# Calculations Vs Information

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Joined: 12/12/2011

I'm currently working on a game that uses damage types and weaknesses and resistances like the pokemon tcg.
I have three different damage systems that I'm tossing around and they got me thinking about what makes a better play experience, calculations or information?
Some systems work with less information that has to be referenced during the game, but require more calculations by the players during the game. Other systems might require less calculations be made by the players, but more information needs to be referenced to compensate.

Here are the three systems I'm looking at.

System 1- The same as the pokemon TCG. One damage value. If a creature is weak to an attack type, x2 damage. If a creature is strong against an attack type, -2 damage.

System 2- Kongai's damage system. Attack has a number of hits, a damage type, and a damage value. Defender has a defense value for each damage type (3 types).
Subtract the defender's defense value from the damage value and then multiply this total by the number of hits.

System 3- Each attack has three damage values; a base value, a value to use against defenders weak to the attack type, and a value to be used against defenders strong to the attack type. Defenders then have their strengths/weaknesses listed on their card.

Of these three systems, which strikes you as the most interesting?
System 1 and 2 require math, but system 3 will have more numbers on my cards.

Have you ran into a design dilemma where you had to choose between adding more information or require more calculations by the players? Which route did you choose, and why?

Hellper
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Joined: 01/31/2016
Since I don't mind

Since I don't mind calculating a bit in games I play, I feel like System 2 is the most interesting.
System 1 is good also but maybe too simple. And System 3 may be a little hard to read.

pelle
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Joined: 08/11/2008
An important difference is

An important difference is that systems 2 and 3 allows you to have more fine-grained attributes with different cards being more unique. You could even combine 2 and 3, but that of course means even more numbers per card.

Other than that I do not think the calculations is an issue, but others have complained that most gamers refuse to do even simple maths, so that might be a consideration.

I made a game that instead of having standard modifiers for attacking at different ranges I listed all the possible ranges each unit could attack, so that I could make units more different (the attack-values fall off at different rates). A side-effect is that there are no calculations to do, but that was not the primary reason for that design.

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X3M
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Joined: 10/28/2013
Personally, I don't mind

Personally, I don't mind calculating either.
However, most players actually do mind.
So, please keep that in mind.

Personal experience:
I kept my system as simple as possible for this. So all players have to do is choose the lowest number.
And this works. The other variables steer the players.
It is comparable with your system 2. But I had to simplify a bit more. Players had to look up more with my previous system. And looking up can cause mistakes. So, try to refrain from looking up as much as possible.
Comparing information with 2 play cards placed together however is simple (but I did not have that luxury in my game and used a table of contents)

Freedom in variables:
You might want to ask yourself; "how much freedom do you want for your variables". This means that you, as designer, as balancer, want to give yourself freedom in the designing and balancing. It also can make things harder for you if you don't have experience.

System 1 is solid. Just 1 variable to modify. While the player has to calculate the numbers.
System 2 leaves more room open for design. 3 variables to modify.
System 3 has 3 variables. But indeed predetermined for the player. System 1 fits in this one as well. You might consider using system 1, but written out for the players.

Please not that I am only counting variables of where numbers can be assigned. Because a type, has the number 3 as you have mentioned. It will be A, B or C.

Balance issue's:
This is opposite to the number of variables.
System 1 is the easiest to balance. System 2 and 3 are harder to balance.

In total. I suggest that you use system 3. You could start with system 1 and upgrade later on to 3 if you feel the need. But you have plenty of freedom at first for your design process if you start with 3 right away.

I foresee trouble, balancing system 2. It only works if you have a clear plan in mind for your types.

I hope that this was of help.

JayProducer
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Joined: 01/31/2016
What you have to ask yourself

What you have to ask yourself also is that what happens if the attack is 5 points and defence 6 points. What happens if 1 is outstanding, is that carried over or re-set back to its full value?

How will you keep track of the defence Vs attack hits?

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Joined: 12/12/2011
Thank you all so much for

Thank you all so much for your replies. I've been considering your feedback, and it seems to me that most of us here on the board game design forum probably don't mind calculating during a game. I think it's good we seem to be aware that this isn't common. Many people don't want to do any math in a game at all.
I can understand this if having to calculate, even simple equations, breaks the game immersion for a player. Referencing charts and rulebooks can have the same effect, so a balance must be made with how much information can be put onto the game pieces.
My game has players making double blind decisions, so conceivably, a player might be considering the number of choices they can make vs what choices their opponent might make, exponentially increasing their calculations. For this reason, I think simple is best.

