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Subject: Replayability rss

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Steven Backues
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I’ve been thinking a bit about replayability in the last couple of months, prompted in part by a few recommendation threads that have talked about it. I decided to post here some of my musings and conclusions, to see what others thought.

My first observation is this: “replayable” can rival “fun” as a term that is basically just a synonym for “a game I like.” After all, the common sense definition of “replayable” is “a game I want to play over and over again”; what else would that be than “a game I really like”? Although people will sometimes extol a particular game’s replayability, I have never heard anyone admit that they like a game despite its lack of replayability. People will speak up in defense of games that lack strategic depth, or theme, or elegance, or many other things, but I can’t hardly imagine someone saying of a game, “Sure, it gets old after a couple of plays, but it’s still a great game.”

Replayability, then, must be an essentially quality for any good game. Or, alternative, it’s not really a quality at all; but just another way to say “a good game.” A good game is a game that you play over and over again.

And yet, in the lingo of the BGG crowd, it does seem like “replayability” has something of a specialized meaning, or at least a tendency towards one. Roughly speaking, replayability seems to mean variability – in particular, variability in set-up. At least, when someone asks for replayability, it is those sorts of high-variability games (e.g. Dominion) that seem most often to get recommended.

Is variability, then, the key to replayability (or the key to a good game?) At some level this seems reasonable. A good game should keep you interested; if the game was always pretty much the same why would you play it over and over again? So clearly some variability is necessary. But is more variability always better? Logic dictates that this can’t be true, either, at least not for a strategy game. A major part of the interest for a strategy game is the ability to learn and improve and approach mastery. If a game is completely variable, without any continuity from play to play, then there is nothing to learn, and no way to improve, and this would also be boring.

In practice, of course, no games fall at those extremes; instead, there is a broad habitable range that has enough variability but not too much, and all games dwell somewhere in there. So maybe considering the extremes isn’t terribly useful. So what about in this in-between range – is there a correlation there between variability and replayability?

If “replayable” does indeed mean something like “a game you can play again and again without getting bored,” it seems like it should be possible to bring some actual data to bear on the question which games are the most replayable. Roughly speaking, the most replayable games should be the ones that people actually play the most, year after year. Of course, there are some confounding factors, like game length and accessibility, but we should be able to get a general feel, at least.

So what are the games that people play over and over again? The top of this crowd must be the “lifestyle games.” Games like Chess, Go, Poker, Checkers, Bridge and Scrabble, that people will play to the exclusion of all other games, play many thousands of times over the years of their lives. That’s real replayability. So what about these games? Are they characterized by high variability? Well, some of them are. But others aren’t at all; overall I don’t see much of a correlation.

This makes me wonder why not. Obviously many gamers find, for themselves, that variability leads to replayability, or the word wouldn’t be used in this way. Also, it seems makes sense that a game that is more variable would remain more interesting after repeated plays. But I don’t think this is necessarily the case, and the reasons hearken back to the extremes I mentioned above.

Every game defines some sort of strategy space for the players to explore. More variable games define a wider strategy-space; less variable games a narrower one. A narrower space can be explored more deeply than a wider space can. This follows not only from simple time constraints, but also because the variability itself precludes the sort of systematic exploration – changing one thing while keeping the others constant – that is required to really understand something. So a wider strategy space can only be explored on a shallow level; a narrower space allows you to plumb its depths.

Some people, of course, prefer the wider space, and the chance for wide-ranging exploration. When such people are put in a narrower space, they will do their customary cursory exploration, quickly find the boundaries, and then get bored and move on to something else. Other people prefer the narrower space, with the opportunity it offers to go deep. If they are put in a wider space, they will get frustrated at the inability to explore it thoroughly, and soon get bored of the shallower ranging. And, of course, some people like both, and some people like something in between. It’s a matter of preference.

Another place where preference enters the equation is in what space the game defines. All games focus on some particular region of strategy space, while neglecting others. If the particular area of strategy that that game explores is not of interest to you, then it will seem repetitive and boring, no matter how wide or deep it is. You’ll only notice the areas it doesn’t explore that you wish it did, and so it will seem like it is exploring nothing.

