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Subject: The Dangers of Saying a Complex Game is "Easy" rss

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Stephen Hall
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It's great to see curious newcomers joining the hobby, but I have a little PSA for us experienced gamers:

Saying a game is "easy" when it's not can be destructive.

We have all seen it before - the first-time player feeling overwhelmed and frustrated by a new game. When I was just getting started in this hobby, my buddy got World of Warcraft: The Board Game, and he invited me over to play. The game was big and intimidating, but some people at a con had told me it was easy to play and understand, so I felt comfortable giving it a try.

Four grueling hours later, when it ended, I left feeling exhausted, frustrated, and never wanting to play that game again. I had struggled to understand what was going on, and my friend had been less than helpful in assisting me. Thankfully, I already knew that I liked board games, but if that had been my first tabletop experience, it may well have turned me off to the hobby altogether. After all, the game was supposedly "easy," yet I couldn't understand it or keep up with all the rules. Instead, I just felt stupid.

Fast forward many years, to today: I have fully immersed myself this great hobby, and I am so glad I stuck with it. But I know folks who have had similar experiences without the same happy ending.

Let us remember for a moment that the majority of people have nowhere near the same level of gaming experience as we do. Thus, what is easy for us BGG'ers to understand may not be easy for a brand-new gamer. This is not to say we are somehow smarter than the rest of the population, of course, but rather we simply have a frame of reference that newcomers may lack.

When you are playing with new people, be honest about a game's learning curve. Remember that what is second nature to you may feel complex and confusing to them. (And please don't misunderstand, I am absolutely not saying that it's bad to start someone off with more involved games. That's totally fine, as long as everyone is having fun.)

If a new player understands a meaty game right away, that's awesome. But in the very real event that they struggle to wrap their mind around it, be encouraging. Having someone go home feeling stupid is a great way to lose a potential member of this community.
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Joe Salamone
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My wife is a casual gamer (but has been playing games with me for more than 10 years, so she's definitely not "inexperienced"). Her typical reactions to new games (regardless of complexity) are as follows:

* Prior to my rules explanation: "Wow. There are a lot of pieces."

* During my rules explanation: The expression on her face indicates that she will NEVER learn this game.

* After the first couple of turns: Her body language and tone of voice indicate that she's beginning to enjoy the game.

* End game scoring: She wins and says, "Don't put this away. We can play again tomorrow."



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Alazṓn Theatre
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juggler5 wrote:


When you are playing with new people, be honest about a ______'s learning curve.


I have learned this truth with many things in life.

Often we are keen about a game or project and want to say "come on, its not that hard". I have found the opposite works better more often than not. "This is complex, are you up for a challenge?" - it immediately makes it about them and their mental state at that moment. Maybe they are not up for it and yet are intrigued and come back when they are fresher to take on a challenge. Or maybe, right out of the gate it is not for them, well that saves your time. If they take it on and find it not as hard as we laid out, then they feel smart.

Rather than sell it from our perspective, sell it from theirs.
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Kirk Roberts
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juggler5 wrote:
When you are playing with new people, be honest about a game's learning curve.

You have to also remember that what is simple to you is not going to be simple to someone with dramatically less game-playing experience. Because you have a head full of mechanisms and can think "oh, this is like Game X with a few changes" or "oh, it's deckbuilding with area control", etcetera. Games that we think are simple are not simple to everyone.

I overheard a mother and adult-ish son talking in the board game aisle at Target.
Mom: "what was that complicated game your uncle made us play?"
Son: "Azul."

Also had an experience trying to convince someone not to call a game "stupid simple" because of the potential psychological hit if someone then doesn't understand how to play right away.

There's no need to qualify it. Just say "there are 3 steps" rather than "it's so easy, there are only 3 steps."
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Pete
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Calling a complex game easy is tantamount to calling the new player an idiot.

Pete (knows that's how they'll feel when they can't comprehend the "easy" game)
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Stephen Hall
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Fennic wrote:
I have learned this truth with many things in life.

Often we are keen about a game or project and want to say "come on, its not that hard". I have found the opposite works better more often than not. "This is complex, are you up for a challenge?" - it immediately makes it about them and their mental state at that moment. Maybe they are not up for it and yet are intrigued and come back when they are fresher to take on a challenge. Or maybe, right out of the gate it is not for them, well that saves your time. If they take it on and find it not as hard as we laid out, then they feel smart.

Rather than sell it from our perspective, sell it from theirs.


Well said. One way we can gauge a game’s relative complexity (besides using BGG’s “Weight” rating), is to ask “How many pieces of information does a new player need to understand in order to play?” Qwirkle, for example, only requires players to understand 2 bits of information: how tiles score and what their placement restrictions are. A game like Scythe, on the other hand, has a whole lot more overhead.
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I use to use to say, "Oh, this is an easy game to play (Power Grid, etc...).

