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Subject: Cult of the Torn-Between-Old-and-New rss

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Stephen Hall
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I am of two minds on this issue. On the one hand, in this renaissance of tabletop gaming, games are growing and maturing. This is exciting, as designers are taking risks, trying new things, and pushing the limits of this medium. Overall, it seems that games are becoming more complex, and players have new expectations about what makes a "good" game. On the other hand, I am saddened to see some of the older, simpler classics being pushed aside and forgotten, in favor of the shiny, new Gen Con release.

I feel like it has now become almost an expectation that games have things like variable player powers, asymmetric play, modular boards, customizable components, several win/loss conditions, multiple modes of play (solo, co-op, competitive, team, etc.). Don't get me wrong, I enjoy this stuff. I love games with lots of variability and customization, and I'm glad to see the board game industry b reading new ground. But when I go back and play older stuff like Code 777, or Can't Stop, it feels like a breath of fresh air. Part of me misses the days when the rules were so simple they were literally printed in the box lid. It's nice to be able to teach a game in 30 seconds instead of 30 minutes.

I recently acquired the out-of-print Pueblo, and I have fallen in love with its simple elegance. Your turn consists of placing a block and moving the pawn. That's it. That's the whole game. There's something beautiful about that. It doesn't need to have "But this guy's special power is that he can move the pawn up to 6 spaces, and this guy's power is that he can move an opponent's block, and this guy gets an extra neutral block." It's good because of its simplicity.

Now, I know that there are still games like this coming out. My group really loves Splendor and Lanterns: The Harvest Festival. These games have that kind of classic feel to them, that simple-yet-engaging ruleset. Maybe it's just me, but these games seem to be the minority now.

Again, this is not necessarily a bad thing. This medium is maturing, and that's a good thing. I'm curious to hear if other people share the same sentiments.
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Jennifer Derrick
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As my college roommate used to say... "More isn't always better. Sometimes it's just more." This applies to a lot of things, including games, I think.

I like simple and elegant, but I also like "more." It depends on the game and the mood. But the fact that games like Splendor and Lanterns are still coming out and doing very well indicates that there's room for both and both will be around for awhile. like anything, so much of the greatness is in the execution, not simply the mechanics themselves.
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Michael F
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I definitely think that most of my new game acquisitions at this point tend to be best-received if they are older and have stood the test of time. New games are oftentimes either a) complete fluff, b) fun, but won't stick around for the long haul, or c) derivative of something I've already played. There are the occasional outliers , but this is usually the case for me.

I tend to agree with Joel Eddy that we're now in the "silver age" of gaming, when the real "golden age" happened 15-20 years ago. Think about how many games from that time we're still playing. Can the same be said about games coming out now? There's all this effort being put forth to reinvent the wheel that we're getting away from the simplicity and originality of that time. I don't necessarily dislike where the hobby is headed, but I think that many of us missed out on some of the best years of pure board gaming.
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Trevor Sinnott
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I prefer complex games, as games with simple rules can get boring very quickly as you do the same thing over and over. In complex games that have multiple paths to victory, you can try a different strategy each time you play it and it stays fun for a longer period of time.
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Martin Larouche
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I think the opposite of what you are saying is actually happening.

Games are not getting more complex, they are getting much, much simpler overall than they used to. "Old simpler classics" is not the norm.

Just think of the Avalon Hill, Fasa and Games Workshop games of old...
Even FFG is really streamlining their games.
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Marina SC
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Lionblaze wrote:
I prefer complex games, as games with simple rules can get boring very quickly as you do the same thing over and over. In complex games that have multiple paths to victory, you can try a different strategy each time you play it and it stays fun for a longer period of time.

I think this depends on the style of games you play. My preference is for highly interactive games with simple rules, where your main concern is other players stopping you, not the rules of game. A game like that will be different with every opponent, because while the rules of a game do not change, the decisions your opponents make, will.
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Stephen Hall
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deedob wrote:
I think the opposite of what you are saying is actually happening.

Games are not getting more complex, they are getting much, much simpler overall than they used to. "Old simpler classics" is not the norm.

Just think of the Avalon Hill, Fasa and Games Workshop games of old...
Even FFG is really streamlining their games.


