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When is something too complex?

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Experimental Designs
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There is that saying going around that one would rather have fun factor in a wargame than realism. Sometimes realism is the fun factor and yet not everyone thinks this way. Some people see fun factor in a wargame as being easy to play without a gargantuan rulebook to thumb through every other minute or having to refer to a huge freakin' chart.

Does complexity automatically mean a boring game?

Does realism need to be complex?

When is something too complex in a game? A wargame in particular.

RogerWeaver
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Complexity

I can't see that complexity automatically means a boring game. Personally I've noted as I've gotten older (I'm 49 going on 50) that I don't want to spend as much time setting up for a simulation. I'm not a big fan of video games but if all I have to do is sit down with some folks and play, I'd probably prefer to do that then spend an hour preparing and an hour breaking things down. But there are always exceptions. As a kid I loved the immersion of D&D and would pore through the rulebooks. There are some complicated and long boardgames that I will probably give a day to play if I can find the right people to present it and make it go smoothly...so that it's fun. Realism can be kicked up to absurd levels. There are Civil War re-enactments and Society for Creative Anachronism's medieval battles. To answer your question about when are war-games too complex I think you should ask yourself what the players would be like and rank their play preferences. Once you have a better grasp on those desires you will better be able to focus in on an appropriate amount of complexity.

pelle
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Complexity is about having

Complexity is about having many parts that interacts in different ways. That is a good thing, if you are trying to make a game that mimics something very complex in reality (like war). But it should emerge from simple rules, not complex rules. Sometimes the rulebook can be thick, but that is not always a problem. It becomes a problem when there are rules exceptions. Little stuff you need to look up in the rules all the time that there are no hints about on the game components. Or when the rules are just a mess of different mechanics instead of some kind of uniform way of doing things.

In particular I dislike wargames that have special rules for different unit types, including of course any kind of explicit RPS special rules, instead of using some more generic rules. For instance many games have special rules for what happens when tanks attack infantry. I'd rather assign units some kind of anti-tank-values or something that will naturally result in some units having a difficult time fighting tanks (in some terrain at least), but that you will get from a quick glance at the unit counters (and the terrain effects chart), not having to remember that type A attacking type B is special.

It can also be painful when there are rules about some specific part of the map, or some specific turn, and there is no indicator printed as a reminder of this somewhere. Like if you are not allowed to move inside some are before turn 4 for some perfectly good historical reason, make sure that area is clearly marked on the map, and that it says "turn 4" somewhere as a reminder. Don't just hope that players will memorize this fact and remember it, because 9 times out of 10 it will not be remembered before turn 8 or so.

The same thing for terrain. If all terrain effects can be summarized in a nice uniform table with a few columns (leg movement cost, wheel movement cost, defense modifier, ...) that is beautiful. If I need to constantly look things up in some paragraph in the rulebook where the designer has describes in words what the effects of a terrain type are that will take a lot of time.

It isn't really about complexity. The exact same game can be presented in different ways. If you can move details from the rulebook to tables, they are much easier to look up. If you can move values from the tables to the units they are even easier to look up. The end result could still be the same ("tank beats infantry on a roll of 4-6") but depending on how you present it to players it could either be a page of rules to read (and memorize) or just a number printed on the counter. Unfortunately many games, especially if they use plastic miniatures instead of cardboard counters, put thing in the rulebook where it is the most painful to look up.

X3M
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It entirely depends on the

It entirely depends on the scale of the game? Storytelling is what I am getting at.

When you fight with numbers in the hundreds. A fast result is best. This because you follow the story of the army.

But when you fight with just a couple of units. Then you can have a more complex system. This will not be boring, because you follow now the story of that unit in particular. And compare this with other units.

Personally, I like using a chart with the statistics. This gives a nice overview for comparing the units with other units. It might seem complex to have 33 different units with each having 15 statistics. But this chart will be known thoroughly by the players after a while. Especially the easy to remember numbers. If all the tanks have the same health. And all the Jeeps have their own health. Than the name of the unit already helps.

