Thoughts on this article. Complexity in tabletop games.

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Thoughts on this article. Complexity in tabletop games.

Post  SamVS on Thu 09 Feb 2017, 12:57



Last edited by Sam on Mon 13 Feb 2017, 13:01; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Thoughts on this article. Complexity in tabletop games.

Post  AndyH on Thu 09 Feb 2017, 16:49

Hmm, pretty much disagree, I have to say.

Although I certainly recognise the feelings in the first paragraph, writing it off as all the game's fault is as misguided as blaming it entirely on the player. Assuming the rulebook is decently written (if not then, yeah, the game can take the blame for that bit), no one has 'failed' if a particular person feels a particular game is too complex for them to enjoy playing at that particular moment.

Lifestyles have changed
Some have, some haven't. It sounds like the author's has in such a way to move him away from longer more complex games. Others will have changed to move them from simpler games towards the more complex (I count myself in this group. Sometimes, anyway).
It's easy to say that people have less free time nowadays, and that the level of expectation placed on board games (and entertainment in general) has increased, but it remains entirely up to you what you do with your time (your free time, at least), and some would consider diving deep into a complex game to be one of its more rewarding uses.

You can imagine a bell curve with complexity on one axis and enjoyment on the other
You could, but it'd be pretty pointless - enjoyment isn't a single variable, it comes in many different forms, from flicking stuff at other stuff to wrapping your head around a set of complex and inter-related systems and bending them to your will. One form of enjoyment is no more valid than any other.

For a given game, expressing that system in the least complex manner is totally the way to go, and the author seems to be getting at that with the idea of a sweet spot for a game's complexity ratio - a game's complexity should be appropriate for the type of experience it offers - but to say a game has failed if you're still "ploughing through” the rulebook after half an hour is wrong.
Maybe you don't enjoy that kind of experience, maybe you've made the conscious choice that you’d rather invest your limited time in other ways – and that’s absolutely fine – but there’s room enough for everyone to find their fun where they will.
Blame the game and not yourself… stick to what is genuinely fun
Don’t blame anyone. No one needs blaming. You don’t fancy it now, you may fancy it another time, or you may never do. All of those things are fine. No game can suit all people in all moods at all times, and no game should try to. You shouldn’t expect to enjoy all games regardless of the situation.
No one should feel uncomfortable saying “I don’t want to play that, it looks too complex for what I fancy right now”, or for any other reason - but don’t write those games off completely, you might miss out on something you could grow to love.

[/rant]
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Re: Thoughts on this article. Complexity in tabletop games.

Post  Jamie on Thu 09 Feb 2017, 18:03

I started reading the article, and got bored and gave up, the concepts it covered were too complex for my small brain. Question is, who do I blame?..
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Re: Thoughts on this article. Complexity in tabletop games.

Post  Kes on Thu 09 Feb 2017, 18:18

Totally agree with what Andy said. Really dumb to assume that every game ever should over the same level of complexity.
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Re: Thoughts on this article. Complexity in tabletop games.

Post  BeardyTom on Thu 09 Feb 2017, 19:05

I agree with the others that there's a lot wrong with the article. It's not possible to pin down a level of complexity that is too much as everyone will have different preferences. I don't think lifestyles are changing as much as he seems to think (although from the perspective of a middle-aged man it may seem like everyone seems to have less free time than they used to and they're all getting jobs and babies and things). In the wider world outside the author's circle there's still going to be just as many people as there always were who don't mind taking the time to play something big and complex. Also, the bit about the bell curve with the axes being complexity and enjoyment shows the sort of muddled thinking that makes secondary school science teachers despair.

Having said that, there is a question which people will always be asking when evaluating games which is 'is it too complex for what it is?' and while, yes, different individuals may still answer that differently, maybe the criteria for whether a game generally passes or fails that judgement could shift as board game technology advances. If you find a way to achieve with two rules and a clever bit of board design what it previously took two tables of figures and ten rules covering edge cases to achieve then suddenly a level of complexity which people considered fine before because it was necessary becomes too much complexity. I'm sure I'm not the only one who, when playing some older game, starts wondering how the systems might have been streamlined if it had been designed today.
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Re: Thoughts on this article. Complexity in tabletop games.

Post  SamVS on Fri 10 Feb 2017, 17:19

Jamie wrote:I started reading the article, and got bored and gave up, the concepts it covered were too complex for my small brain. Question is, who do I blame?..

