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Board Game Development Part 4 Complexity



I was going to talk Scenario building, but something else is really bugging me. How much complexity will the average table top gamer endure? I've played a LOT of modern board games and some are very simple and easy to jump right into, and some are more complex and take a few "guided" play throughs before they become easy to play (by "guided" I mean play it with the instruction manual open and readily accessible). I also know that there are a lot of people who play things like WarHammer and AD&D style games, so there is an extreme edge where games require multiple rule books and cheat sheets and all kinds of things in order to play.

To me, my game is moderately complex, but once you get a few games under your belt it should be really easy to just play. It reminds me in many ways of my experience learning to play Magic: the Gathering. When I was learning to play M:tG the first several games were bewildering, but the base game was really fun and intriguing, enough so that I kept playing. Pretty soon I was building decks and battling other players with moderate success and confidence. There were still rules and nuances to learn, but overall I was competent enough to play the game successfully without having to consult a rule book on the regular.
I feel like my game is very much like that. If you sit down and just read the instruction manual it will probably seem like a lot, but if you watch a person play the game, you should feel pretty instantly at ease with how the game works and what you do.

But as I write the instruction manual and reread it, it just seems like a lot. I'm concerned that it's overly complex, despite not really meaning to be. I'm kind of a stickler for making sure all bases are covered in the rules, so it could just be that I'm being overly comprehensive in that capacity. I've written a "master compendium" of rules/instructions that covers pretty much everything I can think of with regard to playing the game. It's 17 pages long, and includes several diagrams/images, so probably 14 pages of text. That feels like a LOT for a board game that isn't trying to be AD&D.

So now I am working a Quick Start rules/instruction manual that distills all of that down into something more manageable. It currently runs 4 pages (and includes a couple of images). That still seems thick to me, but maybe it's not. The idea is that the Quick Start manual will get you into the game and playing and the "compendium" manual will be there to answer the more nuanced minutiae that will inevitably come up during play.

Is that too much? Is it prohibitive to potential players and the casual gamer? Should I even worry about that? Should I be looking more toward the WarHammer crowd as the potential audience for this game? Is that a big enough market? Should I simplify the game play even more for the casual gaming crowd, effectively having two levels of play with a pretty sizable gap between them?

How complex is too complex? Appreciate any feedback on this.



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Say I've played it 5 or 6 times already. Do I still need to reference the rule book and if so why? If it is to consult charts, then maybe they should be broken out into their own thing for easier access, or put on the back cover.


I would try to keep it from being overly complex if possible. There are way more people who like the idea of AD&D type games than people who actually play them. Going hardcore limits your overall potential audience.


Are there any tactical bits that could maybe be dumbed down for a 'Basic' & 'Advanced' game? Ideally, you'd want it to be playable by a 10-13 year old.

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Good points, all. If you've played 5-6 times, you may need to look up a minor obscure point in the game play if it pops up, but generally by that many games in you should be rolling right along. There are a few reference cards the game uses to quickly determine the outcome of die rolls, but even those can quickly be committed to memory.


I suspect you are right about the size of the AD&D demographic. I may be able to simplify parts of the game to make it more instantly accessible, I see lots of games that have "first game handicaps" that let you play the base game without some of the more complex elements. Maybe that is a good way to go. A few practice missions if you will.


Good stuff to think about. Thank you!

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