Variability In Board Games - What It Is & Why It's Important To Me - cutlassboardgame.com

Variability In Board Games – What It Is & Why It’s Important To Me

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Why do I critique a lack of variability? Does it even matter? Am I even playing that game more than a few times? What is it about variability in games that compels me, that has me wanting more and more out of the characters, missions, setup, strategies and more?

Does Winning Matter? –

TimeStamps:
0:00:00 – Introduction
0:01:18 – Why Is Variability Important?
0:04:19 – Skill Gap, The Puzzle & Variety
0:09:29 – How Much Variability?
0:12:24 – What Constitutes Variability?
0:18:34 – When I Say A Game Isn’t Variable Enough…

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39 Comments

  1. I like both variability/exploration as well as mastery/winning…the mastery games need good player interaction, though, otherwise it's just who can solve a puzzle better and THAT I don't find engaging.

  2. Love these little master classes in board gaming. Nice stuff… keep it coming teach.

  3. Blood Rage is starting to feel a little samey for me.

  4. Very good points and glad you talked about this subject. Mastery can be boring in board game context or at least someone like me who isn't in it to beat my ultimate score no matter how many times it takes me. That's the Olympics, no thanks lol What tickles me is being thrown a bunch of different variables and making the best I can with it. Like a puzzle you have no clue what the final result will look like. That's why many very repetitive but popular games just don't do it for me. I feel like I already know the end picture and it will always be rectangle.

  5. I think that is why I really enjoy games that have optional modules. Things like Vindication where the core game came with a bunch of modules that you can add in to change up the game.

  6. Could be me, but don't you like talking in general 😜
    Was one of my first comments on your channel and to my surprise you replied, now I'm hooked to the sweet nectar of comment replies😂

  7. I prefer variability by depth instead of breadth

  8. 8:42 But what about games which are not necessarily "new", but are "new to you"? Is it because those games have probably been played to death by others – which would give them an inherent advantage of you; where truly new games have not been played by anyone and so everyone is exploring the game just as you are?
    Just curious!

  9. Great video, as always.
    Based on your definition, would you consider Oath's mechanic (Leder Games) as kind of the ultimate variability in a board game?

  10. For those of us who approach a board game like a puzzle/challenge, variability means "not defaulting to an OP combo/meta" and hence the approaches change every game. Sure a game can accomplish that by having variable set up, add on modules, rules overhead, player interactions, etc. But at the end of the day, you just want a different/ fresh experience.

    As someone who also like variability/replayability in game, one of the enemies to me is randomness. It's rather frustrating to see the puzzle you are trying to solve ruined by a dice throw, a drawn cards, or some random play by another players (who may or maynot be trying to kingmake but that;s the previous video lol).

  11. Variability as you define it is only relevant for games you regularly play. I find it odd that variability is important to you when your most played game might be played 4 times a year.

  12. What about variable setup? Does it makes a difference to you?
    For example, if a game can produce a trillion different possible setups – and you continue playing the game over and over because of that, do you really FEEL like you are playing a different game/puzzle every time you play it, or do the different ways the game is setup only minutely change the game to the point where you really don't notice any differences?

  13. I noticed a lot of games are including small modules in their games that help add variability.
    Vindication, Dwellings of Eldervale, Mind Mgmt, Small Islands, Kingdomino Origins.
    Just a little extra content for when you master the basics, you can add in a bit more, but doesn't force that extra content on new players.

  14. Great thought process, Alex, you really broke this down well. I have a game I've mastered and it does ruin the fun knowing I will win by a mile whenever it hits the table (Space Base). On the other end of the spectrum, my top 2 favorite games are classics most folks yawn at – Catan (#1) and Carcassonne (#2). I have a TON of material for both these games and just love mixing it up – never the same game twice. Catan is easily THE most variable game ever created when you consider the expansions are mix and match as you please. The Seafarers rulebook even has a blank game example for you to photocopy and make up your own game! Want a long game? Play to 15 VP. Short game? Go to 10 VP. There's even a fairly rare expansion with treasures and dragons that mixes well with any of the 4 better known expansions.

  15. I want everything…. but when I get too much I play less. I think I need to organise myself better and slim down some of my games to suit me better.

  16. Just wondering if you play a game, and then not play it for lets say months, does this increase the Variability of that game? You haven't played it in a while so you have forgotten ways to play it so it comes off as a New experience.

  17. It has been building for some time but this video pushed you over the line for me. Dice Tower content holds a foundation place in boardgaming, I think your content has now reached that point also in contemplating and understanding concepts in our hobby. Bravo!

  18. Hi, Alex! You know, some of your subscribers are Ukrainians. And now they deprived not only from spending time playing favorite board games, but from core rights to live in peace . Our people fight for life, for all free world like David against evil Goliath . All free world is supporting us with our desperate struggle. A few words of support from your side in next your video would be good add-on to the voice of good people around the globe.
    Thanks in advance .
    Andriy Volynsky. Odesa, Ukraine.

  19. Plenty to agree with here.

    I stopped playing Chess because it became more like hard work than fun. Definitely not the avenue I wanted to go down.