Laughing

Yeah, I'm in agreement with all of you. I had a bit of a rant as Kes and Pauly G on Sunday about the article. He sounds like someone who lost at Duck Dealer and needs to rationalise it to himself by ragging on complex games in general. I think this article is therapy for him.

What really bugs me is that he doesn't offer a single example of what he considers "too" complex, or a game that hits the "complexity sweet spot". He doesn't name a single game in the whole article. I guess anything can be true if you're vague enough. If you ask me, he's being a wuss, not wanting to commit to his theory by pinning it down with real life examples.

Also, how well would your favourite game have gone down if you tried, with no prior knowledge, to learn and teach it (to newbies) for the first time from the rule book, at the table, with a 30 minute time limit? I don't think Terra Mystica would pass that test. Or Imperial Assault. Or Eclipse. Or Netrunner. Missing out on some quality gaming if this is your rule. PS: For crying out loud, don't ever try to learn a somewhat complex game for the first time from the rule-book at the table. That is terrible idea.

Also, "Ceases to be a game and becomes an activity", "merely a system rather than a game". What the heck is he talking about? "Lifestyles are changing" (he's a sociologist now?) — in what way? This could mean anything!

Anyway, the punchline in all this is that he reviewed The Gallerist in the same issue of the magazine. The body of the review was just vaguely describing the rules (with no analysis or criticism), then in the conclusion he just says that the game sucks because it is too complex. Quality review A+ would rant again.
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Re: Thoughts on this article. Complexity in tabletop games.

Post  Kes on Sat 11 Feb 2017, 08:14

Can we contact him/the paper to rant at him?
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Re: Thoughts on this article. Complexity in tabletop games.

Post  Ste on Mon 13 Feb 2017, 08:08

Hmmm, I can't see the article in question on Sam's first post. Has the link been removed?
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Re: Thoughts on this article. Complexity in tabletop games.

Post  SamVS on Mon 13 Feb 2017, 10:45

Nah, it's an image, it's still there for me. The article is from the magazine we were talking about in the other thread, so I just snapped a pic with my phone.
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Re: Thoughts on this article. Complexity in tabletop games.

Post  DaveB on Mon 13 Feb 2017, 11:02

Sam wrote:Nah, it's an image, it's still there for me. The article is from the magazine we were talking about in the other thread, so I just snapped a pic with my phone.

Gone for me too
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Re: Thoughts on this article. Complexity in tabletop games.

Post  SamVS on Mon 13 Feb 2017, 13:03

Ah, it's a Google Photos issue. Hosted the image through the forum tool. I've noticed that you can't attach a file (the first option I tried) because the max file size is 0mb, but the "Host an image" button seems to work.
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Re: Thoughts on this article. Complexity in tabletop games.

Post  DaveB on Mon 13 Feb 2017, 13:44

Thanks Sam, can see it again now Smile

Like most everyone else here I think that article is pretty much a load of rubbish - there are a couple of good points in there but a lot of it is also highly subjective (especially the complexity sweet spot)  - both to the individual and the circumstance.

Like most people I imagine, I have a "comfort zone" of game complexity - though that comfort zone will no doubt vary dramatically from person to person. Within that spectrum, however, there will definitely be games that on one day I'd love to play (consider amongst my favourites even) but on another day seem just too much like work for me to play.

Available time is also a factor - I would typically want to avoid getting into long and complex games on a Tuesday night, but if I have all afternoon to play then I'm much more interested in getting into something meaty (even if ultimately it isn't to my taste - I've no great desire to play TI:3 again, but I'm really glad I gave it a go last year).

And I don't see any of that as a problem, just considerations that have an impact on what I feel like playing on a given day.

I would agree that if a game is too complex for your tastes then by all means move on without shame - there is certainly no shortage of stuff out there for every taste - but you never know - maybe hidden behind that complexity could be an amazing game experience for you...

And its worth remembering that much of the time a game that looks complex maybe be a lot simpler once you actually sit down and crack on with it - More than one game has suffered from badly written or formatted rulebooks making everything seem far harder than it actually is!
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Re: Thoughts on this article. Complexity in tabletop games.

Post  Ste on Mon 13 Feb 2017, 14:27

Yep, this person doesn't seem to grasp the fact that everyone is different and that different people enjoy different things.

What a plonker.
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