Where does this leave the term “replayable,” then? What does it mean? It seems to me that it is in sort of a funny in-between place. Words often come to take on specialized meanings, separate from and often more limited than their common-sense meaning (“wargame,” for example.) There’s nothing wrong with this, inherently – that’s just the nature of language; words change – although it does present a particularly frustrating jargon barrier, as the outsider thinks they know what you are talking about, but really they don’t. “Replayability” appears to be making that transition – away from meaning “games you play over and over again” and towards the specialized meaning of “games you play over and over again because they use variable setup to keep your interest.”* However, it has not entirely made that transition. If it had entirely made that transition, than those who prefer deeper exploration of narrower spaces wouldn’t hesitate to say, “I’m not a big fan of replayable games.” But the word still retains enough of its common-sense meaning to render a statement like that too odd to utter. At least, that’s how it seems to me.



* A particularly interesting thread from this perspective was the one titled “Game with the most replayability that you actually replay?,”where the poster was specifically asking for games that were “replayable” in both of these senses.
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Slyvanian Frog
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There was a Ludology podcast episode that I recall. It was not directly related because (if I recall correctly) it centered more on randomness versus fixed results. There is a tangential relationship, however, because a lot of the podcast focused around which part of the game is randomized, and how it affects results (and indirectly, replayability). For example, some games focus more on randomized beginning conditions/set-up, while other focus more on randomized outcomes of in-game actions.

Look, for example, at Advanced Squad Leader, where a scenario will always be played on the same map, will often be played with fixed (or mostly fixed) set-up positions, but many actions in game (firing weapons, trying to deploy smoke) are dependent on die rolls. Scenarios are replayable in part because of the random outcome of actions (and how it affects the game), but not as replayable as they would be with truly random (or more variable) set-ups.

Of course, ASL brings an entirely different kind of "replayability" as well that often isn't present in fixed map or set-up games, by having such a huge variety of scenarios that you could play a different scenario every day for years and still not play the same one twice.

Another aspect of replayability for fixed start/set-up type games is the length of the game/number of decision points. As you take more and more actions during the game that have random results, it seems to me that it gives the appearance of greater depth/replayability in the game itself.
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Roger Brandon
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I think ease of play comes into play. A monster game like The Longest Day or Case Blue can have massive replayability, simply because it's so huge that every game is going to be quite different, yet it takes so long to setup and play, that it's just not going to be played very often.

Some games, like many you mention, such as chess, take very little time to setup, and can be played rather quickly, so a person can easily play dozens, hundreds or even thousands of times.

Some of my favorite games get less play because of that time factor, while others, though I like, are not my favorites, but because they are fast, and can be squeezed into limited free time, get played a lot more.

Also, I imagine another factor comes from what games are easier to get fellow players to join in. In a large game group, each person can have a different favorite, but in general, there has to be compromise to play a game that everyone wants to spend time on.

Games are like food. Everyone has different tastes and can change their favorite from time to time, and if you eat your favorite too often you can get tired of it, at least for a while.
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Steven Backues
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RogCBrand wrote:
I think ease of play comes into play. A monster game like The Longest Day or Case Blue can have massive replayability, simply because it's so huge that every game is going to be quite different, yet it takes so long to setup and play, that it's just not going to be played very often.

Some games, like many you mention, such as chess, take very little time to setup, and can be played rather quickly, so a person can easily play dozens, hundreds or even thousands of times.

Some of my favorite games get less play because of that time factor, while others, though I like, are not my favorites, but because they are fast, and can be squeezed into limited free time, get played a lot more.

Also, I imagine another factor comes from what games are easier to get fellow players to join in. In a large game group, each person can have a different favorite, but in general, there has to be compromise to play a game that everyone wants to spend time on.

Games are like food. Everyone has different tastes and can change their favorite from time to time, and if you eat your favorite too often you can get tired of it, at least for a while.


I agree that ease of play is a major factor in how much a game actually gets played. That is why I consider raw play counts to only be a rough estimate of actual replayability, which to me means how much you want to play the game again, whether or not it actually makes it to the table.