Interesting viewpoint. I know some of those old AH games were monstrous (looking at you, Magic Realm), but even streamlined FFG titles are still usually pretty complex. Descent 2.0 streamlined a lot of the stuff drone the first edition, but it is still a fairly hefty game. Likewise, Eldritch Horror cleaned up Arkham Horror, but it is by no means a simple game.
 
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Larry L
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On my game shelf are Dune, Cosmic Encounter (the original) and Magic Realm. So I'm not quite sure I follow.



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Liam
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9/10 I'd rather go tried and tested.

This said getting in early and providing a review can be a very satisfying thing
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Stephen Hall
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RingelTree wrote:
On my game shelf are Dune, Cosmic Encounter (the original) and Magic Realm. So I'm not quite sure I follow.


Games are becoming more complex now, but there are still simpler games being released. In the same way, 30-40 years ago when games were, by and large, simpler, there were still complex games coming out. I believe that both some and complex games have always co-existed, but on the whole, it seems that games have shown an upward trend in complexity over the years.
 
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Oliver Kiley
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Lionblaze wrote:
I prefer complex games, as games with simple rules can get boring very quickly as you do the same thing over and over. In complex games that have multiple paths to victory, you can try a different strategy each time you play it and it stays fun for a longer period of time.


Apologies for using your quote as an example - but I think this almost perfectly encapsulates the major driver behind current design trends.

Game systems are becoming more complex and convoluted (as the OP identifies) in order to provide a greater breadth of experience - more variety in different strategies or whatever.

The problem is that complexity isn't necessarily what creates depth in a game, and in many ways runs against depth. Depth, IMHO, comes about primarily as a function of interacting with other players - and those interactions can be brought to the forefront when the mechanics are actually simpler, allowing players to engage with each other more significantly. These sorts of simple, interactive, yet still deep/rewarding games are what the OP is talking about in referencing games from 15-20 years ago.

There is a reason why abstract games provide such interesting strategic spaces. The complexity and depth comes out of the interactions between players and their decisions - they aren't channeled and funneled through some big web of complexity first.

So now we're in this strange position where we are chasing more and more complexity and games with more "paths to victory" and different things to do/explore in the sandbox - but all of that is taking us further away from what I think a lot of us are really after.
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Larry L
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juggler5 wrote:
RingelTree wrote:
On my game shelf are Dune, Cosmic Encounter (the original) and Magic Realm. So I'm not quite sure I follow.


Games are becoming more complex now, but there are still simpler games being released. In the same way, 30-40 years ago when games were, by and large, simpler, there were still complex games coming out. I believe that both some and complex games have always co-existed, but on the whole, it seems that games have shown an upward trend in complexity over the years.


At least as far as games released in the U.S. I think you are way off base. There weren't that many good simple games produced 30-40 years ago (by "good" I'm ruling out roll and move media licenses for kids.)

You might argue that the 90s saw a surge of good simple games released in the U.S. as companies started publishing/importing German games, but before that--- bleah.
 
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Quantum Jack
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I think its more ebb and flow than a constant upward trend. If you think games are, as a whole, becoming more complex over the last 5 years, expect that trend to decline as well. I, personally, dont see any general trend. Should you only count "big" games (top 100) or should you count every new bgg entry, sorted by weight?

I suspect that there are always games coming out for their intended audience. You may be a seasoned 10 yr veteran looking for a challenge when someone else just started their boardgame journey, looking for something new, but simple.
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Jimmy Okolica
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What I'm hearing now isn't Old vs. New. It's Interactive vs. Puzzle.

Sure, puzzly games (i.e., find the optimal path) are newer, the same way deck building games are newer. But they didn't replace interactive games any more than deck builders replaced auction games. I think this is one of the reasons there are more games be published each year. Each year there are more different ideas to develop games with.

Interactive games I've played that were published in 2015: Codenames, Food Chain Magnate (this actually is a great example of puzzle and interactive), Isle of Skye, Churchill, BH2045, NY1901, 13 Days, Lanterns, Arboretum, Pax Pamir (though there's a fair amount of rules absorption first), Trambahn, Hack Trick, Ponzi Scheme, King Chocolate, Push It, and Fog of War.

As far as personal preference, I'd put FCM, Isle of Skye, Arboretum, King Chocolate, Pax Pamir, 13 Days, and Trambahn up against anything from the 1990s. I'm not saying they're better than the best, but they are comparable.
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Larry L
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There has been a whole array of simple, (dare I say "elegant?" No, I daren't,) card games and social deduction games, mostly also card games, produced recently.