    When playing golf, I wanted to get to the point that I could play with a novice or a scratch golfer and still feel like I was playing broadly the same game as them (fwiw I was aiming for an 18 handicap, ended up a little better, but broadly hit the area where I could enjoy the game with whoever I played with).

    With board games similarly, I value being able to play to a similar level with a wide variety of people. Some games, even with variability, very much reward expertise e.g. Magic the gathering, Race for the galaxy etc. I don't enjoy such games, because it limits the opportunity for competing equally, and especially I have an immensely strong dislike of any game that puts a new player at such a disadvantage that heavy defeat is likely. That is not a good look for gaming, as it's often an effective way to drive people away from our hobby. For those that are happy to invest time in learning / mastery, such games offer a very good competitive environment.

    I do enjoy Euro style games, and also more thematic (aka 'Ameristyle') games. I also enjoy the more modern hybrids that borrow from both camps. In this latter category, I'm seeing a few 'euros' that have strong variability, asymmetry and even take that mechanisms. I'm intrigued by these, though I do see some comments from people who strongly object to this. To them a game with such variability is not really a 'Euro' game, or as I've sadly seen expressed "is broken" because luck is too influential. By all means, if it's not a game for them, they should be confident to express this, but I do get a little irritated by such proclamations of games being 'broken', merely because they aren't what that person is looking for.

  20. Variability is important but for me the most important is the shelf space a game holds.
    We have to consider if a game can hold the same space with 4 or 5 different games.

  21. Those PENS are everywhere! Pretty good Marketing Strat

  22. Without looking I think my collection is 50%+ dungeon crawlers…so much for Variation.

  23. Weird seeing you with a pen in your hand instead of a meeple, coin, token, etc. Like a bank manager lol.
    At least you refrained from clicking it incessantly!

  24. Great video Alex. I would add if looking for less-mastery potential, play more complex games lmao.
    Also as a side note, I too love Vindication and Unsettled- backed both and the play is so varied EVERY time … however I think there can be too MUCh, and in the case of Vindication in particular I (and my gaming pals) like the core game, the extras seem like dilution not variability. I feel the same is going too be true of the little 'module' packs in Unsettled 2 KS … I will ofc get the new planets, but I really (based on my vindication experience) don't have an interest in those little side-board add-ons .. I mean there's ALOT going on already!
    Sorry for the long-windedness here. I was about to close up the office and saw this vid pop up! Have a great day.

  25. At the bottom, I have the feeling variability can be a subjective way to look at games. As a player, there is a bigger chance of you complaining a game lacks variability if you are not liking it. Things will quicker feel repetitive and lacking something extra to keep you interested. On the other hand, a game you love it won't matter that much if it is super variable or not.
    I liked your view over this. It was a well put perspective.

  26. Hi Alex, interesting video. "Chess is highly, highly, highly variable". Have you ever tried Go? This is even a magnitude higher – and at the same time the rules are so simple compared to chess. You literally learn them in 3 minutes – but mastering the game takes two life-times (I wish we had them)! My no. 1 board game of all time by miles. Even Gloomhaven big brother – highly variable – can become sometime the same after a while. Not so Go! But it takes a little while and a few plays to even really "SEE" the game.

  27. Damn good video!
    The links you draw between variability/enjoying to play on one side and mastery/playing to win on the other is so relevant.

    (and it becomes so obvious why you get along so well with Jesse 😀 )

  28. I totally agree but your level of mastery of the Zombicide games (especially Black Plague) is amazing. Do you still feel some level of variability? 🙂

  29. Definitely gonna have to pay closer attention to the games you really like because this video made me realize just how close our tastes are aligned. I just found myself nodding in agreement through most of it. Great breakdown!

  30. Great point about chess! I hadn’t considered how player interaction adds variability, but it makes sense! That “going through the motions” is the exact same thing i try to avoid. I love having different experiences in a game.

  31. I like variability aswell, i printed Terraforming Mars Terrain tiles/milestones/awards to play endless maps at random

  32. To avoid mastery, at least on my behalf, I will always go for a strat i have never done before and see if i can win that way. It will drop down the skill gap since i am unfamiliar with the strategy and thus nerfing myself to them.
    Example, Lords of hellas, i know monster killing is easy and so is land control, so i try to win by temples since that is a harder system to achieve. Also, i always state the winnning conditions constantly throughout the game to hint what i am doing so people are also aware. Might be a bit much, but with the people i play with, it has been a positive feedback so far.

    Amazing content, keep it up

  33. And this is why I enjoy your videos so much! Well thought out and great argument / presentation.

  34. Couldn't agree more! Player interaction does count as variability for me.

  35. Great video and insights. I too have gotten rid of a few games over the years due to my high win-rate; Le Havre and Puerto Rico, to name a couple. However, as I have 150+ games now and barely enough time to play the strategy games even 1x/year, I don't think I ever explore a game enough anymore to purge them for this reason. Lately, I've been purging more for shelf space.

  36. great vid.
    Love the idea of mastery vs exploration….

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