That is why I used lifestyle games as an example. The key there isn't just that they get played a lot, but that some people are willing to devote their entire gaming careers to playing a single game - that's the testament to that game's replayability. Granted, the ones I mentioned are all pretty easy to play. But that's just because I grabbed a handful of the most popular ones. I would consider games like Diplomacy, ASL and 18XX to also be lifestyle games, in that they have that sort of dedicated following, and those must be likewise examples of the highest replayability. That they aren't as popular is probably a result of their length and inaccessability, I agree; but I think that is orthogonal to what I am musing on here.
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Roger Brandon
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Quote:
Diplomacy, ASL and 18XX to also be lifestyle games


Good point! When you have some games that some people have continually played for decades, "lifeestyle game" is the perfect term!
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Paul Oakes
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Elendil wrote:


And yet, in the lingo of the BGG crowd, it does seem like “replayability” has something of a specialized meaning, or at least a tendency towards one. Roughly speaking, replayability seems to mean variability – in particular, variability in set-up. At least, when someone asks for replayability, it is those sorts of high-variability games (e.g. Dominion) that seem most often to get recommended.




Here's some games from the top 100 I've played over 50 times where the variability in the set-up is restricted to the players and their relative seat positions:

Puerto
Imperial (both versions)
1830 (and virtually all 18XX games)
Antike

None of these games have decks of cards that can appear in variable order (Power Grid, Outpost, TtA), random set-up elements (Agricola) or dice. There are a lot more that meet this criteria, but I'll stick with widely-known and played examples.

All the variability (replayability) comes from either you trying a different strategy, or someone else changing their strategy and you deciding how to respond to that. That is an achievement of great games design, although the games I list as having variable set-up elements I love just as much. Tzolk'in will also qualify for this fixed set-up but hugely replayable game list, but I haven't played it enough, yet.
Elendil wrote:



“Replayability” appears to be making that transition – away from meaning “games you play over and over again” and towards the specialized meaning of “games you play over and over again because they use variable setup to keep your interest.”*




This is news to me. So this means that Puerto and the others I mentioned above will eventually not be described as "replayable"?

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Russ Williams
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PaulinTheLion wrote:
Here's some games from the top 100 I've played over 50 times where the variability in the set-up is restricted to the players and their relative seat positions:

Puerto
Imperial (both versions)
1830 (and virtually all 18XX games)
Antike

None of these games have decks of cards that can appear in variable order (Power Grid, Outpost, TtA), random set-up elements (Agricola) or dice.

Assuming Puerto = Puerto Rico, it has the random draw of plantation tiles. Or am I misunderstanding?

PS: To be clear, I don't mean that as a comment on Puerto Rico's replayability, just a statement that it doesn't belong in a list of games with no randomness.
 
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Steven Backues
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PaulinTheLion wrote:

Elendil wrote:



“Replayability” appears to be making that transition – away from meaning “games you play over and over again” and towards the specialized meaning of “games you play over and over again because they use variable setup to keep your interest.”*




This is news to me. So this means that Puerto and the others I mentioned above will eventually not be described as "replayable"?



Perhaps. Stranger things have happened. But I claim no power to predict the future. I merely note what seems to be happening. For the record, I myself don't support this change - when I use the word replayability, I mean it in it's common sense definition. But I have noticed that many don't use it that way. See, for example the results of the "Replayability" stage of 1000rpm's "Tour De Geek". Chess, with generations of proven replayability, took 10th. Puerto Rico 11th. The top five were Dominion, Agricola, Race for the Galaxy, Magic: The Gathering, and 7 Wonders. As far as I can tell, replayability = cards in the minds of the majority of BGGers.
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Stoic Bird
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Great post. We actually just had a really long discussion/fight over "replayability" on the VGG side a couple weeks ago.

Elendil wrote:
My first observation is this: “replayable” can rival “fun” as a term that is basically just a synonym for “a game I like.” After all, the common sense definition of “replayable” is “a game I want to play over and over again”; what else would that be than “a game I really like”? Although people will sometimes extol a particular game’s replayability, I have never heard anyone admit that they like a game despite its lack of replayability. People will speak up in defense of games that lack strategic depth, or theme, or elegance, or many other things, but I can’t hardly imagine someone saying of a game, “Sure, it gets old after a couple of plays, but it’s still a great game.”


I agree completely with this. I think a lot of people on here tend to be dabblers in games - generally speaking, they'd rather try a new game than play an old favorite. I am this way myself. The thing about Dominion and other games with wide variability in setup is that it feels like a new game every time, thus satisfying the desires of those who seek out new experiences, but it has the added benefit of not needing to learn new rules or purchase a new game. Thus, I can see why the meaning of the word is starting to shift, even though I don't agree with it.

