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Game Complexity

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  • Clay Dreslough
    ... with a kryptonite blade. When you try to introduce a game to a non-gamer, what s the first question they ask? ... Alas, the writer is correct. Our
    Message 1 of 13 , Mar 10, 2012
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      >It was a good article, until they stab the entire industry in the back
      with a kryptonite blade. When you try to >introduce a game to a
      non-gamer, what's the first question they ask?
      >
      >"Is it going to be hard?"

      Alas, the writer is correct. Our tolerance for complexity in games, like
      many things, falls on a bell curve. The "top 1%" is willing to tolerate
      a lot of complexity. And they are also the same people buying the most
      games these days. Thus, games have gotten more complicated and pulled
      away from the mainstream.

      Moreover, playtest groups are populated with the same people who already
      enjoy complex games.

      Clay

      --
      President, Sports Mogul Inc.
      cjd@...
      http://www.sportsmogul.com
    • E
      Yes, but there many gateway games that have amazingly simple rules, but quality game play. Blokus, Qwirkle, Cartagena, TransAmerica(Europa), 10 days in the
      Message 2 of 13 , Mar 10, 2012
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        Yes, but there many gateway games that have amazingly simple rules, but quality game play. Blokus, Qwirkle, Cartagena, TransAmerica(Europa), 10 days in the (wherever), No Thanks, Can't Stop. There's enough of them that you already probably have two or three in your collection. You get people playing them, and they start to get curious about the other games. Then you move them up to Ticket to Ride, Carcassonne, and some of the more medium weight games. There are a lot of people who won't play a heavier game that takes over an hour, but that's ok.



        ________________________________
        From: Clay Dreslough <cjd@...>
        To: Unity_Games@yahoogroups.com
        Sent: Saturday, March 10, 2012 9:05 AM
        Subject: [Unity_Games] Game Complexity


         
        >It was a good article, until they stab the entire industry in the back
        with a kryptonite blade. When you try to >introduce a game to a
        non-gamer, what's the first question they ask?
        >
        >"Is it going to be hard?"

        Alas, the writer is correct. Our tolerance for complexity in games, like
        many things, falls on a bell curve. The "top 1%" is willing to tolerate
        a lot of complexity. And they are also the same people buying the most
        games these days. Thus, games have gotten more complicated and pulled
        away from the mainstream.

        Moreover, playtest groups are populated with the same people who already
        enjoy complex games.

        Clay

        --
        President, Sports Mogul Inc.
        cjd@...
        http://www.sportsmogul.com




        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • E
        I also forgot to say that starting a non-gamer with a game like Dominion is not a good idea (unless they ve played Magic or something). And reading a few
        Message 3 of 13 , Mar 10, 2012
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          I also forgot to say that starting a non-gamer with a game like Dominion is not a good idea (unless they've played Magic or something). And reading a few sentences of a rulebook out of context isn't going to help anyone.


          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • photocurio
          ... I don t care about converting non gamers to gaming. Its a lot of work and rarely satisfying. In my experience there are a few people who are motivated to
          Message 4 of 13 , Mar 10, 2012
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            --- In Unity_Games@yahoogroups.com, Clay Dreslough <cjd@...> wrote:
            >
            > Alas, the writer is correct. Our tolerance for complexity in games, like
            > many things, falls on a bell curve. The "top 1%" is willing to tolerate
            > a lot of complexity. And they are also the same people buying the most
            > games these days. Thus, games have gotten more complicated and pulled
            > away from the mainstream.
            >
            > Moreover, playtest groups are populated with the same people who already
            > enjoy complex games.
            >
            > Clay

            I don't care about converting non gamers to gaming. Its a lot of work and rarely satisfying. In my experience there are a few people who are motivated to play games, and many many more who are not interested and never will be. Most of those people would rather watch a movie.

            Dumbing down games to try to reach the movie watchers is futile.. except for selling them trivial games which will end up sitting un-played on their shelves.

            Trying to convert Magic and D&D players to boardgames is a much more worthy goal.
          • Randy Brown
            I volunteer at the local Boys & Girls Club every week.  I endeavor to get the kids interested in board games, which is certainly tough in the face of video
            Message 5 of 13 , Mar 10, 2012
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              I volunteer at the local Boys & Girls Club every week.  I endeavor to get the kids interested in board games, which is certainly tough in the face of video games and all the other distractions.  I've had enormous success with Dominion as an intro game.  I'd also call TtR and Carcassonne light or gateway games.  

              What I've found is that the best games for beginners are games with evolving rules.  What I mean by that is games with very light basic rules, where the complexity is gradually folded into the game.  Dominion works well for this, because it isn't really important to know that much at the start of the game.  The starter decks introduce the concept of money and points.  You learn the rest of the rules one card buy at a time.  OTOH, the set up and shear amount of card text can appear overwhelming at first blush.  


