

I was wondering what the limits of mental or assisted math in a game are. For instance, how far into fractions are you willing to go? 1/2? 1/4? 1/8? etc. I'm working on a few game ideas where this kind of information would be relevant.
Thanks!
To be more specific about the particular setup I have in mind, I am thinking about using a dial setup with marked increments that would be adjusted dynamically over the course of the game. Some events would cause the value of the dials to increase or decrease by, say, 1/2 or 1/4 of the initial value; so if the idal was initialls at 12 it might change to 3 in response to a given event. I'm thinking of adding a rule of rounding up to the nearest even number if it starts with an odd number and working with factors of 2 (1/2, 1/4, etc.), as you can get pretty far by just halving several times.
Although that's the spcific context, I think it would be good to get a feel for math tolerance in general. Thanks again for all the feedback!

Hunga Dunga
Canada Maple Ridge British Columbia

You should create a poll. This would be very interesting.

Jim Cote
United States Maine

It might also be helpful to know more about your design(s). For example, you can often remove fractions by using larger integers to start with.

Eric Jome
United States Franklin Wisconsin

Generally, you should avoid fractions. Find the smallest fraction in your game and make that the unit value, multiplying all the other values up to be whole values, too.
Generally, additive arithmetic (addition and multiplication) are more easily received and played than subtractive (subtraction and division). Try to avoid any mathematics that are more complex than arithmetic  certainly don't bother with trigonometry, calculus, or algebra; a limited exposure to simple shapes and solids in geometry might be doable, but I wouldn't recommend it.
Now, a game whose purpose is teaching math might need to avoid these rules, but for just any game, I'd really recommend avoiding it. Classically, the only "complicated" math that has ever been seen as acceptable has been ratios used in wargames for CRTs  sum two totals and find the closest simple ratio to their ratio. It's a solid mechanic, but it takes practice to be good enough with it to do it quickly enough in a game... and even then, only old school wargamers are particularly tolerant of the idea.
Add up a few numbers. That's about the limit of people's tolerance. Fractions? Forget it.

Domenic
United States Portland Oregon

To aid the pollless:

Ted Groth
United States Appleton Wisconsin

It would depend on how the fractions are to be used, and why they are there, and how often the calculations are needed. Would there only be powers of 1/2? or could there be other fractions mixed together, such as 1/3, 3/7, 2/5 and such?
I would prefer not to have a game require calculation assistance. I find fractions simple enough that I wouldn't expect a problem to do any of these in my head, but I would anticipate problems teaching some people such a game, or at least problems with them wanting to play.
Generally, if you need to represent fractions of something, you are better off having more small items instead, and use whole numbers.
Edit: the poll is tough to answer, as I would have at least three distinctly different answers for different categories. For me math is fun, but for me to teach a game and have it accepted, I prefer the math to be simple. Even for me alone, repetitive calculations are tedious!

Eric Jome
United States Franklin Wisconsin

Torn on the poll. I like math. I have a degree in math. Particularly fond of algebra, personally. And geometry. So, I could and would tolerate no end of math shenanigans personally.
But as a designer or playtester, I would strongly recommend against anything more than basic arithmetic in a game. It just is not an accessible subject matter or talent for people in general.

Clive Lovett
Canada Kamloops British Columbia

I don't mind math  but too much math = AP IMHO

Jim Cote
United States Maine

For further discussion, the mathiest nonwargames I know of:
Automobile (heavy modulus) Dominant Species (lots of multiply and add operations)

Bobby Ramsey
United States Grove City OH
Hush

I think too many designers are ignoring the mass population's innate love of calculating homotopy invariants.

Clive Lovett
Canada Kamloops British Columbia

AnyMouse wrote: I think too many designers are ignoring the mass population's innate love of calculating homotopy invariants.
I am not sure about that  many people are still secretly homotopyphobic

Sicaria Occaeco
United States Salt Lake City Utah

AnyMouse wrote: I think too many designers are ignoring the mass population's innate love of calculating homotopy invariants.
Ignorant homotophobes, when will they ever learn?

Justin Egan
United States Fort Myers FL  Florida

The most math I'm willing to do to play a game is the math required to calculate damage in Steve Jacksons Frag.

