The more you play modern board games, you might start to hear people discussing a game’s weight. According to BoardGameGeek, a game’s weight refers to a wide variety of factors, most revolving around a game’s inherent complexity in terms of instruction to make a play. There’s another aspect to weight which I feel is not described by this explanation. I’m gonna call this the game’s “meat” factor.
A game can be said to be “meaty” if the range of options for actions to take are meaningful AND if those actions drive deep strategy. Usually “heavy” games can also be described as meaty, but there are some games which are not so heavy, but are meaty nonetheless. There are also some rare games where a game could have a significant number of rules, but underneath the covers, there isn’t much meat.
Usually games which are not heavy but are very meaty come across as wonderful games to most people. Chess in this case is a great example. It doesn’t take very much to learn Chess and you can get through the basics of play to strategy pretty quickly. However, once you’re in the advanced Chess strategy zone, you see how many more avenues and options are available.
Even though I commented on Dominion negatively in my last article, Dominion is another example of a game that doesn’t take much to learn, but a wealth of options exist in each play that makes it a new classic which is only enhanced by every expansion. Even though I don’t enjoy the game because of the mechanisms, I can understand the joy that fans of Dominion derive. This is a meaty game.
On the flip side, if a game is heavy, but not meaty, it’s usually very much criticized. However, one game I have found that is rather popular but falls into this category is Tokaido. Once you’ve played a couple of times, you understand the overall strategy and can very easily tell which spaces you should go for each turn. Since your opponents pawns are usually not moving very far ahead of you, your options become more limited. However, since many of the spaces function very differently in terms of scoring or money, it takes a while with the first play to explain everything and usually a verbal reminder of a space’s scoring mechanism is necessary.I find games like Tokaido to be tedious. It’s still in my collection for game nights with new gamers so that they can see what elegance in visual game design is like (it does add to the cool factor), but really for a filling game session, I’ll play anything else.
Hopefully this has given you a couple of avenues to explore when learning about a new game to make better decisions as to what types of games you’ll enjoy and where to put your precious dollars. Find those games with meat and you’re bound to be satisfied.