Elendil wrote:
Games like Chess, Go, Poker, Checkers, Bridge and Scrabble, that people will play to the exclusion of all other games, play many thousands of times over the years of their lives. That’s real replayability. So what about these games? Are they characterized by high variability? Well, some of them are.


One thing about most of those games is that if you're a game dabbler, you're going to be completely destroyed by experienced players. Those are all games that reward repeated play and even study, something which many people on this site (again, myself included) won't necessarily want to do. I've owned a Go board for a decade, but have only played 3 times and am not even certain I understand all the capture rules. That doesn't mean it's got low replay value, but it takes a different mindset than that of "mainstream BGG culture".

In my opinion, "replayability" is completely worthless as a positive descriptor, and only slightly better as a negative one; rather, it's simply a property of a good game. If a game has poor replay value, that problem was still there the first time, even if it takes a couple of plays to notice it. Other people don't use the word the same way, and that's fine, but I think as it's used now it's basically "games I personally want to play multiple times", which, as you pointed out, is basically just another way of saying "fun".
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Shawn Fox
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A game which is easily solvable is not very replayable. When there is one strategy that is dominant and nothing other players do changes what works and what doesn't then the game is not replayable. Puerto Rico has low randomness, but it does not have a "strategy X always works" either. The randomness of the plantation tiles helps towards this, but the main factor is that other players can react to what you do to make your strategy not work either by not taking certain actions, or taking other actions to make the game end sooner, etc.

Games which have a "butterfly effect" are the ultimate goal. Chess has this, 18xx has it, Ora et Labora has it.

The main thing for designers is that it is much easier to add hidden goals, hidden information, and randomness to a design rather than making a truly great game. That is the much easier path to take and works very well for games like Race for the Galaxy (a great game, but win/loss is often determined by what cards you draw more so that how well you played). A big advantage you get with large amounts of randomness is that anyone can win. Even if the best player may win a disproportionate amount of the time, introducing some randomness into games seems to be pretty important to keep a group of players interested as otherwise some people (maybe most?) just can't deal with losing *every* time.

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Laura Creighton
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'Replayability' is a subjective valuation. There are mechanisms you can use to try to keep the game from feeling the same every time, but it will all come down to the individual experience of 'feeling the same'. For instance, Agricola is often cited as a game with 'near limitless replayuability' due to the fact that evetry game you will get a different set of Occupation cards.

But from my point of view, you get your cards, you then calculate what the optimal score you can get using these cards are, then you make a list of what resources you need to get, and then you spend 2 hours playing the game trying to get those resources. The fact that the resources you will want to get will vary some from game to game isn't enough to make Agricola feel very replayable to me. Indeed, one of my complaints about the game is that it doesn't feel very much as if _I am playing the game_ but rather that _the game is playing me_ ...

Now this may simply be a matter of different people having different tastes in things. I can play the same ASL campaigns endlessly, exploring 'if we tried this, how would things go differently' -- but for some people the entire category of 'wargames that use dice' have so much of the sameness to them that they are completely uninterested in playing any of them.

But I think there is something else going on. I think that the real strength of Agricola is not that the Occupation cards are random, but that Agricola rewards study. Unlike many games where after you have understood the rules well enough to play it at all, you also know pretty much how to play it well, and everybody who plays the game will start from a level playing field, Agricola is one where the experienced players beat the newbies pretty much every time. One of the most important reasons that this is so is because it is challenging to learn how to take your Occupation cards and work out what is the best possible outcome you can get with them. You can play the game 5, 10, 15 times and still be impressed with 'how much there is left for me to learn'. Therefore, what is making the game replayable for them, is not the randomness in the Occupation cards per sé, but that they are getting a chance to learn something every time they play.

I think that as long as people are learning things -- and they are the sort of people who like learning things, as a recreation -- they will call this game 'replayable'. But once they feel they have mastered the game, they may stop liking it so much.
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Steven Backues
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sfox wrote:
The main thing for designers is that it is much easier to add hidden goals, hidden information, and randomness to a design rather than making a truly great game.


I've tended to share this sentiment - that adding randomness is the cheap and easy way to create replayability, whereas adding strategic depth or player interaction is the "right" way. Of course, this could just be my personal dislike of randomness speaking.

