Monday, December 26, 2005

Weight vs weight

BoardGameGeek allows users to register a weight for each game. The meaning of this property has been the subject of discussion. There are many possible definitions for weight in the context of a game. I believe there are two definitions that are particularly useful, and that games should be rated in this way.

Weight of Rules/Mechanics: This is a measure of the complexity of the learning curve of the game and the amount of "stuff" going on. Games with a low value in this area are easy to teach and learn. Games with a high value in this area will take a long time to learn and will likely have larger rulebooks.

Weight of Choices/Interactions: This is a measure of the depth of play. Games with a low value in this area have fewer choices and interactions of game mechanics. Games with a high value in this area take sigificant effort to understand and play well.

On the chart (click for larger image), I attempted to show a number of games rated using these two weights. Don't get too bent out of shape if you think my numbers are way off; I haven't played all these games. I was trying to find some examples that filled the 4 corners of the chart as much as possible.

Apples to Apples: Low in both weights. It's so easy to teach that you don't even have to explain anything. You just deal the cards and start playing. On your turn, you just have to pick a card.

Magic Realm: This is one of the games I'm least familiar with. It is very rules heavy and not for the faint of heart. But I would imagine that once you know the system cold, it is not difficult to play.

Go: Fairly light in rules. Almost all the rules of Go can be taught in a few minutes. However, the implications of these rules are staggering in depth. You cannot play Go with any level of expertise without serious study.

Bridge: Heavy in rules/mechanics, and heavy in play. You almost need to take a class just to be able to play at all. And you definitely need to play and study for years to become proficient.

Euphrates & Tigris: For me, this is the perfect "smack in the middle" game. It has just enough mechanics and interactions to be interestingly heavy, but not so much that you need to devote part of your life to it.

Are any of my ratings off? Are there games that are closer to the 3 empty corners of my graph? Is there perhaps a third dimension that I am missing? You tell me.


At 11:23 AM, Blogger Steve Janecek said...

Hmm, I think I disagree with the bridge one.. I think bridge is not terribly complicated in rules; certainly not as simple as GO, but more simple than E&T. I think it would take less time to teach someone how to play bridge than E&T. I agree, it would take days to teach someone how to *really* learn the game, and its intricacies, much like GO or Chess, but to say its rules are complicated I feel is incorrect.

On a separate note, i'd like to play die macher someday, never had the cahnce :(

At 11:40 AM, Blogger ekted said...

I could teach all the rules to E&T in 15 minutes. I couldn't teach all the rules to Bridge in 4 hours.

At 4:12 PM, Blogger Clay said...

The rules of bridge are fairly straightforward (except the scoring), but the bidding conventions (which you need to know to understand what is going on) are not. So where you place bridge depends on what you count as "rules".

I think your distinction is a very useful one. I hadn't thought of it this way, but I enjoy games near the middle of both spectra. Rules

I just learned Parthenon, which is fairly heavy on the first measure (rules/mechanics) but light to medium on the second, due to a heavy dose of randomness. In fact, I think "Weight of Choices/Interactions" is limited by the amount of randomness in the game. (However a game can be low randomness and low in weight of choices due to just being simple, e.g. tic tac toe.)

At 4:44 PM, Blogger Steve Janecek said...

I guess a good question is can your enjoyment of a game be limited to a certain region within your diagram.

Personally, I like games that have a wide variety of rule complexity. I lenjoy GO and Genial which are simple, but also like games such as advanced civilization and wiz war which require a day to understand or even a months of playing to understand (in the case of wiz war).

So its safe to say that "rules complexity" does to define my weight, but weigth in choices certainly may. I hate dice and randomness but most importantly, I like to feel I am in control of my own I can look back and see where I made a mistake. If I can;t do that and I have lost I find that frustrating.

So maybe we need a 3rd dimension of weight? A weight that measures how the players actual choices affect the game?

At 4:45 PM, Blogger Steve Janecek said...

Oh and I can teach "the rules" of bridge to someone in 15 minutes as well.

Now teachign someone "how to play" is another story and I think we may be arguing semantics, yuck :P

At 4:51 PM, Blogger ekted said...

I don't think randomness and weight are related. There are very heavy games with cards, and there are very light games with 100% information. However, you _can_ make a hevay game lighter by adding randomness.

