I’m on the road to GenCon! So I’m writing this ahead of time, and I’m excited to be getting there. So disclaimer like before, I don’t know anything that Fantasy Flight might be talking about on their In Flight report. But what are the expansions […]
Now, there are a lot of ways I could go with this. I could literally be talking about how heavy some games are, such as Gloomhaven which is over 20 pounds. I could be talking about how emotionally heavy a video game is like Life is Strange. But instead, I’m talking about the “weight” of a board game as to how complex it is. In particular, I’m going to talk about the different weights and what that generally means when someone talks about it.
Games can be split into four different categories in my opinion. There are light weight, family weight, medium weight, and heavy weight games. And for me, that goes from the least complex to the most complex games. I am sure that other people might have an extra category at the end of super heavy weight games for the 18XX games and Train Games (not Ticket to Ride), where you playing in a very heavy economic game and you might actually need a calculator to figure out what is going on, on your turn, not just to add up scores at the end of a game.
Let’s first talk about why games are split into these categories. There are a ton of ways to sort or categorize games such as by some mechanic in the game or the theme of the game, but where those tell you some about the game, the weight of a game is really to help you determine the complexity of the game. The heavier a game is, the more complex that it’s going to be, and the more time commitment is going to be needed for learning the game and possibly for playing the game. However, not all games that have a lot of rules have a high weight to the game. Gloomhaven, for example, on Board Game Geek, is rated at a 3.79 out of 5 for weight, which puts it at a medium heavy, and it has a pretty hefty rule book.
What is a Light Weight game?
A light weight game is going to be those filler sorts of games. Something Tsuro, is a light weight game because the rules are simple to teach and the game is easy to play. Party games also fall into this category as you can generally pull them out and get them taught and to the table in five minutes. People aren’t likely to have many questions either about them when you are playing them. And if there is a question that comes up, the rules are likely so simple that you don’t need to look up anything and can just answer it. Kids games would also fall into this category, though, not all of them. But simple games like Chutes (Snakes) and Ladders or Candyland, that people normally think of, are so simple that you really just do what the game tells you, versus make any decision in the game. That’s another area where the complexity of the game is pretty low, even in Tsuro, you have three tiles and while you have some choice at the start of the game, the choice doesn’t matter much then. And in the later part of the game, the choice matters, but you have an obvious choice so you don’t have to think about it much.
What is a Family Weight Game?
So just by thinking what is a bit more complex than the light weight games, you can start to figure out what family weight games are. The best way to describe it is that these are the games that you play with your parents if they aren’t board gamers growing up. Or growing up only played a few like Skip-Bo, Uno, Rummikub, and Yahtzee. The latter two would actually probably fall into the family weight category. But more modern games that are family weight would be things like Carcassone, Ticket to Ride, and Catan. These games have more complex rules than light games, but generally there aren’t edge cases where you have to remember that something only happens in a specific situation. These games also start to offer meaningful decisions. Yes, they are generally not that complex, but Carcassone gives you choices when you place figures like knights, farmers, thieves, and monks (if I have the terms correct). In Catan you determine where you start and where you build towards, and in Ticket to Ride, do you take those train cars you want or do you play a route before someone else can get it? But the decisions are still pretty simple and you can probably do either option and end up being fine in the game. These games also can still end up with a run away winner. Other games would something like Sushi Go! Party, Pandemic, Dominion or Welcome To…
What are Medium Weight Games?
Again, we’re taking it up in complexity of game play and learning. These games still aren’t too difficult to learn, but there are going to be more moving parts. Xenoshyft: Onslaught would be a good example of this. Where Dominion is just a deck builder that is pretty easy to each, Xenoshyft actually has you doing something more in the game, and you are faced with more decisions than just buying a card worth points, a card worth money, or a card that draws you more cards. Another game that would fit into this category is Seven Wonders. Much like Xenoshyft builds upon the fundamentals and adds in more to deck building, Seven Wonders is a more complex card drafting game as compared to Sushi Go! Party. You also start to get edge cases in the games where certain cards together interact in a way that you can’t just naturally figure out. But there aren’t so many of these that once you’ve played the game a few times that you won’t know what is going. I actually think that Gloomhaven falls into the heavier side of Medium Weight games. There are certainly a good number of rules, but once you know them, you can play without looking things up, and it doesn’t take too long to know the rules once you start playing. I’d also put a game like Pandemic Legacy in a medium weight game. The rules don’t vary greatly from base Pandemic, but since the rules are changing, you need to remember everything that is going on.
Finally, What are Heavy Weight Games?