Trying to think about it objectively, though... One way I can think of in which randomness is a "better" way to create replayability is that it does force variability more strongly than depth or interaction.

Strategic depth allows variability, and rewards it (in that you become better at the game as you explore), but it doesn't force it. You can keep playing the same way over and over again if you so choose.

Player interaction can force variability, in that if the other players do something different, you will no longer have the option of doing things the same way. But if every player plays the same, then you can all experience the same game again.

Randomness, in contrast, is an external factor that forces variability, without being dependent on any of the players taking it upon themselves to do something different. In that sense it is stronger than either of the other two.

Of course, it may seem strange that someone would choose to play exactly the same way twice then complain about lack of replayability. But the fact is that both individuals and groups have a tendency to get stuck in a rut. Adding randomness can help prevent that.
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John Vasilakos
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A couple of data points regarding Replayability. My two most played wargames are Saratoga from the GMT AmRev series and C&C Ancients. Now C&C Ancients has many scenarios which helps in the replay stats, but even so I have played several of them, Zama for example many times.

With C&C Ancients, one factor is the randomness of the cards. To play well you need to adjust your plans to match the cards you have. Thus each session will have a different flow to match the card distribution.

With Saratoga, the change in player order is a key factor making each game different. (The player who goes first is determined by an initative die roll) Secondary factor is the selection of combat tactics which adjust the die roll modifers applied to each battle.

However those games are outliers for me, as I am also more into collectign and playing new games than sticking with just a few favorites...
 
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Stoic Bird
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John Vasilakos wrote:
However those games are outliers for me, as I am also more into collectign and playing new games than sticking with just a few favorites...


I am this way too, but you or me personally preferring new experiences does not mean that the old favorites have "poor replayability".

I don't think that was what you were saying there, but I've heard that argument a lot, so I think it bears pointing out.
 
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nyn -
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Most, if not all, common terms used in describing board games are subjective. Still, most of those subjective terms carry with them some commonly accessible interpretation which gives the reader/listener rough measures from which to determine whether or not they might agree. This is true for pretty much any qualitative review. I'm a huge fan of good wine and I can say that any descriptor used for wine is highly subjective. This is just how humans operate. We learn to work within it by building a relative context (does the reviewer like what I like? are they using words that connect with me? can I get a sense of where their emphasis lies?).

Replayability is one word. When reading a review, you weigh it against what else is said. If it is clear to me that the reviewer favors rpg style thematic games, then I know right away that when they say the game has "great replayability" I should take the comment with a grain of salt (because I'm not a huge fan of rpg style thematic games).

I think that trying to measure variability or actual number of plays is getting caught up in irrelevant nuances. I find there is much more to be found simply in the context of the comment, the review, or the reviewer themself.

But then you should take my comment here with a grain of salt as I tend to weight semantic precision much lower than prosaic impressionism. laugh
 
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Ted Spencer
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Don't agree with your analysis of the term replayability. I don't agree that it is used on BGG as a synonym for "a game I like to play."

For me it has a more specific use, which is to point to how varied the game begins and/or plays. Poker begins varied due to randomized cards. Chess plays varied due the number of combinations.

I'm old enough to remember when the pattern of Pac Man was revealed. I watched a friend at a bar go through every level. It was boring. Who cared if he won?

A similar principle is, I think, active in replayability. Replayability is the antidote to predictability. A predictable game is boring. A predictable game is as exciting as a wrist watch.

For me "replayability" has real value. A $100 game I play 10 times cost me $10 a play (solo). A $20 game I play once is... you get the idea.

Replayability has to do with value, not "I'd play it forever."

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lacreighton wrote:
I think that as long as people are learning things -- and they are the sort of people who like learning things, as a recreation -- they will call this game 'replayable'. But once they feel they have mastered the game, they may stop liking it so much.

I agree. In fact, I think a synonymous term for "replayable" would be "defies mastery."

And as the OP says, a game can defy mastery because it's so deep (e.g., chess and go) or because it's so varied and expansive (e.g., Dominion or ASL or Magic: The Gathering). Or both.

Opinions vary because of at least two factors: (1) some are more interested in depth, others in breadth/variety, and (2) some master games more quickly than others.

