Game weight

Moderator Level 1

Game weight is a fascinating concept. There are several different ways people look at game weight. Some people strictly base this on the quantity of rules present in a game. Other people base it more on the quantity and quality of decisions. I think that most people probably use a combination of these metrics in judging game weight.

Of course, one may ask the question, why even worry about the weight? I think there are several reasons. Firstly, many of us are nerds,and we like to quantify all sorts of things. We like quantifying the weight.... so that, in itself, has value. Secondly, If I know that I tend to prefer games that are heavier, or lighter, seeing the game weight can be one of the factors that I consider during research on whether or not to buy a specific game.

I do like how BGA does it with two metrics. They use "rules or learning complexity" as well as "strategic complexity. I think that I prefer this way of doing it. But, it is a little bit harder to express. I have toyed with the idea of using numbers for one value and letter for the other. For instance, let's consider #Root. I would rate the rules complexity as a 3 and the strategic complexity as a 4. So, I would maybe quantify its weight as a 3D. I have also toyed with the idea of of combining the two numbers. There are two ways that you could do this. The first way is to add them together, this would give Root a "weight" rating of 7. The second way that one could do it is just to mash the two numbers together. This would give Root weight rating of a 34.

I prefer the sort of split weighting that BGA allows, but the biggest boardgame site in the history of the internet, BGG, doesn't use such a split system. They use a single 5 point metric and they have zero definition or example of what might consititute what. This system is rife with abuse and perhaps trolls. For instance, let us consider #Candy Land. On BGG 6 people rate this game as a 5, this is the heaviest end of the scale, as heavy as you can go on that scale. And they are talking about Candy Land, a game that has very very few rules, and zero decisions. On the other and of the scale, let us consider #High Frontier 4 All. There is someone who rated this games weight as a 1. This is a game with a 5 rulebooks, the main rulebook has 55 pages. There is no way, even if you think that it is a pointless game, that this game is a 1. This isn't even the biggest problem. There is a hugely difference in how, for instance, a wargamer and a eurogamer consider complexity. If you look at the weight rating for a wargame on BGG, and you are a euro gamer, you can probably mentally add a whole number on the weight rating.

Also, one thing that I think happens, and can happen with either system, is that people, for some reason, seem to put a value on weight. They think it looks cool to have "their" games be "heavier," so they tend to rank them a bit heavier than they might otherwise be. I don't know why that is. I wish that we could just get back to having fun with the game, no matter "even if it is light." 

That being said, I do like going to BGG sometimes and looking at my collection and how it breaks down in terms of weight. Currently I have 54 games listed as owned on BGG. This doesn't include any expansions or accessories. Of those 54:

22 are between a 1 and a 2. Most, not all, of these are not hobby games. There is stuff in here like #Spot It!, #Boggle, #Taboo, and the like. 

11 are between a 2 and a 3.

11 are between a 3 and a 4.

10 are between a 4 and a 5.

Anyways, just curious, what sort of rating system do your prefer? Why do you prefer one sort of system or another? Or, perhaps, do you think that quantifying game weights is a useless excersise in meaninglessnes? Also, in looking at your collection, do you think you tend towards "heavier" or "lighter games?"



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13 months ago

WoW! I was just thinking about this topic on my way home. Basically, I was thinking about #Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization. According to BGG, it has a weight of 4.41 which I would agree with.

This weekend, my 7 year old son completed the tutorial on the app on his own and we then played a hot-seat game with very minimal guidance from my part. I won, but he played very competently and played all turns with a goal in mind and making rational decissions, unlike when we play chess, for example.

So, what does this say about the game's weight? How much of the 4.41 is related to fiddlines and rules overhead? Once you get rid of that, the actual decisions of the game aren't complex and the app is a much more approachable game than games like #Century: Golem Edition or other simple optimization games where children have a much harder time competing with adults.

In short, I think that weight is a very abstract term and that we should try to steer away from it and use two different stats: rules complexity and game depth. There are deep games with simple rules, like Go. Simple games with complex rules, like, in my opinion, Through the Ages or many wargames. Simple games with simple rules and complex games with complex rules, like, I guess 18XX games, Phil Eklund's games or some Lacerda games. This is only an assumption, since I haven't played any of those games.

PS: my example about Through the Ages can be extended to almost any videogame. At 9 I was playing some videogames that, if made into boardgames, would be a 11 in BGG's weight rating. This goes to show how important a good UI is for games and this, that the videogame industry has known for decades, is only now starting to make it's way into boardgames.

Premium User13 months ago

I agree that Through the Ages is weighted much higher than it should be.  I think some of it extends to the game having been out a while and maybe when it was new it was very heavy?  I have no idea.

In the end I think the weightings are just there as good guideposts for people so I don't get too caught up in it.

13 months ago

I don't think it's that. The old edition of the game had a 4.18 weight rating and the new game was published in 2015 and since it was deemed a different enought version, got its own BGG profile, so all the ratings are new.

I really think that, due to how useless "weight" is as a rating, players use it as a catch-all stat in which they blend together game length, rules complexity and depth. By that standard, I would agree with the 4+ weight rating.

Premium User13 months ago

I would have put it high 3's maybe.  But that's the issue with "weight" it's just difficult to get anything exact.  In the end it's a good guidepost but that's about it.