And the only reason that my friends have to look in this chart is to know how much XP they need to spend on something.

McTeddy
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As a game designer, one of

As a game designer, one of the most important lessons is that "Fun is relative". Every single player has their own expectations and needs that determine what THEY consider fun.

I know MANY wargame players who play games to learn about a period and experience the situation. They would rather have clunky or complex rules that simulate the conflict rather than an unrealistic casual game.

But casual games are playable by anyone and everyone, so the potential sales are MUCH higher. It's much easier to find your audience and get noticed by the majority.

Your game needs to depend on your own goals. Personally, I love complex games... but I make casual ones.

I make games with the hope that one day I can make a steady income from them... this requires larger numbers and finding an audience that is easier with low-complexity games.

kevnburg
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Relevant Extra Credits Video

Here's a relevant game design video on depth vs. complexity: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jVL4st0blGU

zdepthcharge
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Worth reading, 'The Visual

Worth reading, 'The Visual Display of Quantitative Information'.

pelle
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Unfortunately I think a lot

Unfortunately I think a lot of the "historically accurate vs casual" comes from just not having the time/resources (or just being lazy) to make the design more playable. Like that old Newton quote about not having the time to write a shorter letter.

Not saying you could do a 4-page version of the Advanced Squad Leader rulebook without sacrificing a lot of fun detail. In fact that rulebook is already amazingly compact. It uses abbreviations everywhere and always refers to other rules instead of repeating them. For what it is (more like a rpg, allowing players to do almost anything they can imagine) I don't say they do it wrong. Many other games though just seem to have complexity that doesn't add anything for anyone, like loooong lists of modifiers to remember that don't really add much. Removing a few -1 or +1 modifiers are not going to turn a realistic simulation into a casual game, but it will speed up play and learning.

I should probably read that book on data sometime. Seen it in other contexts. A lot of this is very closely related to user interface design in general. Something I could read more about. For any level of detail you choose you can present it to players in ways that make the game more or less playable.

Experimental Designs
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This is very helpful, thank

This is very helpful, thank you all for replying.

So if I may provide an example for a combat mechanic.

Attacker
Rolls to find a target of opportunity.
Rolls to hit target, if acquired.
Rolls to damage, if the target is hit.

Defender
Rolls for damage effect when damaged.
Rolls for morale effect if there is sufficient damage.

None of this rolling to hit then wound then the other person rolls an armor save or something of that order. I've had some people from a different forum (which shall not be named) informed me this was waaay too complex. On the contrary compared to ASL this is nothing.

X3M
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When looking at that

When looking at that sequence. And I play it with my dice. It already feels like fun. Every roll that you get closer to the truth feels more exciting.

If the first roll fails, you go meh!
But when the last roll goes, the players will go either Yesss! or Nooo!.

It does however sound like a 1 on 1 battle, correct?
For how many units on the board in total are you planning this?

Experimental Designs
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The aim for that is to take

The aim for that is to take away the omnipotent player syndrome.

You may see your opponent's models hiding the woods but do your models -in game- know that?

If your models can't see them then you can look at your opponent's all you want, you'll have to wait until the next opportunity to spot them or maybe they'll spot your models first!

The resources spent on reconnaissance is seldom wasted...

Experimental Designs
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Apologies for the double post

Apologies for the double post but instead of starting a new thread I figured this is related.

According to this discussion: http://theminiaturespage.com/boards/msg.mv?id=217007

Apparently what I have as stated above is considered too complex and lacks "elegance" to some and I have used TMP for research purposes for a number of years.

I'm starting to wonder if I should scrap everything I have and start over?

laperen
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What i hate about war games

What i hate in war games which some may consider "complex" is the specifics.