No longer, I will just start to explain a game (now to make reference to another thread topic) but if I start to see glazed eyes & unhappy faces most likely I will suggest that we play a different game.It helps to know who you're teaching a game to.
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Kirk Roberts
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juggler5 wrote:
One way we can gauge a game’s relative complexity (besides using BGG’s “Weight” rating), is to ask “How many pieces of information does a new player need to understand in order to play?” Qwirkle, for example, only requires players to understand 2 bits of information: how tiles score and what their placement restrictions are.

Funny that you mention Qwirkle after I mentioned Azul. Knowing how Qwirkle scoring works is a benefit when first learning Azul. Building blocks.
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Greg Schmittgens
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One of our locals is notorious for this. One time, he invited a newbie to our regular meetings (about four hours long), telling the newb that he would teach Rise and Decline of the Third Reich that evening becuase it is "easy". Now we all try to stick close to him when new players are around and provide accurate info when a game is being discussed.
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Stephen Hall
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kirkroberts wrote:
juggler5 wrote:
One way we can gauge a game’s relative complexity (besides using BGG’s “Weight” rating), is to ask “How many pieces of information does a new player need to understand in order to play?” Qwirkle, for example, only requires players to understand 2 bits of information: how tiles score and what their placement restrictions are.

Funny that you mention Qwirkle after I mentioned Azul. Knowing how Qwirkle scoring works is a benefit when first learning Azul. Building blocks.


Indeed. I’d wager that over 90% of BGG has played Dominion, meaning we have explored the deck-building genre by itself, in its own context. We have also likely done the same with worker-placement, set collection, push-your-luck, etc. This makes it easier for us to “put it all together” when learning a game that uses a combination of mechanisms. But for a new player to have to learn deck-building, while also learning worker placement, while also learning set collection, while also... you get the point.
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Pete
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kirkroberts wrote:
juggler5 wrote:
One way we can gauge a game’s relative complexity (besides using BGG’s “Weight” rating), is to ask “How many pieces of information does a new player need to understand in order to play?” Qwirkle, for example, only requires players to understand 2 bits of information: how tiles score and what their placement restrictions are.

Funny that you mention Qwirkle after I mentioned Azul. Knowing how Qwirkle scoring works is a benefit when first learning Azul. Building blocks.
I'll take that one step further.

Too many gamers fail to recognize that may of the games they disdain, like Scrabble, Risk, Monopoly, or Sorry, are the building blocks that brought them to our favorite games. Thankfully, most people have played those so it's not a huge deal, but I found with my kids that trying to "skip over" games like that was causing difficulty in the learning curve for them.

Similarly with adults, sometimes it helps not to skip the same steps you took to get to where you are. I get it...you like Codenames and Dixit, but maybe you should just try teaching Password and Apples to Apples first. Once they've understood those, Codenames and Dixit are only a marginal step up.

Pete (thinks gaming is a skill, and it doesn't help to dump new players straight into the big leagues)
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Stephen Hall
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GS in KS wrote:
One of our locals is notorious for this. One time, he invited a newbie to our regular meetings (about four hours long), telling the newb that he would teach Rise and Decline of the Third Reich that evening becuase it is "easy".


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Well said and a great reminder.

I am guilty as charged sometimes when I teach my parents new games. Even though they know how to play Trajan and Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar, it doesn't mean they can catch on to new games easily.

It is also fascinating how my parents think Trajan is a lot simple than games with less weight. To me that is a sign of elegant design. It is also fascinating how my parents feel the weight of each game is different and they have their own rating on said games.

Now before I pull out a game to play with them I always ask how tired they are or how much of a challenge they are up to before I decide what game we're gonna play.
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Scott Nelson
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Guilty! I used to tell everyone any game was shorter time and less depth, just because if I didn't, they'd never play any of the games I like. A few times they liked the game even though it was clearly not medium weight.
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Paul A
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simple ≠ easy
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One thing that makes a game complex for newcomers is the jargon used to explain it.
Worker Placement, Deckbuilder, Meeple...all these terms are well-known to gamers & bandied about but the average newcomer has not a clue what any of these are or even where to start trying to understand them

I have had someone say of a game "oh, that's easy" in front of the person struggling with it & did immediately say "If you understand what that means"
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Dave J
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I think the things we all take for granted as a gamer is having "actions" and "choices" in modern games. The concept of telling someone you can have three "actions" on your turn and you can do any combination of these things is mind blowing. So initial games usually involve grasping that concept.
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"Lisboa is super easy...you play a card, you draw a card. Kinda like Lost Cities..."
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juggler5 wrote:
Fennic wrote:
I have learned this truth with many things in life.

Often we are keen about a game or project and want to say "come on, its not that hard". I have found the opposite works better more often than not. "This is complex, are you up for a challenge?" - it immediately makes it about them and their mental state at that moment. Maybe they are not up for it and yet are intrigued and come back when they are fresher to take on a challenge. Or maybe, right out of the gate it is not for them, well that saves your time. If they take it on and find it not as hard as we laid out, then they feel smart.

Rather than sell it from our perspective, sell it from theirs.


Well said. One way we can gauge a game’s relative complexity (besides using BGG’s “Weight” rating), is to ask “How many pieces of information does a new player need to understand in order to play?” Qwirkle, for example, only requires players to understand 2 bits of information: how tiles score and what their placement restrictions are. A game like Scythe, on the other hand, has a whole lot more overhead.