              Non-gamers usually approach a new game in a much different way than gamers do.  Gamers often want all the rules up front, and they hope to be competitive in their first play.  Non-gamers would rather get into the game more quickly.  If I can get a game started within five minutes, giving advice and complicating the game as we go from there, then I will usually have a successful game for non-gamers.


              Last night I went to an event organized by a friend of mine.  The event had a mix of gamers of various experience as well as non-gamers.  I arrived to find my friend trying to teach a non-gamer Play 9, which is a pretty basic card game.  She was flustered, and they had obviously been at it for a few minutes.  My friend asked me to sub in, so that he could continue his role as host of the event.  I told the woman that rather than confuse her further, we'd just play a couple of practice hands.  In this way, I could explain the game as we went.  This attracted another player, and soon we were ready to play a full game.  Later that night, I saw the woman playing a game of Quarriors.  She ended up winning.  Hopefully we've scored another enthusiast for our niche hobby.


              One extreme example of evolving rules is AH's Advanced Civilization.  I've had enormous success getting non-gamers into this 8-12 hour game.  I use the long play time to make a social event around the game.  I cook up something delicious for dinner, and stock the fridge with beer.  But it's the game's evolving rules that really make it easy to teach.  A player really doesn't need to know anything before starting.  Most of the rules only come into effect several turns into the game.  The first couple of turns teach players population expansion and movement.  Then Crete teaches players about ships.  Then cities are built.  A few turns later trading happens for the first time.  A couple of turns later we see the first calamities and civ card purchases.  By this time, players have learned pretty much all of the rules.  We can actually start the game with no expo.  The other reason I've had success with this mammoth game is that the trading
              phase makes the game a social affair.  This interaction is the same reason so many new gamers like Settlers.


              YMMV,


              R



              ________________________________
              From: E <swift_4@...>
              To: "Unity_Games@yahoogroups.com" <Unity_Games@yahoogroups.com>
              Sent: Saturday, March 10, 2012 9:43 AM
              Subject: Re: [Unity_Games] Game Complexity


               
              I also forgot to say that starting a non-gamer with a game like Dominion is not a good idea (unless they've played Magic or something). And reading a few sentences of a rulebook out of context isn't going to help anyone.

              [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]




              [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
            • Shirley Márquez Dúlcey
              ... I can t agree with this. There are a lot of people who enjoy games like Scrabble and Monopoly. There are also many games that our community enjoys that
              Message 6 of 13 , Mar 10, 2012
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                On 3/10/2012 9:05 AM, Clay Dreslough wrote:
                > >It was a good article, until they stab the entire industry in the back
                > with a kryptonite blade. When you try to >introduce a game to a
                > non-gamer, what's the first question they ask?
                > >
                > >"Is it going to be hard?"
                >
                > Alas, the writer is correct. Our tolerance for complexity in games, like
                > many things, falls on a bell curve. The "top 1%" is willing to tolerate
                > a lot of complexity. And they are also the same people buying the most
                > games these days. Thus, games have gotten more complicated and pulled
                > away from the mainstream.
                >
                > Moreover, playtest groups are populated with the same people who already
                > enjoy complex games.

                I can't agree with this. There are a lot of people who enjoy games like
                Scrabble and Monopoly. There are also many games that our community
                enjoys that have similar levels of play complexity (though more
                strategic depth than Monopoly, not to mention a shorter playing time),
                and we can successfully introduce people to them. I would include the
                hugely popular Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride (both of which I
                have taught successfully to 8 year old players) as well as many other
                games. Acquire is a sometimes forgotten classic that is another good
                candidate.

                It's true that we also have plenty of games that are more complex, such
                as Dominion, Race For The Galaxy, and Agricola. Those aren't the ones to
                spring on people who are new to the board gaming hobby unless they're
                coming from other complex gaming communities such as collectible card
                games or tabletop RPGs.
              • Scott Romanowski
                ... And unsatisfying for the gamer. I perfer meatier games and tried for years to get my friends interested in games that were even slightly meaty. I
                Message 7 of 13 , Mar 10, 2012
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                  On 3/10/2012 10:20 AM, photocurio wrote:
                  > Dumbing down games to try to reach the movie watchers is futile..

                  And unsatisfying for the gamer. I perfer meatier games and tried for
                  years to get my friends interested in games that were even slightly
                  meaty. I eventually gave up because it seemed that their attitude was
                  "If Scott buys the game and learns to play it so he can teach us in ten
                  minutes, I'll try it. But I won't buy a game Scott might like and learn
                  it myself, or even read the rules to a game Scott bought. Oh, and if
                  some sporting event is on, I'll want the TV on in the background as we
                  play."