Masacroso
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Joined: 05/05/2014
I dislike very much

I dislike very much calculation, i.e. counting things, subtracting, and basic arithmetic operations.

The human mind is based on linguistic and intuition, arithmetic and similar calculation are not human in the sense that are not as natural as intuition/linguistic things.

Indeed arithmetic is the hardest common task for a human brain. It is better then try to achieve the same function of arithmetic through linguistic (semantic) and other abstract operations linked to qualities instead of quantities.

You can design three levels of kind of attack/defense, based in some non numeric symbology easy to understand (steel is stronger than wood and similar things).

First of all you must see if these systems create really different games or if they are the same game but hidden under different levels of complexity.

More than think about a system you must know before what you want to produce with your game... what kind of situations or decisions.

pelle
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Joined: 08/11/2008
hm

I am not sure where you got that from Masacroso? There are several things about arithmetics that are pretty hardcoded into human brains from what I understand, so I do not think your statement is always true?

For instance one thing I find confusing is in Fields of Fire where the range of units is listed as Point-Blank, Short, Long, or Very Long. What it means is just 0, 1, 2, 3, so why not print that? Now the player mentally has to convert Long to 2 every time. It is just an extra step to take because the designer felt it would be more thematic to use descriptive names instead of simple numbers.

Or like in Infantry Attacks (and also Panzer Grenadier) where the leaders have only a title, not a number. So you need to remember that a Major outranks a Captain outranks a Corporal (plus several other ranks), or look that up in the rulebook. Which is not too much work. Except then you play as the Germans or Russians and they have the titles printed in those languages. I am sure there are wargame geeks out there that remembers the ranks of Russian officers and think it is as natural as "steel is stronger than wood" but I would much rather just have the numbers printed on them (or in addition to the text). Never assume that players are going to think that what is obvious to you will be obvious to them.

Or slightly less worse: The coins in Eight Minute Empires Legends that are silver or copper, and you have to remember that silver means 3 copper. Why not print a big 1 or 3 on the coins as a reminder for new players? Such oversights are pretty difficult to understand. It is just yet another detail that you need to mention and teach every new player that distracts them from something more important.

I can't think of any game that used names where I did not think "why do I have to remember or look up every time what the precise meaning of this is, when a simple number would have been sufficient to instantly know what will happen".

Of course I would not want to have it like in some monster wargames, like the Europa series, where players find it perfectly normal that you need to bring calculators to the table to be able to calculate combat results. :) I do not think there is anything particularly positive about calculations. If they can be avoided by clever use of tables or simple numbers printed on components I very much prefer that. But I do not see anything bad at all with them being numbers rather than strings of letters, if they have a numeric meaning anyway.

Masacroso
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Joined: 05/05/2014
pelle wrote:I am not sure

pelle wrote:
I am not sure where you got that from Masacroso? There are several things about arithmetics that are pretty hardcoded into human brains from what I understand, so I do not think your statement is always true?

Well, it was tested. I remember that I read about it when the videogame Brain training get out.

The videogame was created by a neuroscientist. I refer about arithmetic.

My other assertion, than semantic and intuition is easier to the brain than arithmetic, is based in this kind of information and some of anthropology and archaeology: if you see historic registers arithmetic processes were not as common as the develop of languages and the natural intuition of any complex living being to survive.

But is true that this doesn't mean that a logic based on qualities will be ever more easier than arithmetic, the complexity behind the logic system is important too.

Quote:
"steel is stronger than wood" but I would much rather just have the numbers printed on them (or in addition to the text). Never assume that players are going to think that what is obvious to you will be obvious to them.

Im agree. Im not saying that the interpretation maybe completely obvious, just that it maybe easier to learn and remember.

Numbers over the symbols are fine... Indeed a mix is the best: you can design some symbology that represent a quality and a quantity, reinforcing the information and making easier to see everything.Many games does this trick, by example putting a number of swords together to symbolize the strength of something and, at the same time, changing a bit the dimension, the color background or the design of sword to reinforce the difference (as a quality, something differentiable by simple vision with near zero analysis).