I haven't noticed a surge in abstract games. Those seem to arrive at a fairly steady pace within my narrow gaze.
 
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Martin Larouche
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juggler5 wrote:
deedob wrote:
I think the opposite of what you are saying is actually happening.

Games are not getting more complex, they are getting much, much simpler overall than they used to. "Old simpler classics" is not the norm.

Just think of the Avalon Hill, Fasa and Games Workshop games of old...
Even FFG is really streamlining their games.


Interesting viewpoint. I know some of those old AH games were monstrous (looking at you, Magic Realm), but even streamlined FFG titles are still usually pretty complex. Descent 2.0 streamlined a lot of the stuff drone the first edition, but it is still a fairly hefty game. Likewise, Eldritch Horror cleaned up Arkham Horror, but it is by no means a simple game.


Not saying their current fare is "light". Just saying they are getting less heavy.

But even excluding this, i can't see how 80s and 90s games can be seen as lighter than what's available today.
The 70s and 80s are the years of the super-complex as to be borderline unplayable games. This is the age that spawned Advanced Squad Leader and it's ilk.
The 90s went lighter than those monsters, yet still heavy. These were the years when Games Workshop dominated. The coming of Blood Bowl, Necromunda and friends.
The 2000s is the rise of the much less complex style of the euros and the beginning of the streamlining of thematic games. For all the talk about Twilight Imperium 3 being a "monster" of a game, it was actually a simpler version than it's previous editions. The trend of streamlining and simplifying mechanics continues to this day.

Does this mean there are no more heavy games coming out? Nope... but current "heavy" games are indeed VERY light when compared to where games came from.
There are not a lot of Star Fleet Battles, Advanced Squad Leader, Battletech and Magic Realms coming out today. None of those would make a blip if they came out just now. They were a dime a day back then.
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Martin Larouche
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Lionblaze wrote:
I prefer complex games, as games with simple rules can get boring very quickly as you do the same thing over and over. In complex games that have multiple paths to victory, you can try a different strategy each time you play it and it stays fun for a longer period of time.


And i prefer lighter games... after having played numerous heavy ones.

Every single heavy one i played, after a while, you start to see problems in their various mechanics come up. After a while, good players of these games start to play a meta-game of winning through the mechanical flaws of those games rather than playing within the spirit of the game.
For example, in most complex 4X games, i find that half the tech trees are completely pointless, with techs no one ever picks. Always tons of talk of cards being overpowered and other being useless, etc. Some other player gimmicking the movement or combat system to his advantage by min-maxing bonuses given from cards here and there. You don't play the game, you play it's mechanics as a puzzle-game.

Lighter games don't have that problem (for the most part). They rely on other systems than "complexity" to provide the challenge.

In other words: Go is a simple game, yet offers more than Advanced Squad Leader.
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Adam Kazimierczak
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In the 1990's strategy boardgaming was a niche hobby. Now it is a fractured scattering of sub-niches with more and more games and sub-niches coming out every year. Also the players and buyers of board games are getting pickier with more specific tastes fueling this salad bar of games.

The biggest difference between now and then is the explosion of publishers in the industry and the lower bar to publish a game, be it kickstarter or self publishing. More variety is good, but that also means more games that won't be your cup of tea and more BGG research to separate the diamonds from the glass.
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Kyle
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Mashpotassium wrote:
Lionblaze wrote:
I prefer complex games, as games with simple rules can get boring very quickly as you do the same thing over and over. In complex games that have multiple paths to victory, you can try a different strategy each time you play it and it stays fun for a longer period of time.

I think this depends on the style of games you play. My preference is for highly interactive games with simple rules, where your main concern is other players stopping you, not the rules of game. A game like that will be different with every opponent, because while the rules of a game do not change, the decisions your opponents make, will.


This is it, a game can have all the bells and whistles it wants, but multiple paths to victory is usually the antithesis of player interaction. All that complexity can just add easily serve to mask the fact they isn't a whole lot of game in the box. Simpler rules and mechanisms are always better than the convoluted over done games present. I want clever emergent play, through heavy interaction not obfuscation.

Complexity doesn't always equal depth either, I'm more of the mind it often helpers depth.

Edit: removed some phone speak with what I think I wanted there.
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