Speaking of the weight rating, why is Chess rated as high as 3.73?
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James C
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I used Wits & Wagers at work this week as a “team building exercise” and said “this is easy” when I started to explain how to play. Was I lying? I don’t know, everyone seemed to get it, even if we were terrible guessers.

But I might have been lying. There was likely at least one out of the 9 of them that wouldn’t pick to play a game if they had their choice.
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I have definitely found this a hard concept to remember when teaching boardgames.

I have had conversations go like this
"You save the hit on a 4+ with a reroll."
"what does that mean?"
"Uh, it is pretty straight forward. What don't you get?"
"What is a reroll?"
"You re - roll the dice"
"Oh. And I need a 4?"
"A 4 or higher"
"So a 4, 5 or 6?"
"Yes. That is what higher means."

That is not a good way to go. Patience and Understanding is key here.
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plezercruz wrote:
kirkroberts wrote:
juggler5 wrote:
One way we can gauge a game’s relative complexity (besides using BGG’s “Weight” rating), is to ask “How many pieces of information does a new player need to understand in order to play?” Qwirkle, for example, only requires players to understand 2 bits of information: how tiles score and what their placement restrictions are.

Funny that you mention Qwirkle after I mentioned Azul. Knowing how Qwirkle scoring works is a benefit when first learning Azul. Building blocks.
I'll take that one step further.

Too many gamers fail to recognize that may of the games they disdain, like Scrabble, Risk, Monopoly, or Sorry, are the building blocks that brought them to our favorite games. Thankfully, most people have played those so it's not a huge deal, but I found with my kids that trying to "skip over" games like that was causing difficulty in the learning curve for them.

Similarly with adults, sometimes it helps not to skip the same steps you took to get to where you are. I get it...you like Codenames and Dixit, but maybe you should just try teaching Password and Apples to Apples first. Once they've understood those, Codenames and Dixit are only a marginal step up.

Pete (thinks gaming is a skill, and it doesn't help to dump new players straight into the big leagues)


While I agree that building blocks of certain gaming staples can be under appreciated and are good for socialization into games, I think that the whole baby steps thing can be really patronising as well. Like, " I have judged you are not capable."

I know it's basic and perhsps goes without saying, but, know your audience.


If I ever say "this game is easy" or "simple" it's because I know the other people well enough to know they'll think so. And usually, it will be qualified by something else I'm saying. "This game is easy, once you understand how x works, which is a bit tricky at first".
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Jason
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kirkroberts wrote:
I overheard a mother and adult-ish son talking in the board game aisle at Target.
Mom: "what was that complicated game your uncle made us play?"
Son: "Azul."

Much of that complexity is because the game isn't intuitive. It plays more complicated than it looks. I'm not saying casual gamers can't learn and enjoy it, but the game is like taking a walk in the park only to round a corner to a stretch of hurdles.
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Liam3Bucks wrote:
juggler5 wrote:
Fennic wrote:
I have learned this truth with many things in life.

Often we are keen about a game or project and want to say "come on, its not that hard". I have found the opposite works better more often than not. "This is complex, are you up for a challenge?" - it immediately makes it about them and their mental state at that moment. Maybe they are not up for it and yet are intrigued and come back when they are fresher to take on a challenge. Or maybe, right out of the gate it is not for them, well that saves your time. If they take it on and find it not as hard as we laid out, then they feel smart.

Rather than sell it from our perspective, sell it from theirs.


Well said. One way we can gauge a game’s relative complexity (besides using BGG’s “Weight” rating), is to ask “How many pieces of information does a new player need to understand in order to play?” Qwirkle, for example, only requires players to understand 2 bits of information: how tiles score and what their placement restrictions are. A game like Scythe, on the other hand, has a whole lot more overhead.


Speaking of the weight rating, why is Chess rated as high as 3.73?

What does weight measure? Ruleset complexity? Combinatorial complexity? Strategic complexity? Sociopsychological complexity? Philosophical complexity? Cultural complexity? Mere gravitational force? Any to all of the above?
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Virginia Milne
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Some people weigh games by how many pages you have to read through in the rule book. The more pages, the thicker the rule book, the greater the weight of the game

Some games that have thin rule books get catalogued as a light game

Now, Chess gets catalogued as an extremely heavy game because it has a really thick rule bookdevil

"Rubbish!" I hear you say, "The rules of Chess take less than two pages"shake

The mandatory rules that you must follow in order to not cheat in a game of Chess fill less than two pages. But the advisory rules you need to follow to play a good game of chess take up many feet. Go to the library with a measuring tape and measure the width of shelf space devoted to Chess books

Of course, war gamers would say, "You simple players of simple games. We war gamers play with our rule books open by our sides because of the heaviness of our war games"yuk

Abstract game players ( players of games that take minutes to learn and life times to master ) feel pride in the shortness of mandatory rules which can lead to endless emergent complexity. Enough to last a life time
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