Again, not too difficult to figure out, but these are the games that you have a lot of text on a lot of cards, there is a lot of complexity in these games. I would put games like Cry Havoc and Root into this category where you have asymmetrical powers. Because of this, each person has edge cases that are different than other people at the table. And you need to teach each character separately. These games also have a lot of what I’d call book keeping. That doesn’t always mean taking notes, but it means that there are a lot of phases and some of the phases are resetting things to a starting turn point. Two good examples of this are a couple of cooperative games from Portal Games, First Martian and Robinson Crusoe. In these games, there are certain game events that happen at the end of every turn or end of every round that you need to do. Star Wars: Rebellion is also a heavy game with asymmetrical goals going on, though the actions of the players are pretty similar. But there are a lot of decisions that you have to make in the game, and if you mess up a single decision that can cost you the game. Even a game that is generally panned like SeaFall can fall into this category because the rules are complex (some do to poor writing), but the game offers a ton of tactical decisions that you have to think about.
Finally, let’s talk about what this means for your gaming collection. Do you need a game(s) of each type? I don’t think that you do, if you know your gaming group will never want to play a light filler game, why do you have one of those in your collection or go out of your way to buy one? The same goes for very heavy games, if I know that I don’t want to play a highly tactical war game, I don’t need one in my collection just so I have one just in case. That said, I would try and keep a good variety in your collection that makes sense for the gaming group that you have. For example, according to Board Game Geek, out of the 253 games that I’ve rated on the site (or own), 3 of them are over 4 for weight, so pretty heavy. 23 of them are at 1.25 or lower (1 is the lowest possible number) and all of those are extremely light. That means that I have a lot in the middle, though I tend to skew lighter as those games are easier to get to the table with my gaming group.
So, what does your collection look like? What’s the average weight of the games that you like, do you skew more towards heavy games or do you find your collection to have a lot of filler and party games you can pull out any time?
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Board Game Battle – Star Wars Imperial Assault vs Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle Earth vs Mansions of Madness
We have a triple threat match this time as we have three heavyweights from Fantasy Flight facing off. The reason that they get to face off is because all of them have app integration. What this means for all these games is that you don’t […]
Alright, now we’re into the sweet spot for games. There are a lot of them out there that really work best at 4 players. This can be for a number of reasons, but most of the time it’s because 4 players is the maximum player count and the resources are balanced for that player count. If you have a lower count, the board is too large.
Not Gloomhaven, Gloom is a silly little card game where you are telling a story about the horrible things that are happening to your characters. And then you are trying to kill them off so you get the fewest (or most negative) points possible. While I like this game with lower player counts, the higher player counts mean that you get to tell a silly story as a group. The more people you have to play good cards on, the funnier it is as you really do all tie your stories together as you play and create this crazy shared world with your miserable little families.
This game does play well at two players, but I like it at the higher player count as it keeps you from getting in as much of a rut with one person burning a card to give a clue, the next person using that clue to tell the other player what to burn to get another clue and so on and so forth, if there aren’t better clues to give. It also means that each player has more information with the higher player count because you can see more hands of cards. This is sometimes stressful because you hope one of the other players will give a clue that you want them to give.
3. T.I.M.E. Stories
With four players in T.I.M.E. Stories you might get less time to complete the scenario, but I feel like it gives you the right breathe of characters. You get the characters who are strong at fighting, but also the ones who have the social skills. It also gives you another brain in the mix to help figure out the puzzles and find the clues that are at the various locations, maybe hidden on the image that you are seeing. Now, I think that T.I.M.E. Stories is still a lot of fun with any player count, but with four players you can really get the whole experience of the game and be able to use your time more efficiently.
2. Blood Rage
This epic Viking area control, card drafting, variable player power game is the most fun at four. You get more epic battles with the higher player counts and you really have to decide when to make your move going after a resource. They do a solid job of adjusting the board size for lower player counts, but to have that more open game is really enjoyable. And when you have a lot of players fighting over Yggdrasil, it’s a fun time. You also get to play with all the cards in the drafting round for the age. That means that you get to see a great variety of cards and can tailor your strategy around what you can see. The game doesn’t seem to take much longer with four players either, which is nice.
1. Pandemic Legacy
Now, I know some people will like this with fewer players and generally they are considered easier with fewer players. For that reason I actually like it at the higher player count. It adds to the stress of the game as you try and complete everything, and you can’t rely on a single character leading the way. In the first season, playing with the Dispatcher and Medic would be playing on easy mode as you’d be able to keep the diseases pretty well under wraps. But with more players, you don’t get those two important characters making moves as often. This is also true for Pandemic in general that the higher player count I find more fun, unless you’re picking odd characters. Otherwise the game can be a bit too easy.
