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Subject: What makes a game "fiddly"? rss

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Travis Cooper
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I've seen people talk about how a game is "fiddly", which usually means that they don't like it as much. The most recent example is in relation to the SDJ nominee announcement. Many people feel that Tobago should have made the short list, but people thinking that it shouldn't say it is too "fiddly"; however, looking at Fresco it seems to have more pieces to it.

So, what makes a game fiddly, and why should that detract from the game? Is chess fiddly because of all those pieces you have to move? Is Alea Iacta Est fiddly because you have to deal with all those dice? Is Dungeon Lords fiddly because of all those imps, adventurers, monsters, damage cubes, etc.? Dominion must be fiddly, because you have to shuffle so much. So what are your thoughts? Help me to understand.
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It's like all the other imprecise terms people use. If a game has lots of procedures and things to do, you either like it, in which case it has depth and is immersive, or dislike it, in which case it's fiddly.
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Neil Christiansen
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I do not consider Tobago fiddly. I do consider Arkham Horror fiddly.

Fiddly to me implies a lot of very specific rules that are difficult to keep track of and require referencing.

Sometimes lots of different kinds of pieces contributes to this if they all require different specific rules.

Fiddly games take a long time to explain rules comprehensively.
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R.T. Sloan
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In my opinion any game that has an excessive amount of record keeping each turn is "Fiddily".

Now, what exactly "Excessive" is dependes on the person. If I really like a game, I'm willing to put up with a lot more record keeping.

As an example, I am one of the few people on BGG that actualy enjoys the Sim City card game. And it has a huge amount of per turn record keeping.

So, I guess that Fiddily varies from person to person from game to game.
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Seth Pinter
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This is just my interpretation of others using the term. I'm sure others use it in different ways, but whatever.

Fiddly is when one players actions cause a list of actions that must be performed to organize things. So, for example, in Carson City every time you play a building it has the potential to change the payout from other buildings, so you have to rotate them so they display the correct payout. This is a bit of fiddlyness. These kinds of things make the computer versions of the game run so much faster as the software automates it.

The term fiddly could be used for score calculation if it is very complicated where you have to add A, subtract B, compare to other players then take the difference of C or other complicated rules.

Chess wouldn't be fiddly at all due to the fact that moving a piece is a major part of the gameplay and there is no way to automate the processes and make it more convenient.
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Jim Cote
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For me, there are 3 kinds of fiddly: physical, visual, and mechanical. Physically fiddly games require you have to manipulate a lot of bits (Agricola, Through the Ages). Visually fiddly games have poor graphic and/or physical design, and it is a chore to see what is going on in the game (Die Macher, Le Havre). Mechanically fiddly games have a lot of special rules that must be remembered (Arkham Horror, Power Grid).

Edit: Although "fiddly" is often used in a negative sense, it is really just another word, like luck or chaos. Some people like it. I wouldn't have Through the Ages work any other way. Some games are a visual chore on purpose. For example, if you get lazy in Liberte, you won't be keeping track of the faction situation. Some complex games use fiddly rules for thematic reasons, or just to make the game work at all.

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| Scott Kinzie |
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chris1nd wrote:
...Fiddly to me implies a lot of very specific rules that are difficult to keep track of and require referencing. Sometimes lots of different kinds of pieces contributes to this if they all require different specific rules. Fiddly games take a long time to explain rules comprehensively.


This is how I use the word, too. If I see a 30 page rule-book and a small looking game, then I know there must be a lot of rules to cover very specific situations within the game. This often leads to more realism within a simulation, but explodes the rule set. Thus, you have to constantly check the rulebook for each situation. Fiddly.

I don't think fiddly is a bad thing. For example, I like the game Monsters Menace America and I consider it fiddly. I like the fiddly-ness, however, because I think it improves the feeling of realism in the game.

Power Grid might be considered slightly fiddly because of the changes in rules between stages. Again, not a bad thing, just fiddly.

In contrast to fiddly, is "elegant". Elegant games tend to have an amazingly small set of rules that cover a LOT going on in the game. The downfall to elegant is usually the feeling that theme is secondary to the game engine, i.e. not as realistic.


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Benjamin Maggi
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If it has the words "Squad" or "Leader" in the title it would be considered fiddly. (Ex: Squad Leader, Advanced Squad Leader)
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Nate Straight

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Fiddly is when you have to fiddle with the game a lot.

No, Chess is not fiddly because of "all those pieces" you move.

Yes, Dungeon Lords is fiddly because of "all those" pieces in the game.

