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Thinking Out Loud

Thursday, December 29, 2005

He's Not Heavy, He's My Brother >> Classifying Heavy Games

Just posted my first GeekList in a while over at BGG, taking a closer look at the classifcation of some games as "heavy" or "heavier" than other games -- what's the basis for the comparison? Here's the lede-in text and the first entry. You can read the list in its entirety over at BoardGameGeek.com.

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Over the course of my gaming toward the end of 2005, I've been involved in some thought-provoking and interesting discussions with several of my GeekBuddies about "heavy" games -- an adjective that gets bandied about quite a bit for a variety of games. But what does "heavy" really mean? Perhaps we can find out together.

This GeekList attempts to define characteristics that games considered "heavy" seem to feature. Not all characteristics are shared by all games, but I think there are a few common elements that -- for most people -- help determine whether or not a game is "heavy" for them.

First and foremost, I think heaviness, like beauty, is often in the eye of the beholder. It's a personal metric combining gameplay preferences, experience comparisons and complexity thresholds. I also add some "false positive" listings... Terms that seem to be used interchangeably with heavy, which I don't think are quite the same (again, based on my admittedly biased and personal metric).

What do you think?
Do some of these characteristics seem more applicable than others to the "heaviness" of a game?
Have I overlooked some important attributes?
Have some games shifted in your perception, from heavy to non-heavy (or back) with repeated playings?
What is the single heaviest game, in your opinion -- and why?

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Significant Impact of Decisions

I think this is one of the most important (if not *the* most important) factor in classifying a heavy game. Decisions can be important in all sorts of games -- even light filler games... But for heavy games, the impact is much more pronounced (it may be subtle, but have significant ramifications).

A game that adds significance and impact to each and every decision often has a "heavier" feel to it than a game where you may be able to recover from suboptimal or "whimsical" moves. For me, this means that you can't take a single decision lightly, or possibly that one poor decision can mean the difference between winning and losing.

Age of Steam exemplifies this with regard to issuing stocks and the tight money management necessary to keep from going bankrupt -- each move, each decision carries the risk of possibly putting yourself out of the game.

(click here to read the complete list)

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