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"What makes a game fun?" Topic

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1,083 hits since 8 Dec 2012
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Schogun08 Dec 2012 6:49 a.m. PST

Adding to the current discussion, here's something I found back in 2010 that addresses the issue very nicely. Unfortunately, I don't have any reference who "John" is.

And as he adds, if you can "capture the tactical essence of an historical period," then you have a game that's fun AND historical.


What makes a game "fun?"

I'd say that the following things seem to be true of rules I've found to be fun:

* Players have to make decisions quite often -- they are choosing between options, not merely executing pre-determined processes.

* These decisions matter -- what you decide actually makes a difference, rather than vanishing into a swamp of incomprehensible randomness.

* The results of the decisions are not absolutely determined -- this isn't chess, surprises can still happen, often.

* The game is not so "crackable" that it is easy to determine which is the best decision without considerable thought; it's worth playing the game again and again.

* There is a good deal of player interaction. Even if a player decision does not instantly require a decision from the other player, there are no protracted periods where one player is figuring out the ideal move for each of his 1,200 pieces, while his opponent has nothing to do and might as well read a book.

* It is possible to suspend one's disbelief, as no aspect of the rules is so obviously contrary to history, fact or logic that it makes me howl with outrage.

If you can just fix a set of rules that do all these things, capture the tactical essence of an historical period, don't require me to read 16 volumes of heavyweight history to appreciate the game, let me and my mates finish a game in two or three hours so that we can get on with our beer, and are written with such exemplary clarity that no arguments over the rules can possibly arise, then we have what I would call a decent set of rules, and would be happy to pay a fiver for.

Of course, some people might say that I'm just easy to please…

All the best,


warwell08 Dec 2012 7:18 a.m. PST

Interesting criteria. Applying them to Memoir 44, I can see why I consider that game fun.

1. Lots of decisions – Between deciding which command card to play, which units to activate, and how to stage attacks, M44 has lots of decision points.

2. Decisions matter – In my experience, a particularly good or bad move can be decisive.

3. Not absolutely determined – there is enough randomness in the game (which command cards you draw, attack dice, etc) which can fluster even the best laid plans. Good players can often mitigate the random effects and still win, but they may have to scramble.

4. Not "crackable" – because the command cards in your hand will vary, a single scenario may play differently every time you play it. A good player needs to think on his/her feet.

5. Player interaction – turns are quick so a player won't get bored. Also, the ambush card allows a player to interrupt another player's turn.

6. Suspension of disbelief – there is a deal of abstraction that one must accept to like this game (for example, it doesn't really account for differences between models of tanks. Most armor units act the same). Nevertheless, the game does reward smart tactics. For example, I found that armor works best when supported by infantry. I learned this the hard way by rushing my armor forward only to get it chewed up by infantry in good defensive positions.

For these reasons, I love M44. Some people may not like the level of abstraction or randomness in this game, but for me, it is a very fun game.

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP08 Dec 2012 7:48 a.m. PST


Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP08 Dec 2012 8:19 a.m. PST


Wait, what kind of games are we talking here?

Personal logo rampantlion Supporting Member of TMP08 Dec 2012 8:32 a.m. PST

Plays smoothly

Beleivable results

Decision making

Lack of complete control

Some detail, but not at the expense of looking things up every turn

The visual appeal of the units on the board/how the game looks after being set up (in regards to unit sizes and deployment rules, not terrain or figure quality)

Cincinnatus Inactive Member08 Dec 2012 8:55 a.m. PST

I have seen it time and time again. When people try out a new set of rules, if they win, they think they are fun.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP08 Dec 2012 9:25 a.m. PST

A great book by a well-known game designer, one who has done both computer and board games, wargames and others is

Raph Koster's A Theory of Fun for Game Design

Is is a humorous, but serious book and about as definitive as you're going to find. It is also a must for any game designer.

normsmith Inactive Member08 Dec 2012 9:34 a.m. PST

I used to play quite a lot of complex games …. and now don't, so I don't know whether this is an age thing but I think having a game that you can enjoy, then being able to come back to it again with just the briefest of rule re-capping is the single most important thing for me to getting things onto the table.

Personal logo Ditto Tango 2 3 Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member08 Dec 2012 1:01 p.m. PST


Nick H Inactive Member08 Dec 2012 1:40 p.m. PST

The players first and foremost. It may be a fun set of rules but if your fellow players are all moody and grumpy then that will drag the game down.

Schogun08 Dec 2012 3:21 p.m. PST

@Ditto -- I copied it and saved it as a word file. It may have been a response on TMP, so no link.

Hey -- found it! It was John Salt:
TMP link


Yesthatphil09 Dec 2012 4:28 a.m. PST

Many years ago I advanced the idea that a great wargame has a lot in common with a great movie. The game tells a story.

There will be sequences in the game where the player is more or less 'along for the ride' … the game and the narrative develop in ways governed by the historical setting …

But at key and appropriate points players are able to take decisions which personalise the game and give the feel (at least) that the outcome of the game is being determined by the players' actions within it.

So the interaction of the players with the scenario, each other and the mechanisms creates, each time, a unique piece of 'miniature cinema' that engages the imagination enough that your disbelief is suspended for a couple of hours (as it is with a good feature film).

Just as with a good movie, people will talk about a good wargame afterwards over a drink … typically, each player's experience and memory will be a little different, and individuals will take different things from the game they may even differ on what they think the game was really about and what turned it ..

The difference from the cinema is that we are able to create these miniature dramas at home, and personalise them with a few hundred toy soldiers.

There is more to say on the similarities between the game and the movie (children of a media age, much of our understanding of history is cinematic anyway …) … but I'm sure you can fill in the pieces.

So fascinating bits of history, good participants and a strong narrative make the kinds of experience I'm looking for ..


Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP09 Dec 2012 9:15 a.m. PST

You have to know your audience. There isn't one form of "fun" to be addressed. As noted by Normsmith, even what is seen as fun by one person can change with age, circumstances etc.

Determining what is fun about playing a game is complicated enough with all the different kinds of fun it can provide, from Yatzee to Chess, Bridge to "Go Fish."

Add in the added goals of representing history and simuating combat, the wide variety of reasons wargamers play, and you have a pretty complicated question when asking what makes a game fun. That's not bad, but you aren't going to find a recipe that says "Game Fun, made easy."

richarDISNEY Inactive Member10 Dec 2012 9:01 a.m. PST

Beer and girls…

Last Hussar17 Dec 2012 2:55 p.m. PST

What Richard said.

"Dice wench – 2d6 and add 1"

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