                  *sigh*
                  --
                  Scott

                  `-- c8 ]
                • E
                  There s a big difference between dumbing down a game, and a simple game. The best example is Go. There are fewer than five rules, so you could start playing
                  Message 8 of 13 , Mar 10, 2012
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                    There's a big difference between "dumbing down" a game, and a simple game. The best example is Go. There are fewer than five rules, so you could start playing it in a few minutes. But you could study it for years and still only be an average player.

                    That's why I like breaking out Cartagena. Play a card to move forward. Move back to draw new cards. That's it. Yet it's a game that requires thought.


                    [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                  • Scott Romanowski
                    ... I d include Diplomacy in the list of simple games, but the playing time scares people off. Bulge 91, Dune, Gettysburg 88 and Merchant of Venus are simple
                    Message 9 of 13 , Mar 10, 2012
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                      On 3/10/2012 11:06 AM, Shirley Márquez Dúlcey wrote:
                      > Acquire is a sometimes forgotten classic that is another good
                      > candidate.

                      I'd include Diplomacy in the list of simple games, but the playing time
                      scares people off. Bulge '91, Dune, Gettysburg '88 and Merchant of Venus
                      are simple games with short playing times.

                      > It's true that we also have plenty of games that are more complex, such
                      > as Dominion, Race For The Galaxy, and Agricola. Those aren't the ones to
                      > spring on people who are new to the board gaming hobby unless they're
                      > coming from other complex gaming communities such as collectible card
                      > games or tabletop RPGs.

                      Some friends and I have been playing ASL monthly at Myriad in Salem.
                      Hopefully that will spur sales of the Starter Kits.

                      --
                      Scott

                      `-- c8 ]
                    • markgravitygood
                      I usually walk into a room as say Any one wanna play a boardgame? and when I get a Yes I bust out Advanced Squad Leader. The looks are precious and I ve
                      Message 10 of 13 , Mar 10, 2012
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                        I usually walk into a room as say "Any one wanna play a boardgame?" and when I get a 'Yes' I bust out Advanced Squad Leader.

                        The looks are precious and I've had to intervene on a few suicide attempts.

                        :)
                      • Craig B
                        I ve actually found that current and former Magic players embrace Dominion and other deck building games remarkably.  As for new gamers, Settlers and Ticket
                        Message 11 of 13 , Mar 10, 2012
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                          I've actually found that current and former Magic players embrace Dominion and other deck building games remarkably. 


                          As for new gamers, Settlers and Ticket to Ride still seem the best ones for Gateway games.

                           
                          - Craig


                          "Where would we be without the agitators of the
                          world attaching the electrodes of knowledge to the nipples
                          of ignorance?" - John Lithgow, 3rd Rock from the Sun


                          ________________________________
                          From: E <swift_4@...>
                          To: "Unity_Games@yahoogroups.com" <Unity_Games@yahoogroups.com>
                          Sent: Saturday, March 10, 2012 9:43 AM
                          Subject: Re: [Unity_Games] Game Complexity

                          I also forgot to say that starting a non-gamer with a game like Dominion is not a good idea (unless they've played Magic or something). And reading a few sentences of a rulebook out of context isn't going to help anyone.


                          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]



                          ------------------------------------

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                          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                        • William Dickens
                          Whenever anyone complains about a game I want to play being too complex I pull out my ASL rules (for those who don t know -- an encyclopedia sized binder) and
                          Message 12 of 13 , Mar 10, 2012
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                            Whenever anyone complains about a game I want to play being too complex I
                            pull out my ASL rules (for those who don't know -- an encyclopedia sized
                            binder) and put them on the table. The first question is always "Those are
                            the rules? Where is the game? When I explain about the modules and how each
                            one comes with MORE rules that normally shuts them up. ;-}

                            On Sat, Mar 10, 2012 at 11:57 AM, markgravitygood <markgravitygood@...
                            > wrote:

                            > **
                            >
                            >
                            > I usually walk into a room as say "Any one wanna play a boardgame?" and
                            > when I get a 'Yes' I bust out Advanced Squad Leader.
                            >
                            > The looks are precious and I've had to intervene on a few suicide attempts.
                            >
                            > :)
                            >
                            >
                            >


                            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                          • Clay Dreslough
                            ... A agree that many 8-year-olds can learn to play these games. But IME they are too complicated for most 40-year-olds. ... I guess many of these are just the
                            Message 13 of 13 , Mar 11, 2012
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                              > Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride (both of which I
                              > have taught successfully to 8 year old players)

                              A agree that many 8-year-olds can learn to play these games. But IME
                              they are too complicated for most 40-year-olds.

                              :)

                              I guess many of these are just the 'movie watchers' referred to above.

                              --
                              President, Sports Mogul Inc.
                              cjd@...
                              http://www.sportsmogul.com
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