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Subject: Can you define game complexity and break it down? rss

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Donald M.
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Sweet Grass
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I love playing board games but I do not like dryness or overly complex games that take away from the enjoyment aspect.

This is not to say all complex games are boring or tedious but rather it is my personal opinion based on how I feel when I play these games.

Sometimes complexity is ok, if it doesn't make you constantly to remember a mass of exceptions and rules. I can stand complexity if it is intuitive and the play is balanced and tense.

Can you recommend or categorize specific games that are tolerable in it's complexity? What I mean is, you don't have to remember all the rules or that they are intuitive and therefore not as complex as originally rated.

I think the BGG rating system should define the complexity rating so as to not scare people away from high numbers. Can someone break down complexity into easy to understand terms?
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Paul DeStefano
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This is kind of the Weight rating on the game pages.
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K S
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When people talk about game "weight" there seems to be a fundamental vagueness about whether they are referring to the complexity of the rules themselves (i.e. How hard is it to literally just play the game? How much memorization is necessary? How many "moving parts" are there? etc.) and the depth of strategic options (i.e. How difficult is it to play WELL? How much analysis is necessary during the game? etc.) These two kinds of complexity often go hand-in-hand (e.g. strategic depth can be created through complex rules interactions), but not always. And it's not always very clear how much of each of the two kinds of "weight" people are referring to when they say a game is "light" or "heavy".
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Pete
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I don't see that it requires anything more than a dictionary definition:

Complex- adj - consisting of many different and connected parts.

Pete (thinks the more discrete rules there are, the more a game is likely to be considered "complex")
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Richard Irving
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wamsp wrote:
When people talk about game "weight" there seems to be a fundamental vagueness about whether they are referring to the complexity of the rules themselves (i.e. How hard is it to literally just play the game? How much memorization is necessary? How many "moving parts" are there? etc.) and the depth of strategic options (i.e. How difficult is it to play WELL? How much analysis is necessary during the game? etc.) These two kinds of complexity often go hand-in-hand (e.g. strategic depth can be created through complex rules interactions), but not always. And it's not always very clear how much of each of the two kinds of "weight" people are referring to when they say a game is "light" or "heavy".


It is worse than you know.

Weight is given a rough impression at best--many elements go into it that are often not expressed:
- Rules Complexity (Meaning actually complex rules)
- Rules Length--not the same as above
- Rules unfamiliarity (A counterexample: Wargames are great example--many increasingly complex games include similar to other game (movement, combat, supply, etc.))
- Lack of a consistent turn order: It is MUCH easier to learn if A is followed B os followed by C.... Games where any action can occur at any time are MUCH more difficult--because you have to know all the rules from the start.
- Type of components: X the Card Game is always lighter than X.
- Length of time it takes to play
- Seriousness of theme (Games on light themes are never considered heavy--even if they are.)
- Intensity of competition (Even it is only for club bragging rights.)
- Size of box--More components/bigger boards obviously mean heavier game.
- Effort to play well: Try Diplomacy some time.
- Depth of strategy: How hard is a game to really master?
- Learning curve: How hard is learning competent play?
- Austerity of game: Does the game punish mistakes harshly?


Even worse--there is no standard for each weight means--what is a 3 weight game (However weight is supposed to be defined.) So people almost always rate the heaviest game they might play as a 5. But that means games with same weight per everyone's opinion can have vastly different numerical ratings:
- Take two games: Settler of Carcassonne and Battles of Patton. EVERYONE think these games have the same weight as a classic like Puerto Rico. However:
- SoC fans think Puerto Rico is a heavy game so rate SoC a 4.
- Wargamers think PR is pretty light, and rate BoP a 2.

But EVERYONE thinks all three are equally weighty.

In short Weight rating a should be eliminated.
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Isaac Shalev
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I would suggest you play games within a common mechanical family. For example, play worker placement games. They tend to be reasonably thematic, and each has its own twist, but they're usually elegant, without a lot of exceptions. Deck-builders are another good example. I'd also look for anything that gets nominated for or wins both Spiel des Jahres and Kennerspiel prizes, as well as Mensa winners. All those games are likely to be understandable without being too complext. Kennerspiel will likely be at the top end of your limit.
 
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K S
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rri1 wrote:
In short Weight rating a should be eliminated.

I was with you until this. I think there is some value in BGG weight ratings, but when consuming them, one needs to keep a saltshaker handy, for the reasons you elaborated.
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Donald M.
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I usually read the reviews and see the weighting. As a rough rule of thumb if a weight is more than 3.50, I tend to stay away and not buy unless it is hugely popular. Games in the 1.75 to 2.75 are more my type as I've found out through experience.

