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Elegance

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Ark1t3kt
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Recently I've noticed that I value elegance quite a bit as a designer. I appreciate designs that are elegant, and yet some of my favourite games are by no means elegant at all...

How would you define/measure elegance in board games?

How important is striving for elegance in game design?

Does an improvement in elegance necessarily dictate an improvement of the game?

What are some tips and tricks that you use to achieve elegance in your designs?

FrankM
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Joined: 01/27/2017
Very subjective subject

I have no idea how you would measure elegance, but if you could increase elegance without changing anything else then I'd say that would qualify as improving the game.

How could you do improve elegance without changing "anything"? One way would be unifying the art/iconography of the components. Besides making the game look better, it just plain makes everything easier to comprehend. Another way would be to make the rules more internally consistent by using the same terms/metaphors to refer to equivalent mechanics.

An example of something that could have been made more elegant without changing any probabilities would be the "saving throw" or "resistance roll" from old AD&D and Rolemaster, respectively. In both cases they used the same dice as a combat roll, and the same beat-this-target-number mechanic, but were pointlessly made into discrete rules to give players another thing they needed to learn.

polyobsessive
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Do more with less

I think, for me, one of the key ways to improve elegance is to have fewer rules/mechanisms doing more work. So if you can have one rule applicable to multiple situations, that is more elegant that if you have different rules for each.

Basically, if you can make it so that the players think about their strategies more because the rules are simple and consistent, you're doing well.

joebergmann
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This is a good question...

I agree with polyobsessive about less rules/more strategy. Which is hard to achieve.

I think elegance is my top priority in game design. I want my rules to fit on a playing card!

I don't think elegance = improvement. Sometimes too much can be taken out.

I try to combine rules and reduce unneeded rules. Also, I try to make rules that are multifunctional. I have a game in which you can lay cards on top of each other. One rule is that you can't lay a card on a person. Some cards have people on them. With this, I can restrict placement of cards on multiple types of other cards very easily.

X3M
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polyobsessive wrote:I think,

polyobsessive wrote:
I think, for me, one of the key ways to improve elegance is to have fewer rules/mechanisms doing more work. So if you can have one rule applicable to multiple situations, that is more elegant that if you have different rules for each.

Basically, if you can make it so that the players think about their strategies more because the rules are simple and consistent, you're doing well.

You have just made me set my next goal.

It cannot be explained better then how you describe it.

I think it is the same for having 2 or more functions in the game for the same statistic.

But what about self explanitory rules?
I think they too add to elegance.

gparali
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Joined: 03/17/2015
What he said

I would agree with polyobsessive.

For an out of board-games example example, look into flocking behavior.

Such complex shapes and moves, all bases on three simple rules.

Tbone
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Theme + Mechanics

Elegance, to me, is attempting to accurately and compactly meld the theme and mechanics together in a way that provides strategic depth without having too many steps. When the mechanics matches the theme well AND allows me to think strategically, plan, outmaneuver, without piling on rule after rule, this is elegant to me. Theme + mechanics also includes the art. Some really cool games tank because the art dos not function well.

I like what I've heard so far! I'm in the process of "elegating" my games as well :P

Corsaire
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Joined: 06/27/2013
Software Development

It's a big term we use in software development. The rawest definition being: Maximum value from minimum effort. But it really falls more into a butterfly-ee sort of artsy thing.

In the design process, I think it largely lives in that aha moment where you start adding rules or mechanisms to control an issue and then suddenly you see a solution by removing all the extra and making a small adjustment. Or when playtesting reveals a bonus undesigned dimension of play.

I often wander into the realm of terseness in pursuit of what I think will be clarity or elegance.

As a gamer, I experience elegance both in mechanics that solve issues I've seen in other games or deliver a superior experience with less effort.

I particularly appreciate game designs that yield big emergent gameplay. It's most spectacular in gateway games like Codenames.

cignox1
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Joined: 11/22/2016
The following ideas comoe to

The following ideas comoe to my mind:

-avoiding different items types to have overlapping meanings: the player must easily recognize each type of item/skill/event, how to use it, when to apply it etc.
-Symmetry: if an item has a certain value or property, an opposite item must have opposite value (ie. if gaining a point makes me richer, loosing it makes me poorer, if there is a card to make me go from A to B thene there must exist a cart to make me go from B to A).
-Rules complexity must match the strategic depth allowed: each new rule must increase the depth. If you can keep the depth and remove rules, do it.
-There must be as few exceprions as possible.
-Circularity (or scissor rock paper rule): when A > B > C, then usually C > A makes a more elegant game (of course, if them all are horizontally the same).

As a software developer, I know that almost always you turn your beatifull designs into an ugly monster as soon as you start putting all the parts together and start testing.

CanucKnight
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Joined: 09/29/2017
objectives

I'm a huge fan of writing out objectives for a game (a laundry list of what it is supposed to allow players to do/experience) as soon as you start formulating a rule system and then combining/tossing/simplifying rules until I cannot see how to slim it down anymore without compromising my core 2 or 3 objectives.

A lot of the time the question of whether to cut or keep a rule you've had in your game since its beginning can be answered right away by seeing if it contributes to the core goals. If it does not, you can ALWAYS come up with a mechanic/tweak an existing rule to keep the game playable but in a more thematic or efficient way. Even if its not immediately apparent, seeing that the current solution is outside the scope of the game is the first step to finding a solution within scope.

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