# The Rule of Halves?

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Jpwoo
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Joined: 03/26/2009

In the forward of "A brief History of Time" Stephen Hawkings tells how a friend of his said that for every equation in his book he would loose half of his potential audience. So he choose to put in only one equation. E=Mc^2.

I think perhaps this applies to game design too. Only it should be phrased:

"For every page in your rule book you loose half your potential audience."

It could certainly help explain LCR. And why the classic games of our youth all had the rules on the box top.

Or perhaps "For every rule in your game you loose half your audience."

Hedge-o-Matic
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Joined: 07/30/2008
The Rule of Halves?

This is true, to a point. But, given that a rules set can now incorporate much more in the way of diagrams and examples than was possible in our youth, the length of a rules set isn't necesarily as much of a deterrent as some might believe. For example, for my abstract series Excero Captum, I took six games and added all sorts of snazzy imagery, making each rule far easier to understand. Each rule book came out to about four pages of rules, plus a few extra pages (notation, FAQ, etc.).

I think that good design and writing can make rulebooks easier to absorb. Each game in the EC set was originally a one-page rule set, but the reader had to picture every example for themselves.

Also, though the rules of games used to fit on the box lid, this is the equivalent of two or three normal pages.

But, given the spirit of what you're saying, I have to agree. My example above all consisted of games with one-page rule sets. Considering the attention span of most people today, and the quest for immediate understanding and gratification, every page of boiled-down rules after the first is going to impact audience numbers. Perhaps, as you say, every rule after the first, which would be grim if true (and it might be).

larienna
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Joined: 07/28/2008
The Rule of Halves?

You have also to make a distinction between the rule quality and quantity. There are many rules that you can create to solve the same problem.

For example, in a old war game, when 2 armies fight each other, you totalise the strenght, look in a table and make a roll. Today, with axis and allies, you roll 1 die for each unit and check the result. Both system use one rule, but the second one is more convenient, so it's quality is higher.

So simplifying the rules means 2 things, reduce the number of rules and make some rules easier to learn/use/understand.

So quality and number is important.

Sure the overload of rules can persuade people not to play. We have tons of old strategy game at my game club that we don't play, because they are too much complicated. With today's knowledge, we can easily readapt these games and make them more convenient to play by lowering the number of rules and raising their quality.

But there is also a paradox : Dungeon and Dragon 3rd edition. I definately find this game too much complex, but all my friends in my game club knows all the details of these rules.

So why does complexity in the D&D rules does not scare people away, I can't tell. It's a mystery to me.

Johan
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Joined: 10/05/2008
The Rule of Halves?

Larienna wrote:
You have also to make a distinction between the rule quality and quantity. There are many rules that you can create to solve the same problem.

I agree with you, that simplify/streamline the rules is necessary. I will also agree that the same problem can be solved in different ways. ...but... The mechanism and the length of the rules are two different things. A game with a simple set of rules can be rubbish and a game with an over complex rule can be a very good game.

Quote:
For example, in a old war game, when 2 armies fight each other, you totalize the strength, look in a table and make a roll. Today, with axis and allies, you roll 1 die for each unit and check the result. Both system use one rule, but the second one is more convenient, so its quality is higher.

What is the better thing with this? This is two different ways to solve the same problem and I don’t see why a dice feast (a lot of dice rolls) will give the game a higher quality.

Quote:
So simplifying the rules means 2 things, reduce the number of rules...

This is absolutely not true. It is not the number of rules that shall be reduced. It is the number of different mechanism's and how intuitive the rules are. Example: If you always roll a dice and hit on 5-6 then you shall not include a unit that will roll two dice and hit on a 7.

Quote:
...and make some rules easier to learn/use/understand.

Yes.

Quote:
Sure the overload of rules can persuade people not to play. We have tons of old strategy game at my game club that we don't play, because they are too much complicated. With today's knowledge, we can easily readapt these games and make them more convenient to play by lowering the number of rules and raising their quality.

