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Weight in board games

Jun 20 2020

What's weight?

Weight in board games is a little hard to define. It's often used as a measure of complexity, but it can be ambiguous.

BoardGameGeek doesn't give it a formal definition but includes the phrase "how difficult a game is to understand". You can rate the weight/complexity of each game on BGG on a 5-point scale from Light to Heavy. You may already know how I feel about 5-point scales.

I have an unfortunate admission to make, however: when I add new board games to my internal spreadsheet, I assign them "complexity" on a 3 point scale. Scandalous. In my defense, I don't use the complexity field for much—it's more of a curiosity. My definitions are as follows:

My threshold for consequences, interaction, and possibility space are certainly moving targets. I'm confident in the weights of some games, though. For example:

But Sam! I hear you say. Concordia's weight score on BGG is a 3.04 on a 5-point scale! Why is that a High on your scale?

Keep reading.

Classifying weight

I recently came across this forum thread on BGG which found the top 10 games at each "weight class" according to user rankings. The weight classes are as follows (names taken from boxing weight classes):

You can skim the thread to see all the games if you wish. I'm going to list the games from each weight class that I've played and bold the ones that I loved.

Flyweight, 1.0-1.5

Featherweight, 1.5-2.0

Welterweight, 2.0-2.5

Middleweight, 2.5-3.0

Light-Heavyweight, 3.0-3.5

Cruiserweight, 3.5-4.0

Heavyweight, 4.0-4.5

Super-Heavyweight, 4.5-5.0

I haven't played any of these! There are very few games on BGG rated above a 4.5, so this isn't surprising.

My weight preferences

I've played most of the games from this list that are below 2.5 weight. I've played at least half of the 2.5-3.5 weights as well. After that, the games I've played get sparse, and the games I've loved whittle down to only Gloomhaven.

My weight preferences top out around BGG's 3.0. Anything above that, with rare exceptions, is simply too complicated for me to want to regularly get to the table. My personal scale reflects that: "low" roughly corresponds to Flyweight (1.0-1.5), "medium" to Featherweight and Welterweight (1.5-2.5), and "high" to anything higher (2.5-5.0).

I think this is related to the way that I view board games. I love hanging out with friends, having a drink, and playing a game. I love games that let me play by feel most of the time, without planning too far in advance or calculating to the exact resource. The light half of the weight spectrum is where I'm most comfortable, and so I tend to stick to it.

I don't hate heavy games automatically, of course. I like Gloomhaven so much that I wrote my own rules cheat sheet and bought small boxes to organize the tokens. I believe I rated all the Light-Heavyweight games above a 3 out of 4. I liked them all! I would happily play a heavy game with someone who wanted to.

In a vacuum, though, I'm reaching for something lighter, sillier, and more relaxing.

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