At 6:36 AM, Blogger Pawnstar said...

I could be wrong, but I think you have one axis too many. I believe one "type" of weight to be a function of the other. The complexity of this function gives us "depth".

At 2:12 PM, Blogger ekted said...

I think the fact that games fall all over the graph shows that the two properties are separate. That is, if you think my graph is valid.

I will grant you that complexity of any kind probably has some correlation, since games that are more difficult to learn tend to be more more difficult to play. If BGG allowed users to rate all games using both these concepts, you might see a vague diagonal line from 1,1 to 5,5. But there are many stragglers.

At 1:05 PM, Blogger Jason Little said...

Wow Ekted -- great stuff!! I wish I would have seen this before I compiled my GeekList on BGG about weight/heaviness. The distinction between learning and playing is a significant one. Great read!

At 2:42 PM, Blogger hibikir said...

I thhink that your game taxonomy is very interesting, but I'd refine it a little bit more. A game can be hard to play for two main reasons:
Decision tree complexity: The game is hard because it's hard to wrap your head around it. Go is a prime example of this

Player complexity: You are playing the people, and victory has to do with your negotiating skills, predicting what other people are going to do, and hiding under the radar. Diplomacy, Citadels and Puerto Rico have significant amounts of player complexity.

I think this two kinds of complexity must be separated, since they tend to have different values for different people. To some people, Player complexity is barely a factor, and thus would claim that Bridge is not all that complex, since probabilistically speaking it's not all that far from Spades. On the other hand, I have no trouble handling the decision trees of games like Power Grid and Age of Steam, so I'd tend to rate that kind of games as lighter than something like Die Macher, that has a much higher amount of player complexity.

At 11:35 PM, Blogger ekted said...


I agree with you on the split between the two types of playing complexity, buty I don't think they are two separate dimensions--just different qualities of one dimension...or something.

With regards to Bridge. Have you played it? It is really nothing like Spades. Nothing at all. Except in the basic trick taking mechanism. Bridge is the only game I know tha has the "decision tree" kind of depth that Go does. Not only could a player of one level not see the correct line of play for a hand of a higher level. They couldn't even understand it after it was explained to them. Bridge is to Spades as Go is to Checkers.

At 3:59 AM, Blogger hibikir said...

I've played some Bridge, even though I've not played it at a club for long: I found that the rigidness of the way Bridge is played didn't make the game all that fun for me. I'd rather play Mus, a typical Spanish partnership game that is philosophically as far from Bridge as it can get.

I'm not claiming that Bridge and Spades are at the same level of complexity, even though I mentioned them in the same sentence.
I don't see the decision tree in Bridge as something that even resembles Go though: A very rough calculation of all possible moves in a go board is 361! 1.34e768. Bridge doesn't even come close, as far as cardplay goes. Bridge's complexities are in the bidding conventions, and I really wouldn't count deciding on a set of conventions as part of the decision tree of the game at all. The in game decisions during the bid, while wide, don't seem to me as something that can be compared to Go, probably not even the much simpler Chess. As a partnership game, it does have a completely different layer that Go does not have, but I'd put most of it in player complexity.

I'd gladly hear where all that decision-tree complexity that I'm missing is.

At 7:31 AM, Blogger ekted said...

Bidding is complicated, yes, but playing a hand [well] is even more so. It is true that anyone _can_ play a hand of Bridge, but doing it with any degree of expertise takes YEARS of study. Of the three aspects of Bridge (bidding, playing the hand, and defense), bidding is considered by all experts to the easiest.

At 12:34 PM, Blogger Mario said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 12:37 PM, Blogger Mario said...

I think your graph well represents the two views on weight and the difference between them.

Personally, I have always viewed weight as your latter option relating to depth. Partly this is because I think weight separates the gamers from the non-gamers. Gamers prefer depth ("heavier games") while non-gamers like easier, luckier games ("lighter games").

Often a game with lots of rules will be heavy, but a game with simple rules (like Chess) may also be heavy. I find a heavier game analagous to carrying a heavier (mental) load. A game that is rules-heavy but depth-light doesn't pose a heavy load on a player once he's learned the rules. In chess, even after mastering the rules and playing for years, the game remains heavy.

At 9:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, a very insightful approach. I wish BGG would evaluate weight like that.


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