Still, its not the number of rules gives the game a high quality.
What you are after is that if you lower the number of rules, you will get a higher playability.
The problem with the old strategic games often takes to long time to play.

Quote:
But there is also a paradox : Dungeon and Dragon 3rd edition. I definately find this game too much complex, but all my friends in my game club knows all the details of these rules.

So why does complexity in the D&D rules does not scare people away, I can't tell. It's a mystery to me.
Because the complexity and quality not is the same thing. You will not get any new players to D&D 3ed (or other older games), but several of the old games have their fans and they will not agree with you that the game has a low quality.

// Johan

larienna
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Joined: 07/28/2008
The Rule of Halves?

Quote:
Quote:
For example, in a old war game, when 2 armies fight each other, you totalize the strength, look in a table and make a roll. Today, with axis and allies, you roll 1 die for each unit and check the result. Both system use one rule, but the second one is more convenient, so its quality is higher.

What is the better thing with this? This is two different ways to solve the same problem and I don’t see why a dice feast (a lot of dice rolls) will give the game a higher quality.

In a game called D-Day, for the combat mechanic you totalise the units value, check a table to see the ratio, then roll a die and check in another table fo the results. Now what makes this mechanics more clumsy than axis and allies, roll one dice for each unit, it result is lower than it's stats it hit.

1- Totalising the unit : Totalising the unit takes time and force the player to do some math for each engagement. There are also some special rules that can double the strength of some units.

2- You need to cross reference a table, having to check in a table for something makes always the game less attractive and also takes time.

3- Using 2 tables to solve each engagement also slow the pace of the game and makes the game less attractive.

In axis and allies, the mechanics has the following advantage

1- No need to do some math.

2- No need to cross refence table each time. Sure when you are new to the game, you need to check the stats of the units, but with a few practice, you can easily remember these stats. But you cannot remeber the ratio table, of the result table for each ratio.

3- Rolling dices for each unit makes the result more visual.

4- The whole combat process takes less much time.

Jpwoo
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Joined: 03/26/2009
The Rule of Halves?

The original point is that the more complex a game is the less appeal it may have. (Talking wide spread appeal not gamer apeal.) This is why a game like Puerto Rico can be top rated but not widely enjoyed. While Settlers or LCR while not appealing to the gaming elite still have widespread appeal.

Larienna's idea that Axis and Allies is better than ASL reflects this.

Does this mean that everyone should strive to produce simple games? I don't think so.

I wouldn't want to live in a world where the only choice for game was Scene it, the only TV show was American Idol, the only movie is Scary Movie 4, the only food is hamburgers, the only book is Chicken Soup for the Soul, the only color of paint is beige, and everyone has digital watches. You get the point.

RE: Larienna's arguments

Everyone has their own opinions, and I disgree with several of yours.

I think that a complex rule can be preferable to a simple rule if it makes your game do what you want it to do. A complex game may not have the same appeal as a simple game, but that doesn't make the simple game "Better."

Johan
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Joined: 10/05/2008
The Rule of Halves?

Larienna: As I understand it, you say that A&A is a better game then D-Day, because it's simpler. That is your opinion, and I don’t agree with you.

Jpwoo wrote:
Does this mean that everyone should strive to produce simple games? I don't think so.

I wouldn't want to live in a world where the only choice for game was Scene it, the only TV show was American Idol, the only movie is Scary Movie 4, the only food is hamburgers, the only book is Chicken Soup for the Soul, the only color of paint is beige, and everyone has digital watches. You get the point.
Thanks Jpwoo, that summon half of my feelings to this subject.

The other half is that a simple game can be presented in a complex way and a complex game can have simple rules. It's all in the presentation of the game.
There are different ways to present the rules. It is possible to simplify and remove special rules by remove them from the rulebook. These rules can totally change the game.
One way to do this is the CCG style: You have one rulebook that describes the basic games and on the playing components that has special rules (in the CCG case the cards but it can also be other things).
Another way is to do the Warhammer style, where you place the special rules in special books and called them Army books.

// Johan