In one round of Dungeon Lords, you've probably moved as many things around in the game [on the board, off the board, on your board, off your board, in the game, out of the game, etc] as you would in an entire game of Chess. A full game of Dungeon Lords probably has [to give a ridiculously rough estimate] 12x the amount of fiddle [moving things around] as a game of Chess.

How much stuff do you have to move around and how often do you have to move it and [optionally] how many ways can you move them around [related to rules / complexity]? Those seem to be the two [or three] big questions related to "fiddliness", and Dungeon Lords surpasses Chess in fiddliness on all three counts. There's lots more to move more often and in more ways.

Especially if these movements are non-plays [like setting up, end-of-round maintenance, etc], this feels "fiddly".
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Rodney Clowsewitz
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A common example of fiddlyness:

Each turn, the player does one of the following in order
Phase 1 a)
b)
c)

Phase 2

Phase 3 a)
b)

Phase 4

Now if you chose phase one last turn you only do part c of phase 1 this time and all other players get a free phase 3 a) unless they did phase three last turn in which case they will execute phase 3 b).

You can't chose phase 2 if you're block is in a neutral zone. Neutral zones are as defined as follows:

Criteria 1
Criteria 2
Criteria 3 (exception 1, exception2, exception to exception 2, exception 3)
Criteria 4

Phase 3 can not be chosen if the player cannot take phase 1 a) as an action unless the following conditions are met.

Exception 1
Exception 2
Exception 3

*In the back of this rulebook is a list of counters you will use to mark which phase the players are on, the phases they have just completed and possible future phases. Also they are used to mark all relevant exceptions. You will find that most of the game is placing tokens and adjusting tracks more than you will actually be playing the game*



But hey I like fiddly, I guess I'm a mental masochist.
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Michael Hovan
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Through the ages is definitely fiddly and I love it. Macao felt fiddly to me and I did not like it as much. To me, fiddly is having to fuss or fiddle around with some part of the game on a regular basis. It also makes it easier to mess things up because handling the game frequently allows for more opportunity for human error.
 
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The definition of fiddly is so varied and lengthy that it is fiddly itself and can therefore be ignored.
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Kent Reuber
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I thought that "fiddly" was actually a word, but I didn't find it at dictionary.com. The definition for "fiddled" gives some indication of what fiddly would be:

Dictionary.com wrote:
6. to make trifling or fussing movements with the hands (often fol. by with ): fiddling with his cuffs.
7. to touch or manipulate something, as to operate or adjust it; tinker (often fol. by with ): You may have to fiddle with the antenna to get a clear picture on the TV.
8. to waste time; trifle; dally (often fol. by around ): Stop fiddling around and get to work.


To me it means that a game requires you do go through a bunch of little steps and adjusting pieces which robs a game of its tension. Fiddly of course, is in the eyes of the beholder, so my calling a game "fiddly" may not be shared by others.
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Sphere wrote:
It's like all the other imprecise terms people use. If a game has lots of procedures and things to do, you either like it, in which case it has depth and is immersive, or dislike it, in which case it's fiddly.
QFT.

A prime example for me is RoboRally. Too many things (tracks, cards and time) for me.
 
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JonJacob wrote:
"existentialist" when the word didn't even exist


laugh
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monkeyboy157 wrote:
I've seen people talk about how a game is "fiddly", which usually means that they don't like it as much.... So what are your thoughts? Help me to understand.


For me, fiddly means two things:

1. Superfluous or tedious gaming mechanisms or procedures, that do not qualitatively contribute to the value of the gaming experience.

2. Too many components or a long set up time.

Many of my favorite games, such as Merchant of Venus and Memoir '44, are fiddly. They both meet qualifier number two. I still play both.

Shipyard meets both qualifiers. I found the game incredibly tedious. I purged the title from my collection.

Power Grid meets qualifier number one, as I find it procedurally tedious. I don't like PG much, though I'm willing to give it another try.

Falloutfan


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JonJacob wrote:

Fiddly and Elegant... I hate those terms.... hate.

Neither one means anything and their use around here is so inconsistent I get zero meaning from it.

The idea is that people want to say something about a game but don't know how to express themselves so they use cheap shorthand. Like calling Dostoyevsky's novels "existentialist" when the word didn't even exist at the time.


So help us out and describe, in your words, what you think other people mean when they are, in your words, being too lazy to think of a term or phrase other than fiddly.

I use the term and think it a nice summation to what most have voiced here: at discreet points in the game, players are required to perform the tasks listed in the rules. Those tasks, for one reason or another, are usually difficult to remember and sometime cause errors in play or recurring rules consultations. The number of bits isn't necessarily the cause though. It just as easily can be caused by a litany of housekeeping at the ends of rounds (player A gets a free X cause he's in last, player B moves up two because they lost dominance, player B also gets to choose a consolation prize from the items in board area 3, ...)

