Design Contest Game Complexity

2021 Design Contest

This year the contest will be split into three categories based on game complexity; light, medium, and heavy.

While games differ in many ways, from mechanics to theme to components, I think complexity is the strongest differentiator when it comes to a game’s target market. Because of this, I think it’s a good way to separate games in the contest.

For the contest each complexity category will have its own semi-finalists and finalists. So even if there are 20 light games with higher scores than your medium game, you could still be the top medium game and make it to the semi-finals.

A game’s complexity will be chosen by the designer when they submit their game for round one. A game’s complexity can not change between rounds. A game’s complexity can be very subjective and one person’s medium is another person’s light. I will go into detail about what fits in each category below, but the final determination will be made by the designers and should be based on what category they think their game will do best in. A light game would feel underwhelming in the medium or heavy categories and do poorly.

In an attempt to make the categories more balanced in submission counts, these categories skew a bit lighter than the ratings used on Board Game Geek. We don’t see many very heavy games in the contest. So games that would normally be considered medium will be heavy for the contest.

Light Games

Generally, light games play quickly and have low component counts. Children’s games, party games, and most family games would fit into this category. 

Examples: In Vino Morte, No Thanks, Sushi Go, Love Letter, Codenames, King of Tokyo.

Light or Medium Games

Games on the edge of these categories are the hardest to classify. As I said above, the final determination should be based on where you think your game will do the best. These edge games usually have simple rules that allow for complex strategy and could fall into different categories depending on the players, making a game lighter by playing fast and friendly or heavier by analyzing moves and having deeper strategies.

Examples: Patchwork, Azul, Splendor, Ticket to Ride.

Medium Games

Games solidly in the medium category will take some thinking to play well. They start to have more rules and more interactions between rules. They often have more components than light games.

Examples: Carcassonne, Catan, 7 Wonders, Pandemic.

Medium or Heavy Games

Again the edge cases are hardest. Since these categories are lighter than normal classifications it doesn’t take as much to bump a game up to heavy. If a game would be medium based on its rules, but has a lot of components or a long play time, it may fit better in the heavy category.

Examples: Wingspan, Race for the Galaxy, Dead of Winter.

Heavy Games

This is the widest category by complexity, but I think it will still be the smallest for submissions. Here is everything more complex than the categories below from a thinkier worker placement game up to the most nuanced multi-hour, space-empire, 4X game. These games usually have longer play times, more components, and rules that take a few plays to really get a handle on. 

Examples: Terraforming Mars, Power Grid, Scythe, Agricola, Eclipse, Gaia Project, A World at War.

I hope this helps in determining your game’s complexity. If you are still unsure of where it fits, I recommend asking in the Discord where you can get the opinions of designers and judges to help you figure it out.