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  • Essays
  • Quick and Dirty - Easy-to-Learn, Quick-to-Play Games

Quick and Dirty - Easy-to-Learn, Quick-to-Play Games

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There Will Be Games

I like heavy games a lot. Games that take around 2 hours to play are probably also the favourites in my games group. Sure, you need to spend an hour learning them, then probably half an hour teaching them to the group and then two or more hours playing them - but as a reward, your brain gets a full workout. At the same time, there are also many reasons why quick-to-play and easy-to-learn games can be the better option. In this article, I want to compare the two.

Brain Space

A lot of the time, the decision between a longer, more complex game and a quicker, easier one is down to how fresh your brain is. If you've had a busy day at work, didn't sleep well or are tired for other reasons, your brain will likely be tired too. In that case, a game that is very quick to learn is probably preferred. That's true for learning the game as well as teaching it to others. The less information you have to absorb, the better.

A game that is really quick to play is probably also the better choice if you are tired. After all, you won't want to have a late night. You want to go to bed early and catch up on your sleep.

If your brain is fresh and ready for a challenge, then choosing a game that's a little bit more complex, whether that's because of rules complexity or the complexity that develops while playing the game, is definitely an option. You're probably also up for a longer game, if you don't start too late in the day.

That's a great place to be in, if you ask me, assuming you generally enjoy longer and more complex games and have the people to play them with.

Escapism

Longer games are also a great way to escape from the day-to-day worries for an hour or two - or even more. If you just want to distract yourself and not have to worry about things for a while, then playing a game that occupies your brain for a while is a good option.

That is true, whether you're tired or not. However, if your brain is too tired to learn a new game or cope with its complexities, then you also won't be able to immerse yourself in the world of the game. That means you're not actually escaping. Your brain is more likely to wander back to the worries you had been thinking about before.

So then a game that's easy to learn or one that you already know well, is the better choice. You then have the option of playing one, long game or lots of shorter games. Personally, I probably prefer to play one long game. I find it easier to stay immersed for longer and take my brain on an adventure, where my day-to-day fades away.

On the other hand, quick and easy games may be your preferred choice. They might be better for allowing table talk. Chatting with your friends or family as you play could even become a form of therapy. Playing games together tends to create a comfortable environment. So if you feel you want to talk about your worries, then you do have that opportunity - but you don't have to.

Mind you, even one long game offers that. In fact, just spending time together, doing the same thing, being focused on the same game, allows you to relax a little and builds an element of trust between the players. That might be enough for you to open up and share what's on your mind.

Brain Gym

There is also something to say about learning something new - in this case, a new game. It can be a way of distracting yourself from your problems, but it tends to be much more about exercising your brain. I love learning a new game. Reading a rulebook and working out in my head how the game works is fun. I really enjoy setting up the game and playing a dummy round or two. It's a solitary process at that stage, but it still exercises your brain.

I'm not great at teaching games, at least not games I haven't played before. I suppose many people find that difficult. Anyway, teaching isn't my thing, but I do enjoy learning a game from someone else. It's another way of making new connections between your brain cells. I really love learning new board game mechanisms.

Just like taking up a new hobby, learning the rules for a new game is a great exercise mentally. Of course, the more rules there are, the more of an exercise it is. Similarly, the more you have to think about while playing, the better it is for your brain. It is the same reason why you don't want to play a longer, more complex game when you're tired. Your brain has to work hard. It's a brain workout.

I love games where every decision is tough and important. You have to really focus on what's going on and think long and hard about what the best action is on your turn. It's so satisfying when you finish a long, complex game and feel you've done the best you could - irrespective of whether you won or not. You feel a little tired, just like you do after a good gym workout.

Quick and Easy Games

Games also have a social aspect, of course. Sometimes playing games that are really easy to learn and very quick to play are great for when you play with people you don't know well or maybe the wider family who you don't regularly meet. They're almost like an ice breaker and if people don't like a game, it's over quickly and you can try something else.

Quick and easy games allow you to hone your social skills as well. They can give you the confidence to speak to people, when you're normally shy. If you like a game a lot and feel confident teaching it to other people, then go for it. It's a great way to build your confidence even more.

So, as you can see, games have a multitude of benefits. Long and more complex games can be just as good a choice as short and light games. It just depends on the situation, the people and what you're all looking for at that point in time.

How About You?

Now I want to know what you think about short and easy games versus long, complex games? What are your preferences? How do you choose what game to play? What do you get out of playing games? As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

There Will Be Games
Oliver Kinne
Oliver Kinne (He/Him)
Associate Writer

Oliver Kinne aims to publish two new articles every week on his blog, Tabletop Games Blog, and also release both in podcast form. He reviews board games and writes about tabletop games related topics.

Oliver is also the co-host of the Tabletop Inquisition podcast, which releases a new episode every three to four weeks and tackles different issues facing board games, the people who play them and maybe their industry.

Articles by Oliver Kinne

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Sagrilarus's Avatar
Sagrilarus replied the topic: #334951 10 Aug 2022 19:29
Oddly enough, I find myself more in favor of the heavies and lights. It’s the stuff in the middle that I put the jaundice eye to.

My theory is that I set my expectations appropriately for big games, and give myself the time and patience to learn them. With midweight games I want to dive right in.
mc's Avatar
mc replied the topic: #334953 11 Aug 2022 02:22
I am more and more of the opinion that board games as a medium have certain strengths, and overloading games with lots of levers and options simply to create brain burn is not leaning into the strengths at all. All that upkeep and balancing of tracks and different rules slapped on to various mini games, all create distance between players as they focus on their own puzzley bit, and breaks any illusion the game has as rules need to be looked up and checked again. What we have is an analogue medium designed to be played around a table, basically. Games that make best use of that situation are the ones that keep things simple and pull players together. It's not because of not having the energy or brain space - you can still create games that require hyper focus - but that's when the medium is being used best, imo. Games that enable players to forget the rules (as in, internalise them quickly so that the space is clear for all and you don't have to think about them), and keep players occupied with each other - they are the best. And you find games like that are often a little quicker.