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Complex Complexity - Why Some Board Games Can Feel Complex

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18 Aug 2020 00:00 #313206 by oliverkinne
First of all, complexity is actually a good metric to...

Complexity is a fairly vague term. The Cambridge Dictionary defines it as "the state of having many parts and being difficult to understand or find an answer to." Yet, it's not clear when parts are considered "many" or at what point something is difficult to understand. Here are my thoughts on complexity in board games and what I think it all means.

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19 Aug 2020 07:41 #313236 by mc
The Bgg thing is "weight" isn't it? I think there's even debate about whether or not that means complexity in the first place. You also need to know your classes of games to use it; there are Euros that are "more weighty" than wargames by the scale, but if you are comparing Euro to Euro or Wargame to Wargame it becomes a little more useful, maybe.

It seems to me like there's a few different ways to look at complexity; rules (i.e., how difficult are they to parse? how many different rules are there that rely on other rules?), mechanisms (i.e., how difficult are they to carry out? often this is related to the rules complexity, but not always, perhaps), and then the more emergent complexity - often referred to as depth (although that word gets used in different ways too) - so like, how hard is it to learn how to play well, learn the strategies, learn how to react to other player actions etc, but also, how interconnected things are - wait, if I do this, it will have this impact, which will probably cause my opponent to do this, and that has all sorts of ramifications, some of which I'm not sure about, but some that might be slightly more likely, only they will depend on my other opponent, so maybe I better leave them alone for a minute, only if I do that it will mean that I am a slightly stronger position still which I don't want because it will draw attention... etc etc).

I agree that a good theming can help with all of that. Personally I don't mind complexity at all; what I want though is for it (especially if it's the first couple I listed) to fade away. I don't want to have to struggle with rules or whys or wherefores of those rules; I want to get to the emergent stuff asap.
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19 Aug 2020 23:32 #313290 by jason10mm
You could probably word salad this concept quite a bit. "Complexity" for a game with lots of moving parts or contextual rules, "depth" for a game with relatively straightforward rules but large numbers of decisions or ramifications hinging on those couple of rules, and "brain burner" for a game that just requires a lot of math or future predictions influencing each calculating move.

I remember going to the hobby stores back in the day and looking at Avalon Hill type games to see that "Complexity Scale" number (1-10 IIRC) and being very impressed by some WW2 in the pacific game that was a "10", probably because it had 1000 chits and exemplified why the term "weight" (as in physical mass) is associated with complexity.

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20 Aug 2020 16:42 #313302 by Shellhead
Magic Realm is the most complex game that I have ever played. I spent long hours last spring reading through all the rules, studying components, and then reading supplemental guides to the rules published by fans. And even then, I had to constantly look things up as I played my first game.

In a typical turn, you choose four actions to perform in advance and in what order, including specific movements. But the real complexity is the extremely detailed and comprehensive rules, most of which are executed in a counter-intuitive manner. For example, the basic die-rolling mechanism is rolling two six-sided dice. In most games, you would add the results together. In Magic Realm, you use the higher die roll of the two dice. When casting a spell, you don't just use a spell and maybe roll a die, you must generate a required color of magic and then use a chit that allows you to cast the proper school of magic for that spell. Combat can become exponentially difficult with multiple participants, especially if some are spellcasters. Even scoring victory points is difficult, based on a comparison with your original selected goals in multiple categories of vp.

I am looking forward to playing a solitaire game of Magic Realm again soon, so I have recently started reviewing the rules again. Might be ready to start playing again in a few weeks.

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24 Aug 2020 15:34 #313449 by ThirstyMan
I assume you have seen or are using Realmspeak, the free MR application for your solo play.

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24 Aug 2020 16:16 #313452 by Shellhead
Nope, I am doing it the hard way. Setting up the physical game and then slowly grinding through it with the 3rd edition rules, the plain english rules, and some cheat sheets. I feel like I will internalize the rules better if I force myself to look everything up as I go. The goal is to learn the game well enough that I can play with some local friends next year. Actually, before my next solo game, I am thinking of working through the Book of Learning. Set up each chapter and play through it along with the Book, kind of like learning with a workbook when I was a kid in school.

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