Now, there are so many games that are great with four players, and I want to toss out a couple of games that haven’t made the list yet. Smallworld and Five Tribes. Neither of these are going to make of the lists, because I like them with any player count. Five Tribes does change it’s feel with different player counts, but it works well. And Smallworld has different maps for each player count which makes the game work very well.
What are some games that you really like at four players? Are there some games that shouldn’t be played at four players?
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We had another character retire, this one, so it’s time to do a bit of a write-up on it. The Summoner was not a character that I played, but an interesting character that a friend played, however, it didn’t seem like the easiest character to […]
One of the last two board game top 5’s I’m going to do. Cooperative games are a ton of fun, sure you might like to beat up on another person in a game, but what works well with cooperative games is the game is going to provide an appropriate challenge. There are games where if you’ve played more than I have, it will almost be impossible for me to to win because of the experience difference. In cooperative game, you tend to have games that level up in difficulty as you play them more, if they are campaign driven, or that you can make harder if you choose.
So what are my top 5 cooperative games?
5. Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game
It’s in the title that it’s a cooperative game. This is a very challenging game, but a simple game to play. You are having to balance card use for gaining action points (fate points), investigating, and fighting, and you’re probably not going to have enough time to do everything you want to do. For me, that is a hallmark of a good cooperative game, there are always going to be a handful of good things to do and you are never going to be able to do them all. The game also has some Dresden Files feel to it as you feel like you are up against it throughout the whole game and most likely you are just going to eek out a win. It has some interesting mechanics with how it deals with what cases and targets you can deal with depending on where they are on the board. It’s a fun game to play the specific characters in the books with the different scenarios based off of the books, so you feel like you are in fact playing through the book.
4. Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition
An app driven game in the 2nd Edition, Mansions of Madness allows it to be a combat game, a puzzle game, and an exploration game all at once without one person really needing to play the game itself. This can make the book keeping phase of the game, or mythos phase as it’s called in Lovecraftian games most of the time, a whole lot faster. Also, because it’s app driven a scenario is going to be slightly different if you play it multiple times because the app can set-up the house or location where you are investigating differently. You have a lot of the standard investigator pieces to it that you get in Arkham Horror or Elder Signs, but it provides it in a tighter package.
3. Arkham Horror LCG
I really enjoy this game as one that scales well in difficulty. Based off of the modifiers that are placed into a bag that are then drawn throughout the game. What I like is that this is a fairly heavy story game while being a smaller card game. If you get everything for the game, there are a ton of cards, but no matter what you have, it’s always a card game. It gives you feel of exploring through Arkham to complete cases. Another thing that works well in this game, is because the locations the locations are cards, you can scale the story up to as large an area as you want or as small an area. That’s something that Mansions of Madness can’t do.
2. Pandemic Legacy
This game really works well as a cooperative game. Whereas some on the list have hidden information because that helps with the alpha player problem, Pandemic and Pandemic Legacy is a straight forward enough game that people can get up to speed quickly and start making decisions. The game also has a good story to it though not as in depth as some of them. The ability to also get the game to the table quickly is a bit different than some of the other games.
My favorite game, what I like about this game is that you can really tailor who you are playing in the game. You get some interesting teams, but it gives you a ton of choices as a player. This is the game that I was thinking about when I was talking about scaling, or one of them. I’ve talked about the game a ton, so I am not going to add in all that much more on this one. But the scaling is amazing in this game, and the ability to tailor your character to your style is great. It’s also a massive game that gives you tons of game play.
There are a ton of games I could put down as an honorable mention, but I’ll try and keep it just to five:
T.I.M.E. Stories – Super fun puzzly game where you jump to different timelines and dimensions to stop things from destroying the timeline.
Hanabi and Forbidden Desert – Check out the previous Top 5 list for more on those games .
Xenoshyft: Onslaught – A cooperative deckbuilder with some interesting choices, in particular being able to build your deck but also being able to help other peoples decks as well.
Lost Expedition – A simple game, but challenging as you decide as a group how to deal with problems as you try and advance to the lost city of Z
There are so many more that I could have listed and that I’ve enjoyed playing. I really enjoy cooperative games as they seem easier to get to the table when you’re all working together towards a goal. Not to say I don’t enjoy a good competitive game, but cooperative games tend to feel like they are more unique even though they are common now.
What are your favorite cooperative game, do you, like me, have a big stack of cooperative games you have yet to play?
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Between campaign building, I want to go back to some of the board game lists. And this is probably my favorite mechanic for a game, where people can do things just a bit differently than other players. 5. SmallworldThe lightest game on the list by far, […]