I like to think a really great game is infinitely replayable--i.e., impossible for a human being to ever completely master. But if it depends on breadth/variety for that, it would have to generate expansion after expansion. So I'm personally more interested in a game that's too deep to be mastered.
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Derek H
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Patrick Carroll wrote:
lacreighton wrote:
I think that as long as people are learning things -- and they are the sort of people who like learning things, as a recreation -- they will call this game 'replayable'. But once they feel they have mastered the game, they may stop liking it so much.

I like to think a really great game is infinitely replayable -- i.e., impossible for a human being to ever completely master.

I agree with this definition of infinitely replayable. I think, though, that I'd settle for owning and playing games that are replayable enough; by which I mean "for the number of times I am likely to play them during my life". One of the few advantages to getting older is that more and more games meet this criteria.
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Ben Wand
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Good post and topic.

I think we're missing a couple key elements.

One is the other people you play with. I've found several times where playing the same game with different folks has drastically changed the game. This would definitely impact replayability. However there are likely games where the people you play with may not have such an impact?

Secondly, I don't necessarily think that variability has to be present to make a game replayable.

Finally, the biggest thing I haven't seen addressed yet is the idea that there's a tradeoff in "fun" between replaying an old favorite vs learning a new game.

Learning and teaching a new game is fun, but, is also a chore. I only buy one game a month, and even then, rotating in new stuff to people can be a drag. There are absolutely times when, in deciding upon a game, someone will say "I don't have the energy to learn/teach a new game, so let's just play that game again."

So to a certain extent, familiarity will definitely breed a certain amount of replayability, as long as that game is "at least fun enough" to warrant another play vs. the energy required to learn something new.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that for some games, just having so many people familiar with it drives plays, even if there may be more fun options available.

So if that's the case, are those games really that replayable, or is it just that they are "good enough" to pull out when people aren't willing to teach/learn a new game?
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Benjow wrote:
I think we're missing a couple key elements.

One is the other people you play with. I've found several times where playing the same game with different folks has drastically changed the game. This would definitely impact replayability. However there are likely games where the people you play with may not have such an impact?

I prefer to discount the people factor when I consider topics like this. All my friends may consider chess too boring to play more than once, but that doesn't mean it's not a highly replayable game. Maybe I won't get to play it much, due to my friends' taste, but chess still does get played a LOT worldwide. Hence, it's one of the most replayable games ever.

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Secondly, I don't necessarily think that variability has to be present to make a game replayable.

I agree. I touched upon that above, under breadth vs depth.

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Finally, the biggest thing I haven't seen addressed yet is the idea that there's a tradeoff in "fun" between replaying an old favorite vs learning a new game.

Learning and teaching a new game is fun, but, is also a chore. ...

So to a certain extent, familiarity will definitely breed a certain amount of replayability, as long as that game is "at least fun enough" to warrant another play vs. the energy required to learn something new.

I prefer to discount the learning curve too. After all, any game needs to be learned before it can be played. So the question is, how replayable is a game after it has been learned?

You do bring up some important practical considerations. I'm just more of a theoretical kind of guy.
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Lucas Smith
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Elendil wrote:
“Replayability” appears to be making that transition – away from meaning “games you play over and over again” and towards the specialized meaning of “games you play over and over again because they use variable setup to keep your interest.”* However, it has not entirely made that transition. If it had entirely made that transition, than those who prefer deeper exploration of narrower spaces wouldn’t hesitate to say, “I’m not a big fan of replayable games.” But the word still retains enough of its common-sense meaning to render a statement like that too odd to utter.

1) I like your anylyses!

2)The transition of "replayability" mentioned above: I have not noticed it myself yet, but I can imagine quite well, that it´s true, because the games also change, I don´t know which period of time, you mean, but e.g. 50 years ago, "replayable" meant "good game", I assume (I´ve not been born), because there were less difficult, less strategic games.

3) The more difficult a game is, the more space is there for being replayable. (but the space is not used in every case, of course!)

4) Replayability seems to be only a positive term, if a game is repl. that´s good, if not it´s bad, that´s it! imho. I can´t imagine someone saying "I’m not a big fan of replayable games.”
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Rusty Hayes
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I think replayability is one of those things in games that is particularly important to certain genres. With board games it indeed seems like replayability is a necessary feature, and would therefore end up correlating about 100% with whether you like the game or not. By contrast I've played several linear videogame campaigns that I thoroughly enjoyed but would never particularly want to return to.