Imagine a game which includes physics in its calculations. Okay so i shoot this missile. The missile has a thrust power of X. The wind speed is Y in the NW direction. The probability of malfunction is Z. From these I calculate its trajectory. Now the enemy will calculate its interceptor in the same way with his own values. we will compare values and see if:
A - if his interceptor hits my missile
B - if my missile hits my intended target
C - casualties based on where my missile hits
then calculating casualties depends on the explosive power of my missile and radius, armor or whatever cover the units are behind while in the blast radius, etc etc...and it might as well go on forever.

Personally, I do not find them complex. Far from it, they are simple when broken down into small steps.

The problem is, they are tedious. In the above example, the simple goal of blowing up something on my enemy's side is sidetracked by what I would assign to an engineer in the real situation. I don't feel like a commander, I feel like a grunt.

I guess you'd have to define what you mean by complex first before continuing the conversation, but in the context of games with theme, as long as the mechanic is thematically presented, it should work. In the above example, if you want the player to feel like a commander, don't make him do grunt work. Whatever is out of the commander's control can be represented by random deciding values.

Enjoyable mechanics on the other hand is a whole other ball game, which deserves its own thread of discussion.

Masacroso
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For me realism =

For me realism = boredom-&-pain and unrealism/surrealism = FUN.

Think on every game, from poker to Mario Bros. I really dislike a lot realism.

I can understand your point but anyway for me WAR is the more terrible thing that exists, completely in the extreme of a game must be imo.

Same for assassinate and any other form that invokes real suffering/misery.

I can understand your point, war is funny when you dont know what is war. Im getting older. Many political things are not fun any more for me, in the past I played a lot wargames and many violent games... this was because I was a child so I dont had conscience of these things.

Anyway trying to help you on your main question: just try to put realism in a easy way,i.e., put realism on only a few things to manage.

A game become boring if you have to manage too many things. This is because many others dimensions of the game becomes eclipsed by the excessive need of management.

So you must search the more abstract variables that put realism on the game, because more abstract = less variables. If you put many variables the games becomes overcomplex = overmanagement.

And more than this try that the variables and their relations stay in a easy way when you must resolve a situation, i.e., try to make the "algebra" or ways to resolve things as easier as you can.

Try to dont deal too much with stacks or excessive numbers... put the effort to resolve the situations on a qualitative way instead of a quantitative one. This simplifies and put a lot of beauty on the game.

Some examples about variables so you can see what Im talking about: range of vision, range of attack, movement speed, health, resistances, etc... I surely would try use some type of "geometry" to manage some of this variables in a simple way by example not using a stack or something similar to health (a number), instead I would try to use a binary state (life/death) linked to some probability... so I dont need to manage the numbers about health or so.

In the same way you can amplify the quality states to something like fine/death/wounded/seriously wounded.

The same for any other variable, trying to change numbers by quality-states resolved on probability (or deterministic) ways.

X3M
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I though it was good?

It surprises me that you are still not happy with what you have. You posted a good list. Just 5 rolls of dice.

Perhaps I am too noob as game designer, or too much of a veteran if it comes to rolling dice. That I can't see the problem with this.
And I am sure that you already have play tested this.

If it is the same sequence for every unit. There is no problems, right?
And for only 10 to 30 units, this is doable.

However, if you want every unit to do an action at the same time. I do suggest, that you find a way that you can roll for several units at the same time without problems. You can't play chess with moving all the pieces at the same time either. That too would be too complex.

*****

I am trying to see their viewpoint on this:
- It could be that they find it too complex because they are not used to your way of rolling?
Some players simply want to roll and not think. (unfortunately, that is the majority of players)
- Or that they all are thinking that every unit does an action at the same time? (See the suggestion above.)
- Maybe the number of rolls is too much, not too complex. Most people are not used to roll, then roll again, then roll again, then roll again, and at last, roll again. With most games, you roll 1 time, and there is a result. (Except Risk or A&A). As said before, just 5 times is good?

*****

If you could create about 3 to 5 examples. Maybe that gives more insight to them and us. Perhaps I am overlooking something.

