So, after seeing this graphic that someone made about Kings of War and posted to the fanatics page, it got me thinking, what is it about Kings of War that adds up to such a great game? And how would you go about measuring different aspects of games to determine similarities and differences between games?
One way is to identify different properties that you like - for example the movement format (skirmish/ranks & flanks), turns format (alternating activations/you-go-I-go), amount of time a game takes, etc. But the graphic also identifies things that are more complex than just format or mechanic based, and they’re much more the things that I look for in a game - I’m thinking about simplicity vs complexity, depth, balance etc.
So - what I’d like to do is create a system to identify these characteristics of tabletop games via a mechanism that takes the answers to a set of questions and processes them into scores for a set of metrics. Kind of like a personality test for tabletop games. I’m envisaging the outcome of all this to be some kind of website platform thing where you can find games that you might like based on other games that you like, but there’s a bunch of nuts and bolts that need to get sorted out first.
A couple of examples of the questions might be:
What is more important in the outcome to a game -
The elements in your list <—(sliding scale)—> Movement
Target selection <—(sliding scale)—> Initial positioning
…and then your answer gets put into some magic formula along with all your other answers to establish characteristic scores for the game you’re scoring.
I’ve come up with a few characteristics, but i’d be interested in what people think / if people think other things :
- Strategic depth (I think this is different to complexity/crunchiness, and relates to the ‘difficult to master’ bit of the graphic above. I guess it comes down to there not being one or two dominant strategies that you should always use if you want to win - for example in the original Space Hulk, you should always position your heavy flamer guy two spaces from the back. I love Space Hulk but this speaks to a lack in strategic depth compared to Kings of War, for example)
- Balance (this could be broken into sub-categories, I think)
- Flavour (some of this comes from crunchiness - I think there’s a fair bit of overlap between these categories to be honest)
- Clarity of rules
(then there would be a set of core properties like length of game/turn format etc)
Other than determining a set of characteristics, another difficult bit is coming up with the kind of questions that relate to the characteristics, and are asked in such a way as to force an honest answer. You couldn’t just ask ‘how strategic is this game’, or ‘is there power creep based on the latest miniature releases’ because those are really subjective questions and would often come down to how much you like the game.
Here is what i’ve got so far (all sliding scale questions):
Complexity and crunchiness
- do you think the game’s rules are designed more with simplicity or with detail in mind?
- do you think the game’s mechanics are more focused on simulation or on abstraction?
- how long are the game’s rules compared to other tabletop games you’ve played?
- how many mechanics come into play during a game turn, compared to other tabletop games you’ve played?
- how many special rules, effects, modifiers and exceptions exist across the game as a whole, compared to other tabletop games you’ve played?
Depth and balance
- how important is it to have a strategy before you start setting up vs establishing a strategy in the opening stages of the game?
- what is more important in the game’s outcome: (lots of sliding scale questions as above with pairs of each of the following:)
-the elements in your list (or other pre-game mechanic)
-using combinations of special rules
-having a strong strategy from the outset
-using a competitive faction
-reacting to your opponent’s gameplay
- how important are narrative devices in the enjoyment of the game?
- how important are aesthetics in the enjoyment of the game?
- how important is lore & setting in the enjoyment of the game?
- do you think the game’s mechanics are more focused on gameplay or on theme?
Clarity of rules
- how much is the wording of the rules open to interpretation?
- how important is randomness/luck in determining the outcome of the game?
- how often does the game seem to come down to a single dice roll?
- how often do cinematic or memorable moments happen?
A bunch of these questions really don’t fulfil the requirement of being objective. I think probably the best way to do it is use the format that I had in my example question above, but it’s hard to do that… Anyway - would love to get people’s input on this! Have I missed any categories? Do you have some question suggestions? Have I completely lost the plot?