I was working on a space exploration game a while back but ended up dropping it because it was too math heavy. It revolved around distance between stars. Depending on your ships engines, you would figure out how long would it take to make the trip, did you have the fuel to travel there? After you got the time it would take to travel there you needed to check if you had the resources (food, oxygen) to last that long.

If I had kept it simple where it was distance divided by speed to get time spent traveling it might have worked. But I wanted to have a way for players to interact with one another by causing delays or speedups. One card was “find a wormhole, cut 30% off your travel distance”. Another was “rouge black hole, speed slowed by 10%”. So people were doing 4 or 5 calculations at the end of each turn to see if they had enough resources to make the travel and how long it would take.

I realize I probably was over complicating it all and should have just had the cards add a specific amount of something (distance, speed, time) and instead of trying to balance based off of percentages. But I wanted to use percentages so some cards wouldn’t be totally broken. Example if a card added 2 lightyears in distance, when it is played on someone traveling a short distance 3 lightyears the impact is big. They would have to add an extra 66% to their travel. However if the card is played on someone who was going 10 lightyears the impact would only be 20%.

Anyway back to the question at hand, how much math is too much? I think the answer is anything that can’t be done in a player’s head is too much. I don’t have much to base this on except for what I have seen. Take for example Monopoly the luxury tax used to be $200 or 10% of your worth. But so many people just said it was $200 in their house rules because they didn’t want to do the math that Hasbro changed the rules in 2008 and just made it a flat $200.

But limiting math to what a person can do in their head, takes away the possibility of a lot of interesting mechanics. It can also leads to broken mechanics where %'s are better but just require too much math. I don’t know where I am going here, I was just wondering what others thought about the subject.

Angrycyborggameswrote:Quick rough example... assume you have an “engine” deck. Your ship’s speed rating determines how many cards are dealt from your engine deck. Let’s say you have a speed of 4.

If I have 4 cards that give +1 travel, and I am saddled with one (“thrusters malfunction +0 travel”), you’ve just mathed in a 20% chance for a 25% travel penalty. But the nice part about this solution is it feels “gamey”, and the % scales throughout the game without more complex math required.

I love this concept. Math without actually making them do math.