The word is not inherently bad or good but I usually use the term in a negative connotation as I don't like fiddly games as much as non-fiddly ones.
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JonJacob wrote:
Like calling Dostoyevsky's novels "existentialist" when the word didn't even exist at the time.

People were playing Rock & Roll before it was ever called that. Things happen, then they are labeled.

As for fiddliness, for me it's the manual administration of bits the game demands. My rule of thumb is if more than 25% of game play time could be shaved off if an automated groundskeeper were in place, it's fiddly. In the case of Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization, I put its fiddlevel well above 50%.
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Mac Mcleod
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fiddly-- having many rules or pieces which have minuscule effect on the game.

Example: Chess where you roll % dice for each move. On a "00", you get to move a second time. On a "01", you must make another move. On a "02", you get to save the ability to negate a later "00" or "01" roll.

Example: In Stronghold, I advance an extra group of orcs. This gives you the time you need to put a unit on the wall which will neutralize the group of orcs. The action was a "no op".

Example: In some big war game, instead of having 300 chits, the designer has 3,000 chits- one for each unit. There are special rules for dozens of the units (this one can climb walls, this one can blow things up).
 
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For me, fiddly is usually about bits, specifically having to continually change two of these into a that.

For example, Vanished Planet suffers a great deal from having multiple tiers of resources that all combine into different things - almost none of which adds to the essence of the game play.

I can also subscribe to the opinion that too many exceptions to a base set of rules can create a fiddly experience - but that's a different kind of fiddly.
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Fiddly means I have to put way too much brain power, time, and effort into an aspect of the game. This typically applies to aspects of the game that are more necessary than fun.

Examples:

1. Getting all the bits back into the Small World tray, and otherwise retrieving/manipulating the bits in a non-game way is fiddly. Moving the bits around the board to conquer and pillage also takes quite a bit of time, but it's an integral and enjoyable part of the game, so I don't consider that part fiddly at all.

2. Goldbrau payouts are fiddly! Here, you have 3/5 of THIS payout and she has 1/5 and Greg has 1/5, but only after half goes to the brewery, of which you get 1/2, she gets 1/4 and Greg gets 1/4 . . . The game is great and money counting is to be expected in any financial game, but this isn't counting: it's absurd amounts of time spent on fractions and division for a game that isn't trying to teach these things to children.

I don't care for Agricola, and it has a lot of bits, but I'd never call it fiddly. Each resource piece has a function and serves its function in an efficient manner. There's no goofy and agonizingly long storage process, nor does one have to stack, divide, and do a voodoo dance around the pieces to accomplish their goals. Focus is on play and not bit manipulation, so: not fiddly! Not liked, but not fiddly. See the difference?
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Chris Ferejohn
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Quote:
I don't think fiddly is a bad thing. For example, I like the game Monsters Menace America and I consider it fiddly. I like the fiddly-ness, however, because I think it improves the feeling of realism in the game.


Sorry to digress but that made me LOL. Heaven forbid a game about giant monsters rampaging about the country should be unrealistic.

There seems to be a split on whether "fiddly" is by definition pejorative. It is not for me - Agricola is pretty indisputably fiddly, but I still really like it. I think it is really only a problem if a game seems unnecessarily fiddly.
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Travis Cooper
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Thanks for all the replies. I guess I just think the word is overused around here. I see it all the time and I think, that didn't seem fiddly to me. Also, I always see fiddly being used as a negative, but I don't always think that the amount of procedures, or the complexity, etc. are bad in most cases, so I guess that's why I haven't used the term myself. Anyway, this is an interesting discussion to me. I may not think that things are fiddly, but it's interesting to see what people think it means.
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Mystery McMysteryface
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For me "fiddly" would mean that there is a lot of housekeeping that comes along with the game: rules re-checking, complicated set-up, multitude of things to do to the game or personal boards on and between turns or rounds, zillions of pieces to keep track of and put away.

However, this would only be a negative quality if the game is actually bad, not fun, or if it really interrupts or disrupts the flow of the game. Otherwise for me "fiddly" does not necessarily equal "bad" or make for a bad game.
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| Scott Kinzie |
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cferejohn wrote:
DenverWolf wrote:
I don't think fiddly is a bad thing. For example, I like the game Monsters Menace America and I consider it fiddly. I like the fiddly-ness, however, because I think it improves the feeling of realism in the game.


Sorry to digress but that made me LOL. Heaven forbid a game about giant monsters rampaging about the country should be unrealistic.


Yeah, that was a stupid example for "realism"!
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