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Subject: Opitmal Number Of Options rss

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Joseph Courtight
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This is more of a general design question and is not related to a specific game.

Often in games when your turn comes there is a short list of things you can do. For example in Poker the options are Call, Check, Bid, Fold.
Sometimes not all options are available but these are the 4 types of actions.

My question is what do you think the ideal number of options is.
Obviously, 500 options will overload a player, while one seems limiting.

Most likely you will say it depends on the game. However, this is not useful. If instead you could give opinions based on the type of game that is better for me. Or when to add more and when to diminish the options.

Thanks in advance.
 
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Jeremy Lennert
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The list of things you can do in Poker is way longer than that. You can raise by $1, or raise by $2, or raise by $3, or raise by $4, or...

There are a few games where you really only have 4 options on your turn, but they're games like rock-paper-scissors; they're mostly not representative of the hobby.

If you're boiling things down to a "short list", you're probably not really talking about your possible actions, you're talking about categories of action. And note that the exact same list of actions could be categorized into different taxonomies with different numbers of groups, so that's largely a question of presentation rather than gameplay.

How many categories should you present to the player? I've heard that about 3-5 is usually nice, and that seems to roughly align with my experience, but I think that's the number you want to have after the player has weeded out the obviously-inappropriate options (like the purchases they can't afford, healing the full-health unit, charging into a valueless corner of the map...).

And even if you don't get your categories down to that, I think it's usually not such a big deal--usually, the player will quickly discard most of their options and spend most of their time considering a handful of promising-looking ones.

If you take a look at Chess, a typical midgame position has perhaps three dozen possible moves. That is small in the sense that computers can easily analyze them all (and thereby gain a significant edge against human players), but it's also large enough that human players don't, even at very high levels of play. (One study asked master and grandmaster chess players to examine various positions, and found that the grandmasters don't analyze any more moves, they just analyze better ones--they are better at rapidly choosing which moves are worth investigating in depth.)

And your moves in chess can be easily organized by piece, type of piece, and probably several other ways (such as the region of the board affected).

Chess is a relatively simple game; I've played games with thousands of possible moves per turn, and it didn't seem to pose a major problem for me or the other players. You just need to keep them organized.
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Chris Williams

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Using card games as a measuring tool, 3-7 seems to be pretty common as a number of choices that your average person likes. And I would say that, that seems to match fairly well with the number of items listed on your average cheat sheet for a board game.

Only 2 player games, like Chess and Go, tend to offer you more freedom of choice than that. (Though, I'd venture to guess that in Chess you generally only have a 3-4 reasonable choices at any moment.) Games which expand on this, like Five Tribes are going to lend themselves to AP, which isn't ideal in a game with more than 2 players.

That said, La Città and The Golden Ages both offer 8 options, plus some movement/placement options. But the placement options tend to be fairly limited in La Citta, since you have some pretty tight building constraints. And in The Golden Ages, you only have three workers to deal with. Carcassonne and (probably, I haven't played it) Kingdom Builder limit your placement options through constraints, that bring down the number of options, compared to a free-placement game like Go.

If we say that card games are representative of "light" games, and La Citta and The Golden Ages are at the upper end of the "medium" games, then I think the breakdown would be something like:

1-2: Activities (E.g., We didn't playtest this at all)
3-7: Light games
8-14: Medium games
15+: Heavy games
 
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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Did you perchance mean "Number of Opitons"?
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matt tweedt
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This is a somewhat difficult question to answer until you define the context. If you are designing a deck builder, for example, you don't just have the options of which cards to buy/add but also the how/what/order in which to play them. Playing monopoly can seem very linear and straightforward until you throw in the aspect of making deals with other players.

Consider the types of decisions to be made, not just the choices for various selections. There's an easy way to give a player infinite options if you introduce moving tokens around a map. Consider game mechanics that silently introduce many options without adding complexity.
 
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marc lecours
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Getting back to Poker. Decision points can be grouped or split up.

1. Split up: You can fold, check, call, bid as the original poster said. If you decide to bid there is a new decision point which is how much to bid. This is almost a continuum if you count pennies. So there are some decision points with 4 decisions and some with a continuum (not sure if you should count continuums as a huge number of options).

2. Grouped: You count the amount bid as part of the number of options. So options include fold, check, call, bid 1 , bid 2, bid 3... bid 2000 etc.

I am not sure how to look at this.


When a beginner looks at a chess position with 20 options, they are splitting the decision points. A chess master groups the decision points. The chess master looks at a 6 to 10 move sequence as one option. A different option has the same first 5 moves but a different last 5 moves. So that instead of facing the choice between 20 options they have 1000 000 options or more. As pointed out above, a chess master is able to eliminate bad options intuitively and reduce the number of options to consider to a manageable number.

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Ben Pinchback
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Sometimes a fun goal is the least amount possible of super tough decisions.
No Thanks is the masters class in this.
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