Premium User13 months ago

It's definitely more an art than a science.  I have #Rise and Decline of the Third Reich and on BGG it's weighted at 4.33. #Arkwright is the heaviest game I have played according to BGG at a 4.57.

However, having played them both I can tell you Rise and Decline is a magnitude heavier than Arkwright both in learning the rules, executing them, time played, etc.  It's not even a close contest.  

That said, Arkwright is definitely a heavy game.  My nickname for it is "spreadsheet the game".  It does deserve a heavy weighting.

So I would propose that wargames and games of that nature likely need their own separate weighting system.  Or just consider their scores doubled perhaps.

That is just a nitpick of mine.  To answer your actual questions:

1) I prefer the split system at BGA. 

2) It will get filled out less often but gives a hope of being more accurate.  As long as the definitions are strictly laid out.

3) In the end if you get enough weighings most people are going to be honest so the false 1's and 5's will have limiited impacts.  So this should give players a guidepost as to what playing a given game might be like and I would call that mission accomlished.

4) I have a pretty broad range of games in my collection.  Eyeballing it in my collection download it looks like a pretty smooth distribution between #Gaia Project at 4.3563 and #Dirty Pig at 1.0462.

Every game can be fun with the right group and in the right mood. :)


Moderator Level 113 months ago

That's an interesting point reguarding wargames.  Makes me wonder if a game like #UBOOT: The Board Game is listed at 4.09 but I was under the impression it was pretty complex and I thought even heavier than a game like #On Mars.  I think #War of the Ring: Second Edition is actually a tad heavier than it's 4.16 rating.  

I might argue that a spreadsheet game or a game taking up tons of "extra box reasons" should perhaps qualify for soemthing going over 5 and under 6.  

Premium User13 months ago

Possibly. . Arkwright definitely isn't that complex despite it's weighting but then I have some business training so perhaps it is easier for me?  No idea.

Moderator Level 113 months ago

I like all your points and questions.  BGG has a series of options for defining weight:

  • How complex/thick is the rulebook?
  • How long does it take to play?
  • What proportion of time is spent thinking and planning instead of resolving actions?
  • How hard and long do you have to think to improve your chance of winning?
  • How little luck is in the game?
  • How much technical skill (math, reading ahead moves, etc) is necessary?
  • How long does it take to learn the rules?
  • How many times do you need to play before you feel like you "get" the game?

I don't think thickness of rulebook should matter but complexity should.  I would attach a 1-5 on rules complexity.  I don't believe length should matter.  Some easy games (like Monopoly) can take forever and don't have that much 'weight'.  I believe length of time is a separate deal.  Now action management is a big one.  I think this should count and there are a few factors.

1. How many actions can a player possibly do?  2. Are there bonus or executive actions?  3. How much does each action impact the game as a whole.  4. How much action recovery is available later?  By this, I mean how easy is it to recover from a poor action?  So a game like Chess would be a 5 here due to the weight of each move and thinking time.  On Mars likely gets a 5 here as well.

The time put toward thought about winning is tough because different folks would see this different ways.  If your whole goal is to win, sure, big number.  But for many, gaming is social and winning is secondary.  I would not count this myself toward weight.  The latter five points generally feed into the former points.  The one aspect of weight I might add is how long does the game take to set up?  Some lighter games ( such as #Everdell ) have a higher setup time that I think would add to the weight.  Not much, just a little.

In the end, I think the current 1-5 scale is workable.  Hard to mitigate the trolls.  Beeradvocate has the same issue with beer ratings and some folks who have no idea what they are doing rating too high and too low.  


1. Rules complexity (1-5)+

2. Turn management matrix (1-5)+

    a. Number of actions (1-5)+

    b. Impact of available actions (1-5)

    c. turn strategizing and analyzing (1-5)

3. Set up time (1-5)

I would average these numbers to some degree for an overall score.  So Candyland would be 1+1+1/3.  Boggle would be 1+2+1=1.3.  On Mars 4+5+5/3=4.6

That's my quick deduction on a Monday morning at least :)

Moderator Level 113 months ago

I am just going to use this opportunity to say that I think people dramatically misuse scales. People may say "on a scale of 1 to 10" but what they usually mean is "on a scale from 6 to 10". If something is the worst board game ever, for example, it would probably get a 5 instead of a 1 because people think of scales as letter grades, not the full spectrum of interpreting something.

Think about it, when is the last time you ever gave anything a 2 or a 3 out of 10. 

It also goes to confidence, if you give something a 1 or a 10, you are saying definitively that you know it is the absolute worst or best. People don't want to live in that space, especially if you are judged by others.

I am not sure if anyone will ever get it right!

13 months ago

That's an interesting thought. I wonder if it might be different if the scale only went up to 5. Thinking of myself I'm much more likely to rate something a 2 out of 5 than I am a 4 or of 10.

13 months ago

I love that you open with "Firstly, many of us are nerds,and we like to quantify all sorts of things." That is a very legitamite point. I often whisper to myself about my love for math.

I never thought about it before but you are so right that having the impression your game is heavier than it actually is can be a point of pride for people. 

After reading this, I am not sure what to say about a system I prefer. I guess just one that is acurrate and yes, I would say the Board Game Atlas setup is the better setup!

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