J C Lawrence
United States Campbell California

ekted wrote: For further discussion, the mathiest nonwargames I know of: Automobile (heavy modulus) Dominant Species (lots of multiply and add operations)
Locomotive Werks
AnyMouse wrote: I think too many designers are ignoring the mass population's innate love of calculating homotopy invariants.
As long as they're of feminine glands.

David Corbin
United States Cumming Georgia

clearclaw wrote:
Hare & Tortoise  I'm told it was designed to teach Math.



There are not a lot of games that hit my table that need a calculator, and calculating sums with fractions is something I need a caculator for.
I always make an exception for Indonesia though.

David Moffett
United States Toledo Ohio

I'm terrible at math but I don't mind math in games, just be careful how you use it. Math killed Heroes of Graxia for me. It isn't hard math (just addition) but you have to add so many different numbers every time you attack that it completely and utterly sucks every ounce of fun out of the game. It's one of those games that I think was meant for a computer but got turned into a physical card game, it would be a great game if not for adding nine numbers, subtracting the sum of eight other numbers your opponent had to count and then repeating the process for your opponent and finally assigning the results to the health values of your entire army. Yawn.

Paul W
United States Eugene Oregon

I'm quite good at mental math, but I hate playing games that feel like I'm manipulating a spreadsheet by hand. I don't really care for anything beyond some whole number arithmetic for most game I play...aside from dice odds, which I'd already internalized and whose detail can be ignored in most games without *too* much of a strategic penalty.

Scott Westgard
United States Illinois

I think that POLL is not working quite right. It needs to be divided into 2 (or 3) POLLS, concerning +/, Multiplication and fractions, and perhaps more questions about tolerances for various game types and gamers.
Good topic to research though!

Eric Brosius
United States Needham Heights Massachusetts

Experience suggests that if I'm having trouble with the arithmetic in a game, it's probably a 2player game and my opponent is Doug Hoover.

suPUR DUEper
United States Villa Hills Kentucky

cosine wrote: Torn on the poll. I like math. I have a degree in math. Particularly fond of algebra, personally. And geometry. .
Based on your username I was going to guess Trig.
Sorry for going off on a tangent.

Davido
United States California

well, I agree that what I can tolerate vs. other folks are two different things. I've been engaged in numerical pedagogy with postpubescent adolescents (e.g. High School Math Teacher)and I routinely do mental calculations for metricUS conversions and tip amounts (and sales taxes and unit prices), so I'm comfy w/ numberslingin'. That said, most folks aren't and the games bog down in some serious AP or ennui if more than basic addition or multiplication is involved. So K.I.S.S. probably applies to good game design.
fake edit: What Cosine said.

Scott Nelson
United States Draper Utah

This depends on what kind of game. If it is a kids game, stick to addition (I did this with my simple card game, and it hits the right crowd because of this). With adults, that are not gamers, you can get away with multiplication of single digits. With wargamers, almost anything is possible  they usually have a calculator on them at all times With Magic players stick with simple addition and subtraction (they rate about an 8th grade level of math at the most). Fractions? I would hope the game is DEEP, so that doing such math is going to make a BIG difference. Indonesia has been mentioned, and that is one game I don't mind the heavy calculating going on, because everyone is usually taking part in it mentally or physically.

Lacombe Louisiana
Suddenly a shot rang out! A door slammed. The maid screamed. Suddenly a pirate ship appeared on the horizon! While millions of people were starving, the king lived in luxury. Meanwhile, on a small farm in Kansas, a boy was growing up.

A clever way a lot of games get around fractional values is by reducing them all to powers of 2 and then making everything a halving operation: "First place gets half of the total points for the region; second place gets half of first place [rounded up or down]; third place gets half of second place" and so forth.
For my personal tastes, no 2digit multiplication, no decimal values beyond the tenths place [effectively no 2digit division], and no addition of 10+ items in quantities / values that don't easily sum to multiples of 5 or 10 [for ease of calculation by subcalculating groups].
I have good mental mathematic ability, and can do these all in my head, but that's tedious, and I'd rather not have to pull out a calculator or a piece of paper.
The one exception is that I'm willing to put up with just about anything if it only happens once at the end of the game.

Tim Seitz
United States Glen Allen VA
Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But God does not take away life; instead, he devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from him. 2 Sam 14:14

7 Wonders has quite a bit of math in the scoring and it's considered a family game. Squaring numbers, some division, and lots of multiplication and addition!