Experimental Designs
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X3M wrote:It surprises me

X3M wrote:
It surprises me that you are still not happy with what you have. You posted a good list. Just 5 rolls of dice.

Perhaps I am too noob as game designer, or too much of a veteran if it comes to rolling dice. That I can't see the problem with this.
And I am sure that you already have play tested this.

If it is the same sequence for every unit. There is no problems, right?
And for only 10 to 30 units, this is doable.

However, if you want every unit to do an action at the same time. I do suggest, that you find a way that you can roll for several units at the same time without problems. You can't play chess with moving all the pieces at the same time either. That too would be too complex.

*****

I am trying to see their viewpoint on this:
- It could be that they find it too complex because they are not used to your way of rolling?
Some players simply want to roll and not think. (unfortunately, that is the majority of players)
- Or that they all are thinking that every unit does an action at the same time? (See the suggestion above.)
- Maybe the number of rolls is too much, not too complex. Most people are not used to roll, then roll again, then roll again, then roll again, and at last, roll again. With most games, you roll 1 time, and there is a result. (Except Risk or A&A). As said before, just 5 times is good?

*****

If you could create about 3 to 5 examples. Maybe that gives more insight to them and us. Perhaps I am overlooking something.

Perhaps you're not a perfectionist like I am who is cursed with that tiny little voice in the back of your head that keeps telling you "it's not good enough!"

I'm glad you think it's good as it stands and yet when several people consider my design as "complex" or not "elegant" because they're having to roll more than once I'm at the point where I consider these people just being lazy. (Yes I am frustrated)

What's so different between mine and the amount of rolls you do on games like Battletech or Warmachine?

Battletech = roll to hit, roll for location then roll for criticals. This is per weapon on the model and some models have up to a dozen weapons!

Warmachine = roll to hit, roll to damage then roll for location on a warjack or warbeast and an optional fourth rolls for special effects. That is for one attack which most models are allowed anyway.

Let's not even start how many dice you're rolling plus the amount of rolling sequences done for games like Warhammer...

I'm satisfied with my own design and don't let that sound narcissistic in anyway. I'm having a hard time getting my head wrapped around this whole debacle that the game is too complex.

Maybe I'm just too short sighted.

Despot9
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Are the testers who are

Are the testers who are having issues with the complexity the type of gamers to play Battletech, Warmachine, or Warhammer? If not then you may want to find testers who do play those games to get their opinion of the mechanic.

McTeddy
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Personally, I can't stand

Personally, I can't stand more than one or two rolls. I find more than that to be tedious. While I enjoy Battletech, most die-rolling war games aren't my cup of tea.

But what you should do with your game depends on who you are trying to target. If you want a mass-market game that many people will play then you'll probably want to simplify the process.
Quick and simple are keys to making something that even casual players can enjoy.

If you are okay with being a niche title look for playtesters who meet your needs. Battletech, warhammer etc are fairly niche. The average game-player isn't likely to play.
The more complex the game is the smaller your potential playerbase is.

There is nothing wrong with making a niche title as long as you realize that you are doing it. Just pick a target audience and tailor everything to satisfy them.

Experimental Designs
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Despot9 wrote:Are the testers

Despot9 wrote:
Are the testers who are having issues with the complexity the type of gamers to play Battletech, Warmachine, or Warhammer? If not then you may want to find testers who do play those games to get their opinion of the mechanic.

I had a circle of friends who play tested this before and they think it's fairly good but them being friends I wanted something with a little less bias.

The folks I play tested supposedly play a large variety of games. They claim to have played familiar titles such as Infinity, Malifaux and Warhammer (allegedly) and a slew of board games yet they act like this game is a second rendition of ASL. It's far from it! (I think)

The aim is to be a niche title.

X3M
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ASL is a good game, perhaps

ASL is a good game, perhaps take it as a compliment? :)

But you don't have to be afraid that you are copying ASL.
With how you described things, I don't really see the similarities. But perhaps it is the little similarities that are considered important aspects of a game to the players.

