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Wind Tunnel - Too Many Rules

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01 Jun 2021 00:00 #323606 by oliverkinne
Let me continue with what a game feels like that...

Nobody likes a game with more rules than necessary. The more rules there are, the longer it takes to learn a game, especially if there are also a lot of edge cases or exceptions. Too many rules can lead to confusion and slow down the flow of a game and consequently increase playing time. In this article, I want to look at streamlining games and how it can affect the playing experience.

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01 Jun 2021 10:05 #323607 by Shellhead
Learning a complex set of rules can be a hassle, but the super-streamlined rules sets don't seem to offer much sense of immersion in a setting or simulated narrative. It's almost as if a rules set needs to achieve a certain critical mass to rise above a dry list of procedures. My favorite games tend towards relatively straightforward rules with a certain amount of chrome rules in the mix.
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01 Jun 2021 14:33 #323619 by ubarose
The number of rules are less important to me than whether the rules are easy to remember. I can remember a lot of rules if they are relatively intuitive and make sense within the game world. Like, games can have several pages of terrain rules, but typically they all make logical sense, so remembering them requires almost no effort.

If a rule book has a "frequently forgotten rules" section, it's a red flag for me. It often means they had to tweak something in an arbitrary, gamey way that is not intuitive to make the game work.
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01 Jun 2021 17:11 #323626 by mc
Replied by mc on topic Wind Tunnel - Too Many Rules
I've become more and more convinced that as a medium one of the features of analogue games is their simplicity/abstraction and that the best ones lean in hard to that. You have to do everything for yourself - so the more you have to do the more the game pulls you away from that strength.

I find when games have an aspect of theme or something they really concentrate on, and abstract the rest away, I find it more immersive theme wise than if the game tries to do everything - they can't do everything, and so the bits they then miss simply highlight that it's not complete, like an uncanny valley effect. Whereas if the game leans in to what it is - a really big abstraction. - it just works better for me.

That's not to say a game with lots of rules can't be good - but like uba says those rules need to be intuitive and fade away as quickly as possible.

On top of that I really hate rules that are clearly there to balance the maths. If the game needs to do that, there's a bigger problem in my view.
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01 Jun 2021 17:43 #323627 by Msample
Rules length and complexity are not necessarily related. Depending on the interdependencies between certain rules, you can either adopt a "state it once and move on" philosophy or go for redundancy. The latter can certainly increase the length of the rules, but when you see questions on BGG, its either they didn't read the fucking rules to begin with, or they are trying to read something into the rules that aren't there. I tend to veer towards redundancy when proofing rules because of the question issue. People are so much lazier these days in trying to digest rules; you need to spoon feed them and sometimes this means beating them over the head with certain concepts.
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01 Jun 2021 21:54 #323631 by DavidNorris
I think a good example for me on this topic is Escape Plan vs On Mars. Both are big hairy board games with a lot of rules, but because Escape Plan had separate rules for each area it was really hard to get my head around. For On Mars the rules are more broader and affect the system as a whole, so I found the game to be a lot smoother. Yet it probably has more rules than EP.

That all said I'm reading the rules for The Ravens of Thri Sahashri, a much smaller game in comparison, and I can't wrap my head around them.
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02 Jun 2021 06:59 #323633 by Erik Twice

DavidNorris wrote: That all said I'm reading the rules for The Ravens of Thri Sahashri, a much smaller game in comparison, and I can't wrap my head around them.

I've played this game several times with my girlfriend and I still can't understand how the game quite works. I don't think the game itself is complex (Draw cards, put them in the middle overlapping each other, the girl takes one and adds it to the score pile) but somehow it doesn't get into my brain.

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02 Jun 2021 07:09 #323634 by Sagrilarus

ubarose wrote: The number of rules are less important to me than whether the rules are easy to remember. I can remember a lot of rules if they are relatively intuitive and make sense within the game world. Like, games can have several pages of terrain rules, but typically they all make logical sense, so remembering them requires almost no effort.

If a rule book has a "frequently forgotten rules" section, it's a red flag for me. It often means they had to tweak something in an arbitrary, gamey way that is not intuitive to make the game work.


I'll add presentation to the list as well, i.e., how the rules are presented in the rule book and whether they flow with the action in the gameplay. A game like Arkham Horror is complex, with blocks within subsections within sections and the like, but the rule book is laid out in a just-in-time fashion so that complexity is mitigated by simply moving from one paragraph in the rule book to the next. For Arkham in particular I can tell you where on the page some rules are because the layout is so tightly grafted to the gameplay.
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02 Jun 2021 08:04 #323635 by mtagge
Replied by mtagge on topic Wind Tunnel - Too Many Rules
I'm a particular fan of the GMT card driven games. Taking something like Twilight Struggle the system is relatively simple. Play a card and use the event or take the points to do a limited number of actions. The flavor drips out of the events on the cards though.

On a superficial level anyone can jump in and play relatively quickly. And two newbies will have a decent time (even if the USSR trounces the USA) but through repeated play and memorization of the events it jumps to a whole new level.

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