I just like games that don't give me and my friends a headache when attempting to play them.
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Brandon
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I have put some work into an attempt at mapping procedural complexity of board games in a hopefully/mostly reproducible manner. Here's Alhambra for example:



The method also tries to capture some amount of complexity due to depth of interactions between actions and choices (the dashed lines in the above graph). From the networks, I can derive some basic metrics, e.g. longest path (number of actions in a turn from start to finish), number of possible paths through a turn (not including loops), number of choices per turn, average amount of action-influence acting on choices, etc.

From these, I can come up with a composite metric that, with an admittedly small sample size, correlates well with BGG weight. An interesting exception is chess, which we perceive to have a higher weight than its complexity would suggest.

Only one problem: it takes for-flipping-ever to make a map of even a medium-weight game, so I haven't done any in a while.
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K S
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jakobcreutzfeldt wrote:
I can come up with a composite metric that, with an admittedly small sample size, correlates well with BGG weight. An interesting exception is chess, which we perceive to have a higher weight than its complexity would suggest.

I think that this is probably mostly due to the unique cultural mystique of Chess, and probably traditional abstract strategy games generally, rather than to any properties of the gameplay itself.
 
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J Mathews
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I always thought that complexity referred to the number of variables that need to be actively tracked at a single time while weight refers to the decision depth within a game. So a game like Go would be a heavy game without much complexity. A game like Duel of Ages would be complicated but not all that heavy. And a game like Mage Knight would be both.
 
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Brandon
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wamsp wrote:
jakobcreutzfeldt wrote:
I can come up with a composite metric that, with an admittedly small sample size, correlates well with BGG weight. An interesting exception is chess, which we perceive to have a higher weight than its complexity would suggest.

I think that this is probably mostly due to the unique cultural mystique of Chess, and probably traditional abstract strategy games generally, rather than to any properties of the gameplay itself.


I've thought about it a lot (not that that makes me correct), and I think a big part is actually the limitations in state space, along with the more obvious limitations in procedural complexity that make Chess and Go so intriguing. I would argue that the state space of most wargames is much, much larger than Chess or Go, so a "deep" state space isn't enough on its own. I think that what makes those abstracts feel so deep is that their depth is more easily contemplated. If the state space gets too big, and the mechanisms for traversing state space are too numerous and varied, I believe we end up just ignoring large swaths of possibilities. Random elements also contribute to this behavior. With a simple set of rules, however, we can begin to realistically mentally map 2, 3, or more moves ahead, we can pontificate on opening moves, closing moves, etc. With that said, if the game becomes overly simplistic, like tic-tac-toe, it clearly loses that feeling. We can map the game perfectly, so there's no point in playing anymore.

So, to put it in terms of the visualizations that I've done, Chess's procedural complexity is obviously quite simple, and therefore also the level of interactions between mechanisms are relatively low. However, because there are no random elements and the board state is very contemplatable, we consider it to be more deep than, say, 2-player Carcassonne, which has a similar state space complexity. Thus, its weight is unexpectedly higher ("unexpectedly", based on the evidence, and pretending we're ignorant of the game's reputation).

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Chris SC

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I was going to comment until I got to this guys response:

Quote:
I usually read the reviews and see the weighting. As a rough rule of thumb if a weight is more than 3.50, I tend to stay away and not buy unless it is hugely popular. Games in the 1.75 to 2.75 are more my type as I've found out through experience.

I just like games that don't give me and my friends a headache when attempting to play them.


That's me right there. Generally my rule of thumb is that if I start to get bored through the rules explanation, it probably has too many damn rules. This, of course, isn't always the case, but it usually is a red flag that I'm about to have a bad time.

 
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Lluluien
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plezercruz wrote:
I don't see that it requires anything more than a dictionary definition:

Complex- adj - consisting of many different and connected parts.

Pete (thinks the more discrete rules there are, the more a game is likely to be considered "complex")


I think maybe we're misusing the word complexity then, and perhaps the "weight" moniker is better after all.

Based on this definition of complexity, isn't a Rube Goldberg machine by definition a counterexample to what we mean by "complexity" in a game? Such a machine is certainly made of many different and connected parts, but if it isn't functionally "light", then that contradicts it being a Rube Goldberg machine.

Llu (disagrees that this question doesn't require anything more than a dictionary definition)
 
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