The general body of video game criticism seems to have a pretty decent scope of at least what common features contribute to replayability: choice, procedural or random generation, differing outcomes.

Of course, since most board games are multiplayer affairs they practically all exhibit these features, so whether you want to play them again is always going to come down to simply how much you enjoyed their particular expression of the form.

However, that doesn't necessarily equate the two qualities of "replayability" and "fun"

Is there any board game you can think of you would like despite a lack of replayability? Makes me think of the old play-along VHS era games..
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Phoebe Wild
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South Melbourne
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superflat wrote:

Replayability is the antidote to predictability. A predictable game is boring. A predictable game is as exciting as a wrist watch.



I agree. To me, replayability is linked to variability, but that doesn't mean that all games with variability are replayable.

I find that games with only a little bit of randomness, or no randomness, are far more replayable and enjoyable than board games which heavily rely on luck, draws or dice rolls.

My first thought is Settlers of Catan. Yes, it was "the" first game I played which got me into strategy games and Eurogames to start with, but I find now that I get sick of it 15 minutes into a game and start counting points hoping for someone to win. I think this is because it's a game with limited options, and limited things a player can do to improve their options. Beyond the initial placement of settlements, resource gaining depends on dice rolls and the kindness/naivety of the other players. And if neither of those are in your favour, you can watch turn by turn pass not building anything, while everyone else picks up 5 resource cards a turn. It either goes splendidly or horribly, but either way it isn't really in your control. (This is personal opinion, and it may be an unpopular one)

I find games where everyone has more or less equal starting positions much more replayable, as they tend to focus more on player choices and interactions. My first thought is Dominion (everyone has the same starting deck). Yes, there's randomness in the card drawing, but I find that that doesn't matter to a well designed deck.

I also find games where the randomness adds variability without necessarily adding an upper hand. So, if a dice roll is involved, a high roll doesn't necessarily mean an advantage, and a low roll isn't necessarily a disadvantage. Instead, the outcomes come down to how the rolls/draws/etc are used in an overall strategy. For example, Kingsburg. Here, gaining resources depends on die rolls, and the choices of other players. But I have won games where I've rolled low, and spectacularly lost despite better rolls than everyone else, due to how I've placed them.

In short, I think replayability in games comes about when there are a number of player choices, possible outcomes and possible strategies to employ. This generally requires some variability/randomness, but too much can easily spoil the game and make it frustrating or boring.
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Bubba P
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The word "replayability" is not in the BGG glossary. But, "replay value" is:

replay value


n. A game’s capacity to remain entertaining after several playings.


When analyzing a game's design (and making comparisons between different games) as it pertains to "replayability', I believe the only useful definition must describe an inherent design quality of the game. Otherwise, it simply becomes "replay value" as defined above which is not useful in any real way because it is just an opinion. What ultimately matters to players is IF a game has high replay value which can be due to a multitude of reasons, many of which boil down to opinion. But to be able to say that "this board game has high replayability" and to have it mean something more objective than "I like this game" a more objective definition is required. Until then, when I read "this game has a high degree of replayability" I won't really know what the author means without a more detailed explanation.
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The one and only (but one of two in BGG)
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RHPDaddy wrote:
... Otherwise, it simply becomes "replay value" as defined above which is not useful in any real way because it is just an opinion. What ultimately matters to players is IF a game has high replay value which can be due to a multitude of reasons, many of which boil down to opinion.

Don't those statements contradict each other? The first calls opinion useless, and the second says it's "what ultimately matters to players." Or am I reading it wrong?

I don't think there's anything more meaningful one can say about a game than "I like it." The tricky part is just answering the question "Will I like it?"

It's a matter of taste, and individuals differ. The answer has to include psychology and aesthetics as well as other factors. You can't be objective, because you're not just talking about the game itself--its components and rules and mechanics; you're talking about people and their emotions and thinking processes.

No game is objectively replayable. But a given game will be perceived as replayable by a certain kind of player under certain conditions.

IMO, the main part of the investigation ought to be into game players, not the games themselves. Let's try to figure out why chess is infinitely replayable to Jane but not replayable at all to John. Maybe we'll find there's a Jane-John dichotomy among gamers; it might be a useful way of sorting game players.



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