about elements within that game, what is fun and fair about having semi random outcomes for each element,

Yort
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Metaphysics

There was another thread where someone mentioned that at conventions or on a big game nite, the loudest shouts of triumph and the biggest groans come from the tables where dice are involved. There is something primally satisfying about having the power of the unseen on your side. Maybe someone who enjoys gambling could express what it is. Some of us might in fact not even believe in luck, but in fate (maybe that's part of the appeal or downside, depending on whether you are an optimist of a pessimist). I think games where the outcome is based on skill, effort AND LUCK imitate real life the most. I think we can agree that although we have control over our personal endeavors, there are unseen forces that can steer us to success or failure. It's a little frightening knowing that you might fail, but ultimately more satisfying than %100 guaranteed success.

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