Then again, the more games you play, the more experienced you become, the more detail you see in the different games.

For example: [someone that I know] used to think that Monopoly and Risk are alike. Simply due to the fact that both games build things up. And both games use 2 or more dice. The only difference is that one builds up streets and houses. The other builds up armies. And lets not forget, they have the same size of board. She also thought that the other Risk that I have, with the bigger board, is harder to play. [She is not a board gamer].

With this ridiculous (and unfortunately true) example, I only want to show you that it depends on the experience that your play testers have. You better ask them what aspects they think that are alike and map this out.

*****

Further, if you feel like doing this...

I suggest that you make a list of the dice mechanics of each game. And place them in order of complexity. Including your own. By how you feel about the complexity/difficulty.

Then allow other players to do the same, without letting them look at your list. What they feel like the order of complexity/difficulty.

Not only can you do this list for the dice. But you could make a separate list for the game in general.

If your game is placed in the top constantly, you can be certain that your game is too complex. Somewhere in the middle of the lists is good for a war game.

Experimental Designs
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X3M wrote:ASL is a good game,

X3M wrote:
ASL is a good game, perhaps take it as a compliment? :)

But you don't have to be afraid that you are copying ASL.
With how you described things, I don't really see the similarities. But perhaps it is the little similarities that are considered important aspects of a game to the players.

Then again, the more games you play, the more experienced you become, the more detail you see in the different games.

For example: [someone that I know] used to think that Monopoly and Risk are alike. Simply due to the fact that both games build things up. And both games use 2 or more dice. The only difference is that one builds up streets and houses. The other builds up armies. And lets not forget, they have the same size of board. She also thought that the other Risk that I have, with the bigger board, is harder to play. [She is not a board gamer].

With this ridiculous (and unfortunately true) example, I only want to show you that it depends on the experience that your play testers have. You better ask them what aspects they think that are alike and map this out.

*****

Further, if you feel like doing this...

I suggest that you make a list of the dice mechanics of each game. And place them in order of complexity. Including your own. By how you feel about the complexity/difficulty.

Then allow other players to do the same, without letting them look at your list. What they feel like the order of complexity/difficulty.

Not only can you do this list for the dice. But you could make a separate list for the game in general.

If your game is placed in the top constantly, you can be certain that your game is too complex. Somewhere in the middle of the lists is good for a war game.

Well if this will clarify anything I'll explain this much.

There is use of stat cards that has all the model's information and places to mark it when it is damaged. There are cards drawn for an optional fog-of-war deck to add some chaos into the match. There is an additional type of card to play from a hand but these cards are not drawn from a deck these are compiled in the same fashion as the army list so you must choose your hand wisely.

The use of chits/tokens/markers to keep up with game effects such as damage types on vehicles, electronic warfare, morale effects on infantry, if a model is stuck in the mud or going prone to avoid detection.

Die rolling to spot/acquire a target, to hit the target, to damage the target then the defending player rolls for critical and damaged effects on their models. Other die rolls are for locality for damage effects and to regroup a routing model. As an interesting dynamic the attacker wants roll high to be successful, the defender wants to roll low to be successful.

There is alternating activations between units. A unit can contain one to several models that independently performs its allotted actions then activation passes onto the other player.

So yeah...not quite Monopoly or Stratego is it? Nor is it quite as crunchy as ASL.

Archimedes42
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Make Something You'd Enjoy

Since I'm not a war gamer, I don't have too much to bring to the table. However, my piece of sagely advice is to try and design a game that you, yourself would love to play. Because, ultimately, you're trying to please yourself with your achievement. (Unless of course board game design is a career for you! Ha Ha: In the words of Tom Vasel; "If you're in board game design for the money, then you're in it for the wrong reason.")

I think that you should just try to please yourself - there are all sorts of different gamers out there, and you can't please them all. Personally, I think that designing for your passion is healthier than designing for the market.

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