Latest posts by Seth Ryals-Fernandes (see all)
Let me start off by saying this piece contains my opinion. Nothing in this article is objective truth. It is a summary of what I have learned about weight and how the way I perceive weight has changed over the short time I have been seriously collecting and playing board games. If you agree, disagree, or somewhere in the middle I would love to hear your opinion in the comments below.
What is Weight?
For those of you who may be new to the world of table top games, or who don’t frequent board game websites as much as a lot of us, let me give you a quick explanation of what weight is. Weight is a term to describe how complex a game is. Beyond that weight also describes how hard a game is to learn. The “heavier” a game is, the more complex it is. The “lighter” a game is, the less complex it is.
Weight is generally referred to pretty vaguely. You might hear or read people saying a game is light or heavy or medium, but these are mostly based on their opinions and past experiences. There are some games that are generally accepted as heavy, like Campaign For North Africa. To my knowledge this is the most complicated game to exist. I’ve done some research on the game just out of curiosity, and to my understanding it is not uncommon for people who play this game to exchange excel spreadsheets while playing to verify calculations.
Some websites, most famously Boardgamegeek, have tried to make weight a more absolute measurement by giving it a scale. In the case of Boardgamegeek it is 1-5. In my opinion this is silly and misguided, but more on that later.
Why is Weight Worth Discussing?
Weight is worth talking about simply because it is complex, and nobody has found a good scale for measuring it in an objective way. All the other stats we look at for a game are straightforward. I can look at a game, know how many people I can play it with, and have a rough estimate of how long it takes to play without even talking to anyone who owns the game or has played it. All I have to do is look at the box.
For me to determine if a game is something I could play with my mom, or if it will be reserved for the select few friends I have patient enough to learn it, it sometimes takes a lot of research. Ironically I think most people would agree that weight is as important, if not more important, than average play time. So for someone to find a good objective scale to measure weight would be very helpful and save a lot of us a lot of time. Unfortunately if you think that is where this article is going, you are sadly mistaken, as I do not have the answer to this question.
How Important is Weight?
In the last paragraph I mentioned that weight is as important as play time. I think this is true, but maybe not in the way you would think. I am almost never dissuaded from buying a game because it is just too heavy. What does happen is that I don’t think a game looks interesting enough for me to want to spend the time that it takes to learn it. This is where everyone differs. Some people enjoy having a lot of heavy games because they enjoy the challenge of learning and mastering something complex. Some people feel the way I do, the heavier a game is, the more they have to like the game to continue playing it. Not everyone is intrigued and excited because something is complex.
For some people weight is mostly irrelevant, and theme or mechanics have everything to do with it. Some people only play war games, or only play deck builders and the weight doesn’t matter. Some people only play fantasy games with bright colors and magic and knights and swords. Everybody has their different preferences and reasons for buying and playing the games that they choose to.
The short answer is that weight is just another thing that varies for everyone. For some people it is everything, for others it is irrelevant, and for most people it is somewhere in-between.
Navigating the Complexities of Weight
If you read this blog often you probably saw my post about Riftwalker, found here in case you’re interested. Riftwalker is one of my favorite games. It comes in a single deck of cards in a small box. But it is probably one of the heaviest games in the single deck genre that I have ever played. When being compared to other games that come in a single deck, this game is fairly heavy. But when compared to most games that come in a larger box, it is extremely light.
This is what makes weight such an interesting topic to me. It is so complex. When you look at a game on Boardgamegeek and you check the weight, there are so many factors that effect how heavy people think it is, that it is really a meaningless number. Let’s use Riftwalker as an example. If I only play light games, I might rate Riftwalker as a 3.5. If I spend most of my time just playing Campaign for North Africa, I might rate Riftwalker at around a 1-1.5. Those are both valid ratings. If I saw either of those ratings I would highly dispute them, and this example is extreme on purpose. But regardless of those two things, this stuff happens all the time. Having a weight score compiled from users on an arbitrary scale only tells me anything about the game if it is extremely simple or extremely complex. The problem with that is that most games are not on either extreme.
Weight is a complex aspect of games. It is relative to your taste and experiences. It matters different amounts to different people. But I wish someone pointed these things out to me when I first got entrenched in this hobby. I would have done much more research, and probably purchased completely different games if I hadn’t relied on weight so much as a factor. But I hope this article has been enlightening or at least interesting to you.
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Thanks for reading!