Game Weight - An Exploration
Matt Thrower
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I've been a bit perplexed by some of the average weightings given to my favourite games so I thought it might be interesting to make a geeklist about them.

I'm curious to explore both what we mean by the "weight" of a game and also what we might use as a guideline when choosing how to weight our games. We've got guidelines for the ratings, but not weights as far as I know.

I think it'd be interesting to be able to pick the top 10/50 games by weight, like we can by ranking. It'd also be cool to see it in our collection screens. It would've made making this list a bit easier for one thing

All average weightings are correct at time of writing. I've tried to collect games on the half-point averages but I've slipped in a couple more round the middle section just to make a point.
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1. Board Game: Go [Average Rating:7.66 Overall Rank:121]
Matt Thrower
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Average Game Weight - 4.41

For my money Go is the classic definition of a heavyweight game. It's entirely cerebral with absolutely no random elements and virtually limitless combinations of different plays. I've no idea if it's got the highest game weighting on BGG but it wouldn't surprise me - I couldn't find anything higher out of the games I'm familiar with.

What really surprised me about this was that a few people were rating it "medium" and it even got two "medium-light" votes! What are these people thinking? I've got some ideas, which I'll explorre further down the list.
 
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2. Board Game: Chess [Average Rating:7.09 Overall Rank:415] [Average Rating:7.09 Unranked]
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Average Game Weight - 4.02

Compared to Go, I'd say this weighting is right on the money. Although it's still clearly a heavyweight game for many of the same reasons as Go it does have a limiting factor on play combinations because the way pieces can be moved is strictly limited.

Which rather begs the question, should the weighting scale have ten points rather than the five we've got currently?
 
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3. Board Game: Diplomacy [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:501]
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Average Game Weight - 3.67

Here's where we can start to explore what is meant by the "weight" of a game. Diplomacy is an interesting case in point. Compared to the two previous examples the strategic weight of Diplomacy is not vast - the perception of weight is derived from the tense and vitally important negotiations that are a prerequisite for victory and every bit as taxing in my view as the weight of playing a game of Go.

Which seems to raise two questions for me. Firstly this has a lower weight rating than Go and Chess. Does this mean that the 'geek has a bit of a bias toward treating the concept of weight as purely a strategic element? Second, what elements of a game can contribute to the feeling of weight? Tactical thinking, certainly, and now we can add heavy negotiation to the list. But what else? Which leads us on to the next entry.
 
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4. Board Game: Dragon Pass [Average Rating:6.80 Overall Rank:3122]
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Average Game Weight - 3.33

I tried really hard to find an alternative game than this one. I seem to add this to all my lists. But I wanted a hex-and-counter wargame and this is the only one I'm familar with that's currently got a weight rating!

Is this a heavyweight game? It's very random and strategic play sometimes comes down to guessing what stacks dangerous units are concealed in.

So why the relatively high weighting? My explanation would be complexity .. the rulebook, like many hex-and-counter games is huge and very in-depth. So it seems that maybe rules weight is another component in how we judge game weight. I suspect this is the reason for some of the comparatively light ratings of "Go" .. the rules are as simple as the play is complex.
 
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5. Board Game: Junta [Average Rating:6.75 Overall Rank:950]
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Average Game Weight - 2.88

We're hovering under the middleweight bracket of 3 now and we find Junta. Junta is a game that has fairly complex rules and demands some pretty intense negotiation, both aspects of game weight that would seem to contribute toward the game having a higher weighting. So why is it below the average?

Well it might be another indicator that most 'geeks take 'weight' to mean 'strategic depth' because opportunities for this are limited in Junta due to a fairly high random factor. But I think there's something else at work here. The compoments and theme of Junta make it clear that the game is supposed to be lighthearted and funny in spite of it's more weighty aspects. I suspect that presenting a game in this manner leads to people classifying it at a weight somewhat under it's real value. Would you see "Go" as quite such a serious game if all the stones had little smiley faces on them?
 
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6. Board Game: Catan [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:279] [Average Rating:7.23 Unranked]
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Average Game Weight - 2.29

This one really surprised me. The score places Settlers firmly in the light-medium category which is not somewhere I'd place a game with enough tactical depth to make it worthy of tournament or ladder play. It requires shrewed analysis, especially at the start of the game and has negotiation/trading elements which can become quite in depth.

So why the comparatively low weighting? I think Settlers feels lighter than it really is because it's so incredibly intuitive to play. Sure there's strategy involved and it might require clever thinking during the game but the overall approaches to success should be self-evident to people after very few games. How can it be heavyweight when it feels so comfortable?
 
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7. Board Game: Checkers [Average Rating:4.86 Overall Rank:15307]
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Average Game Weight - 1.68

Another shocker. Sure draughts is never going to be a brain burner but is this really a lightweight game? It's totally non-random, invovles on-the-fly tactical thinking and a good player will beat an inexperienced one almost every time. I'd say this ought to be above 2.

Familiarity breeds contempt they say and I think that's the culprit here. Everyone knows this game. Everyone played it as a child. If we learned this game as children how can it be anything other than lightweight? Well I don'y know about you, but unlike Monopoly, I don't remember beating either of my parents at this very often!
 
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8. Board Game: Chutes and Ladders [Average Rating:2.79 Overall Rank:15336]
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Average Game Weight - 1.00

Got to be a one, right? And so it should be, just to round off the scale. But I do think there's a point to be made here. I think we'd all agree that this is the very definition of a lightweight game. Remember this, and Ludo and others when you rate a game as "medium-light". Is it *really* only a step above a roll-and-move game? I think people forget the bottom of the scale when they rate a game weight. Bearing this in mind, I suspect a lot of the game weightings on the 'geek ought to go up one mark!

Looking at Draughts and at Settlers I'm tempted to propose an overall definition of "game weight" as a generalised feeling of how difficult a game is to play. Difficulty can come from many sources - complex rules, intense negotiation, taxing strategy and others. But if the game feels right, then we're not tempted to propose it as a hevyweight game. Perhaps that's the secret to success of so many Eurogames - clever play that falls nicely into our comfort zone!
 
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