By example the classical french card design is something like this:

In this case I think this design was motivated by different reasons but as an example I think is understandable.

pelle
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Joined: 08/11/2008
Well, I think I agree then.

Well, I think I agree then. Using symbols to reinforce the numbers sounds like a good thing.

X3M
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Joined: 10/28/2013
I strongly agree with pelle.

Allow me to add:

Comparing numbers and calculating an actual value are 2 different things.

The example of range 0, 1, 2, 3 is a simple example of comparing.
No doubt, even 4 year old kids can do this. (Symbols help here too)

I think that calculating new numbers, AND THEN, compare them will start bringing the problems. Because then players have to calculate during the game. And not all do understand how to do this.

So titles or numbers or both. It doesn't really cover the problem since it isn't really part of the problem (my point of view). If it is regarding comparing things. Then numbers will win since counting is very easy to do in comparison with remembering titles.

The amount of titles and numbers also have influence. Remembering 3 titles is easy. Remembering 9 titles is hard.
Comparing 3 or 9 different numbers is always easy, as long as it has a understandable value.

Stuff like having a damage table for units:
50%-75%-100% with a damage of 40 gives?
20-30-40.
Stuff like that can be to hard for a lot of players already. Calculating with percentages?
A factor of 2/4th, 3/4th 4/4th is also problematic.

Even a simple multiplication; this unit shoots 3 bullets, you have 4 of these units. This is a total of 12 bullets to roll. Things like that can be troublesome for some players.

But simply comparing 5 with 7. 7 is the highest or 5 is the lowest. That, any one can do once they can count.

***

It surprises me, Masacroso, that you dislike math? Is it really during the game? Because you did some awesome calculations in the past for us on this forum.
What happened?

***

I apologise to NomadArtisan. Since we are going off topic a bit. And I am not helping much with adding to the discussion.

Masacroso
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Joined: 05/05/2014
Other problem that I see with

Other problem that I see with calculation, not related to the playability for newcomers and broad audience, is that if you put calculus then it make harder to play the game in a more abstract level i.e. in a more strategical or metagame level.

If I need to make calculus about what is more efficient in some situation it make harder to plan what I must try to play in a long sequence of turns/time.

Then sometimes what happen is that more complexity in a game make the game less deeper because you must focus a lot on different areas that the "big plan" or philosophy to play behind your decisions.

A not so complex game in the basic mechanics sometimes make that you play the game in higher dimensions of abstraction because the base level is simple, so a "simple" game become a deep game.

And for a complex mechanics very often make a game as hard to master that you must focus too much in the calculus and never get the time/knowledge to put the game in an advanced level of strategy or philosophy.

In our memories Im sure that many good moments of play are when something epic (or funny) happen, and this kind of situations are more related to strategy or attitude (thinking about what to do in several turns/time) than just in concrete or isolated turns.

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X3M wrote:
It surprises me, Masacroso, that you dislike math? Is it really during the game? Because you did some awesome calculations in the past for us on this forum.
What happened?

I love math... I really love a lot math... but I dont like lost time with computer-friendly things, calculus. Indeed I read, time to time, some books of math, these days Im studying measure theory and probability theory, and something about stochastic calculus by example.

Im not a computer or a robot so I hate work like one... I prefer to use and expand the human-friendly capabilities of the mind.

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Joined: 12/12/2011
X3M wrote:Al I apologise to

X3M wrote:
Al
I apologise to NomadArtisan. Since we are going off topic a bit. And I am not helping much with adding to the discussion.

Don't apologize at all!
This is the direction I was hoping this thread would go in. I didn't want to specifically focus on my game mechanics, as I knew they would change (and indeed they already have), I only wanted to use them as a starting point and example.

I wonder if we could come up with a loose set of 'rules' to help in designing games to have 'human friendly' calculation.
For example, I too like using symbols where possible but what happens when the number of symbols matters?
How many symbols becomes too many for counting, and a number value would be better?
I've found, in general, if there are more than 6 objects/symbols in close proximity I tend to end up counting them. 6 or less and I'm able to recognize the number of objects/symbols without having to count. Perhaps 6 of any countable symbols could be a 'limit rule'.
What about where multiplication is used? multiplying values of 5 or less tends to be pretty automatic for me. Is this the same for you?
Could this be another rule to use where multiplication is desired for a game mechanic?
What are your thoughts?
Does the above make sense?

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